The Jakarta Post
The exterior of the Jakarta History Museum on March 21. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
Home to historic buildings, Kota Tua in West Jakarta is a popular destination for both local and foreign tourists. Its main attraction is Fatahillah Square, an open space area surrounded by colonial buildings. There, visitors can do some museum hopping and stroll around the outdoor area.
In addition to visiting museums, Kota Tua is also known as a favorite spot for lovebirds to take pre-wedding photos.
Those wanting to explore every nook and cranny of this old town area may consult the list below.
How to get there
Kota Tua is strategically located in the heart of Jakarta, which makes it easy for both local and foreign tourists to visit.
Those coming from Bogor or Bekasi in West Java can board a train to the nearby Jakarta Kota station.
From South Jakarta, visitors can hop on the Transjakarta Blok M to Kota route.
Those residing in Central Jakarta can opt to ride mikrolet (public minivan) M12 from Pasar Senen to Kota or the M08 from Tanah Abang to Kota. Meanwhile, North Jakarta residents can hop on mikrolet M15 from Tanjung Priok to Kota.
As for those who live in East Jakarta, the recommended option is a public bus, the Mayasari Bakti AC70 from Kampung Rambutan to Sarinah. From Sarinah, passengers can continue on Transjakarta to Kota Tua.
What to wear
The open space area usually gets hot during the day. Hence, casual outfits like T-shirts, short pants and sandals are highly recommended.
An alley at Kota Tua. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
(Read also: Jakpost guide to Blok M Square)
What to see
Museum hopping is a recommended activity while visiting Kota Tua. There are three museums located in Fatahillah Square: the Jakarta History Museum (Museum Sejarah Jakarta), the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics (Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik) and the Puppet Museum (Museum Wayang). The entrance fee for each museum is Rp 5,000 (less than 50 US cents) for adults, Rp 3,000 for college students and Rp 2,000 for children and students.
History buffs may want to visit the Jakarta History Museum as it has exhibits about the history of the capital from Dutch colonization to the Japanese occupation.
A visitor takes photos on the second floor of the Jakarta History Museum.(JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
In addition to Jakarta’s history, the place also showcases antique furniture on the second floor, such as the the large Schepenkast bookcase made in 1748. In the backyard, visitors can visit an underground dungeon, where Indonesian heroes Pangeran Diponegoro and Untung Suropati were said to have been imprisoned.
Tourists visit the underground prison at the Jakarta History Museum.(JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
The Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics is a must-visit place for art enthusiasts. There, visitors can marvel at paintings by Basuki Abdullah, Antonio Blanco, Lee Man Fong and Henk Ngantung.
Two visitors regard Antonio Blanco's painting at the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics.(JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
As the name implies, the museum also exhibits ceramics from various cities across the archipelago, including Malang in East Java, Yogyakarta and Bandung in West Java.
Those wanting to learn about wayang (traditional puppets) should schedule a visit to the Puppet Museum. Originally built by the East Indies Company (VOC), the building is now home to more than 6,500 wayang. Every Sunday, the place also hosts a wayang performance, which is free for museum patrons to enjoy.
A visitor marvels at the puppet collection at the Puppet Museum. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
In addition to those three museums, visitors can also drop by the Bank Mandiri Museum and Bank Indonesia Museum that are located opposite the Jakarta Kota train station.
Meanwhile, those wanting to take pre-wedding photos may consider Rumah Akar, an empty building on a corner of Kota Tua that has giant roots growing inside. Available for rent for Rp 200,000 per hour, the place is tad creepy, but it is popular for both photos and video shoots.
The exterior of Rumah Akar. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
What to do
In the square's open space, visitors will spot more than a handful of colorful sepeda ontel (antique bikes) that are available for rent for Rp 20,000 per 30 minutes. Those wanting to explore Kota Tua’s surroundings can also join a guided bicycle tour. Priced at Rp 70,000, the owner of the bicycles is the tour guide who brings visitors to five spots, namely Toko Merah, Jembatan Kota Intan, Sunda Kelapa Port, Menara Syahbandar and the Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari).
Colorful antique bikes for rent. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
Other interesting attractions in the area are the living human statues. Scattered around the open space, visitors can take photos with these unique performers for a fee.
What to eat
Café Batavia has become an iconic culinary spot in Kota Tua. In 1884, the building was used as a trading office for E. Dunlop & Co and later turned into Kantor Kapal Hadji (Kongsin Tiga) in 1920. It was then changed into a restaurant in 1992 and today serves a plethora of dishes, including bitterballen (a Dutch meat-based snack), pasta, classic eggs Benedict, steak and egg, dim sum set and fried rice.
Meanwhile, those craving Indonesian comfort foods like nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles), soto Betawi (Betawi beef soup) and sop buntut (oxtail soup) can visit Kedai Seni Djakarte.
What to shop
Since Kota Tua is a historic area, the choices to shop are quite limited. However, those wanting to bring one or two souvenirs home may want to purchase wayang from the Puppet Museum where the prices start at Rp 15,000.
In the outdoor area, visitors can also buy a number of souvenirs like rings, bracelets and necklaces, as well as temporary tattoos.
Temporary tattoo artists wait for customers. (JP/Wienda Parwitasari)
- The museums are closed on Monday.
- History buffs are advised to go on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
- Kota Tua frequently hosts art exhibitions. During our visit, the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics planned to host an exhibition by high school students. Meanwhile, a temporary exhibition titled the "Forsaken Children of the Compagnie" is currently on display at the Tjipta Niaga building until May 14.
- It is suggested to bring a bottle of mineral water while exploring Kota Tua as the weather could be quite hot. (kes)