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 most recommended things to do or experience 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.

Try Indonesian food
Every time I come back to Jakarta from Europe, the first thing I do after landing is to eat some Indonesian food. It is a very underrated cuisine and Jakarta is the best city in the world to experience it.

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. I also love most Indonesian soups (Rawon, Soto Betawi in particular).

It is quite easy to find Indonesian food in the city. If you want the best hygiene, it's preferable to go to a chain restaurant within a mall, for instance to Sate Senayan, Warung Tekko, TeSate, or Ramboelan. Expect to pay IDR100,000-150,000 for a meal served with tea.

If you feel more adventurous, eating on the street is a fun and very affordable experience. There are stalls all over the city, even in the center, but some of the most famous areas are on Jalan Sabang (near Thamrin) or Jalan Mangga Besar (North Jakarta). A dish without meat usually costs around Rp15,000, a dish with chicken or fish about Rp25,000, and a dish with beef or lamb between Rp30,000 and Rp50,000.

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

Get lost in the "gangs"
As surprising as it may seem, my favorite daytime 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).

Visit a traditional market
If you want to experience a real culture shock in Jakarta, then head for one of the numerous traditional markets that are spread all around the city (just type "pasar jaya" on Google Maps to find the nearest one).

This is where most Indonesians go to buy groceries, and you can find pretty much anything there, from fresh fruits to kitchenware. Most of them are managed by the government-owned company Pasar Jaya, yet they are all different from one another. Some can be a bit dirty and crowded, while others are modern and more expensive. My favorite one in the city is Fresh Market PIK, which is, unfortunately, a bit far from the center.

You can read 25 Best Traditional Markets in Jakarta for more information.

Have some drinks and party
Yes, it might sound weird that one of the best things to do in the capital of the largest Muslim country on earth is drinking. And yet, Jakarta nightlife is one of the few domains
 where the city can compete with Bangkok or Singapore.

Clubs/bars in Jakarta are not always sophisticated, but they are fun. People tend to be relaxed and friendly, so it usually doesn't take long to make new friends during a night out.

I've written extensively about this topic. Check my Jakarta nightlife guide for more information.

Get a massage

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

In Jakarta, for just US10$ 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 hotel in Jakarta with more than 3 stars has 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.

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

Do nothing 
"Nongkrong" ("hanging out" in English) is the trademark hobby of Indonesians. Basically, it means doing nothing with other people.

You can hang out 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.

Visit the "must-do" tourist spots
Some tourist spots in Jakarta are interesting, but I don't think they should be on your top list of priorities compared to the other things to do mentioned 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 harbor). 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.

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 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 for 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.

Read: How I Learned to Speak Indonesian in 30 Days

Go to the mall
Visiting malls is the favorite pastime of most Jakartans. Those huge, air-conditioned temples of consumption are ubiquitous in the city. Wherever you live, you probably have one within a short taxi ride from your home.

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, gyms, and cinemas.

Shopping in middle-class malls can be more interesting and you may find a few bargains, especially on clothes and electronics (if they were made in Indonesia). Some of the best middle-class malls are ITC Mangga Dua, Mall of Indonesia, Mall Kelapa Kading, Mall Ambassador and Mall Taman Anggrek.

For a more comprehensive list, check Best Shopping Malls in Jakarta

Date a local
Let's be honest here. Would Jakarta be as interesting for foreigners as it is today without its thriving dating scene? Certainly not.

Having an Indonesian boyfriend or girlfriend is a fascinating introduction to Indonesian culture and the best way to learn the language.

As a traveler, an easy way to get a date is to use online dating apps. Read Online Dating Apps and Sites in Indonesia to know which ones work best.

Get out of the city
If you don't get out of 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. 100$ will take you thousands of kilometers away to white sand beaches, world-class reef corals, and indigenous tribes.

3 comments to '' Best Things to Experience In Jakarta (2021) "

  1. "Would Jakarta be as interesting for expats as it is today without Indonesian girls?" : I would say the same with "without Indonesian guys". Althought Jakarta is not a popular city for LGBT like Bangkok, I think it offers many opportunities and many places to meet nice people and make nice experiences

  2. "Waterbom and DuFan are two themed parks that are only interesting if you have kids."

    I disagree! it is a blast (awesome) to hang around dufan or waterboom or Atlantis with your girlfriend. there is good food, but expensive, in ancol. the bowling alley is fun as well. I've used my annual pass alot at dufan!

    drink beer before arriving ;)

  3. Now Gojek ended gomassage, is there any alternative ?