Travel Guides & Tips

Here are 6 reasons why you should make Surabaya your next holiday destination

Despite being the capital of East Java and holding the distinction of second largest city in Indonesia, Surabaya is one of the country’s most underrated tourist destinations.

It’s often used as a transit hub to other attractions in East Java, but if you take the time to explore the city itself, you’ll discover there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface.

So we’re here to set the record straight and tell you all about why this vibrant and compelling city is worth a spot on your bucket list of destinations to travel to:

1. Learn the city’s long and storied history

Tugu Pahlawan Surabaya
Tugu Pahlawan, or Heroes Monument, honoring those who died in the Battle of Surabaya.

Did you know that Surabaya got its name from the Javanese words suro, meaning “shark”, and boyo, meaning “crocodile”? According to local legend, the two creatures fought each other in order to earn the title of “the strongest and most powerful animal”. A statue paying tribute to the city’s roots, depicting a shark and crocodile forever locked in battle, is on display in front of Surabaya Zoo.

The city is also where one of the Indonesian National Revolution’s most significant battles took place: the Battle of Surabaya led to increased local and international support for Indonesian independence and is why the city is known as the “City of Heroes”. Tugu Pahlawan, or the Heroes Monument, honors those who died in the battle.

If you want to go even further back in time, be sure to visit Trowulan, the former capital of the Majapahit Empire, which is now an archeological site and museum. It’s a must-visit for history buffs, and is a 90-minute drive from the city.

2. Explore the city’s cultural diversity

Sanggar Agung Temple or Hong San Tang is a temple for Buddhist, Taoist and Kong Hu Cu followers.

As one of the earliest port cities in Southeast Asia, Surabaya has welcomed voyagers from various parts of the world throughout its history, many of whom have left a mark on the city.

The most obvious reminders come in the form of architectural and religious remnants, like the Cheng Ho Mosque, which was inspired by Chinese temples and pagodas; the Sanggar Agung Temple, which is dedicated to Chinese deities and other Asian religious icons; and the Santa Maria Church.

In Surabaya’s Old Town district to the west, you can explore a mixture of Dutch colonial buildings, including the famous House of Sampoerna, a museum dedicated to one of Indonesia’s biggest clove cigarette manufacturers, as well as the city’s historical Arab Quarter, comprising bustling narrow lanes and stalls selling curios.  


3. Get a taste of authentic East Javanese food

Iga Penyet
Iga Penyet is a popular East Javanese dish of fried beef spare ribs served with spicy sambal terasi.

East Java has its own unique cuisine you should definitely try, such as iga penyet (beef spare ribs served with a special homemade sambal), soto ayam (an aromatic spicy chicken soup), and tahu tek (a yummy street food dish made of egg and beancurd, topped with a sweet and savory peanut gravy).   

Being a port city, Surabaya also has a wide range of fresh seafood to offer visitors, so visit a local seafood restaurant to indulge in some delicious fish, crab, or lobster dishes. For traditional snacks, head to Kartiko at Atum Market.


4. There are plenty of green spaces to appreciate nature

Ecotourism Mangroves Wonorejo
Visitors walk along the boardwalk trails at Ecotourism Mangroves Wonorejo. Source: INDONESIAPIX /

Surabaya is such a sprawling, busy city that it’s no wonder that its residents need some parks to escape to. Get a breath of fresh air at by walking around Bungkul Park or Ecotourism Mangroves Wonorejo.

If you love being surrounded by fresh blooms and plants, drop by Bratang Flower Market, a floral paradise of exotic flowers. Its lively colors are sure to brighten up your day.


5. It’s got the longest bridge in Indonesia

Suramadu Bridge
Suramadu Bridge is Indonesia’s longest bridge, measuring at 5.4 kilometers.

The Suramadu Bridge, also known as the Surabaya–Madura Bridge, is a cable-stayed bridge between Surabaya and the town of Bangkalan on Madura Island.

Completed in 2009, the bridge is the longest in Indonesia, measuring at 5,438 meters. It’s the first bridge to cross the Madura Strait. The best time to view it is at night, when the bridge lights up.


6. It’s your gateway to East Java’s natural wonders

Mount Bromo
A panoramic view of Mount Bromo.

As mentioned earlier, Surabaya is usually a jumping off point for travelers who wish to visit popular tourist attractions in East Java, such as Mount Bromo and Ijen Crater.

If you’ve had enough of the urban chaos, the rural areas surrounding the city are ready to welcome you. Mount Bromo, which is considered the most hiked mountain in Indonesia, is just a 4-hour drive from the city.

At Ijen Crater, some eight hours away, its beautiful turquoise-colored sulfuric lake is Java’s largest crater lake. Its most famous sight is the electric blue flames emitted from the burning sulfur – a breathtaking sight to behold.

Have we convinced you yet? If you’re ready to pack your bags, Malaysia Airlines is offering direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Surabaya on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday every week. Book your trip today!

A storyteller with an insatiable sense of curiosity. Travel junkie. Card-carrying member of many fandoms. Heavily dependent on caffeine. Loyal cat servant. Former journalist at the New Straits Times and Hybrid News.