12 Free things to do in Kuala Lumpur (KL)

12 Free things to do in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia is a list created to help those on a budget, especially the budget travelers or backpackers to find some of these places while staying in KL. There have been many lists out there but this list that Malaysia Asia has done is up to date (Aug 2011) and has much more things to do for free. As KL has developed vastly over the last ten years, there are still many places that one can explore at no cost and also on foot. The list is in no particular order and if you have any comments, please do share with me and everyone below. Enjoy your visit to Kuala Lumpur.

Central Market Pasar Seni Kuala Lumpur 

1. KL Heritage Walk in Kuala Lumpur
Carried out by a group of volunteers called Be Tourist, this free heritage tour of KL city was started in October 2010. The free tour of KL starts at the Central Market or Pasar Seni at 10.30am daily. This unique tour takes you around old Kuala Lumpur and highlights are where the city began at the confluence of rivers, old heritage buildings in the utilitarian, classic and art deco designs from late 1800s till the 50s and visits to temples and mosques apart from some of the busiest streets in town.

*Update: 15th Dec 2012 - This will no longer be free effective Jan 1st 2013. It will also be renamed "I Love Malaysia Heritage Walk-KL" and there will be a charge  of RM65 per person.

KL Malaysia Heritage Walk Tour
Meet Up Point: Central Market Annexe, Lot 2.03, 1 floor, Be Tourist Information & Service Centre 
Time: 10.30am Daily
Telephone: 017-989 1031 or 03-2032 1031 (local mobile number in KL)
Email: betourist@ymail.com
2. Exploring Little India in Brickfields
  • Located just about 15 minutes walk from Pasar Seni or Central Market, this Indian community known as Brickfields is also known as Little India. Almost all of the shops and businesses here are Indian run and you get to see the bright and colourful lifestyle here. You will find many Indian restaurants serving authentic Indian cuisine right o local Malaysian-Indian restaurants. A number of Indian grocery shops cater to only-Indian items. A great place to buy incense, spices and herbs.
  • There is also a Free Brickfields Heritage Walk organised by KL City Hall. It is on every 1st and 3rd Saturday each month and runs until the 17th of December 2011. The meeting time and place is 8.00AM at the YMCA Building. The walks takes about 2.5 hours. To make your bookings, call Tourism Unit, KL at - 03 2617 6273

Total Walking Time: 2-3 hours
Visit KL Website.

3. Seeing the Birthplace of Kuala Lumpur
This is the place where Kuala Lumpur started. Back in the day, miners in boats arrived here at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers and could not go any further therefore setting up came here. Kuala means Confluence while Lumpur means Mud or simply translated as Muddy Confluence. These days, many just call the city KL (pronounced Kay El). If you do not take the free heritage walk, you can simply make your way here from Chinatown or the Golden Triangle via foot. The place is just nearby the Masjid Jamek which is the first mosque in KL and designed by British architect Arthur Bennison Hubback in 1909. It is also behind the Central Market and Independence Square (Dataran Merdeka). Exploring this area will take you around the older parts of Kuala Lumpur.

Total Walking time: 1-2 hours

Lake Gardens Kuala Lumpur Map

4. Visiting the Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens
As this massive 230 acre gardens sits within the city of KL, there are a number of free activities that one can do here. A simple 20-30 minute walk from Dataran Merdeka or Independence Square will bring you to many of the attractions here. Some of them include the Hibiscus Garden, Orchid Garden and Deer Park which are free entrance on weekdays. There is a charge on weekends. The National Monument and a beautiful lake is also in the vicinity so you can easily spend a good 4-6 hours around here. There are public toilets and rest areas for tourist while tourist police are seen on horseback here. Please bring snacks or food as sometimes, food is scarce here. It is possible to walk here and then walk back to the city in half a day or less. Other paid parks like the KL Bird Park and Butterfly Park is also here. 

Total Walking Time: 4-6 hours

Kuala Lumpur Skyline

5. Visiting KLCC and Petronas Twin Towers
One of the most popular tourist attractions in KL, the Petronas Twin Towers are located in the heart of the city. Currently the tallest twin towers in the world, this majestic 88 storey building stands at 452 meters high. Here, there are a total of 4 free things to do.
  • Walking around the massive buildings in the day and night is a bonus for picture taking. Some say the best spot to take pictures is at the junction of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Yap Kuan Seng where the traffic lights are located and you get the best angle of KLCC.
  • Inside the complex, there is an art gallery called Galeri Petronas which is built to support the development and preservation of arts in the country. It serves as an venue for fine arts exhibition for both international and local artists. Great for art lovers.
  • The KLCC Park is spread over 17 acres with a jogging path, water fountains, a wading pool and beautiful greenery.If you like parks, this is the place to explore. It is also a great spot to photograph the Twin Towers.
  • Window Shopping at Suria KLCC, one of the largest shopping malls which is in the twin tower buildings. Here you can people watch or simply check out the prices of watches and designer items. There are cinemas, supermarkets, a science discovery center, huge book stores and a philharmonic theater inside the complex. The LRT subway line also has a station underground here. 
  • Please take note that the Free Tickets to go up the KLCC Sky Bridge is no longer available. There is a RM10 charge for this now.
Total Walking Time Here: 2-8 hours (depending on what you do)

Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur 

6. Walking to Jalan Alor, Tengkat Tong Shin and Changkat Bukit Bintang
  • If you are not already staying at Tengkat Tong Shin's guesthouses or backpacker hotels, this would be one of the places to explore in the day or after dark. Jalan Alor is famous for the many local hawkers selling all sorts of Malaysian food plus cold beer. A lovely place to walk by and see the varieties of food being sold against the myriad of colors at night.
  • Changkat Bukit Bintang is just around the corner and plays host to some of Kuala Lumpurs best night scene. A number of bars, clubs, discos and fine dining restaurants line both sides of the street making it a very popular place for locals, expats and foreigners. If you love the nightlife, this is your place to hang out.
  • Tengkat Tong Shin is well known for a number of upmarket guesthouses, flash packer hotels,  backpacker guest houses and hotels. This road also leads into Jalan Alor and also Changkat.
Total Walking Time: Varies

Kasturi Walk, Central Market Kuala Lumpur 

7. Central Market or Pasar Seni
  • The oldest market in KL, the Central Market has been around since 1888 and is now the busiest modern handicraft market in Kuala Lumpur. Here, you will get to see the many crafts from most of the states of Malaysia on display. Downstairs, three unique streets occupy the left section of the building as you enter. They are the Indian Street, Malay Street and Straits Chinese Street who display the multi-ethnicity of Malaysia. You will also find lots of craft, souvenir, antique and art shops throughout the market spread over two floors. There are a few good restaurants available while a food court serving local Malaysian dishes is well worth a try.
  • Next door, a building dedicated to art called the Annexe Gallery showcases some of the countries up and coming artist while art exhibitions are done here. If you love art, this is one of the places to check and it is free. Both places are only a 5 minute walk from Petaling Street or Chinatown in KL.

Total Walking Time Here: From 1-4 hours
Central Market Website.

8. Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex
One of the interesting places if you love local culture and heritage can be found in the heart of KL. Called the National Craft Complex, it is located at Jalan Conlay which is near the KLCC and Golden Triangle area. Walking here will just take you about 10-15 minutes from both places and you can find almost all the local craft available in Malaysia. Guests can also participate in handicraft work and purchase the items made. Popular Malaysian craft like Batik, Pottery and Wood Carvings can be seen here.  

Total Walking Time: 1-2 hours

Petaling Street / Chinatown Kuala Lumpur

9. Visit a Night Market or Pasar Malam
As Malaysia is well known for the night markets or pasar malam in Malay, the can be found throughout the city of KL where here, you get two of the best which are easily found by foot.
  • TAR Market - One of the best night markets in KL can be found along Jalan Tunku Rahman or Jalan TAR on Saturday nights. The market starts about 5pm and ends at about 11pm. Here you will find all sorts of local foods, nick-knacks, fashion and accessories on sale where you can bargain for the prices. This place is easy to walk to as it takes about 10-15 minutes walk from Petaling Street or Chinatown or about 20-30 minutes walk from KLCC.
  • Petaling Street or Chinatown Market - Located in the core area of Chinatown is the famous Petaling Street market where you will find a multitude of knock-off goods which include watches, t-shirts, bags and the occasional fruit and food stalls. Apart from the usual items, some of the best local hawkers and restaurants serving good Chinese food can be found here at Jalan Hang Lekir. Here, roadside tables are covered with bright coloured table cloth to indicate the shops while foreigners sit and have local Chinese dishes with cold beer. A number of backpacker guest houses and hotels can be found in the vicinity.

Total Walking Time: 2-4 hours

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

10. Heritage Buildings in KL - Walking Tour
Apart from the modern sky scrapers in town, there are quite a number of beautiful Heritage Buildings which were from the British Colonial days that still stand strong in the city. By exploring on foot, you can see many of these buildings that are in the older areas of Kuala Lumpur. Starting at the Central Market (Art-Deco), you can walk towards Independence Square or Dataran Merdeka where the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (SAS) stands majestically and is the largest of the heritage buildings here. Opposite, the English Tudor styled Royal Selangor Club sits facing the SAS Building. Head on over to the old railway station to see a couple more of the Neo Moorish and Mughal designed buildings. In the old city area, many shop houses don the old pre-war structures where you get to see a mix of influences in designs from Grecian-Spanish, Neo-Gothic, Victorian and even the American styles that range from 1880s till 1950s. 

Total Walking Time: 3-6 hours

Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur
11. Batu Caves Visit
You have not seen Kuala Lumpur if you have not visited Batu Caves. This is one of the most interesting caves in the world where it takes you up 262 steps into a cavern where an Indian temple sits. During the festival of Thaipusam, over a million people visit this place and is one of the fascinating events to witness in late January or early February yearly. Climbing up to the temple is free but you need take a public bus to get here from the city. It is about 20-30 minutes drive from KL so walking is out of the question. Here, the art gallery caves have a charge. There are Indian restaurants around the place and there are also toilets.

Total Walking Time: 2-3 hours

12. Traditional Malay Village Kampung Baru Walk
Imagine a village in the heart of the city of KL, this is what Kampung Baru is about. The British originally gazetted Kampung Baru as a Malay Agricultural Settlement in 1900 to allow the Malays to retain their village lifestyle within the city. Predominantly only Malays in the area, it is well known for food and businesses. Not a usual tourist spot but the curious will venture here to see what a local kampung looks like.The place is also best visited in the evenings or nights as there is an area dedicated to all things Malay food. The road name is Jalan Raja Muda Musa and is filled with over 50 Malay food stalls here. From KLCC or Chinatown, it takes about 15-20 minutes walk to Kampung Baru.

Total Walking Time: About 1-2 hours

Compiled by David Jr from Malaysia Asia, I am a pure Malaysian who grew up here therefore it is only my explorations that made me come up with this. You can also get updates and information on Malaysia via my Twitter and Facebook.

There you have it, a list of free stuff that you can do while you are in KL city and 11 of them are accessible by foot except for the Batu Caves visit. While most travelers prefer to see the city by walking, this list helps you to understand that there is more that what you read out there. If you spend a little more time here in the city, you will find many interesting things to do here apart from the 12 Free things to do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.