Journey Through Time: 13 Historical Places to Explore with Kids in Kuala Lumpur

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Girl in front of the Sultan Abdul Building at Merdeka Square

Looking for meaningful things to do with your kids in Kuala Lumpur? Immerse yourself in the deep history and culture of KL and explore these top 13 historical places in Kuala Lumpur!

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a melting pot of history and cultures, with various influences from Malay, Chinese, Indian, and other ethnic groups. There’s no better way to experience the city’s diversity than exposing yourself to the beautiful architecture of KL. These architectures, rooted in historical significance, will help you better appreciate the city.

If you’re traveling to Kuala Lumpur as a family, welcome your kids to new experiences and discover together the historical value of these fantastic structures. Exploring these historical places with your kids provides a fun and enriching experience for the family!

I Heart KL sign on Merdeka Square

Jamek Mosque

Jamek Mosque or Masjid Jamek is among the top historical places in Kuala Lumpur

Jamek Mosque (Masjid Jamek) is the oldest historical mosque in Kuala Lumpur. It’s located in the confluence of the Sungei Klang and the Sungei Gombak, where Kuala Lumpur’s history began.

Jamek Mosque was considered the central place of Islamic worship in Kuala Lumpur until The National Mosque opened in 1965.

The place where Masjid Jamek stands used to be an old burial place. It was built by the architect Arthur Benison Hubback, who designed the mosque with the Mughal architectural style from India. Jamek Mosque’s architecture consists of three onion-shaped domes and two towering minarets.

In 2017, the mosque was renamed Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque in honor of Sultan Abdul Samad, Selangor’s fourth sultan.

Dataran Merdeka

Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur

Dataran Merdeka, or Merdeka Square, is where Malaysia first declared independence on August 31, 1957. It became a significant historical landmark because of this, and it hosts the parades for Independence Day celebrations every year.

Merdeka Square is a historic district where you can explore the nearby architectural gems. But there are also plenty of family-friendly activities to do within the square; making it a great place for families. Have a family picnic, stroll, try street foods from the food stalls, or take pictures of the lit-up buildings at night.

Food truck at Merdeka Square in KL

Speaking of architectural gems, here are the top historical sites around Merdeka Square.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Sultan Abdul Builing at Merdeka Square

Sultan Abdul Samad Building is one of Malaysia’s heritage gems and major historical landmarks. It’s located along Merdeka Square and the Royal Selangor Club and this iconic building – with its tall clock tower – makes one of the most beautiful backdrops for pictures. It’s even more lovely when the building lights up at night, and you can see its glorious glow, highlighting the beautiful architecture.

It’s been a significant part of Malaysia’s history, from the declaration of Malaysia’s Independence to the British lowering of the Union Jack. Today, it’s still one of the most popular landmarks in the country, appreciated for its stunning Moorish architecture and design.

Royal Selangor Club

Royal Selanger Club at Merdeka Square in KL

Royal Selangor Club is another famous historical building established in 1884 as one of the oldest sporting institutions in Asia. The club became an integral part of Malaysia’s history. It was right in front of the club when the Malayan flag was first raised by the first Prime Minister on August 30, 1957, marking the country’s independence. The club members at the time cheered along as they witnessed one of the most important historical events in the history of Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur City Gallery

KL City Gallery is home to the iconic ‘I LOVE KL’ with the big red heart monument. It’s a must-stop for families with kids visiting KL and want to take a memorable picture of their journey. It’s one of the most famous spots for tourists who want to dive deeply into Kuala Lumpur’s history.

Inside KL City Gallery is a journey to the most historical places in Kuala Lumpur. You can get a brochure that includes the historical building with matching pictures and descriptions. There are also miniature models of the Masjid Jamek, Merdeka Square, and the other structures surrounding the area. Other exhibits display pictures, write-ups, and a huge scale model of KL.

St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral

St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur

Built in 1894 by architect A.C. Norman, St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral was Malaysia’s first brick church. It started as a small Anglican congregation in what used to be a wooden church back in the day. It’s also home to a pipe organ first built in 1895 by Henry Willis, a famous Englishman who also made the organ in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

St. Mary’s Anglican Cathedral underwent many renovations, including adding a Jubilee Hall, a Multipurpose Hall, and a restoration of the historical pipe organ. By 2014, this Anglican church became a National Heritage building of Malaysia.

Queen Victoria Fountain

The Queen Victoria Fountain stands before the Merdeka Square to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The fountain pieces made from marble originated from England and were sent to Kuala Lumpur to complete the assembly. Unfortunately, by the time it was assembled in 1904, Queen Victoria had already died. The combination of the green tiles and gargoyles that look like a creature with the body of a lion and wings of a dragon is described by many as gothic looking.

Merdeka Square Map
Map of Merdeka Square

DBKL City Theater

DBKL City Theater in Kuala Lumpur

DBKL City Theater, or Panggung Bandaraya DBKL in Malay, is a historical establishment built during the late 1800s. It was built by the famous architect Arthur Benison Hubback and finished construction by 1904. The theater became the house of production for musicals and plays. It’s the oldest theater in Kuala Lumur, managing to preserve its Moorish architecture, which is also why it was declared a National Heritage building.

Batu Caves

Batu Caves Murugan Statue

The Batu Caves is one of the major places of worship for Hindu devotees. Every year, millions gather at the caves to celebrate the Thaipusam festival to honor Lord Murugan. The Batu Caves are made of big limestone hills with interconnected caves inside. Within the caves are temples with shrines and statues of several Hindu gods.

You’ll first encounter Lord Murugan’s golden statue at 140 feet ( 42.7 meters) to enter the caves. Next, you’ll have to climb the colorful but steep stairs with 272 steps in total to reach the main cave (Cathedral Cave).

Once inside, you’re free to explore the largest cave (Cathedral Cave). Other caves, Dark Cave, Ramayana Cave, and Cave Villa, have entrance fees.

If you’re visiting with your kids, make sure to prepare spare clothing, sunscreen, bottle of water, and wear mosquito repellant. Also, be mindful of the monkeys and ensure you’re not carrying anything that attracts them, like food, because they can get grabby sometimes. Wear comfortable and appropriate clothing, preferably shoes that survive hours of walking and climbing.

TIP: Click here to read our Batu Caves review

Central Market

Central Market Entrance Kuala Lumpur

Central Market is the city’s cultural center, famous for buying local handicrafts, souvenirs, and sampling Malaysian food. It was built in 1888 by the Chinese Kapitan, Yap Ah Loy, with the style of Art Deco. Central Market is one of the few remaining buildings with that style in KL that managed to preserve it through the years.

It started as a wet market for selling fresh produce like fish, poultry, and vegetables and transformed into a hub for Malaysian culture, arts, and traditional handicrafts. Central Market is home to many art galleries and performance spaces that proudly showcase Malaysia’s artistry and culture.

You can also buy some local handicrafts, from the traditional Malay batik to Chinese calligraphy and Indian spaces. There are plenty of things to do with your family at Central Market. Try DIY Batik painting and take home your creation, get your own henna art, or visit the 3D Illusion Museum.

Thean Hou Temple

Thean Hou Temple Kuala Lumpur
Photo Courtesy: newzulu via Unlimphotos

Thean Hou Temple, located south of KL City Center, is a beautiful temple dedicated to Thean Hou, the Goddess of Heaven. It is considered the oldest temple in Malaysia and one of the largest in Southeast Asia.

This six-tiered Buddhist temple sits atop a hill with stunning panoramic city views. Its vibrant red and gold color will be the first thing you’ll notice. Thean Hou Temple is also home to other gods and goddesses, including Guhan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) and Guan Di (God of War).

Many festivals in Thean Hou Temple include the Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival (Mooncake Festival), and Wesak Day. People flock to the temple during festivals, and we highly recommend joining in on the festivities as it’s an extraordinary cultural experience for everyone.

Watch all 6,000 red lanterns light up during the Chinese Lunar New Year, or watch cultural performances and share mooncakes with your loved ones during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Istana Negara & the Royal Museum

Royal Palace Kuala Lumpur
Photo courtesy: wittayayut via Depositphotos

Istana Negara, or the old National Palace, was the official residence of Malaysia’s King and Queen from 1957 to 2011.

The former National Palace was built in 1928, home to a Chinese millionaire and businessman, Chan Wing. Unfortunately, during the Japanese occupation, Chan Wing had to flee his home because he was notorious for supporting the anti-Japanese resistance in China.

This left the palace to the Japanese, who used the building as a mess. After the Japanese occupation, the palace became the temporary home of the Sultan of Selangor.

In 1957, the Federal Government bought the palace and renovated it to transform it into Istana Negara, or the National Palace for the Malaysian King. By November 2011, the royal family had moved to their new National Palace in Jalan Duta.

Now, the former Istana Negara has been transformed into the National Palace Royal Museum, welcome for the public to visit. The entrance fee to the museum is RM 5.00 and RM 10.00 for non-Malaysians.

The Royal Museum gives you an in-depth guide to the Malaysian Monarchy System. You will also see the throne of the King and Queen of Malaysia and get a glimpse of the life of a royal family.

As you roam the palace halls, you’ll receive a full guided tour from a former palace guard. Everything from the palace’s interior, including the original furniture and home decor used by the King and Queen, to its majestic exterior are fascinating to experience up close.

Merdeka Stadium

Another National Heritage building that deserves recognition is the Merdeka Stadium. This historical landmark built to commemorate Malaysia’s Independence Declaration in 1957 will open its doors again in the first quarter of 2024.

Merdeka Stadium is the only stadium in Southeast Asia explicitly built for the Declaration of Independence ceremony. For its reopening, you can expect plenty of activities related to sports. The stadium will once again house events for schools and sports clubs, a completely inclusive venue for students, athletes, and others.

Old Railway Station

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
Photo courtesy: elwynn via Unlimphotos

The Old Railway Station, or Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, is another historical landmark in KL built by architect A.B. Hubback. This railway hub of Kuala Lumpur was the city’s most iconic and popular landmark before the Petronas Twin Towers were built.

Before the KL Sentral Station was built, the Old Railway Station was the city’s primary train hub. With only three train lines operating in the Old Railway Station, most people now use the KL Sentral Station.

But the Old Railway Station wasn’t recognized as much because it was a transportation hub. Instead, it was because of its magnificent architecture. Its interior has received many renovations, but the exterior was perfectly preserved, making it one of the most beautiful architecture, mixing Mughal, Moorish, and Indo-Saracenic styles.

The Old Railway Station is a National Heritage building you must visit, especially with the added KTM Mini Museum. The museum entrance is free; you can see some relics from the Malaysian railway history like uniforms, maps, posters, equipment, etc.

Feel free to explore the nearby attractions with your family, such as the National Museum of Malaysia, National Mosque, Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, and KL Butterfly Park.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Newly Renovated Sri Mahamariamman Temple Kuala Lumpur

The Sri Mahamariamman Temple, named after the South Indian Goddess Mariamman, features the oldest standing Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. It was built in 1873 by K. Thamboosamy Pillay and opened to the public in 1927.

The oldest temple of goddess Mariamman is a remarkable sight to see, the reason why it has gained popularity through the years and attracted many visitors. Sri Mahamariamman Temple boasts a five-tier gopuram (tower) of South Indian Dravidian architecture decorated with sculptures of 228 Hindu deities.

You’ll find the main goddess, Sri MahaMariamman, at the main shrine. Mandapam is a large hall where devotees can gather to pray. If you want to enter the temple, make sure to dress appropriately. You’ll also be asked to remove your shoes upon entering. There’s a place where you can store your shoes safely, which comes with a fee.

Tugu Negara (National Monument) in the Botanical Gardens

Taman Botani sign at the entrance of the Botanical Gardens

The Tugu Negara, or National Monument, is a 49-foot (15-meter) war memorial built in the Botanical Gardens by American sculptor Felix de Weldon. The monument is a tribute to the fallen soldiers of Malaysia who fought for the country’s autonomy during World War II and the Malayan Emergency.

The National Monument is located within the grounds of Perdana Botanical Gardens. Surrounding the monument is a large pool with fountains that go all around, which makes for a fantastic photo op. Meanwhile, the lush greenery and stunning view of the cityscape provide all visitors a relaxing and peaceful atmosphere.

Take a nice stroll with the family at the Perdana Botanical Gardens and stop by the National Monument to take pictures. You can also have a family picnic day, visit the orchid gardens, or let your kids have fun at the children’s playground.

TIP: Click here to read our blog featuring the best things to do in the Perdana Botanical Gardens.

Muzium Telekom

Muzium Telekom, also known as Telekom Museum, is a small museum showcasing the history of telecommunications in Malaysia. The building was first built in 1928 to serve as a Central Battery Telephone Exchange during the British occupation of Malaysia. A decade later, it upgraded from manual to the first-ever mechanical exchange for British Malaya.

During the 1980s, following the declaration of Malaysia’s Independence, the former Prime Minister saved the building from being demolished. The National Archives of Malaysia declared it a historical landmark that now houses the Telekom Museum.

Muzium Telekom was Malaysia’s first interactive museum, with plenty of interesting displays and exhibits. There are audio-visual exhibits, a room showcasing old equipment and communication machinery, educational spaces for school children, and ancient artifacts dating 120 years old from the pre-war era.

The museum provides a fun and engaging way for kids to learn about the history of telecommunications in Malaysia. They can get their hands on old tech like vintage telephones or discover the inner workings of a telecommunications exchange during the war.

Chan See Shu Yuen Temple

Sitting in the heart of KL’s Chinatown on Jalan Petaling is one of Malaysia’s largest and oldest Buddhist temples, the Chan See Shu Yuen Temple. The temple was first known as Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Association, the former house of the Yuen family. It was a club for people with Chan, Chen, and Tan surnames.

Its architecture took inspiration from the Clan Ancestral Hall in Guangzhou, China, harboring the Cantonese style with elements of Han and Baiyue. The Chinese temple is designed with stunning Chinese figures depicting scenes from Chinese legends. Several carvings and paintings complete the beauty of the temple. As you walk in, you will be greeted by altars honoring the three Chan clan ancestors.

Visit the Chan See Shu Yuen Temple to learn about Chinese culture and traditions.

Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman

Discover the ins and outs of this perfectly preserved traditional Malay house, the Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman. The Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman is one of the few living examples of a traditional Malay house built in the early 1900s.

This majestic wooden house was home to a local village headman from Kedah. After he died, it was bought by another local headman from the village of Kampung Sungai Kechil. The house remained there for 70 years and even passed on to the son.

After the son, Ibrahim, died, the house was abandoned for 15 years. During the year 1996, the house was restored by Badan Warisan Malaysia and moved to Kuala Lumpur.

Now, Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman sits in the bustling Kuala Lumpur city centre as one of the most historic heritage sites in KL. The house, built from hardwood, is adorned with gorgeous patterns and intricate geometric and floral designs. There’s also a carving of a star and crescent moon, a subtle tribute to Islam.

Surrounding the house is its own herb and heritage garden, home to more than 50 species of plants and trees. Some floras you can find include the hibiscus (Malaysia’s national flower), kaduk, cloves, orange jasmine tree, and maingaya tree.

You can only access the house through guided tours and scheduled hours. The Rumah Penghulu Abu Seman is open from Tuesdays to Sundays and closed on Mondays or Public Holidays. Learn more about the tours here.

What’s Next?

Sri Mahamariamman Temple Kuala Lumpur

In the heart of Kuala Lumpur lies a treasure trove of historical gems, each with its unique story. Take an immersive journey with your family through the city’s rich history and culture and broaden your understanding of Malaysia’s past and present.

These historical places in Kuala Lumpur aren’t just relics of the past; they are living stories waiting to be experienced and many of the sites are considered a major tourist attraction. By exploring these tourist attractions with your family, you get a better understanding of the vibrant history and local culture of Kuala Lumpur. So, indulge your curiosity, bring your family, and immerse yourselves in the city’s history.


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Kuala Lumpur's Time-Traveling Delights 13 Historical Sites for Kids!
About Marlieke Kemp-Janssen:

Marlieke is the mom of a four-year-old girl and, together with daddy, they love living in and exploring Kuala Lumpur. As well as being the founder of Kuala Lumpur with Kids, Marlieke is a digital marketing consultant who has helped small businesses grow through her company Aureum Hospitality Advisers.

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