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Sitting on the banks of the Malacca River, this beautiful historic city is known for its rich, varied religious roots, gorgeous architecture, and thriving Chinatown in the center of town. Located on the southwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Malacca, also spelled Melaka, was once a strategic port city and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a port city, Malacca has been influenced by many different cultures over the centuries, and this influence is reflected in the town’s architecture, food, and even language. Taking a trip here is a bit like stepping back in time, as much of the city has remained the same for centuries — you will still find the crumbling fortresses and bright red building facades from previous eras as you wander around the streets.
No trip to Malacca is complete without taking part in the city’s vibrant market culture. Jonker Night Market comes alive every Friday through Sunday when the sun goes down, and here you’ll find mouth-watering street food, antiques, and handmade local crafts. Malacca has a strong Chinese community, as Chinese migrants arrived more than 600 years ago and helped shape the city into what it is today. You’ll see the Chinese influence in the temples and traditions of the city — and be sure not to miss the popular Chinatown district not far from Jonker Market.
For visitors flying into Malaysia, the closest airport is Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL), about a two-hour drive from Malacca. You can either rent a car at the airport and drive or take a bus to Malacca, which takes about three hours. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) is about a three-hour drive or a four-hour bus ride away. Once you arrive in Malacca, there is a network of public buses and taxis, but most of the city is walkable and pedestrian-friendly. When visiting the historical sites of Malacca, the famed trishaws are popular modes of transport. These are typically decorated with flowers and play music and can be hired for tours around the city.
Due to its tropical location just north of the equator, Malacca remains very hot and humid all year round. Rain is always possible, with the driest months from January to March. You’ll see the most rain from April to November. No matter what time of year you visit, always be sure to come prepared with an umbrella and proper shoes.
The biggest event of the year is Lunar New Year, which happens on different dates in January or February each year based on the Chinese lunar calendar. During this weeklong celebration, the streets are filled with dancing and parades break out at all hours of the day and night. This is when the country as a whole sees the most visitors. The Gendang Nusantara Festival takes place in mid-April with traditional Malay dancing and hundreds of percussionists.
Known as Malacca’s floating mosque, this place of prayer hovers on stilts above the Malacca Straits. Officially opened by Malaysia’s king in 2006, it was constructed in a modern Islamic design. The four corner turrets are topped by typical Malaysian rooflines. Respectful visitors are welcome to go inside, but men must wear pants, and women should bring a head covering.
Constructed between the years of 1641 and 1660 on the ruins of a Portuguese fort, Stadthuys is believed to be the oldest surviving Dutch building in the East. This Dutch colonial structure in the Malacca town square was once the official residence of Dutch governors and officers. Stadthuys housed the different governments of the city for over 300 years, and today it contains the Historical and Ethnography Museum.
This beautifully preserved historic residential home from 1861 offers a fascinating insight into Melaka’s history and what life was like for its citizens years ago. You can tour the inside of the home — full of antique furniture, elaborate tiles, and jewelry — and learn about the former residents of the house, as well as the lives of Peranakan families.