The Charm of Jakarta’s Old Town

On the occasion of my cousin’s first visit to Jakarta, I accompanied her to the city’s number 1 tourist destination, Kota Tua (The Old Town). Jakarta was a capital of Dutch Colony for more than 300 years so evidently, there are many old buildings in Dutch architectural style, which have now been preserved, and according to latest news, Kota Tua may become a UNESCO world heritage site in the future. How cool is that. I’ll be so proud. 😀

Getting there

My cousin requested we go via Busway because she has never been on one. Well, Jakarta is the only city I know with this kind of bus system, where there is a specially constructed lane on our roads just for the Transjakarta buses to pass through. Thus the name Busway. Because of this exclusivity, busway can avoid traffic jams and is a stress free way of travelling (when it is not rush-hours and the bus has empty seats).

Getting there is easy. Take the red lane for Corridor 1 to Kota Tua station. It’s the last station so I guarantee you won’t miss it. Although you should see the iconic Kota Railway Station. The journey only cost us Rp 3.500,- (or USD 0.26) one way per person. Upon exiting the station, follow the track down, you will pass a fountain on the way out, before ascending through the stairs. From the exit you will see Museum Bank in front of you.

A word of warning, don’t visit Kota Tua on a Monday like we did. Jakarta’s Museums are closed on Mondays, and there are plenty of important ones in Kota Tua. Regardless, we needed a place for lunch, and were going for a famous heritage restaurant called Batavia Cafe, situated opposite the Fatahillah Museum.

Go right from the busway exit. When reaching a turning point, cross the road and you will enter a stone-paved pedestrian only area surrounded with hawkers. On the left are Historia Cafe and Bangi’s Kopi Tiam. On the right is the Fatahillah Museum. It was once a Dutch administrative center, complete with an underground prison. Now it is the city’s museum of history.

The Fatahillah Museum was once a Dutch administrative center
You can rent a cute bike with a beautiful matching hat.
img_6974
riding a rented bike at Fatahillah Square

For your information, here is a list of all museums within walking distance. Do visit them if you have a chance. I’d really like to check out the Puppet Museum next time.

Batavia Cafe

Keep walking straight and you’ll arrive at Batavia Cafe. The restaurant itself has been running for 22 years, I was told by a waiter, while the humble building that houses Batavia Cafe has been standing there for 200 years. We entered. It was not air-conditioned but it was quite cool. The interior was marvelous, dominated by elegant mahogany tones giving it a classy vibe. Level one was smoking area and the waiter kindly guided us towards the second floor. We stepped onto a great timber staircase lined with a red carpet, heading towards an interesting wall full of framed portraits, with a quaint chandelier glowing softly above us. It was welcoming, and rather exquisite. Then we were greeted with a bar and entered an air-conditioned dining room, or ‘Grand Salon’, at least that’s what the blue neon sign said.

 

The restaurant is five stars for ambiance. It feels really high class and rich in history. Even the menu paper was old, and resembled a guidebook with old photos and description of surrounding places of interests. We had Soto Betawi , Nasi Campur, and mocktails. Mocktails were delightfully fruity and refreshing. Soto betawi was very fragrant and has lots of beef chunks, which was worth it. Nasi campur was delicious too, complete with chicken satay, gado-gado vegetables, beef rendang, egg balado, and tempe kecap. Hollowed cucumber as a sambal (chilli paste) holder was a plus in creativity. Although I would prefer the rice to be coconut rice instead of just normal rice. The total bill amounted to more than Rp 300.000,- (or US 22.72) for two, very expensive for local standard. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

Nasi Campur Meneer
View from our window seats in the restaurant. The building on the right is Museum Wayang (Puppet Museum).

 

It was a great place to chill out. There was free Wifi too. We ended up staying for the whole afternoon, chatting and admiring Fatahillah Square. As the sun went down and the temperature cooled, more people came out to the square, street performers, playing children, locals hanging out, and of course sightseeing tourists.

If you plan to visit Batavia Cafe, check out the official website for opening hours and live music schedule.

For dinner, we went to the extraordinary Kunstkring Paleis. Don’t forget to check it out and prepared to be wowed!

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