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9 Best Things to Do at Night in Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
I recently wrote about the best things to do in Jakarta. In the following review, I will be more specific and focus about night-time activities.

A cliché used to describe Jakarta is that of "a city that never sleeps". While this could apply to any major capitals in the world, I think it is particularly accurate here. There is always some kind of life in Jakarta, whatever the time and whatever the location.

It is quite logical considering the city has one of the highest population densities in the world. Another reason is that there are a lot of Indonesians working long shifts or night shifts, especially small business owners and independent workers. As long as money can be made, they won't close shop or go home. This is why you can always get food, cigarettes or a taxi rides at anytime of the night.

For the traveler, the advantage of this situation is that there are a lot of things to do at night. Even better, if you go out after 9pm, you'll also enjoy less traffic, cooler temperatures and less pollution. 

The following list will give you some ideas on how to spend time after sun sets in Jakarta. If you feel I forgot something, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below the article.

Street Food
Photo: Jonathan Perugia
Night-time is the best moment to go around and try some delicious Indonesian street food. Many of the small stalls on the sidewalk are actually only allowed to operate in the evening (to avoid disturbing pedestrians during the day).

My personal favorite location for street food in Jakarta is Jalan Mangga Besar, a red-light area busy with a eclectic mix of people. It's a great place to try some authentic Chinese food or some more unusual specialties like cobra and monkey.

If this is too far or too weird for you, Jalan Sabang and Jalan Wahid Hasyim in Central Jakarta are a good alternative. You'll also find many 24/7 restaurants in the area.

Rooftop Drinks
Photo: Sandrine VB
Jakarta is the 9th city with the most skyscrapers in the world and it is at night that the view is the most spectacular. The darkness hides all the city's flaws: The potholes, the dirt, the dust and the rust disappear, replaced by millions of colorful lights.

The best rooftops to enjoy the view of the skyline are Cloud or Skye. I give more recommendations in my review Top 10 Rooftop Bars in Jakarta as well. I also enjoy watching the city from the Burgundy Bar in Grand Hyatt even though it is not a rooftop.

Live Music, Theater and Concerts
Photo: Aura Kasih and Atika Dora
There are several great venues for listening to live music in Jakarta. Two of the most famous are B.A.T.S in Shangri-La and CJ's in Mulia. Both have a Western band playing Top 40 and pop/rock hits. They may not suit everyone's taste though as they attract a lot of working girls. Paulaner Brauhaus in Kempinski, Hard Rock Cafe in Pacific Place or Eastern Promise in Kemang are three more family-friendly options. I also like to visit the speakeasy Prohibition in Senayan Arcadia (make sure to check their secret live jazz room).

For cheaper drinks and a younger atmosphere, you can try any branches of Beer Garden.

In Menteng, Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) is an art complex popular with Indonesians. There are daily cultural performances (concerts, theater, movies, etc).

Clubbing and Karaoke
Normal clubs (meaning those that don't have a majority of prostitutes) are normally busy on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night. You can read about my favorites here: Best Nightclubs in Jakarta.

The other days of the week, only the more naughty places are crowded. Apart from BATS and CJs mentioned above, you can try the famous one-stop entertainment centers like Malioboro, Alexis, King Cross, Emporium or Golden Crown. The bar Club 36 is also always very lively. North Jakarta is also where several 24h karaokes can be found.

Jakarta has excellent and modern cinemas that cost about half what you would pay in Europe. The CGV-Blitz chain has movies until 10pm during the week and until midnight on weekends.

Massage and Spas
Some massage parlors and spas close rather late in Jakarta (and I'm not talking about the naughty ones), especially those located in 5-star hotels: Bimasena (Dharmawangsa Hotel) and Willow Stream (Fairmont) close at 11pm, the spa at the Ritz-Carlton Mega Kuningan is open until 12am.

Photo: Pasar Bary by Art535
All the high-end shopping malls close at 10pm in Jakarta but there are some more traditional markets (pasar) that stay open 24 hours, for instance the fish market of Angke Muara and the flower markets of Cikini and Rawa Belong. Closer from the city center, you also have Pasar Senen and Pasar Mampang Prapatan.

Photo: Jeremy Tobing
Running/cycling at night or very early in the morning is very common among fitness enthusiasts in Jakarta. It is a way to avoid the heat, the traffic and the pollution. Popular running spots include the Monas, the Senayan Stadium and Ragunan Zoo.

A good way to meet Indonesians is to join a running club. Indorunners run every Thursday starting 7.30pm from FX Mall in Senayan. On the same day, you can also join the Nike Run Club.

Amazingly, there are also some 24h gyms in Jakarta such as Rai Fitness in Senopati, Clark Hatch in Sari Pan Pacific Hotel (which I heard is a gay hangout) and Club Olympus in Grand Hyatt.

Night Tourism
Photo: Bunderan HI by Inguna
Many tourist sights in Jakarta can still be visited at night. Taman Fatahillah, the Monas, Ancol or the Kota Intan Bridge remain crowded until very late. They attract middle class Indonesians, especially tourists, and all kind of street vendors. During Ramadhan, you can also visit the Istiqlal mosque all-night long.

Young Indonesians also like to hangout in some public areas like the Taman Suropati and Taman Menteng parks or around the Bunderan HI fountain.

10 Best Things to Do In Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
Many tourists hate Jakarta because they visit it the wrong way. They check the things to do in a guidebook or on the internet, and then try to do as many as possible in a short time.

Since they are not familiar with the city, they get stuck for hours in traffic, walk in the heat from one sight to the other, and spend more time bargaining than actually talking with Indonesians.

I am not saying that Jakarta is perfect, but if you know what to do, you can definitely have a good time.

Below is my list of the 10 most recommended things to do in Jakarta, starting from the best. An alternative title for the article could probably have been "How Not To Hate Jakarta". Your suggestions are welcome, please just write a comment at the end.

You can also read Is Jakarta worth visiting? for more information.

1) The best thing to do in Jakarta is to date a local (at least for guys)
Let's be honest here. Would Jakarta be as interesting for expats as it is today without Indonesian girls? Certainly not.

Dating local girls is the main activity of most guys I know who live here, and even for those who already have a Western wife. It is a fascinating introduction to Indonesian culture and the best way to learn the language. Leaving Indonesia without this experience is a bit like leaving Italia without eating pizza.

As a traveler, an easy way to get a date is to use online dating apps like Tinder. I wrote an article with the best services you can use: Online Dating Apps and Sites in Indonesia. Many girls in Jakarta will be suspicious about your intentions if you are a tourist though. If online dating does not work, you can read more advice in How to Meet Girls in Jakarta.

2) The second best thing to do in Jakarta is to party
The nightlife is one of the few areas where Jakarta can compete with Bangkok or Singapore. If you go to X2 on a Saturday night, you have at least 200 tourists. I don't think there are as many visiting the National Monument (Monas) over the whole weekend.

Clubs in Jakarta are not perfect but they are fun. Foreigners get a special treatment as long as they dress well and, unlike in Europe, you stand a chance with girls.

My whole website is about Jakarta nightlife. If you are not familiar with it already, start with Best Nightclubs 2016, Jakarta Nightlife 2015 and Jakarta Nightlife Guide.

3) The third best is to eat Indonesian food
I advise you to do the same when you visit Jakarta. You can go to Sabang street in Central Jakarta or Mangga Besar street in Kota (for more ideas, read Street Food in Jakarta) and choose one of the crowded food stalls. The prices are low: A dish without meat usually costs around Rp10,000, a dish with chicken or fish about Rp20,000 and a dish with beef or lamb between Rp30,000 and Rp50,000.

Don't make the mistake of only trying Nasi Goreng as you'll miss hundreds of delicious specialties. My personal favorites are Gudeg (cooked jackfruit), Ayam Gulai (chicken with Indonesian curry), Beef Rendang (slow-cooked beef with spices), Bebek Mercon (duck with extra spicy sauce), Grilled Fish with Dabu-Dabu (Manado spicy sauce), Lawar (minced vegetables and meat), Konro (ribs soup), etc.

You can also read: How I Became Fat in Indonesia.

4) The fourth best is to get a massage

Indonesia is one of the best countries in the world to get an excellent massage.

In Jakarta, for just US5$ you can have a professional masseuse at your door who will massage you for an hour. The easiest way to find a therapist is to download the app Go-Jek and to use the feature "Go-Massage". Alternatively, almost every hotels in Jakarta with more than 3 stars have an in-house spa or 24/7 massage services.

You can also check independent spas. The prices are between 15$ and 30$ for a 90-minute treatment in a decent venue. For a luxurious one, you can read my article: Best Luxury Spas in Jakarta.

To find the spa nearest from your place, you can use my guide Finding A Spa In Jakarta. Beware as I'm also mentioning plus plus spas (that are also quite an experience... you can try Delta if you are curious).

Expat women would tell you that Jakarta is a great place to have an inexpensive creambath, a nail polish or a scrub. Beauty salons are not expensive and they can be found everywhere.

5) The fifth best is to do nothing 
"Nongkrong" ("hanging out" in English) is the trademark hobby of Indonesia. Basically, it means doing nothing with other people.

You can hangout pretty much anywhere: In a coffee shop, on top of a rooftop bar, in a restaurant, in front of a 7-eleven, in the street, at a friend's place, at the mosque, etc. All you need is at least another person. You may also add a beer, a kretek, a coffee and some snacks. A chair is not required as you can see on this photo:

You may feel it is a waste of your time but it's not. It is a time for relaxing, eating, drinking, socializing and adapting to a new environment. In such a hectic city, slowing down is essential to avoid going mad.

6) The sixth best is to walk around
As surprising as it may seem, my favorite day-time activity in Jakarta is simply to walk around in normal Indonesian neighborhoods. It is a free and simple thing to do, yet very rewarding.

Whenever I have guests coming to Jakarta, I always take them for a walk and they love it. It allows them to discover the softer, slower-paced side of the city, where regular folks live.

This is something you can do almost anywhere as long as you understand how Jakarta is organized. Most of the malls, offices, luxury residences and hotels are located along huge streets like Rasuna Said, Sudirman or Gatot Subroto. As soon as you venture behind those skyscrapers, you have smaller and smaller streets (also called "gangs"), where only motorbikes can enter. The atmosphere changes completely: It becomes almost rural with no traffic, low-rise houses, chicken running wild and women going to the mosque with their daster (a sort of daytime pajamas).

This drawing may (or may not) help you understand:
Three nice areas for walking around are Glodok (Jalan Kemenangan, near the Chinese temple Vihara Dharma Bhakti), Tanah Abang (you can go to Jalan Kebon Kacang I, II, III, etc) or Pasar Baru (Jalan Kelinci).

7) The seventh best is to visit the tourist spots
Some tourist spots in Jakarta are interesting, but it would be a mistake to visit them before doing the things listed above.

My most recommended attractions are the Istiqlal Mosque, the National Museum, Taman Fatahillah (a square in the Old Town with several museums and coffee shops) and Sunda Kelapa (the old harbour). All of these can be done within a day if you start early and if you choose a hotel in a central area (Where to Stay in Jakarta).

Other sights that you can skip:
Monas is not that special and the surrounding park is not well maintained.
Taman Mini is too far from the city center so it will take you the whole day to visit it.
Waterbom and DuFan are two themed parks that are only interesting if you have kids.

If you need more ideas, I have been to most tourist attractions in Jakarta and I reviewed them on Jakarta100bars here: Things to Do in Jakarta. You can also check my ranking of the best museums: 16 Best Museums in Jakarta.

8) The eighth best is to learn Indonesian
Indonesian is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It is easy to learn because there are no verb tenses or declensions (noun modifications). You can make sentences just by putting up words together. The pronunciation is also simple: Every letter has a sound.

A traveler I know managed to reach a conversational level within two weeks only. All he did was to memorize 200 words, then seize any opportunity to start a conversation with Indonesian people. He was dating a girl also, that helps.

If you stay in Jakarta more than a few weeks, or if you live in Southeast Asia, I recommend you to learn at least a few words. It will make your Indonesian experience richer and more enjoyable.

9) The ninth best is to go shopping
Indonesia is a protectionist country. This means anything imported or requiring imported components will be expensive, and anything that can be made local is (normally) cheap.

Shopping in traditional markets and shopping streets is a great local experience. I've written a complete article about these here: 25 Best Markets and Shopping Streets in Jakarta.

Shopping in middle class malls is also fun and you may find a few bargains (though not as good as in Thailand or Vietnam). Indonesian-made clothes and accessories are generally cheap. Electronic equipment, mobile phones, computers and cameras with a local brand don't cost a lot as well, but the quality can be poor. There are always a lot of fake products too. Some of the best middle class malls are ITC Mangga Dua, Mall of Indonesia, Mall Kelapa Kading, Mall Ambassador and Mall Taman Anggrek.

Shopping in luxury malls like Plaza Indonesia, Plaza Senayan or Pacific Place is not really interesting in terms of prices. Most items sold are more expensive than elsewhere. Those malls are still worth a visit if you want to see the glitzy side of Jakarta. It is also where you will find the most popular cafés, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and cinemas.

10) The tenth best thing to do in Jakarta is to get out
If you don't get out from Jakarta once in a while, you will start to hate it. There are flights from Jakarta to most airports in Indonesia, making it the best base to visit the country. 50$ will take you thousands of kilometers away to white sand beaches, world-class reef corals and indigenous tribes.

Get some travel ideas here: 11 Indonesian Islands You've Never Head Of and Bali Cheap Travel Guide.

6 Best Cinemas for Watching Movies in Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
Watching a movie is one of the best things to do in Jakarta
Compared to most movie theaters in France, those in Jakarta have larger screens, more comfortable seats, better technology, more premium features, and above all, they are cheaper...

On the downside, the choice of movie is limited to American blockbusters and Indonesian comedy or horror flicks. If you are hoping to watch the latest art house movies from the Cannes Festival, you'll better forget about it (see below for Independent Cinemas in Jakarta).

I find that Indonesian spectators are rather disciplined when watching a movie: Once the film is started, you'll rarely hear a mobile phone or a noisy discussion. A bigger issue is the smell of the food as everybody is eating something from Hot Dogs to Nasi Goreng... The air-con can also be a problem: I recommend you to bring a small sweater to avoid freezing during the show.

English movies are always in their original version, with subtitles. Nudity will be censored, even mild one, but graphic violence rarely. It seems more appropriate in Indonesia to see people kill each other than kiss.

Multiplex Cinema Chains in Jakarta
Almost all cinemas in Jakarta belong to one of three multiplex chains: Cineplex 21, CGV-Blitz and Cinemaxx.

Cineplex 21 is the largest and oldest cinema chain in Jakarta. It is made of two brands:

- Cinemas 21 are usually located inside inexpensive malls. They are less comfortable and they don't have THX sound system. It's still better than watching from home and the price is unbeatable (around Rp25,000). They screen a lot of Indonesian movies.

- Cinemas XXI (that Indonesians pronounce Eks Eks One) are located in premium locations and they are targeting upper class Indonesians. Prices are not that expensive, you can get a ticket for Rp30,000-Rp40,000 on weekdays and Rp45,000-Rp60,000 on weekends. Some of them feature Premiere XXI studios, with luxury seats (like La-Z-Boy), a special access to a VIP lounge and the possibility to have your food delivered to your seat. The price is approximately Rp100,000 during the week and Rp200,000 on weekends.
The Premiere XXI seats
Part of the Korean brand CGV, they only have upmarket cinemas with the latest equipment and features.

The cost for standard seats varies depending on the cinema, from Rp30,000 during the week for the cheapest (Slipi Jaya) up to Rp70,000 on Saturdays for the most expensive (Grand Indonesia).

They may have some premium auditorium seats available: The highest is Gold Class (up to Rp175,000 per person), followed by Satin Class (up to Rp85,000 per person).
Gold Class seats in CGV-Blitz Megaplex
For couples, Sweetbox seats (up to Rp150,000 for two persons) give you more privacy while the Velvet Class (up to Rp350,000 per bed) allows you to book a basic bed within the cinema. It is particularly popular among young Indonesians who need a quiet place for a date.
Velvet beds
Owned by the Lippo Group, it is a new player with only a few locations as of today. They have 3 categories: Cinemaxx Regular (price around Rp30,000 to Rp50,000), Cinemaxx Gold (premium seats with prices between Rp65,000 and Rp100,000) and Cinemaxx Ultra XD (extra large screen). The latter is only available in Palembang and Lippo Village Tangerang for a price between Rp45,000 and Rp65,000.

Independent Cinemas in Jakarta
There are no proper independent cinemas in Indonesia. The closest to one are Kineforum in Menteng (TIM), sponsored by the Jakarta Arts Council, and Kinosaurus in Kemang. You may see a few Indonesian and German films as well in Goethe House, the German cultural center, every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month.

Subtitles in Dharmawangsa Square is worth mentioning as well. It is a tiny 3-studio theater with a collection of art house movies from famous international directors. You can rent the whole studio with a few friends for up to 8 people for Rp230,000/2 hours. You can also bring your own movies. More information on their Facebook page: Subtitles Jakarta.

6 Best Cinemas in Jakarta
Below is my selection of the 6 best cinemas in Jakarta, starting with my favorite:

CGV- Blitz Grand Indonesia
Centrally located, within one of the largest malls in Jakarta, CGV-Blitz Grand Indonesia is easily the best cinema in Jakarta. It is the flagship property of CGV in Indonesia, where they showcase all their latest technologies in movie experience.

They have 11 auditoriums, some with special features like SphereX (a huge curved screen with Dolby Atmos sound system) and 4DX (with shaking seats). Starium screens and Screen X might be built in the future. It is the only cinema in Jakarta with the CGV Gold Class.

XXI Gading
The largest XXI cinema in Jakarta with 13 studios, including 2 Premiere class and 2 with Dolby Atmos sound. The main reason I go there is for the IMAX 3D, with prices starting at Rp50,000 on weekdays and Rp75,000 on weekends. 

XXI Gandaria
This is the second cinema in Jakarta with IMAX 3D technology. It is similar to the one in Gading, but with less studios. Only 1 has a Dolby Atmos sound system.

CGV-Blitz - Mall of Indonesia 
The second largest CGV-Blitz cinema in Jakarta after the one in Grand Indonesia. Opened in 2008, it has 10 auditoriums with 1,768 seats on a total space of 6,400m2. It is rather affordable, only Rp35,000 for a regular seat during the week. Satin class, Velvet Class, 4DX and RealD 3D sound available.

CGV- Blitz Pacific Place
While there is nothing particular about this cinema, I enjoy going there on weekends because I've noticed it is less crowded that elsewhere. They have 2 velvet class auditoriums and a lot of F&B options nearby, making it a perfect spot for a date. They have special screenings of Hindi movies as well.

XXI - Epicentrum
The particularity of this cinema is that it features a huge 17X8 meters screen, among the largest in Jakarta. It is particularly cheap, between Rp25,000 and Rp35,000 even on weekends.

XXI - Metropole
XXI Metropole - oldest cinema in Jakarta
This cinema is housed in a renovated art-deco building and it is the oldest cinema in Jakarta. Now part of the group 21, it is worth a try for a unique movie experience. Just outside, there are several popular street food stalls with delicious food.

Djakarta XXI - Sarinah
In the heart of Jakarta, in front of the shopping center Sarinah, this is also an old cinema with a lot of charm. It is common for directors to schedule their movie premiere in this location. It does not have high technology, but the seats are spacious and really comfortable. Prices are low, starting Rp25,000.

28 Best Shopping Malls in Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
Malls in Jakarta are much more than just shopping venues. They are privately-owned cities where you can find pretty much anything including offices, residences, cinemas, schools, hospitals, restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, mosques, churches, karaokes, games, banks, boutiques, supermarkets, etc. It is not surprising that many malls add the words "town", "village" or "city" to their names, for instance Kuningan City, Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, Kemang Village, etc.

The environment of Jakarta has become so hostile that malls are one of the only places where you can escape from the heat and the pollution. Living in Jakarta means that you will spend large chunks of your time visiting malls, whether you like it or not, because it is one of the very few things to do here.

The following review is a subjective list of my 28 favorite malls in Jakarta, starting with the best. I added a short description to explain the particularities of each and why you should visit them. I only wrote about malls I have been to within Jakarta (I could have listed over 50 but many are not really interesting).

Plaza Indonesia (called PI)
Plaza Indonesia has always been my favorite mall in Jakarta. It is the most expensive for renting retail space, before Plaza Senayan.  Rich and beautiful Indonesians shop here, in one of the numerous luxury shops such as Cartier, Chanel, Gucci, Hermès and Louis Vuitton. It has two famous nightlife venues, Cloud Rooftop Lounge and Immigrant Nightclub. For day-time eating, I enjoy La Moda or Kitchenette because they are well-placed for watching people. The main Starbucks at the entrance is perfect for setting up dates. It is home to two 5-star hotels, the Grand Hyatt and Keraton at the Plaza.

There is nothing more cliché than saying you'll meet your friends in Grand Indonesia. Much larger than Plaza Indonesia but not as luxurious, it has several department stores, including Seibu and Central. Indonesian girls from the middle to upper class enjoy it because they can buy from Zara, H&M and other popular fashion retailers. On the 4th and 5th floor, you will find an upmarket food court and trendy restaurants. The Blitz-CGV cinema is one of the largest in Jakarta. There are no nightclubs in Grand Indonesia but Social House and the rooftop Skye are two happening bars. The luxurious Kempinski hotel is within Grand Indonesia.

Located right in the Central Business District of Sudirman, it is a medium-sized luxury mall with a lot of popular cafés, including Potato Head, Cork&Screw, TWG and Paul Bakery. It also has the French department store Galeries Lafayette (the most exclusive in Jakarta), the amusement center Kidzania and several luxury brands (Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Lamborghini, etc.). It is mostly busy during the week with office workers so I enjoy going there on weekends for a quieter atmosphere. The cinema in particular is rarely full. The Ritz Carlton SCBD is attached to Pacific Place.

The third luxury mall in Jakarta with Pacific Place and Plaza Indonesia, it is managed by a Japanese company who also owns the boutique mall Senayan Arcadia, the luxury hotel Fairmont and the Sentral Towers. Luxury brands boutiques include Dior and Louis Vuitton. It has some interesting F&B venues like Union, Garçon, Rustique and Kayser. I also like to sit in Monolog or De Luca and watch the people go by. For party, there is the famous X2 nightclub.

The major mall in South Jakarta, it consists of several buildings (PIM 1, PIM 2) and an extension dedicated to F&B restaurants and cafés (Street Gallery). It has a luxury feel but the brands are mostly middle-class ones. Many expats visit it.

Senayan City (Senci)
Just opposite of Plaza Senayan, Senayan City is a mall targeting younger upper class Jakartans with several fashion boutiques and trendy F&B venues (Domain, Portico).

One of the most popular and largest malls in North Jakarta. I generally go there to watch IMAX movies. It is a middle-class mall with all the local and international brands you can think of. The crowd is almost entirely made of Indonesians, particularly Indochinese. The food court is excellent.

I was living near Lotte Shopping Avenue so I'm quite familiar with it. It is a modern, upmarket mall with popular fashion brands (H&M, Uniqlo), an art center, a duty free shop and a concert hall. There are also several bars and restaurants including Bacco, Revolution, Gonzo's and JJ Royal Bistro. It is part of the larger complex of Ciputra World I with DBS tower and the Raffles Hotel.

Central Park
With brands like Sephora, Bershka, H&M, Zara and Skechers, Central Park is the favorite mall of Jakartans in their late teens/early twenties. On the ground floor, there is a small park with regular events and several open-air cafés. The nightclub Nebula and the hotel Pullman are also there.

Kota Kasablanka (KoKas)
The first decent mall in the East of Jakarta, Kota Kasablanka is very crowded with people coming as far as Bekasi. It does not have anything special though apart from the usual mid-class brands and restaurants.

Gandaria is a lifestyle mall in South Jakarta and the second one with an IMAX theater in Jakarta. Targeting young people, it has several trendy fashion boutiques, mobile phone shops and some larger stores like Gramedia, Metro and ACE. The best restaurants are Basilico, La Hoya and Eric Kayser.

One of Jakarta's most iconic malls, you cannot miss it if you come from the airport with its huge outside LED display. It is a massive complex with several residential towers and over 350,000m2 of retail space. One of its unique features is the ice rink on its 3rd floor.

Located within the complex Kemang Village, this medium-sized mall is noticeable for its Avenue of the Stars, an open-air area with cafés and restaurants including Colonial, Meat Me, White Elephant and Seribu Rasa.

This is a lifestyle mall for young people with mostly restaurants, coffee shops and bars. You also have trendy boutiques, fitness centers, a university (BINUS), a hotel (Harris Suites FX) and the Arab nightclub De Leila.

A small shopping center located next to Taman Rasuna complex, it is convenient if you live nearby, but not really interesting for others. It has the expat bar Liquid Exchange inside.

Cilandak Town Square (Citos)
A popular mall will many coffee shops and restaurants. It is a meeting point for expats living in the area. The nightclub Jenja will open there in the second half of 2016.

This modern mall in West Jakarta is similar with Pondok Indah Mall. It is clean, with an upmarket feel and it is popular with expats. Since it is far from the city center, I've only been there a couple times.

ITC Kuningan/Ambassador Mall
Conveniently located in the city center, ITC/Ambassador is one of the oldest malls in Jakarta. It is very popular with middle-class Indonesians. It is recommended if you need to buy cheap clothes, electronic equipment and accessories. I also enjoy the food court on the 4th floor, especially the Manadonese food stalls.

I've only been once to Mall of Indonesia, which is supposed to be one of the largest in Jakarta. It has several large tenants like ACE Harware, Centro, Sportstation, Payless, Carrefour. They only have chain restaurants. Mall Kelapa Gading is better.

A large mall with many unbranded and fake products (accessories, clothes). It is a popular destination for tourists from all over Indonesia because it is close from the airport and affordable. You have several hotels inside (Amaris, Ibis, Novotel).

I used to be a regular of this mall 10 years ago because they had the best collection of pirated DVDs. I only go there now if I need to buy cheap electronic or photography equipment. It is connected to Mangga Dua Mall, Pasar Pagi (wholesale) and Harco Mas Mangga Dua. If you are a tourist, it is worth visiting for the local atmosphere.

The main reason to visit Baywalk is to hang out in the outside area where you have a nice seaview Apart from that, the mall is still a bit empty and lacks remarkable shops.

Citywalk is a small shopping gallery with mostly F&B outlets, including a bar and a family karaoke. It is targeting the middle class with affordable prices and fast food joints. It is more busy during week days than weekends.

Ancol Beach City
While this mall does not have any interesting shops or restaurants, it is the only one in Jakarta that possesses its own beach. If you have kids and if you live nearby, you may enjoy it. See more here: White Sand Beach in Jakarta.

Pasar Tanah Abang
This huge wholesale complex is split into 7 "blocks". It is where Indonesians go to buy cheap fabric and traditional clothing (muslim wear). I don't go there for shopping, only as a tourist. You can read more about Pasar Tanah Abang on my review Top 25 Traditional Markets and Shopping Streets in Jakarta.

Artha Gading Mall
Each section of this middle class mall has a particular theme: Italian, Japanese, Arab, Chinese, etc.

A new mall, it is walking distance from ITC Kuningan and opposite Lotte Shopping Avenue. It suffers from the area's tough competition and as a consequence, it is quite empty. I still visit it sometimes to go to Exodus nightclub and for the cinema XXI.

This mall has mostly mid-range local and international brands like Body&Soul, Charles&Keith, The Body Shop, Sogo or Giordano. They usually have small events in the large atrium.

Source: All photos from Instagram.

Is Jakarta Worth Visiting?

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
There are barely any tourists visiting Jakarta. Most foreigners you see are expats or businessmen. In the backpacker street of Jalan Jaksa, you will have a maximum of 50 travelers on any given night. For a capital city with 10 million inhabitants, this is exceptionally small. 

It is not difficult to understand why most people avoid Jakarta: It is noisy, smelly, dirty, polluted, hot and messy. Getting around is difficult with massive traffic jams, no sidewalks and bad public transportation. There are no spectacular tourist sights and the attractions are disappointing compared to those in Bali, Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur

Things are not as bad as they seem though. If you can get past your first negative impression, you will discover that Jakarta is home to museums, modern malls, authentic neighborhoods, traditional markets, monuments, religious buildings, parks, cultural centers, art galleries, a beachfront and of course one of the best nightlife in Asia.

As the most diverse and liberal city in Indonesia, it is the best place to meet Indonesians from various background. You'll be surprised how easy it is to start a conversation with anybody in Jakarta. It often starts even before landing, when you're still on the plane. Unlike in Bali, most people are genuinely interested in you and not trying to sell you something.

It is also in Jakarta that you will find the best Indonesian food. All the cuisines of the archipelago are easy to find, from the ubiquitous warung Padang to fine dining restaurants.

For all these reasons, I would say that yes, it is worth visiting Jakarta for at least 2 days. On the first, you'll have enough time to visit the National Museum, the Monas, the Istiqlal Mosque and Taman Fatahillah. In the evening, you could try some local street food, have a drink at a rooftop bar and end up in a nightclub.

On the next day, get a massage in a luxury day spa and wander in huge malls like Grand Indonesia. If shopping is not your thing, an exciting experience is to walk inside smaller streets, also called "gangs", where Indonesians live in a surprisingly peaceful, almost rural atmosphere.

If you choose a strategic location, you can do all of the above without suffering too much from the traffic. You can read Where to Stay in Jakarta for more details. It is best to come during the weekend as the streets will be more quiet. You'll also have the opportunity to try one of the city's numerous weekend brunches. Sunday morning is also car-free day on Sudirman street (the 2nd, 3rd and 4th photos of this article were taken during that day).

Jakarta is not for everybody though. To enjoy it, you need to have an open and positive mind. The standards are lower than in any Western countries for almost anything you'll do (except the malls and the cinemas). If you compare it with other cities, you'll keep on being disappointed. You should also be a bit adventurous, particularly if you are on a budget as you'll rely on public transport.

If you are preparing a trip to Jakarta and need more informations about things to do, hotels and general advice, don't hesitate to drop me an email Jakarta is safe but you should get a travel insurance for the duration of your trip. Read my advice here: Choosing a Travel Insurance for Indonesia.

16 Best Museums in Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
I visited almost every museums in Jakarta this year (I'm only missing the TNI Satria Mandala Museum and the Galeri Nasional Indonesia). The idea of this review is to give you my recommendations on the best museums to visit and the ones to avoid. I also wrote individual articles for each with a full description, just click on the name of the venues to read it.

Contrary to what people might tell you, most are interesting and worth your time. They are a good introduction to Indonesian history and culture, and at the same time they give you an opportunity to explore authentic neighborhoods.

The entrance ticket for each museum is very cheap, usually between Rp2,000 and Rp20,000. You can refer to the opening and closing hours on each separate reviews. All museums are rather small and you'll often need only a couple hours to visit them.

English explanations are not always available. I don't think it's a big problem: Just take pictures and notes, then find out more on wikipedia from home. You can also visit the museums with a guide. The best tours are organized by the Indonesian Heritage Society. For more information: Jakarta Museum Tours.

Which Jakarta museums to visit in 1 day?
If you have only 1 day of sightseeing available, I would advise you to visit in priority the National Museum first and then head to Kota Tua (the Old City) where you'll find the Bank Indonesia Museum and the Jakarta History Museum. Both areas can easily be reached with the Transjakarta busway.

This is the ranking of the best museums in Jakarta, based on my visits:

Easily the best museum in Indonesia. It features quite a large collection of statues, masks and artefacts from all over the archipelago. A great introduction to the different cultures of the country. You'll need at least 3-4 hours inside to see everything properly.

I didn't have any expectations when visiting this museum, yet it turned out to be one of the most interesting I've been to. Don't be turned off by the word "bank". The museum is more about the history of trade in Indonesia, starting from before the colonization. It is just 100 meters from Taman Fatahillah.

This is the main museum on Taman Fatahillah square. It is housed in a beautiful colonial building that served as the City Hall of Batavia during Dutch times. As the name suggests, it is about the history of Jakarta, starting from prehistoric times. The visit is a bit short and hopefully they'll add more things to see in the future.

4) Museum of the Indonesian Constitution (at the Supreme Court)
Opened by President Jokowi in 2015, this is the newest and most modern museum in Jakarta. It is a nationalist museum, telling the story of how the Indonesian constitution was created. Still, you'll learn a lot about Indonesia's recent history. It makes you realize the profound gap between the hopes of the founders of the Nation and the harsh reality. You'll also get to see the Indonesian Supreme Court. Advanced reservation is required.

This museum is similar in its purpose with the Indonesian Constitution Museum. It focuses on the history of the birth of the Indonesian independence movement. It is located in the ex-STOVIA doctors' school and as such, you'll also find information about the early medicine in Indonesia.

The main art museum in Indonesia, with a collection of paintings from contemporary and older artists. Too many replicas unfortunately. It is part of the museums of Taman Fatahillah square.

Considering Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, the Museum Bahari (or Maritime Museum) could probably be improved. Currently, it feels it is in need of refurbishment. Still, I enjoyed my visit, which was a quick stop on my way to Sunda Kelapa, because of the location in an old Dutch warehouse and because I learned quite a few things about the history of Indonesia. The neighborhood was great too (fish market of Luar Batang) but the government evicted local residents recently and I haven't been there again since.

I did visit this museum but I haven't written a review about it yet. It is set in a beautiful property with a relaxing garden. There are some explanations on how Indonesian fabrics are made, particularly batiks. You can see a large collection of beautiful ones but it can be quite repetitive after a while. It is not too far from Central Jakarta, just after Tanah Abang Market.

This is a small museum with barely anything on display, yet it is worth a stop as the building is one of the nicest in Jakarta. It used to be the residence of the Governor General of the VOC.

The Museum Wayang is recommended by most tourist guides but I found it quite boring. There are almost no explanations in English and the place is not well-maintained. Not recommended unless you have a fascination for wayangs, puppets and masks.

The only positive thing about the Bank Mandiri Museum is its location, inside a Dutch colonial building. Apart from that, most of the things on displays are old ATMs, old typewriters, old computers, etc.

12) Museum Taman Prasasti
I still have to write this review as well. Anyway, this "museum" is actually an old Dutch graveyard and not a proper Museum, despite its name. It's not a bad place though and if you pass by, it won't hurt you to have a look.

Not visited yet:

Museum Galeri National Indonesia: This museum of art will be next on my list when I go back to Jakarta in September.

Musée Satriamandala: A military museum that belongs to the Indonesian TNI (Army). Apparently it's fun for kids.

A1 Museum: A private contemporary art museum.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN): As announced by the NY Times, the MACAN is set to open in 2017. It is owned by the billionnaire Haryanto Adikoesoemo and will feature its private collection of artworks. It can probably become the best museum in Jakarta then.

You can read my article: 10 Best Things To Do in Jakarta for more daytime activities in the city.