Set between Singapore and Penang, the port town of Malacca (Melaka) on Malaysia's southwest coast is often included on short cruises round-trip from Singapore. Settled by the Portuguese in the 16th century before welcoming the Dutch and French, the maritime town is rife with Colonial sites and European influences.
What We Love
Bespoke Transport: The profusion of bright, plastic flowers attached to the town’s cycle trishaws (three-wheeled carriages) will surely make you smile. Bonus: They’re an easy and cheap way to get around.
Scenic Side Streets: Malacca’s oldest quarter is a prolific hodgepodge of architectural archetypes. There's the circa 16th century Portuguese St. Paul's Church, the crumbling 17th century Dutch “Stadthuys” (city hall), and the Francis Xavier Church constructed by the French from 1856-1859, among others — as well as the unique shop houses (typical local dwellings set above stores).
Best Known For
Porta de Santiago Fortress: Malacca’s most famous attraction — also called A Famosa — this fort was built by the Portuguese in 1511 as a solid point of defense from fellow European empires hoping to make inroads in the region.
Classic Shop Houses: Like other towns and cities in Malaysia, the port is home to 19th- and early 20th-century shop houses, which featured dwellings positioned above street-level businesses. The homes are significant because most boast a hybrid of design elements from Asia (batwing windows and door screens) and Europe (plasterwork and colorful ceramic tiles).
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Who It's Best For
History Buffs: Malacca (and the entirety of Malaysia) was a crossroads of colonial and regional trade and immigration. Today, visitors relish the fascinating melting pot with self-guided strolls along the old town, and guided tours of the various sites. You can also get a distinct taste of it all by sampling the multi-ethnic-influenced cuisine.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Humidity: This whole stretch of Malaysia feels boiling hot and sticky pretty much 365 days a year, thanks to its position just north of the equator.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.