Malacca has the layout typical of a maritime coastal city that grew from a humble river, a good harbor, and large volumes of cargo and travelers passing through its port. As the centuries passed, layers of development grew around the aged and enthralling core. Thus, the gems of historical Malacca, by and large, have come to lie within a mile's radius of the town square, while latter-day additions (such as leisure and entertainment parks, golf courses and shopping malls) are located farther away.
Bandar Hilir (Malacca Town)
History is the soul of Malacca and the portal to its timeless, exotic beauty. The Town Square is easy to find, but just in case the taxi driver does not know where it is, try asking for Dutch Square , the Tan Kim Seng Clock Tower , Queen Victoria's Fountain or the Stadthuys —because all are within eyeshot of each other. Even harder to miss is the gradient of colors-all a similar tint of red—which makes the whole scene look like an unfinished oil painting. Close by, the revitalized European architecture of Christ Church and the Malaysia Youth Museum cry for attention through tactical use of fresh color. Together they form an unwitting homage to the pomp of ancient empires.
The ruins of St Paul's Church lie up a flight o f stairs behind the Stadthuys. Saint Francis Xavier was ennobled and enshrined here, while the Dutch made it a graveyard for their compatriots. Today, saints, martyrs, and St Francis Xavier's Statue all share boundless views from the top of St Paul's Hill, gazing out across the Straits of Malacca.
At the foot of the hill, the famed A'Famosa fortress lingers as a reminder of its former greatness, while, next door, Malacca's Sultanate Palace resurrects through wooden replicas and neon halos the glory and splendor of the ancient Malay kingdom. The nightly staging of the Light and Sound spectacle is both great entertainment and an excellent insight into local history and culture. Conve rsely, the Maritime Museum across the road adds a European slant to Malaccan history by showcasing an early Portuguese sailing ship.
Along both banks of the Malacca River, small, handmade huts on stilts can be seen as an example of a traditional fishing village . The area and its livelihoods seem untouched since the 15th century. For views of the famous delta, head for the Iguana Riverfront , Restoran Mahligai , or No. 2 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, where a cold beer complements a day of sightseeing perfectly.
Old Town and Bukit Cina
A busy bridge back in the town square ushers visitors into the old city center of Malacca. The stree ts where the Dutch rulers once lived have been renamed to honor a Malay hero (Jalan Hang Jebat) and a Baba capitalist (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock). The old town has some of the best preserved relics of Straits architecture, such as the Hotel Puri , the Baba House , the Coconut House Studio , Hokkien Huay Kuan , Eng Yong Tong and the grand dame, Baba and Nonya Heritage Museum .
From a religious viewpoint, the city has much to offer. Just take your pick from the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple , Kampong Kling Mosque , the Sri Poyyat ha Ninayagar Moorthi Temple, and the Malacca Sikh Temple. Malacca's many faiths provide a big attraction for tourists who want to experience this unique diversity for themselves.
The peaks of Bukit Cina offer breathtaking views of the Malaccan geography. Thankfully these sacred grounds have been preserved over the years and make a splendid venue for jogging , mountain bike riding , or quiet reflection. Ming-style resting places, which showcase the intricacy of Chinese grave design and ornamentation, are found along the crests of the rolling hills. Or perhaps you want to toss a coin and make a wish at Hang Li Poh's Well at the foot of the hill, or head for the sacred effigy of Admiral Zheng He waiting next door in the Sam Poh Kong Temple . Seeing all of these places is possible within a relatively small area.
Taman Melaka Raya
Within walking distance of the sprawling Mahkota Parade Shopping Mall , shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities service a swelling local and tourist market of modern tastes. Anchored by the heavyweight Hotel Seri Costa and the colorful Hotel Portugis , there are rows upon rows of restaurants. Try, for example, the Ole Sayang Restaurant or Lagoon Seafood Restaurant . You will also find s pecialty shops, such as the Chan Organic Centre . Pubs and discos include Ginza Karaoke , the Chelsea Pub and Sparks .
Forty-five minutes by car from the town square, in the direction of the North-South Highway, green is the theme and variety the creed. You can soothe your overworked nerves and enjoy wholesome entertainment courtesy of Mother Nature. Check out such family attractions as the Recreational Forest , Butterfly Farm , Crocodile Farm , Malacca Zoo , Mini Malaysia , Mini ASEAN, Aborigines Museum and Ayer Keroh Lake .
Lying within the Keroh woodlands and lakes, on the grounds of the Malacca Sultanate, is a variety of excellent golf courses. Tee off at the Tiara Melaka Golf and Country Club , the Orna Golf and Country Club , or the Golden Valley Golf & Country Club . Once strictly an imperial taste, golf in Malacca has now become widespread and widely loved.
The lure of good food is as much a part of Malacca's magnetism as its narrow streets, old shop houses and the ruins of European empires. To many, Peranankan or Straits Chinese cuisine, that unique blend of Chinese and Malay cooking styles, evolved from the social dynamics of colonial chapters, springs to mind instantly with all its trademark piquancy. However, a diversity of cuisines has also proliferated from the colorful ethnic tapestry of this city. In other words, the choice is vast.
You can't think of Malacca without thinking Nonya cooking. Its influence is pervasive and lasting, with its imprints found in a great many menus. Hotel coffeehouses, cafes, even pubs frequently carry one or more Peranakan items as a main course, a light meal or finger food.
Malaccan satay is a specialty of the city. It is different from satay found elsewhere in the country because the accompanying sauce is based on belimbing (a small sour fruit) rather than peanuts. Grilled fish and seafood are other staples of traditional Malay cuisine. Malacca is also particularly famed for a delicious variation of the chicken rice theme—chicken rice balls. The specialty here is the golf-ball sized fragrant rice balls, which are cooked in butter and ginger and served with a plate of succulent steamed chicken. Hoe Kee Chicken Rice is purportedly the inventor of the dish and operates from the same pre-war shophouse as it did three decades ago.
Eurasian cuisine in Malacca revolves around a fusion of Portuguese and local cooking styles -- Devil's Curry and Kapitan Curry being its most prominent representation in the local food landscape.
Other specialties to try while in Malacca include affordable and authentic Northern and Southern Indian cuisine. The city's Indian commercial enclave revolves around the junction of Jalan Bendehara and Jalan Laksamana and there are several long-serving restaurants in the area. Cantonese restaurants cover every Chinese variation of dim sum while vegetarian restaurants specialize in seitan-inspired "meat." The hotels in tourist areas are reliable for decent western comfort food, and more and more pan-Asian restaurants from Japanese to Korean to Thai are opening in Malacca all the time.
Plenty of dining options are to be found in Bandar Hi lir, including some of the top choices in Malacca. The Seri Nyonya Peranakan Restaurant is an excellent place to get an introduction to Peranankan cuisine with superb service to boot. Golden Phoenix is among the top Chinese restaurants in town. For Japanese food, step into Kampachi Restaurant .
Old Town offers many classic and well-reputed dining choices in historic buildings. The Galleri Cafe leverages on the marvelous restoration of Hotel Puri to add great ambience to commendable Peranankan food. Famosa Chicken Rice Ball off Jonker Street is known for the Malay specialty . The Heeren House Cafe serves selected Portuguese fare for lunch and dinner, while Coconut House Studio features modern pizza and art house offerings in a 19th century setting, complete with antiques and a working water well. Whether or not you stay to dine or come back later for a drink and some music, stop by Restoran Hoi San to see how this old Chinese temple was renovated into one of the most happening night spots in Malacca.
Taman Melaka Raya
Taman Melaka Raya is one of Malacca's central streets for dining and shopping. The selection of restaurants is overwhelming but highlights include Ole Sayang Restaurant and Manis Sayang Restaurant for Malay and Peranankan cuisine. If you are in a hurry and just want a quick bite, try the Jalan Melaka Raya Food stalls located directly across the Makhota Parade shopping center. For a slower paced meal in a calm setting, dip into Hong Fook Restaurant for traditional Chinese classics. Catering mostly to Buddhist visitors stopping by one of the many temples in the area, Ci Sin Vegetarian Restaurant and Jitseng Vegetarian Restaurant both serve Chinese vegetarian cuisine. For other Malacca specialties, visit the Portuguese Restaurant on the ground floor of Hotel Portugis. For contemporary international cuisine done right, dine in the Straits Cafe . Crocodile Pub is a fun place to strike up a conversation over a game of pool.
Many of these restaurants are within walking distance of Malacca's historic buildings, and some of them are even housed in them. For authentic Malay cuisine, try Restoran Anda or Restoran Sri Percik . The Selvam Restaurant is a typical coffee shop style eatery offering both North Indian (Tandoori, chapati, paratha) and South Indian (rice served in banana leaves) delights. Lakshmi Vilas Restaurant and Banana Leaf Restaurant serve incredibly affordable breakfast, lunch and dinner with a South Indian flavor. Long Feng Chinese Restaurant is a favorite among locals and visitors. Zong Hua Seafood Restaurant is a great place for classic Cantonese food, or for vegetarian Chinese variations go to Mei Lin Vegetarian Restaurant or Yang Sheng Vegetarian Restaurant . Restoran Swee Kee in Chinatown serves a mean dish of Hainanese chicken rice. If you have never tried it, you don't know what you are missing. Restaurante San Pedro at the Portuguese Square is a great place to try Kapitan Chicken. For another Straits specialty, go to the Garden Cafe for a steamboat meal, a variation of Chinese hot pot. Discovery Cafe near St Francis Xavier Church is a real travelers' destination, with a breezy courtyard, internet, and an amazing collection of travel information as well as a wide-ranging menu. Likewise, the Geographic Cafe is in a fun and a specifically Malaccan setting.
Kelebang Besar is known especially for its grilled fish and seafood and many roadside stalls are open until late in the evening.