With nearly 30 million people living in its metro area, Jakarta ranks as one of the world's largest and most crowded cities. Indonesia's 1990s economic boom sparked a high-rise building frenzy across the capital, yet tucked between the skyscrapers are ancient ethnic neighborhoods and age-old “kampongs” (villages).
What We Love
National Museum: A million years of Indonesian anthropology, history, and culture are on display here, including the fossilized bones of Java man, as well as examples of the Islamic period and ancient Buddhist and Hindu empires.
Taman Fatahillah: Once the heart of Dutch colonial Jakarta, this square is flanked by the Jakarta History Museum, the Wayang (Puppet) Museum, and the charming Cafe Batavia.
Best Known For
Shopping Malls: Both locals and visitors flock to the many megamalls for an air-conditioned eating, shopping, and people-watching experience.
Indonesian Cuisine: From street stalls to high-end restaurants, Jakarta offers plenty of gastronomic choices, including spicy beef rendang, satay sticks, “nasi goreng” (fried rice), “rijsttafel” (a variety of side dishes with rice), “soto” (traditional broth with meat and vegetables) and “gado-gado” (salad of vegetables, rice, and hard-boiled egg in a peanut sauce).
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Who It's Best For
Shutterbugs: Old and new architecture, ethnic neighborhoods, traditional Indonesian attire, food stalls, sprawling markets, and a haphazard waterfront make Jakarta a photographer's dream.
Shopaholics: Whether you prefer air-conditioned malls or sultry open-air markets, this city offers plenty of ways to search for souvenirs.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Traffic Jams: It often takes more than an hour to travel from one side of the city center to the other.
Shocking Income Inequality: Posh shopping malls and luxury hotels coexist with shantytowns and poverty-stricken street vendors.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.