Jakarta is the capital and bustling commercial centre of Indonesia. Yet the city also offers a rich sampling of the cultures found on the country’s many islands, as well as a lively nightlife and dining scene. To help make the most of your next trip, we asked the Concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta to share their recommendations for the best things to see and do in Jakarta.
Many foods now common throughout Asia originated here, including satays and sambal, and Indonesian cookery is a melting pot of spices, coconut milk and the omnipresent peanut sauce. The Menteng neighbourhood in central Jakarta, famous for its Indonesian restaurants, is the best place to try these authentic dishes. Seribu Rasa and Kembang Goela are especially good, and do not miss rendang, a meaty, curry-like stew that is a true local specialty.
Indonesia in miniature
Given that the country has more than 17,000 islands, it is almost impossible to see all of Indonesia. The next best thing is Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park), a theme park spanning over 100 hectares (247 acres) on the outskirts of Jakarta, with nearly every island reproduced in miniature around a central lake. Additionally, pavilions representing each province feature traditional architecture, a display of cultural items and other exhibits.
Jakarta offers a surprisingly diverse after-hours scene. One rooftop hot spot is SKYE, located on the 56th floor of the Menara BCA building, and the Bluegrass Bar & Grill in the Epicentrum area features the longest bar in Jakarta. Some other after-dark locales: Lucy in the Sky and Fable in the SCBD area and Jack Rabbit in the Kuningan area near the hotel.
Blowfish is an award-winning contemporary Japanese restaurant and bar. Dragonfly offers a modern interpretation of Eastern flavours and world-class DJs. X2 is a fashionable club offering top-notch entertainment and sleek modern décor.
Unique to Jakarta
The Jalan Surabaya Antique Market stretches for one third of a mile through the streets of the upscale Menteng neighbourhood and is a great place to shop for antiques and faux-tiques. For the best view of this large, bustling city, head to the top of the 132-metre (433-foot) Monas, the National Monument topped with a gold-foil flame, and savour the panoramic vista. Spend a morning at the Ragunan Zoo, home to indigenous animals such as the rare Komodo dragon, tapir, Sumatran tiger, banteng (wild ox) and various brightly coloured birds.
Wayang kulit, or shadow puppet theatre, is an Indonesian hallmark and one of the most unusual cultural performances anywhere. Entire epics are “acted” using these elaborate and ornate puppets, and there is no better place to see a show than in the nation’s capital. The National Puppet Museum (Museum Wayang) has a vast collection of all styles of puppets, and every Sunday morning they stage performances. Southeast Asia’s largest performing arts centre, Taman Ismail Marzuki, also features wayang theatre regularly.
Almost all wines and spirits are imported, but the local adult beverage of choice is Bintang, the country’s most popular beer. Indonesians, however, love non-alcoholic beverages, from Teh botol (bottled tea) to the more traditional bandrek, a hot, sweet, gingered drink. Start your day with kopi tubruk, a strong but sweet coffee also called “mud coffee,” and end it with es cendol, an icy coconut milk and palm sugar concoction usually enjoyed as dessert.
Many people take the opportunity to shop for home furnishings and decorative items while in Indonesia. The Concierge can set up a private shopping excursion or arrange introductions with exclusive local furniture designers, as well as help organise the shipping of purchases to your home.
A perfect day in Jakarta
Have the Concierge arrange a morning tour in a private car – with a driver and guide – to get a sense of this huge city. After lunch, try a shopping spree at one of the city’s premier shopping venues: Grand Indonesia, Pacific Place, Plaza Senayan or Senayan City. And in the evening, check out the Black Cat Jazz Supper Club for live jazz and Cajun/Creole cooking.