Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta is a riotous clash of contradictions—it’s vibrant and exciting yet gritty and authentic. It can be overwhelming to the senses, especially for a first-timer to the country of Indonesia who’s unsure of their footing and how to get around. To help you make the most out of your stay, we’ve narrowed down which Jakarta neighbourhoods are worth your time and energy to explore.
Located in Central Jakarta, Menteng is known as the ‘Beverly Hills of Indonesia’, modelled after Ebenezer Howard’s vision of a garden city.
Its gorgeous tree-lined streets witnessed the childhood of former United States president Barack Obama, who lived here for a period of five years and went to two different schools in the area.
Menteng is home to many a diplomat and bureaucrat, and the dining options here reflect upper crust tastes; Bunga Rampai is a top recommendation, a majestic Dutch colonial house that has since been converted into an upscale Indonesian restaurant that caters to an exclusive clientele.
Also in Menteng is L’Avenue at The Hermitage Hotel, a bistro-style establishment that serves classic French dishes.
Indonesia’s biggest Chinatown can be found in West Jakarta and is known as Glodok. Home to the greatest concentration of Chinese-Indonesian people in the city, this neighbourhood is packed with generation-old stores still hawking the very same wares they had when they first arrived.
You can find everything from traditional Chinese medicine to candied fruit. It’s also where you can score the best Chinese food in the city.
Head to Kalimati Alley and feast on pan-fried dumplings stuffed with pork, leek, and Chinese cabbage, or grab a box of bakpia, a uniquely Chinese-Indonesian sweet roll filled with red or mung beans.
Glodok, with neighbouring Mangga Dua, is also one of the biggest shopping centres in Southeast Asia—a mind-boggling 500,000 square meters of shopping centre stretching from the street of Pancoran all the way down to Gunung Sahari. If you need anything, this is where you’ll find it.
While technically not part of Jakarta (it’s in Tangerang, where Terminal 3 Soekarno Hatta Airport is), the neighbourhood of Alam Sutera carries the unique distinction of being the ‘Singapore of Indonesia’.
Located southwest of Jakarta, it’s a technologically-advanced township home to no less than two high-class shopping malls, the biggest food park in Jabodetabek, and Indonesia’s flagship IKEA.
It has direct access to the Jakarta-Merak Toll Road, and an internal shuttle bus service makes it easy to get around.
Kota Tua means ‘old town’ and is a neighbourhood comprised of the original downtown area of Jakarta.
Locals also call it Oud Batavia (‘Old Batavia’ in Dutch), Bendenstad (‘lower city’, also in Dutch), or Kota Lama, a variation of old town in Indonesian.
Here you’ll find many Dutch-style buildings and architecture—remnants of Indonesia’s long history with the Dutch East India Company.
Café Batavia offers original cuisine from the time period and is housed in a building constructed in the 1830s, a living piece of history that is still frequented by locals and tourists alike today.
Kota Tua is also where you’ll find an assortment of museums such as the Wayang Museum, the Fine Arts and Ceramic Museum, and the Bank Mandiri Museum.
Expat-friendly Kemang is also a tourist favourite, especially for those with a love of fashion and the arts.
Foreigners who enjoy visiting art galleries will be spoiled for choice as there no less than seven: 2Madison, Edwin’s Gallery, and Hadiprana Art Gallery house some of the capital’s finest pieces from Indonesian artists and independent designers, both for viewing and purchasing.
Kemang also has a lively nightlife scene, where you can find everything from British-style pubs that serve craft beers and signature drinks to South American cantinas that offer the best in Argentinian wines to go along with their grilled meats.
Steeped in history and brilliantly diverse, there are Jakarta neighbourhoods for every kind of traveller. Whether you enjoy shopping for brand-name goods or are seeking authentic cultural experiences, you’ll find that there’s little reason to venture away from the capital – everything you want is at your fingertips in Jakarta.