A UNESCO World Heritage site, this legendary port kingdom of old is a treasure trove of cultural and historical delights; a symbol of both past glory and future aspirations.
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Malacca is considered by many to be the spiritual birthplace of Malaysia. A medieval Malay kingdom, it was a strategic port along the way to the East, offering shelter to ships sailing the sea route between China and Europe which sought refuge from the monsoon winds. Its fame led to its eventual downfall; being conquered by the Portuguese, and later the Dutch and British. The foreign powers wrought their own influence on the region and were kind to Malacca, making this town their own, each in their own time.
The Malacca River that runs through the city has seen many travellers in its past
Their legacies have now become Malacca's most famous attractions, and once again, visitors from all over corners of the world flock to this port city to glimpse the wonders of the past. Almost all visitors choose to visit the ruins of Porta de Santiago, the mighty Portuguese fortress built around St Paul's Hill that overlooks the Straits of Malacca. Just at the foot of the hill is the Malacca Dutch Square, a quaint European styled town square built by the Dutch, complete with a network of administration buildings and the oldest church in the entire country.
Malacca's most recognised symbol, the ruined gate of Porta De Santiago, also known as A Famosa
The rich cultures brought to Malacca's shores by innumerable travellers over the centuries have intermingled and produced a beautiful harmonious society of different races, each with its own distinct and unique features. Many descendants of these cultures, the Peranakan Chinese, the Portuguese descendants, the Chitty Indians and local Malays, still live with the traditions and customs that have been handed down through generations. Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in this vibrant world through visits to the cultural enclaves in various areas of Malacca to see how different ways of life come together to create harmony and peace. This beautiful tapestry of architecture, history and culture is what makes Malacca a truly unique place.
Malacca is a sizeable city on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur and is well connected by road and air. No railway lines run through Malacca.
Malacca is serviced by the Batu Berendam Airport located just outside the city. Currently the airport handles flights between Malacca and Pekan Baru, Indonesia.
Bus services to all major cities and towns in Peninsular Malaysia are offered at the city's bus terminal, Melaka Sentral, at the heart of town.
Malacca, the country's foremost cultural tourist destination, is filled with various places that capture a visitor's attention. Its most recognisable attractions, the iconic gates of A Famosa fort, have become synonymous with Malacca, appearing in almost every picture, postcard and documentary about this city. The gates are all that is left of a once mighty fortress built by the Portuguese atop St. Paul's Hill, the Porta De Santiago. The fort encompassed the entire hill, and offered the Portuguese security in a faraway land.
Just at the base of the hill is the Malacca Dutch Square, another major tourist attraction. The Dutch centred their colony around this square after taking Malacca from the Portuguese in 1641. They placed particular emphasis on the centre of the town, building an elaborate network of buildings that housed the Dutch administration. These buildings have survived to this day and are a magnificent example of western architecture.
Lying across the Malacca River that borders the Dutch Square is the town proper. Malacca town is a reflection of the mix of cultures and traditions from the many people who have made their home here. Many areas of Malacca are actually cultural enclaves, where descendants of traders and travellers who came to this medieval port stayed and settled down. Visitors to these enclaves are treated to the unique experience of observing a local lifestyle rich in customs and traditions that have been passed on for generations.
With its importance as a historical site, Malacca has over twenty museums dedicated to showcasing exhibits from various periods of its existence. Some of these Malacca museums, like the Maritime Museum, have become attractions in their own right.
Spread along the Malacca coast are scenic beaches and waterfronts that are quite popular among locals. While these areas are not famous for swimming or white, powdery beaches, they offer a leisurely escape from the humdrum of daily life. Certain spots such as Tanjung Bidara and Klebang are well known and frequented by the general population during the weekends, with many planning picnics by the beach or short weekend getaways at one of the resorts nearby.
Visitors to this historic city should make it a point to explore some of these areas, along with some of Malacca's more prominent attractions.
Malacca River Cruise
One of Malacca's recent additions to its growing list of attractions, the Malacca River Cruise is a simple but interesting way to see the various sights that Malacca has to offer. Passengers can board the cruise from two points; at the jetty beside the Dutch Square, and at the Spice Gardens on the outskirts of Malacca town.
If there is one street visitors should walk along in Malacca, it is Jonker Street. Running through the very centre of one of Malacca's cultural enclaves, this narrow street is lined with shophouses offering an astounding assortment of items, curios and various knick knacks. The night bazaar that takes place during the weekends on this street transforms it into a spectacle that is bound to enthrall those who venture within.
Malacca Historical Sites
There are many smaller sites of historical importance all scattered around Malacca. Some are related to figures in Malacca's history, like the famous Malay warrior, Hang Tuah, and the Chinese admiral, Cheng Ho, while others are linked to Malacca's myths and legends. While not as impressive as Porta De Santiago and the Dutch Square, these places are intriguing and offer a window into Malacca's rich and storied past.
Malacca is an experience that offers so much more when visitors spend time immersing themselves in the rich cultural fabric that exists in this historic city.
Being a top tourist destination in the country, Malacca holds a significantly large number of events catered towards tourists the whole year round. The city's most famous events are Festa Sanjuang and Festa San Pedro, two festivals held by the Portuguese descendants to celebrate the Christian saints John and Peter in June every year.
Malacca is a laid back and pleasant city, where the pace of life is brisk but well spaced out. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming as the local population are accustomed to the ever changing crowd of tourists and weekend visitors who throng to the many attractions here. There is a real sense of community in the various cultural enclaves of this city, where daily life goes on in its own way, a mix of modern sensibilities and traditional norms. Visitors to Malacca often leave the city with fond memories of a distinct culture that oddly enough, reminds them of their own.
Malacca is an adventure for the palate, offering many different types of cuisine influenced by a fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. Famous for its various specialties, Malacca is a food haven for local Malaysians, who make it a point to visit their favourite haunts to savour what only this city can offer. An assortment of local desserts, including the durian cendol, authentic Nyonya delicacies, from curries to cakes, and Portuguese fusion delights await those daring enough to venture forth into this culinary extravaganza. Read more
True to its roots as a medieval port city, Malacca is a treasure trove of trinkets and traditional handicraft. Although the city has a healthy number of shopping malls offering contemporary goods, visitors are more enamoured by the antiques and local products sold at local shops and street markets. The city's renowned Jonker Walk street bazaar is a weekly spectacle that celebrates Malacca's unique shopping experience. Read more
With over twenty museums, Malacca has the highest number of museums in any part of the country. These museums are dedicated to various aspects of Malacca's history and also facets of Malaysian lifestyle and culture in general. Visitors with a penchant for history will be entertained by exhibits from Malacca's golden era to the rivetting story of the struggle for Malaysian independence as they make their way around the museums. Read more
Malacca is a place that is all about history. Most streets in Malacca, the building, culture and even the food have their own special history. If only these things could talk, one can only imagine what magnificent stories they would tell.
Many would agree that Malacca is the spiritual birthplace of Malaysia. Numerous legends and stories associate Malacca with the founding of the other Malaysian states, especially the Perak and Johor sultanates. One particular legend explains the origins of the tengkolok, the royal headgear worn by sultans of Malaysia. The tengkolok was introduced by Sultan Muzaffar Shah after he substituted it for the Royal Crown. Legend says that he was headed to Perak after the fall of Malacca when his ship became stuck in shallow waters. The ship would not budge although all of the unnecessary cargo had been thrown overboard. Sensing something was amiss, the Sultan decided to relinquish the Royal Crown and threw it into the water. Immediately after doing so, the ship started to move and sailed on its own to Perak. The sultan interpreted it as a sign and decreed that all future sultans should not wear a crown, but instead a tengkolok in its place.
Throughout history, Malacca became a meeting point for travelers heading east and west due to its strategic location. Those who stayed mingled and settled down with the locals, spawning a totally new and unique culture. The Portuguese who conquered Malacca changed the social fabric of the town, introducing Christian elements when they intermarried the locals. The Dutch and the British that followed also added their own influence and culture which can be seen to this day. This unique culture, a result of Malacca's colourful history, is still apparent through the descendants that call Malacca their home.
Malacca History Overview
A general overview of Malacca is available in the history section of the Malacca state page. Learn of how this seaside village prospered to become a kingdom along the sea route to China.
Malacca Myths and Legends
Malacca captured the imaginations of travellers all over the world during its glorious era as a regional empire in the Malay archipelago. It was a time filled with riches, intrigue and, of course, adventure. Most of the stories during this period were passed down through the generations, becoming Malacca's myths and legends.