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Jakarta: a fast-moving metropolis at the heart of ASEAN
Indonesia's capital and largest city, Jakarta is a major commercial and economic center for the entire Southeast Asian region. Located in the western part of Java, Jakarta is home to more than ten million people, although millions more live in its satellite cities and commute into Jakarta each day.
The north of Jakarta is bordered by the Java Sea, and this part of the city also showcases many of its most historic sites. Jakarta's Old Town, Kota Tua, features a charming blend of colonial buildings, museums and markets which hark back to a bygone era. In recent years however, Jakarta has experienced an unprecedented development boom, with soaring skyscrapers and mega-malls rising all across the city. Indonesia's three tallest buildings have all opened in Jakarta since 2016 and a huge 638-meter-high tower has also been earmarked for the city.
This pace of development makes Jakarta one of the most exciting cities in the world. And as the seat of ASEAN Secretariat, it is also the unofficial capital of one of the world’s fastest-growing regions. With its rich heritage, cosmopolitan vibe and diverse culture, Jakarta is a fascinating destination for all types of traveler.
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Merdeka Square and the National Monument
The National Monument is a 132-meter-high landmark located in the center of Jakarta's vast Merdeka Square. Symbolizing Indonesia's struggle for independence, this major monument was completed in 1975, 14 years after construction began. The National Monument is clad with Italian marble and topped with a golden flame. The broader Merdeka Square is a vast open space covering one square kilometer, making it one of the largest public squares in the world. Lawns and ponds with musical fountains surround the monument, and there is even a deer enclosure. In a highly urbanized city, Merdeka Square provides a blissful refuge from the heat of the city and is a popular recreational spot for Jakartans.
National Museum of Indonesia
Located on the west side of Merdeka Square, the National Museum of Indonesia is considered the guardian of the country's national heritage. While the institution dates back more than 200 years to the Dutch colonial era, the museum officially opened in 1868 when it first gained its popular nickname, the "Elephant Building", due to the bronze elephant statue positioned in front of the museum. Now, the museum maintains a collection of 141,000 artifacts, including more than 61,000 prehistoric and anthropological exhibits from across Indonesia. This makes it one of the finest museums in Southeast Asia. A new wing, the Statue Building, opened in 2007 to complement the original Elephant Building.
Kota Tua Jakarta
Jakarta's Old Town, Kota Tua is located in the north of the city and features many historical buildings that date back to the Dutch colonial era. Batavia, as the city was once known, was an important port and a center for the spice trade, and the original walled city, surrounded by villages and paddy fields, was dubbed "The Jewel of Asia" in the 16th Century. Nowadays, Kota Tua is a charming reminder of this bygone era and many of the historical buildings can still be see today. Visitors can explore a series of museums, markets and Jakarta's original Chinatown district, and further projects are underway to restore the area to its former glory.
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII) is a large attraction in Jakarta designed to showcase Indonesian life and culture. Literally translated as "Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park", this cultural attraction covers one square kilometer and features a series of pavilions focused on the various provinces of Indonesia, from Aceh in the west to Papua in the east. There are also attractions showcasing the country's various faiths, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, plus landscaped parks and gardens, a technology center, multiple museums, exhibition halls and even a 4D theater. Guests can navigate their way around the large park by cable car, bicycle, boat and miniature train.
Istana Merdeka, or the Merdeka Palace, is one of the six presidential palaces in Indonesia. Located on the north side of Merdeka Square in Central Jakarta, it is the official residence of the President of Indonesia and a major landmark in the city. Prior to independence, the palace was used as the residence of the colonial governor. But following the revolution, which was celebrated with cries of "merdeka", or "freedom", in front of the palace, the building was renamed "Istana Merdeka". The palace complex covers 6.8 hectares and also includes the Negara Palace, Wisma Negara (state guesthouse), Sekretariat Negara (state secretariat) and Bina Graha building. Fountains and a 17-meter-high flagpole are positioned in front of the palace.
National Gallery of Indonesia
Known locally as Galeri Nasional, the National Gallery of Indonesia is one of the country's most famous museums and its leading art gallery. Located next to Merdeka Square, the gallery was established in 1999 and currently houses a collection of approximately 1,800 artworks by Indonesian and overseas artists. Many of Indonesia's most notable artists are showcased in the gallery, including Raden Saleh, Affandi and Basuki Abdullah, alongside major international names such as Wassily Kandinsky, Hans Hartung, Victor Vasarely and Zao Wou Ki. While the gallery itself is relatively recent, it is housed within an historic building that dates back to Dutch colonial times. Originally constructed in 1817, it has previously been used as a school and a military institution.
Jakarta's Masjid Istiqlal, or "Independence Mosque", is the largest place of Islamic worship in Southeast Asia and the third largest Sunni mosque in the world. The national mosque of Indonesia - the world's most populous Islamic country - was commissioned to commemorate Indonesian independence, but didn't open to the public until 1978. Located next to Merdeka Square and Jakarta Cathedral, Istiqlal Mosque is now a major landmark in the city and a popular attraction among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Former US Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have both visited the mosque, as have former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the UK's Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
Jakarta Aquarium is a popular city attraction that showcases a wide variety of exhibits, mainly focusing on Indonesia’s native species and aquatic biodiversity. Located in Neo Soho, a shopping mall in West Jakarta, the aquarium is home to more than 600 different species of sea creature, including sharks, crustaceans and aquatic mammals. Spread over two levels, the attraction is divided into a series of zones including "Islands of Indonesia", "Rivers of Indonesia", "Jellyfish Magic", and "Diving Deep". There are also several interactive experiences on offer, including a touch pool, diving with sharks, and a 5D theater. Guests can also relax in the on-site restaurant.
Things to do in Jakarta
Neighborhoods to Explore
- Central Jakarta and Merdeka Square
- Kota Tua, Jakarta’s Old Town
- Fashionable Kemang in South Jakarta
- Sudirman-Thamrin business district
- The modern charms of Kuningan
- Glodok, Jakarta’s Chinatown
- Trendy Panglima Polim
Top Things to Do In Jakarta
- Join the locals and see the sights in Merdeka Square
- Discover the charms of Kota Tua, Jakarta’s Old Town
- Enjoy retail therapy at the city’s many shopping malls
- Visit the city’s urban theme and water parks
- Explore Indonesia’s many faiths at mosques, churches and temples
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