From the early years of 1888, Central Market was originally built as a wet market for locals to get the freshest produce in KL. Since then, Central Market has undergone numerous facelifts and was even nearly demolished in the 1980s.
Major kudos to the Malaysian Heritage Society for petitioning against the demolition of the building and transforming it into a well-known centre for Malaysian culture, arts and handicraft.
Only a 5-minute walk from Petaling Street, Central Market is KL’s one-stop-centre for all sorts of local arts and crafts. From Malaysian aboriginal-inspired handmade crafts to colourful Nonya hand-sewn bags and more, Central Market exhibits a vast array of handicrafts from a boiling pot of cultures.
Filled with beautiful trinkets and decorative items, Central Market houses more than 300 stores across 70,000 square feet of retail space.
To reflect the colourful culture of Malaysia, Central Market is segregated into sections that depict the unity and mixture of the main 3 races of Malaysia; the Malays, Chinese, and Indians.
Browse through Lorong Melayu (Malay Street/Lane), Little India, and the Straits Chinese areas for their respective handicrafts to get a better understanding of the 3 major ethnicities that make up the local blend of culture in Malaysia.
Each area is decorated with corresponding traditional colours and fixings, making for a colourful and vibrant shopping venue.
For yummy local snacks, head over to Lorong Kelapa (Coconut Lane) to an assortment of Malaysian traditional snacks such as keropok (crackers), murukku, Malaysian cookies, and more.
If you’re looking for something heavier, there’s also the food court on the mezzanine floor and various eateries located inside Central Market.
Head upstairs to find the Batik Emporium, where countless different designs of batik are displayed.
Have your pick at the numerous items that are made from the batik cloth such as pants, shirts, and even Baju Kurung and Baju Melayu.
There’s even a store where you can get some small items made from batik scrap such as keychains, pouches, baby shoes, and much more.
Up here, you can also find a plethora of different types of Wau, the Malaysian version of kites. They come in different shapes and sizes, and some also have tassels fixed onto the wau, which makes it appear as though it dances while in the air.
Central Market Annexe
Central Market Annexe is the section that plays host to the local art scene in KL. Divided into the Central Market Art Lane and the Art House Gallery, spend some time admiring the beautiful oil paintings or get a portrait of yourself drawn or painted by providing a photo to the artists there.
Aside from simply purchasing batik cloths, you can even make your own batik by joining a batik painting workshop, offered by one of the galleries along Art Lane in the Central Market Annexe.
Each design is curated by their in-house artist, offering unique designs and colours reflecting the tropical landscape in Malaysia.
Malaysia Heritage Walk / Kasturi Walk
Head outside of Central Market onto Kasturi Walk, where you can find even more souvenirs and trinkets under the huge wau arches. Here, you’ll find a variety of knock-off bags, caps, and clothing, along with heaps of souvenirs and more.
It pales in comparison to Petaling Street, but still worth a stroll.
There are also a number of street food stalls, selling a variety of street snacks such as satay, steamed peanuts, and much more. Check out the “fried dough” stall, which is run by a Malay lady selling fried Chinese snacks. Culture blending at it’s finest!
The street is pretty short, so if you’re just browsing through, it’ll take less than 15 minutes to finish exploring the stalls and items here. It’s a great spot to pick up some snacks in the evening, which you can then bring over to the River of Life.
Masjid Jamek & River of Life
The perfect chillout spot in the evening, the River Of Life surrounds Masjid Jamek as the sun sets beyond the horizon. Along the river, there are plenty of seating areas with benches and canopies of trees that provide some much needed shade on a hot day in KL.
In the late evenings, glowing lights illuminate the river and Jamek mosque, bringing it to life as Muslim prayers are chanted through speakers. You can also stick around until about 7.30pm to witness the water & fountain show for some instagram-worthy photos.
For more things to do around the vicinity, check out our list of 9 things to do around KL Lake Gardens.