chinatown kuala lumpur kl jalan tun tan cheng lock

Central Market and Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur

If you are planning to visit Kuala Lumpur (KL) for the first time, the first few stops of the day are our historical landmarks, namely, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Independence Square. The other historical areas are easily explored on foot, that is, if you do not mind the tropical heat and humidity. Depending where you come from, it’s a respite from the cold winters for some people but the humidity might be a drag for others. The best time to walk around the city centre is before 11am and after 5pm. However, should you find yourselves wandering around the streets of KL during mid-day – fret not – as there are plenty of air-conditioned places to cool down from the heat.

Not very far from Sultan Abdul Samad Building is Central Market. Founded in 1888, the original site was formerly a meat and vegetable market for locals and tin miners. Over a period of 50 years or so, the site was rebuilt with an Art Deco style and by the 1980s, it was a handicraft centre for tourists.

chinatown kuala lumpur kl central market

I remember coming to Central Market during my college days as the market was conveniently located opposite the Klang bus stand but I never returned to this place until just recently. Once again, we, locals, often say, why go to Central Market? Because it’s for tourists only! Hahaha, well, to my pleasant surprise, Central Market had gone through several renovations and revamp, thus, it is quite vibrant now.

The interesting section of Central Market is the Annexe where it houses art galleries, arts and craft shops, and music performance spaces. The Annexe is one of the major art spaces in KL showcasing artworks and performances from within Malaysia and the South East Asian region.

It’s worthwhile to spend a couple of hours in Central Market to browse, shop and to eat at the food court, cafes or restaurants. And yes, it’s air-conditioned 🙂

Just 5 minutes’ walk from Central Market is Chinatown on Jalan Petaling which is famous for its night market of imitation goods and curio items. In my opinion, I feel that Chinatown in KL has deteriorated. The night markets are nothing to shout about and are not as vibrant as the lively night markets of Thailand, Cambodia or Vietnam. Nevertheless, it should not be missed especially during the daytime as there are lots of Chinese restaurants, street food and old shops to be explored. In fact, it’s fun to watch the hustle and bustle of the everyday going-ons in Chinatown while having a drink at one of the coffee houses or pubs nearby.

chinatown kuala lumpur kl chinatown night

Parallel to Jalan Petaling is Jalan Tun H.S. Lee on which is situated the oldest Hindu temple in KL, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Founded by Tamil immigrants from South India, the temple was built in 1873 and is now, reputedly, the richest Hindu temple in KL.

chinatown kuala lumpur kl sri mahamariamman hindu temple

Every year during Thaipusam festival, large numbers of devotees converge on the temple to participate in a religious procession whereby the temple’s large silver chariot dedicated to Lord Murugan is transported through the city streets en route to Batu Caves in the northern part of KL.

Across the road from Sri Mahamariamman is a Chinese Taoist temple called Kuan Ti Temple. Kuan Ti is one of China’s greatest warriors, General Kuan (or Kwan). He was given the title of ‘God of War’ for his fighting and war skills, thus many had worshipped him to receive his blessings and protection.

chinatown kuala lumpur kl kuan ti chinese temple

Apart from receiving blessings, many devotees come to Kuan Ti Temple for its 59kg Chinese pole weapon made of copper. Devotees believe this legendary weapon possesses special powers to turn a person’s luck around.

I haven’t been able to visit this temple because each time I drove past, it’s always closed. Well, better luck next time!

I took photos of the aforementioned places recently on my way home from the office. In fact, there are more attractions to be found and explored in Central Market and Chinatown areas but I have never got the chance to do that due to other appointments that always come up. Fingers crossed, I get to these places some day!


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  1. The pasar malam has it’s own charm 🙂 I would like to go there during the daytime – last time I went at night it was really crowded and someone grabbed my butt – not nice!! I do like the Central Market for bracelets and the like.

    1. The pasar malam in the suburbs are much more interesting as they involve food, and you know, Malaysians and food hahaha…Central Market used to be fun but not anymore. I hope the Chinatown folks do something about it, inject a bit more vibrancy to the atmosphere. Ooh, about the butt-grabbing incident – that’s horrible – definitely not nice at all! 🙁

      1. I kinda feel Central Market has turned into another tourist trap as it focuses more on just selling handicrafts rather than trying to also educate visitors on the products through revolving exhibitions or workshops.

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