Everything You Need to Know About Kuala Lumpur

View over the lake of Ampang Park

If you’re wondering what Kuala Lumpur offers for families, you came to the right place. We’ve been living in Kuala Lumpur since 2022 and have made it our mission to explore the city with our toddler AND to share our experience with you so that you can make the most out of your time in Kuala Lumpur too. On this page, you’ll find everything you need to know about Kuala Lumpur, from its history to its location, the weather, cultures, and so on.

Kuala Lumpur: The Rich History and Culture of the Capital of Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, fourth on the list of best countries to live for expats in 2023 by Expat Insider. And we couldn’t agree more. The people are friendly, almost everyone speaks English, the digital infrastructure is great, and the travel opportunities in Malaysia seem never ending. Healthcare, schooling, and housing are excellent, and in Kuala Lumpur, we feel extremely safe.

For those reasons, Kuala Lumpur is one of the most popular and flourishing cities in Asia. If you’re traveling with the whole family and kids, Kuala Lumpur is worth visiting.

Why visit Kuala Lumpur with kids? The capital of Malaysia has beautiful skylines and plenty of family attractions that are welcome for all ages to enjoy.

The city gained popularity because it’s the home to many iconic landmarks. Almost everyone has heard of Kuala Lumpur’s most famous landmark: the Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest twin tower until 2019.

The gorgeous skyscrapers are just one of the things couples with (or without) kids can enjoy in the capital of Malaysia. There are also extravagant shopping malls – with extravagant indoor playgrounds -, affordable hotels for families, and public parks with playgrounds, like the KLCC park, your kids can experience!

Chinese New Year decoration in front of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur min
Chinese New Year (Year of the Rabbit) decoration in front of the Petronas Twin Towers

Malaysian people are also among the friendliest people in the world who deeply care about children. Visiting Kuala Lumpur with kids is a great experience if you want to create a special bonding moment with the family or with your partner. When dining out, your kids will get plenty of attention from the waiters and waitresses, so you can enjoy your meal yourself too!

Kids especially will have a blast touring the city and seeing all the family attractions and amusement theme parks. And all of these are easily accessible to help you around the city of Kuala Lumpur.

Stick around because in this article we’ll let you know everything there is to know about Kuala Lumpur. Keep reading!

The History of Kuala Lumpur

One of the most interesting facts about Kuala Lumpur is that it started as a settlement of 87 Chinese tin miners in 1857.

Now the settlement that was then discovered is known as the suburb of Ampang. The community became in charge of the river valley and eventually became a tin-collecting center.

Kuala Lumpur became the state capital by 1880 and thrived as a city after. A British resident and colonial official, Sir Frank Swettenham, greatly influenced this.

Sir Frank Swettenham pioneered the construction of Klang, also known as the Kuala Lumpur Railway. He encouraged the use of bricks and tiles for constructing buildings as a way to prevent fires. Due to the city’s central position Kuala Lumpur became the capital of the Federal Malay States in 1895.

After the Japanese occupation of Malaysia in World War II, Kuala Lumpur increased in population. By 1957, the Independent Federation of Malaya appointed Kuala Lumpur as its capital. Following that, in 1963, Kuala Lumpur officially became the capital of Malaysia.

Historical Places in Kuala Lumpur

If you fancy a trip to the past, Kuala Lumpur is full of historical buildings built during the late 19th – early 20th centuries. Bring your kids to any of these amazing historical places in Kuala Lumpur to get to know more about its rich history:

  1. Sultan Abdul Samad

Put this majestic sight of a structure on top of your list. Built in 1897, the Sultan Abdul Samad is one of the greatest architectural landmarks located in Jalan Raja. A.C. Norman, the chief architect, took inspiration from the architectural styles in India.

His creation showcases a beautiful combination of the Indo-Islamic and Neo-Gothic styles. If you think it’s beautiful during the day, you should see it light up at night.

City Hall in Kuala Lumpur
  1. Central Market

The Central Market will open you to new and diverse cultures. Central Market became a landmark for Malaysian heritage and culture when the Malaysian Heritage Society appointed it as a Heritage Site. It’s one of the most popular places in Kuala Lumpur because of its rich multi-ethnic background. 

You can appreciate all kinds of souvenirs and handicrafts coming from different cultures. There are also foods, sweets, arts, and accessories you can buy to remember your trip!

Central Market Entrance Kuala Lumpur
  1. National Textile Museum

Malaysia is one of the greatest makers of textile art and elegant fabrics. Among the most popular is the Batik, an ancient art of creating beautiful patterns by staining the fabric using wax-resistant dye. If you want a glimpse of the amazing local and rarest textiles, the National Textile Museum is worth a visit! There you can also learn the art of Batik and the textile history of Malaysia.

Textile Museum Kuala Lumpur
  1. Masjid Jamek

Masjid Jamek is an over century-old mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It’s one of the most popular tourist sites and the best place to send your Friday prayers. The architectural style, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, drew inspiration from the Mughal mosques of India.

The river of life in Kuala Lumpur
  1. DBKL City Theatre in Merdeka Square

Also known as Panggung Bandaraya DBKL, this historical theatre hall can be found in Merdeka Square. It was also created by Arthur Benison Hubback, Malaysia’s greatest contributor to historic buildings.

The construction of this renowned historical site took 8 years to finish, starting in 1896 and ending in 1904. The DBKL City Theatre was home to many incredible plays and musicals. 

TIP: Click here to read our blog featuring must-see historical places in Kuala Lumpur

Where Is Kuala Lumpur Located?

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s largest city and capital, is located in the west-central part of the main peninsula. It’s the closest to Singapore, with a driving distance of 220 miles (354 km) which can take more or less 4 hours.

How to Get to Kuala Lumpur?

The quickest way to get to Kuala Lumpur is to travel by plane. Depending on your airline, you can land in the two international airports in Kuala Lumpur, KLIA Terminal 1 and KLIA Terminal 2 (previously known as KLIA1 and KLIA2), both using IATA code KUL. The oldest airport, KLIA Terminal 1, is home to full-service and long-haul airlines, whereas KLIA Terminal 2 is AirAsia’s home base. There are also other low-cost carriers that fly to KLIA Terminal 2, namely Cebu Pacific, Scoot, and Jetstar Asia.

TIP: Click here to learn how to get from Kuala Lumpur Airport to Kuala Lumpur Sentral.

If you fly to Singapore first and want to visit KL next, you can take a bus from Changi Airport to Ipoh. From Ipoh, you can drive to Kuala Lumpur, which can take 2.5 hours. Or ride the train, which takes the same time as going by car. 

Do note that you have to complete the Malaysia Digital Arrival Card (MDAC) before arriving in Malaysia. Click here to read everything you need to know about completing the MDAC.

Weather in Kuala Lumpur

Because Kuala Lumpur, or Malaysia in general, is near the equator, it’s characterized to have a tropical climate. It’s hot and humid throughout the year with a fairly high temperature ranging from 73°F to 91°F (22.8°C to 32.8°C).

Kuala Lumpur is also close to the ocean, so it’s also susceptible to experiencing lots of rain. The most occurrence of rain is during November.

Also, take precautions when visiting the city between October and January because this is when the eastern monsoon hits the city. While the western monsoon lands in March and April.

Dark skies and limited view of the Twin Tower when it rains in Kuala Lumpur

TIP: Click here to read our article featuring the best things to do when it rains in Kuala Lumpur

When Is the Best Time to Visit Kuala Lumpur?

The best time to visit Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia depends on your preference; anytime is a good time to visit Kuala Lumpur; we enjoy the city 365 (or 366) days per year!

Visiting Kuala Lumpur with Kids in the Summer Season in Kuala Lumpur

If you want to travel during your children’s extended summer vacation, Kuala Lumpur is definitely a good idea! You can enjoy the summer mornings exploring the city and spend the afternoons indoors or by the pool. As there’s plenty to see and to do in KL, we recommend you stay at least three nights in the capital before you move on to your next destination. Even though people here are used to the hot weather, that doesn’t mean they like it, so a lot of activities take place in aircon-cooled indoor areas.

The dryest months in Kuala Lumpur are from May to July, with a slight chance of rain.

Winter Season in Kuala Lumpur

If you’re planning to travel during the winter months, you get a chance to enjoy Kuala Lumpur’s “winter” experience; in January and February the temperature ranges on average from 25°C during the day to 23°C at night.

It’s still warm, but the humidity is significantly lower, so these are temperatures to enjoy!

It does rain quit a lot in Kuala Lumpur, but it usually starts late in the afternoon and lasts only an hour or two; we haven’t experienced a full day of rain (yet).

Pro Tip: Always make sure you’re protected from the heat by carrying essentials like sunscreen (click here for the best sunscreens in Kuala Lumpur), sunglasses, and a hat. It’s also handy to bring a light jacket or poncho around in case of showers.

TIP: Click here to find out what’s the best time to visit Malaysia.

A Glimpse of the Different Cultures in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a Muslim country, but what makes this country more beautiful is its diversity of being home to more than one culture. The three main ethnic groups in Malaysia are the Malays, the Chinese, and the Indians. They have different religions, including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to live in Kuala Lumpur, every festival is an immersion in each culture. You will experience the beauty of the cultures through their food, art, music, and fashion.

Malays

Malays make up almost half of the population in Kuala Lumpur, which is 45.9%, making them the largest ethnic group. They practice Islam and Malay traditions. Some of the festivals they celebrate are Eid al-Fitr (Hari Raya Aidilfitri) and Islamic New Year (Awal Muharram).

The Chinese

Chinese people had a major role in the growth of the city. During the late eighteenth century, Chinese workers started populating the country as they migrated from China. For a while, they worked in the tin industry, which was a thriving industry back then. They mostly reside in the city where Chinese traditions and customs are hugely celebrated and enjoyed by everyone.

Indians

Indians are the third largest ethnic group in Kuala Lumpur. They practice Hinduism, a big inspiration for their traditions and customs. If you notice, many structures in KL are inspired by Hindu temples, which is why you’ll also see many around the city. Some of the Hindu festivals they celebrate are Deepavali (festival of lights), Thaipusam (Lord Murugan festival), and Pongal (harvest festival).

Peranakan

In Kuala Lumpur’s diverse cultural tapestry, the Peranakan culture – also known as the Baba-Nyonya, a blend of Chinese and Malay influences, shines brightly. Known for their fusion cuisine, vibrant attire, and unique traditions, the Peranakans add a colorful dimension to the city’s cultural mosaic.

Public Holidays in Kuala Lumpur

In Malaysia, the public follows different types of holidays, and we’ll break them down one by one in our guide to Kuala Lumpur public holidays. Below is a table of this year’s holidays:

DatesPublic Holiday
1 JanuaryNew Year’s Day
25 JanuaryThaipusam
1 FebruaryFederal Territory Day
10 – 11 FebruaryChinese New Year
28 MarchNuzul Al-Quran
10 – 11 AprilHari Raya Aidilfitri
1 MayLabor Day
22 MayWesak Day
17 JuneHari Raya Haji
7 JulyAwal Muharram
31 AugustMerdeka Day
16 SeptemberMalaysia Day
16 SeptemberProphet Muhammad’s Birthday
31 OctoberDeepavali
25 DecemberChristmas

Languages in Kuala Lumpur

The official language in Kuala Lumpur is Bahasa Melayu, which directly translates to “Malay language.” However, English also takes the crown as one of the predominant languages in KL. They communicate well in English, and most people with a high level of English come from urban areas. Meanwhile, the three primary Chinese dialects spoken in KL are Hokkien, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Lastly, Indians have two languages: Tamil and Hindi.

What Currency Is Used in Kuala Lumpur?

The local currency of Kuala Lumpur is the Malaysian Ringgit, abbreviated as RM. The latest Malaysian banknotes have six denominations: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100.

Aside from cash, credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are also accepted as payment methods. An important reminder is that most shops and banks usually have a 2-4% transaction fee. Some other alternative payment methods include e-wallets like Touch ‘N Go and GrabPay.

Wall Painting of 10 and 20 Ringgit Bills - Malaysian Currency

Kuala Lumpur Transportation

Kuala Lumpur has one of the greatest and most modern transportation systems. Getting around in Kuala Lumpur is very easy because you can use various forms of public transportation. They’re also easily accessible, making your trip to KL convenient and allowing you to tour at your own pace.

You have many options for public transport, including the train, bus, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, travel by foot. There’s also Grab which is a widely used and popular ride-hailing service, great for traveling in numbers with friends or families.

Pro tip: Don’t expect taxis or Grab cars to have baby or child seats available. In Kuala Lumpur, kids just sit on their parents’ lap. If you don’t feel comfortable or if your kid, like ours, gets carsick easily, it might be better to book a car with a child seat via a hotel. We didn’t have a car in the first six months and always arranged a car via a hotel if we needed to travel out of town.

TIP: Click here to read how we are getting around in Kuala Lumpur

GrabCar waiting to pick up a passenger in Kuala Lumpur

Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur has many jaw-dropping tourist attractions and sites you’ll need more than a day to see. If you’re with your family and kids, you need the perfect resting place to accommodate everyone. Here are the best places to stay as a family in KL:

  1. KLCC

Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), located in the heart of the city, is one of our favorite areas filled with multipurpose buildings. This is also the best place to find hotels and residences near Kuala Lumpur’s main attractions.

  1. Bukit Bintang

Bukit Bintang, known as Star Hill in English, is a trendy spot for restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, stores, and more. It also has popular landmarks, and you have budget-friendly and more luxury options for your accommodation.

  1. Chinatown

Want first-hand experience with Chinese culture? Chinatown, or Petaling Street, is the best way to start! Their flea market is one of Asia’s most popular sites to shop for clothes, CDs, perfumes, and more. Chinatown also offers cheaper accommodations, perfect if you want an affordable place to stay.

  1. KL Sentral

KL Sentral is a top choice for visitors who want quick access to rail transportation. You’ll find various restaurants in this area, from local to international and budget to luxury hotels. If you’re visiting Kuala Lumpur with kids, KL Sentral has a wide selection of places to stay.

  1. Subang Jaya

Another excellent option for visitors traveling to Kuala Lumpur with kids is Subang Jaya. It’s within a 20-minute reach from the city centre with plenty of retail stores and eateries available.

You can also find luxury hotels and shopping centres around the area. If you visit KL with kids, they will enjoy this place the most because of the many outdoor activities and diverse cuisine you can experience.

TIP: Click here to discover the best areas of Kuala Lumpur for families.

Kid-Friendly Attractions in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a large city that has many tourist attractions to offer. They have the most iconic destinations, and among them are widely open to kids. Ensure you don’t miss out on these kid-friendly attractions when bringing your whole family to KL.

  1. KLCC Park

KLCC Park is a spacious park that offers a day of fun activities for kids. It has playgrounds, pools, a water fountain, and the best view of the Petronas Twin Towers. Kids will have a field day in this park because they’ll never run out of things to do.

Playground at KLCC Park

TIP: Click here to read our ultimate guide to KLCC Park.

  1. Petrosains Discovery Centre

Immerse your kid in a day of discovery! Petrosains Discovery Centre will introduce your kid to the world of science and technology with 11 interactive exhibits they can explore. They can also learn about the space age and Malaysia’s rich natural resources. While the Dark Ride will take them on an adventure and explore Malaysia’s rainforests, mountains, and underwater sceneries.

Petrosains Discovery Center - photo by Kuala Lumpur with Kids

TIP: Click here to read our review of Petrosains, The Discovery Centre.

  1. Kuala Lumpur Zoo

Kuala Lumpur Zoo, also known as Zoo Negara, is a place for kids who want exposure to wildlife, aquatic animals, etc. They have exclusive zones for birds, reptiles, pandas, and more! Watch your kids spark up in wonder as they witness the variety of beautiful species scattered in the zoo.

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Kuala Lumpur Zoo

TIP: Click here to read our review of Zoo Negara Malaysia.

  1. Aquaria KLCC

Introducing the world of fishes, Aquaria is a fun-filled exhibition of aquatic life. It’s located right in the heart of the city. Witness the journey of the many marine species as you’re guided through the exhibition. They have a total of 10 exhibitions, with all equally as wondrous for kids to explore.

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Underwater Tunnel at Aquaria KLCC

TIP: Read all about our family’s underwater adventures at Aquaria KLCC by reading our Aquaria KLCC review.

  1. Sunway Lagoon Theme Park

Kids are more than welcome to play in the Sunway Lagoon theme park, located in Subang Jaya. It’s an all-in-one park with many attractions, such as Amusement Park, Extreme Park, Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, and more! This theme park will take a whole day to explore, making it the perfect place for kids to spend energy.

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Sunway Lagoon Surfers Beach View

TIP: Click here for our review of Sunway Lagoon Theme Park

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