The Strait of Melaka was a major trading port back in the days during the Portuguese ruling. Flash forward to today, Melaka (also known as Malacca) is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its rich history and culture.
From narrow lanes lined with shophouses selling authentic Malaysian food to incredible architecture reminiscence of the Portuguese and Dutch occupations and colorful street arts, there are so many things to do in Melaka!
If you need help in planning your Melaka day trip, this travel guide will show how to get to Melaka, the best budget hotels (if you decide to stay overnight) and 12 things you simply can’t miss!
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HOW TO GET TO MELAKA?
You can book bus tickets from either Singapore or other parts of Malaysia on easybook.com, busonlineticket.com or 12go.asia. Although you can buy tickets on the same day at the bus station, booking online is more convenient and guarantees that you get a seat of your choice.
From Kuala Lumpur
Take the bus from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. A one-way ticket can be as low as US$ 2.56 depending on the time and bus company. The bus will drop you off at Melaka Sentral Bus Terminal and a Grab to the town center will cost about RM 12 (US$ 2.90). The bus journey from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka takes only about two hours, making it perfect for a weekend getaway in Malaysia!
Bus operating hours: 7 a.m to 10.30 p.m
If you’re coming from Singapore, you can take the bus from different stations in Singapore. I took the 707Inc bus from Queen Street in Singapore and the bus dropped me just a few minutes’ walk from my hotel. Ticket prices start from US$ 11.51.
Bus operating hours: 12.15 a.m to 11.59 p.m
BEST PLACE TO STAY IN MELAKA
Hotel Arissa features clean and modern rooms that can fit up to three people. Although, a bit far from the main attractions (about a 20 minutes’ walk from the Dutch Square), it’s located in a quiet neighborhood. Prices start from US$ 23 for a twin room without breakfast.
Buffalo Soldier Home
For my second trip to Melaka, I stayed at Buffalo Soldier Home which is located right in the center of Melaka’s main attractions. They have dorm rooms starting from US$ 6 per bed and family rooms from US$ 24. You can take advantage of the free breakfast (toast and coffee) and drinking water.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MELAKA
Just like any other parts of Malaysia, Melaka is hot and humid year-round with the occasional rainfall and temperatures rising up to 32 degrees Celsius. The wet season occurs from April to October while November to February is usually the driest.
WHAT TO DO DURING YOUR MELAKA DAY TRIP?
WANDER AROUND THE DUTCH SQUARE
A day trip to Melaka isn’t complete without visiting the Dutch Square (Red Square). The focal point of Melaka is always buzzing with activity since all the main attractions are located within this area. The red buildings and water fountain together with the iconic “I love Melaka” sign make for a great photo op!
Here, you’ll find lots of souvenir stalls and rows of colorful rickshaws that take you around town for RM 40 (US$ 9.60) while blasting catchy musical tunes. Dutch Square is clearly one of the top places to visit in Melaka!
GET A SHOT IN FRONT OF THE ICONIC CHRIST CHURCH
When you travel to Melaka, you need to see the Christ Church! It’s one of the most recognizable buildings in Melaka due to its vibrant red color and imposing façade. It’s the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia and was built by the Dutch in the 1700s to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the capture of Melaka from the Portuguese.
CLIMB UP ST PAUL’S HILL
The lookout point from St Paul’s Church offers scenic views of Melaka. Constructed by the Portuguese in honor of the Virgin Mary, the church was used as the temporary tomb of St Francis Xavier. It later fell into disrepair and only the ruins stand above Paul’s Hill.
Since St Paul’s Church is a major tourist attraction in Malacca, you’ll find lots of souvenir stalls and locals selling cold juice and water which is highly welcomed after climbing up the hill in the scorching heat.
VISIT THE STADTHUYS
The Stadthuys is located in the Dutch Square and houses the History and Ethnography Museum. Melaka is known for its high temperatures even in the early hours, so a visit to the Stadthuys will help beat the heat for a while before continuing on your Melaka day trip.
Cost: RM 10 (US 2.40)
EXPLORE THE PORTA DE SANTIAGO AT A’FAMOSA FORT
Located down the path from St Paul’s Church, A’Famosa Fort was built by the Portuguese in the 1500s since they believed that Melaka could be an important port linking Portugal to the Spice Route in China.
The fort once served as the captain and officers’ quarters. Later on, the Dutch overtook the fortress and eventually handed it over to the British in the 1700s.
A’Famosa Fort is an interesting place to visit in Melaka and nowadays, you can only find the Porta de Santiago (gatehouse) which has been salvaged before the complete destruction of the fortress.
MARITIME AND NAVAL MUSEUM
The Maritime and Naval Museum is a giant replica of a Portuguese ship that sunk along the Strait of Melaka. It houses several exhibits highlighting the history of Melaka under the ruling of the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The attraction is mostly aimed at history enthusiasts and families with kids.
Cost: RM 20 (US$ 4.80)
HUNT DOWN STREET ARTS IN MELAKA
Start by taking a stroll along the river bank and soon you’ll notice the huge Kiehl’s mural and if you keep going, you’ll come across several buildings completely covered with colorful murals.
CRUISE ALONG THE MELAKA RIVER
If you want to see Melaka from a different perspective, it’s a good idea to hop on the Melaka River Cruise. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Melaka and the ride lasts for about 45 minutes and takes you along the canals.
You’ll be cruising along some of Melaka’s famous attractions such as the Dutch Square and Jonker Street and even spot some beautiful murals painted over old buildings.
Buy your buy tickets at either the Spice Garden jetty or the Melaka River Square jetty.
Operating hours: 9 a.m to 11.30 p.m.
Cost: RM 30 (US$ 7.20) for adults and RM 25 (US$ 6) for children.
SEE MELAKA FROM ABOVE AT THE MENARA TAMING SARI
Menara Taming Sari is a revolving tower that rises up to 80 meters, providing a 360-degree view of the whole city of Melaka. You’ll be able to spot some of the major landmarks including St Paul’s Church, Naval Museum and the Strait of Melaka, making it one of the best things to do in Melaka!
Operating hours: 10 a.m to 11 p.m
Cost: RM 23 (US$ 5.50) for adults and RM 13 (US$ 3.10) for children, including a free water bottle.
WATCH SUNSET AT THE MELAKA STRAITS MOSQUE
Head out to the best sunset spot in town at the Melaka Straits Mosque (Masjid Selat Melaka) that literally floats over the water. The sun setting behind the illuminated Mosque is truly a magical sight that will make you stare in awe!
You can get a Grab there for about RM 12 (US$ 2.90) from the town center.
EAT AND SHOP AT JONKER STREET (CHINATOWN)
Another top attraction to visit during your Melaka day trip is the Jonker Street Night Market! Wander around the street during the day to discover quirky street arts and historical buildings as well as boutiques selling cute clothes for cheap.
To sample some of the most delicious street food in Melaka, head out during the weekend to the Jonker Street Night Market. Any local will tell that you can’t visit Melaka without exploring the night market!
BONUS – GET YOUR CAFFEINE FIX AT THE DAILY FIX CAFE!
The fact that I went back to Melaka just to eat at the Daily Fix Café says it all! Hidden behind a souvenir shop, the café might be hard to spot from the main road but keep an eye out for the sign.
The vintage décor makes for a great Instagram backdrop and the fluffy pandan pancakes will make you crave for more! The Daily Fix Café is one of the most popular places to go in Melaka, so make sure you get there as soon as it opens to grab a seat and indulge in the most delicious breakfast ever!
Operating hours: 9 a.m to 11.30 p.m from Mondays to Fridays and 8.30 a.m to 11.30 p.m during weekends.
I hope this guide has helped you in planning your trip to Melaka. Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to help!