Street artists have come a long way to receive recognition for what was once known as graffiti and vandalism. Colourful paintings on historical and neglected buildings have been blowing up in states countrywide. This is in part to preserve the historic value and story-telling of the fragmented cultures and life of Malaysians long before independence compared to now.
These meaningful works of street art bring new life to abandoned and dark alleyways, turning them into lively and welcoming walks for visitors. There are so many around Malaysia that are worth preserving, visiting, and mentioning.
We look at the towns with some of the most beautiful murals to check out.
1. George Town, Penang
Over the years, street art in Penang’s George Town has gone viral and has people flocking to the city on weekends. 3D works using motorcycles, old trishaws, and swings have brought some of George Town’s street murals to life. By acquiring a map, which you can purchase at most bicycle-renting shops, you can create an Easter egg hunt of murals in the city.
We gave it a go with some friends and loved our mini treasure hunt. Some of the most fantastic street art worth checking out are Boy on a Bike, Kids on a Bicycle by Ernest Zacharevid, and Brother and Sister on a Swing by Louis Gan. We also discovered some of the best food stalls around during our search for murals.
2. Jonker Street, Melaka
Who doesn’t love Melaka? Each visit surprises us with new attractions, and you can never get bored in this town. Famous for its Peranakan culture, the city is adorned with old and new buildings, and street art has undoubtedly brought it to life even more. The Jonker Street area has gained major hype with expression paintings of its culture, food, and traditions along the river cruise.
One of the most famous artworks here is the vibrant colours seen splashed across the building housing the flagship store of the skincare brand Kiehl’s, which collaborates with an artist, Fritilldea. You can also find other colourful photo spots at the interactive mural lane behind Jalan Hang Kasturi for more simplistic artworks.
3. Laman Seni Shah Alam, Selangor
Laman Seni Shah Alam started gaining popularity on social media when the artwork of an homage to flight MH370 went viral. From Laman Seni 2 to Laman Seni 7, the artworks that now cover the areas were based on a competition of four categories — 3D paintings, 3D installations, street furniture, and onsite painting.
Funded by the local council, the back alleys of commercial and industrial buildings have turned into a clean and fun environment for weekend activities. Some of the art pieces here touch on ongoing social issues mixed with cartoon 3D paintings of Super Mario and the orangutan.
4. Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur
In the heart of Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Alor seems to have some of the best-hidden murals worth exploring, and Instagrammers flock to this area for the rainbow of art. Besides Jalan Alor, there is also Bas Sekolah, which is located at Jalan Sultan and a must-see when you’re in the area.
If you’re willing to do extra legwork, head down to Jalan Imbi for a three-storey artwork of Indigenous Americans and monkeys. You can also drive to Medan Pasar to see heritage paintings of trade businesses.
The Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) held the street art project series to help promote the young talents to express themselves through arts and help old buildings breathe a new life.
5. Lorong Seni Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
Lorong Seni in Seremban is one of the newer mural lanes in the country and dons the concept of ‘Returning Street to the Public’. The lanes put into picture 250 metres of various expressions of local history and artworks featuring Sarjan Hassan – a native of Negeri Sembilan and a hero who fought for Malaysia during the Japanese invasion of Malaya.
There are also murals displaying Malaysia’s very own and much-celebrated local band known as the Alleycats. And let’s not forget the orangutan paintings and murals that provide flashbacks to the kampung life.
6. Simpang Renggam, Johor
In Johor’s Simpang Renggam, there is a beautiful display of Johorian culture along the back alleys of Jalan Baisha. Nostalgic scenes of the past, like old sewing machines, a small barbershop, and the flower stall depict the local life before our generation.
While in Simpang Renggam, you can also head down to Kelapa Sawit Kulai to immerse yourself (and your Instagram stories) with more lanes filled with street art. Here, you can find murals themed under the Hakka culture and painted by the area’s villagers. Some of the artworks include paintings of koi fish, rubber plantations, and various depictions of Malaysia’s many races and cultures.
7. Ipoh Old Town, Perak
Not only is Ipoh home to some of the most decadent food in Malaysia, but it’s also a pretty famous spot for mural lanes, especially in Ipoh Old Town. There are also many historical sites and natural attractions like hot springs that make Ipoh a must-visit on any travelling list.
There are plenty of mural paintings by Ernest Zacharevic here, including Trishaw at Market Lane, Old Uncle Drinking Coffee, and Paper Plane located along Jalan Tun Sambanthan. Compared to Melaka and Penang, Ipoh may not have as many, but still worth checking out when you’re in this hipster capital of Malaysia.
8. Kampung Cina in Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu
Besides being a stopover destination before going to Redang Island, Kuala Terengganu also has a place for beautiful cultural arts. Kampung Cina showcases batik painting murals and street art of old Malay houses and various local cultures.
Keep exploring the lanes at Kampung Cina – you will come across more street art that represents Peranakan culture, the unity of our multi-racial country, and the local dishes of Terengganu. Paya Bunga Square’s parking lot is also known for paintings of turtles, gamelan (a traditional musical instrument), the Sekayu waterfall, batik, and the traditional dance of ulek mayang.
9. Jalan Dato Pati in Kota Bharu, Kelantan
In Kota Bharu, along Jalan Dato Pati, you can find street art depicting traditional music, dance, local figures, and Islamic arts. Even unique 3D paintings of carpets surround the wall of artworks play as a metaphor for transportation from one image to another.
There is also a touching painting of the dire and heartbreaking situation in Palestine, which evokes inspiration to help fellow Muslim brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. You can find more Instagrammable artworks at Pasar Kubang Pass, KB Mall, and Jalan Telipot.
10. Jalan Besar, Pahang
Collectively born and raised in Pahang, 13 local artists came together and initiated a street art project known as Project 06, aimed at making the streets of Kuantan burst with life.
The once dreary-looking shophouses were quickly transformed into attention-grabbing alleyways filled with impressive art that had Malaysians flocking to this state. There’s even a mural of the late and legendary Malaysian artist Sudirman. These lanes are lit up with fairy lights for a better view at night, giving them even more magic.
11. Kangar Street Art, Perlis
Another state not to miss out on the hype and beauty of mural lanes is the smallest state in Malaysia — Perlis. The Kangar Street Art 2.0 involved more than 15 painters from Persatuan Pelukis Negeri Perlis. They have been working to transform the gloomy alleys in Kangar into showcasing the artsy side of this small state.
There are not only an impressive 80 murals to get lost in but also a local transitional musical called Awang Batil, which tells the story of the culture of Perlis. While you’re there, check out some of the best culinary treats Perlis has to offer.
12. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Pillars of Sabah is one-of-a-kind mural displayed through 30 different stand-alone poles. The site was previously once a Welfare Department that caught on fire in 1992. The 30 poles were remnants of the building and were brilliantly transformed into an awareness campaign of the endangered species of Sabah.
Sponsored by Nippon Paint Malaysia and supported by the government and World Wildlife Fund for Malaysia, the paintings feature Sunda pangolin, green turtles, Badak Sumatran rhinoceros, pygmy Borneo elephants, binturong, and many other Malaysian wildlife natives. Besides being Insta-worthy locations, these unique pillars educate us on species unheard of to us, yet they exist in our homeland.