Johor Bahru used to be a city that was generally overlooked as a destination compared to the metropolitan Kuala Lumpur and the historical tourist hubs of Penang and Melaka. However, it’s now finally beginning to come into its own, shedding its role as a mere transit town on the way to elsewhere and letting its unique personality shine.
Here are several reasons why you should explore and discover Peninsular Malaysia’s “Diamond in the South”:
Shop and eat to your heart’s content at City Square and Komtar JBCC Mall
The two malls are situated right next to one another on Jalan Wong Ah Fook in the city’s Central Business District and see a fair amount of foot traffic from both sides of the Causeway.
City Square is a particular favorite for Singaporean shoppers, as the mall is connected to the CIQ Complex via a pedestrian bridge, giving easy access to its myriad shops and eateries. There are so many shops to check out that you probably won’t exhaust all your options, but if you do, then the more recently-renovated Komtar JBCC Mall is just next door.
Remember that crazy-popular game involving a slingshot, space pigs and very aggravated birds? If you’re visiting with kids, one great way to keep ‘em busy is to take them to the Angry Birds Activity Park, located on the 3rd level of Komtar JBCC. The indoor park features a variety of activities, from foam pits and trampolines to obstacle courses and a go-kart track. While the kids are having a ball, parents can relax at the Parents Lounge or Snack Bar Cafe.
Go cafe-hopping around Jalan Dhoby
Johor Bahru’s cafe culture is alive and kickin’, so if you’re a coffee enthusiast or avid foodie, you should drop by Jalan Dhoby in the city’s Heritage District, where a concentration of the city’s best cafes are located.
Quench your thirst with any of Chaiwalla & Co’s refreshing beverages or gobble up the “best chicken chop in town” at IT Roo Cafe. Find out more about which cafes you should visit with our guide to Jalan Dhoby’s cool cafes.
Parallel to Jalan Dhoby is Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, where you can find Hiap Joo Bakery, famous for its banana cake and coconut bun – it’s been around for nearly a century, so you know they’re the real deal! Another long-standing bakery in the area is Salahuddin Bakery, which serves up delicious charcoal oven-baked goods. Our favorite item is the large triangular curry puff (also known as Bengali curry puff) that’s packed with fillings such as curry potato or sardine.
Stumble on some rare vintage finds at Pasar Karat
If you like the challenge of sniffing out vintage goods or bargain deals, then browse through the hundreds of stalls at Pasar Karat, JB’s most well-known night market. Filled with a lively, festive air, the market stretches from Jalan Tan Hiok Nee to Jalan Segget, spilling out to connected streets.
Open every night, curious shoppers can wander from stall to stall from 6pm until 2am. Here you’ll find nearly everything under the sun up for sale, from clothes and street snacks to antiques and trinkets.
Be mesmerized by the dazzling Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple
This glass-studded temple is one of Johor Bahru’s oldest Hindu temples, and is listed as the first and only glass temple in the country in the Malaysia Book of Records.
Made from mukhi Rudraksha beads from Nepal, almost every surface is covered by a mosaic of colored glass arranged in intricate designs, creating an eye-catching reflective effect that has attracted Hindu devotees and non-Hindu visitors from around the world.
The temple also houses fascinating sculptures and murals that portray the cycle of life and universal values such as social and racial harmony. You can access the temple from Jalan Tun Abdul Razak 1/1.
Watch the Johor Crown light up at night at Laman Mahkota
In front of Istana Bukit Serene, the Johor royal family’s residence, is Laman Mahkota, a small garden with a pretty fountain and its crowning glory, a replica of the Johor Sultan’s crown set aloft by high arches. (Word on the street is, the replica has actual bling built into it. 💎)
When the sun goes down, colorful changing lights illuminate the crown and the fountain, and like moths drawn to a flame, a small crowd gathers to enjoy the lights and take photos. Perhaps they’re hoping to bump into the Sultan himself?
Chill out with the cool kids at Kilang Bateri
About a 15 to 20-minute drive out from the city center is Kilang Bateri, a hip local hangout. Formerly a rundown Eveready battery factory (and the inspiration behind its name), the property was given a new lease on life and refitted with repurposed materials and shipping containers.
Open daily from 3pm to 12 midnight, it’s now home to a plethora of concept stores carrying homegrown Johor brands, trendy cafes, a kid’s playground and event spaces. If you’re looking for the life and soul of Johor Bahru, you’ll find it here.
Stroll down a charming slice of the French capital at Little Paris
We’ve got plenty of Chinatowns and Little Indias across Malaysia, but have you ever heard of a Little Paris? Well, JB’s got one.
This picturesque row of shophouses was built in homage to the shopfronts of Paris, and range from boutique clothing stores and nail salons to cafes that exude the yummiest aromas.
While not really that impressive in the day, at night it comes to life, as little garden lights strung up in the trees brighten up the surroundings. If you’re hungry, stop by Cafe de Flore (non-halal), a beautifully-decorated cafe inspired by the famous Parisian cafe of the same name. Its lovely outdoor decorations make it the perfect spot for al fresco dining.
You can find Little Paris at Jalan Jaya Putra 1/1 in Mount Austin, which is less than 30 minutes away from the Johor Bahru city center by car.
Experience Johor Bahru’s charms by booking your trip on Traveloka today!