No visit to Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur, would be complete without a visit to Central Markets, also known as the Centre for Malaysian Culture, Heritage, Art and Craft. Situated on Jalan Hang Kasturi, just a five minute bus ride from KL Sentral, the markets are a rich and vibrant celebration of Malaysia's diverse cultural traditions, and a great spot to shop for high-quality handcrafted souvenirs or beautiful locally-made gifts for special people back home.
Established in 1888 as a wet market selling fish, meat and vegetables, the present structure was built in the early 1900s, with its famous Art Nouveau facade being added during the 1930s. However, by the 1970s the building was earmarked for demolition, and was only saved due to the determined lobbying of the Malaysian Heritage Society. After much renovation and refurbishment, this fine old building has been given a new lease of life, and these days it's one of Kuala Lumpur's foremost tourist drawcards.
Whether you're a local, or a visitor to Kuala Lumpur, there is so much to see and do at Central Markets. The building's interior has been tastefully refurbished to reflect the traditional architectural features of Malaysia, and this also enhances the presentation of the traditional arts, crafts, food and other wares that are purveyed inside. Whether you're a creative connoisseur or simply love shopping for beautiful things, Central Markets are a veritable treasure trove of gorgeous and exotic, yet reasonably priced, goodies.
Malaysia is one of the world's most culturally diverse countries and this is vibrantly reflected in the markets. Particular parts have been named to reflect specific cultural communities, so you'll find Malay Street, Strait's Chinese and Little India, each section adorned with flags, lanterns and other traditional decor, and filled with shops selling items typical of the community. While the Batik Emporium is also a popular destination for visitors eager to learn about this iconic Malay art-form, other stalls purvey exotic Oriental antiques, intricate woodcarvings, traditional handcrafted masks, Chinese lanterns, gorgeous silk brocades, colourful Indian fabrics and home decor, sweet-smelling incense and perfume oils, and so much more. A large food-court provides hungry shoppers with some respite from their shopping adventures and the opportunity to sample some of Malaysia's best regional cuisine.
Due to the popularity of the Markets and the need to expand, the adjoining Kasturi Walk (a covered walkway featuring more market-stalls) is the latest addition to the markets and its stalls have been created to resemble traditional huts in a Malaysian kampung, or village. If you love the performing arts, the Kasturi Walk is the place to be in the evening, and traditional dance performances are held here at 9pm every night of the week.
Finally, for those who'd like to delve deeper into the mysteries of Malaysian culture and art, the Central Market Annexe is located behind the Central Market building and presents several exhibition spaces including the excellent Museum of Ethnic Arts (housing a vast collection of artefacts and art from Indochina, China and South East Asia) and the Annexe Gallery, a popular and somewhat alternative art centre.
In conclusion, a visit to Central Markets is essential for any visitor to Malaysia who wants to reach beyond the tourist veneer and learn about the country's history and rich culture. Easily accessible and with so much to see and do, you could easily spend a whole day at this awesome market and its surrounds. To learn more, including detailed directions about how to get there, and what's happening in the near future, take a look at the Central Market website .
Address: Lot 3.04 - 3.06, Central Market, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia