Capital cool: 48 hours in Jakarta

Embrace Indonesia’s chaotic capital city and you’ll find a wonderful mix of cultures, incredible street food, creative community spaces and more. These are the top things to do in Jakarta...

Located in the west of island Java, Jakarta is not only Indonesia’s capital but also the country’s busy and bustling business metropolis. With a population of more than 10 million, its streets feel buzzing any time of the day or night (and not just because of the constant streams of traffic).

What’s special about Jakarta is its mix of cultures and faiths that seamlessly co-exist side by side. Neo-Gothic churches, mosques, Sikh temples, colonial-style buildings and bright digital billboards sit comfortable together. There’s a fun waterfront, sizzling street food scene and contemporary public spaces that have sprung up in historic renovated buildings.

National Monument in Jakarta (Image: cpaulfell/Shutterstock)cpaulfell/Shutterstock

Jakarta is a great jumping-off point for the rest of the island but you won’t regret taking some time out to explore this cosmopolitan city. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Jakarta.    

Day 1

Check-in to: Hotel Borobudur. This centrally-located 5-star hotel is the perfect place to base yourself during a short stay in Jakarta. Around a 30-minute drive from Soekarno Hatta International Airport (depending on the capital’s notorious traffic, of course) and a short walk to several top sights, the hotel makes for an ideal city break stay.

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If you’re feeling jet-lagged, a refreshing dip in the huge swimming pool will sort you out in no time and you’ll sleep easy in the spacious, comfy beds.

Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta (Image: Hotel Borobudur/booking.com)Hotel Borobudur/booking.com

Get your bearings: with a walk around Central Jakarta. There are several top attractions within a 10-minute walk of Hotel Borobudur which will give you a nice snapshot of the city. First head to the National Monument, set within the National Monument Park. The 449-foot-tall (137m) obelisk-shaped structure commemorates Indonesia’s fight for independence.

Close by is the National Gallery of Indonesia, with paintings and sculptures by local and international artists. Take a look around the permanent exhibitions before checking out the changing temporary showcases.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Galeri Nasional Indonesia (@galerinasional) on

For an example of the city’s unique multicultural, multi-faith make-up, visit the neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Jakarta Cathedral which stands across from the Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in South East Asia. The latter religious site was purposefully chosen to be built there by Indonesia’s first president to demonstrate the nation’s peaceful co-existence of diversity.    

Jakarta Cathedral and Mosque (Image: Creativa Images/Shutterstock)Creativa Images/Shutterstock

Embark on a street food crawl: along Pecenongan Street. Make sure to arrive hungry so you can try a bit of everything along this road teeming with stalls. Each spot specialises in its own dish: build-your-own nasi goreng, glutinous caramel-filled sweets and roaming vendors selling jamu, a traditional herbal drink. Some stalls have small seating areas where you can stop and eat, otherwise get food to go then indulge in the ultimate takeaway feast.

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One place not to miss is Martabak 65A for their namesake martabak – thick pancakes stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings then fried. Choose from a long list of fillings, from chicken and beef to Toblerone, Nutella and Skippy peanut butter. Or make like a local and go for one of the most popular combinations – cheese and chocolate. Watch the martabak being made to order (you’ll realise why they taste so good when you see the sheer amount of butter and condensed milk smothered on them).

Cheese martabak (Image: Daisy Meager)Photo by Daisy Meager

For something lighter, keep an eye out for vendors with carts full of fresh produce, selling takeaway fruit salads. Sellers will prepare and chop fruit, and bundle it up in paper with sachets of spicy peanut sauce, salt and small wooden cocktail sticks for skewering and dipping.   

Street food fruit salad (Image: Daisy Meager)Photo by Daisy Meager

Day 2

Explore attractions down by the port: You could spend all day at Ancol Taman Impian, also known as Ancol Dreamland, which is a vast waterfront resort in the north of Jakarta.

Make a splash at Atlantis Water Adventure water park, get back to nature at the Ecopark, pick up souvenirs at arts and crafts market Pasar Seni, or simply chill out on the beach at Taman Pantai. There’s parking if you have your own car or jump on the free shuttle to get from place to place.

Ancol DreamlandArtush/Shutterstock

Have lunch at: Talaga Sampireun Ancol, located within Ancol Dreamland. Nab one of the thatched dining spaces that jut out onto the lake next to this Sudanese restaurant. Dine on set menu feasts or mix and match dishes like fish cooked in banana leaf, pork satay, tamarind vegetable soup, garlicky grilled prawns and puffed buffalo crackling.   

Talaga Sampireun Ancol (Image: Daisy Meager)
Photo by Daisy Meager

Come evening, dine at: ala RITUS. Even after a big lunch, you’ll work up an appetite again after spending the rest of the afternoon at Ancol Dreamland. When your stomach is rumbling, head to ala RITUS in Central Jakarta. This chilled-out spot is brightly decorated with a decked alfresco space, surrounded by bamboo panelling and lush green plants.

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The must-order here is the nasi campur – rice with a selection of small dishes and accompaniments. There are several takes on the dish on the menu: nasi campur daun jeruk comes with orange leaf rice, grilled fish, chicken curry, vegetables and chilli sauce; or get the nasi campur Ala RITUS with beef stew, fried chicken, pickled papaya, potato cake and pineapple sauce. Please note that at the time of writing the restaurant is temporarily closed but keep an eye on ala RITUS’ Instagram page for updates.

Nasi capur at Ala RITUS restaurant (Image: Daisy Meager)Photo by Daisy Meager

Hang out with the cool kids at: M Bloc Space. This former government money printing building in South Jakarta is the place to be. The creative hub houses hip cafés, shops, a gig venue and street art displays.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by M Bloc Space (@mblocspace) on

In the evening, the area comes alive with hanging lights criss-crossing alleyways around the building and groups of friends gossiping on raised, tiered benches. Grab a drink from Suwe Ora Jamu, a trendy café which aims to make the old-school jamu tonic cool. Then head inside the main building to catch a concert or wander around to take in street art murals.

How to get to and around Jakarta

Flights frequently leave from London to Jakarta but will require a stopover. The closet airport for Jakarta is Soekarno Hatta International Airport.

It’s best to get around the city via taxi which are metered and can also be ordered through the Grab app, which is similar to Uber.

For more information, visit the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy website.

Lead image: Creativa Images/Shutterstock

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