There’s nothing more exciting than strolling through a neighbourhood to take in its vibrant atmosphere, admire the architecture up close, and experience the local landscape. Walking is also a healthy and sustainable way to travel so that you can put those extra calories lost towards delicious food!
But we get it: to do so, the city has to be walkable. In other words, there must be safe, accessible, and well-connected infrastructure that is designed for pedestrians. While driving is still the most common way to get around in Malaysia, several cities are easy to explore by walking.
Get your comfy shoes ready and mark your map! From the bustling Kuala Lumpur to the laidback Ipoh, we take a look at some of Malaysia’s most walkable cities.
1. Melaka City, Melaka
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Melaka is made for walking. According to Walk Score, which measures walkability by how easy it is to accomplish errands on foot, Melaka has a walk score of 86! Most attractions are a stone’s throw away from each other, and the old quarters are filled with alleyways and pedestrian streets.
Start your stroll on the serene sidewalks along Melaka River, framed by colourful street art and historical bridges. Make your way to A Famosa to see the ruins of a 16th-century Portuguese fortress, then wander across the famous Dutch Square, where red terracotta buildings and exciting museums take the spotlight. Take a flight of stairs up the hill to St Paul’s Church, the oldest church in Malaysia.
Once your hunger pangs kick in, head across the river to Jonker Street, the epicentre of food and shopping in the city; there are many heritage houses, temples, restaurants, and souvenir shops in the area. Stay till night to see Jonker Street transform into a lively night market, bursting to life with food stalls and street performances.
2. George Town, Penang
Exploring George Town on anything other than foot does not cut it with her meandering alleyways and an ever-changing street art landscape. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage City, the oldest part of George Town has a fascinating array of attractions and restaurants — all within walking distance of one another.
We suggest starting at Armenian Street, where you can hunt for the beautiful murals painted by local and international artists. It isn’t challenging to stumble on museums, quirky shops, cafes, and food gems as you wander down the tiny streets. Then, take a detour to Little India, where you can see shops selling beautiful Indian textiles and sweets.
Close by, there is Kapitan Keling Mosque, a unique Indian-Muslim mosque, and the Pinang Peranakan Museum, a heritage mansion that offers a glimpse into the state’s Peranakan culture. Work your way down to the Clan Jetty, a scenic waterfront settlement lined with wooden houses on stilts and souvenir shops.
George Town is easy to explore on your own, but if you’re still keen on a walking tour in Penang, check out this experience on Airbnb.
3. Ipoh, Perak
Lately, the once-quiet city of Ipoh has been making waves as the new hip destination. Adorned with Old World townhouses, colonial buildings, and trendy cafes, you can reach most of the city’s famous tourist attractions by walking.
The best place to start is at the Ipoh Railway Station, a historical square encircled by some of the city’s majestic colonial architecture, such as the train station and town hall. Across the road stands the Birch Memorial Clock Tower.
Just a skip, hop, and jump away from the clock tower, you can find the city’s cultural hub and local street art, the bustling Concubine Lane, and many restaurants dishing up authentic Ipoh food. To experience the artistic side of Ipoh, visit Kong Heng Square for Instagrammable spots, along with an artisanal flea market selling local craft and knick-knacks.
4. Kuala Lumpur
Don’t be fooled by the congested streets of Kuala Lumpur! Malaysia’s capital city continuously paves new walkable areas, beginning with the River of Life. The iconic waterfront is designed with pathways that lead to Merdeka Square, Masjid Jamek, Central Market, and other popular travel destinations. The Independent even listed it as one of the world’s 10 Best Waterfront Districts.
A short saunter takes you to the colourful neighbourhood of Chinatown, where the famous Petaling Street is known for its good food and cheap buys. Next, bask in the cultural beauty of the Sri Mahamariamman Temple or Sin Sze Si Ya Temple. For a taste of the city’s coffee culture, walk no further to any of the many cafes dotted close by.
To get to know the city in a heritage walk, check out Free Walk Kuala Lumpur Unscripted.
5. Kuching, Sarawak
Navigating the streets of Kuching by foot is the best way to experience it like a local. Separated by the Sarawak River, the Kuching Waterfront is a prominent landmark in Sarawak’s capital, popular for a scenic stroll.
Walking to surrounding attractions is convenient in Kuching, be it the museums, traditional Chinese shop houses, temples, or food stalls. Cruise across the river in a traditional boat called the sampan, where you can learn about the Brooke family who ruled as the White Rajahs at Fort Margherita. End your adventure by walking around the kampung to find home-based kek lapis (Sarawak layer cake) stalls to satisfy your dessert craving.
Some consider Putrajaya too massive for the casual walker, but there are a couple of pedestrian-friendly precincts with manicured landscaped gardens that would appeal to architecture and sightseeing enthusiasts.
The centrepiece of Putrajaya is Dataran Putra, a square dotted with exquisite buildings such as the Prime Minister’s Office and Putra Mosque. Take a five-minute walk to reach the tranquil Putrajaya Lake, complete with a meandering boardwalk that snakes towards the Seri Wawasan Bridge. The Wawasan Park, nestled on the other side of the promenade, is another green area with a decent view overlooking the square.
The other walking trail you can take is at the Perbadanan Putrajaya. Among the attractions situated close by are the Millennium Monument, Kibalt Walk, and Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque, colloquially known as the Iron Mosque for its unique structure.
What other walkable cities can you find in Malaysia?