Guide to Exploring Central Jakarta

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There’s a reason a location is referred to as “central.” Central Jakarta is perhaps the most prominent slice of the capital, so it’s more than just a matter of geographical location in this case. Read our guide to exploring central Jakarta, which includes everything from shopping to learning about the country’s history.

Guide to Exploring Central Jakarta

Merdeka Square and around

A Guide to Exploring Central Jakarta | Merdeka Square and around

Merdeka Square is located in the heart of the city, with the National Monument serving as the focal point. The colossal monument serves as an unofficial center point for the city, and many daily activities revolve around it.

For diverse reasons, morning runners, military academy students, and visitors flock to the 75-hectare square. Some prefer the shade trees around the monument, while others for the museum at the base or the viewing deck at the summit.

More of Jakarta’s historic and significant landmarks can be found a short distance outside the square. The National Museum, located on the west side of the square, houses a collection of 142,000 artifacts from the country’s various historical periods. From art to agriculture, language to religion, the museum paints a comprehensive picture of the country’s past.

The presidential compound, in all its splendor, is located directly north of Merdeka Square. The Merdeka Palace, Negara Palace, State Secretariat, and other buildings are all located in this region. Outside the ring fence, you can see exquisite white colonial-style buildings and gleaming limousines entering and exiting the complex.

The National Gallery, a government-run art and culture institution, is located on the east side of Merdeka Square. The space is deliberately structured to tell narratives about different eras and trends of art in Indonesia, and it houses over 1,700 artworks from the country’s most famous painters. From the legendary Raden Saleh and Affandi to today’s up-and-coming musicians.

The south side of Merdeka Square is surrounded with governmental and administrative buildings, which are still within the immediate ring around Merdeka Square. The National Library, which is 27 stories tall, is also located on this street. With so much space, the library can house a wide range of holdings, from monographs to magazines, as well as art collections and audiovisual equipment.

While roaming from one story to the next, searching through the exhibits, or simply appreciating the view of Merdeka Square from the large windows, it’s easy to lose track of time.

Historical houses of worship

The religious buildings in Central Jakarta encapsulate the country’s diversity. The majestic Istiqlal, Southeast Asia’s largest mosque, is located just around the corner from Merdeka Square. Tourists can go on a guided tour and admire the symbol-rich and profound architecture that symbolizes the country’s history as well as Islamic ideals. This mosque, which is one of Indonesia’s most iconic structures, has hosted world leaders such as Barack Obama, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Angela Merkel, and others.

A neo-gothic church soars in all its splendor just across the mosque. This cathedral appears more like historic church buildings you’d find in Europe than it does in the middle of the world’s largest Muslim country, which adds to its allure. One of the three major spires of this church has a museum displaying artifacts of Catholic ceremonies, making it a heritage site and destination. The Immanuel Church, a cultural property established during the colonial era in 1834, is another attraction in the area.


Shopping in Jakarta | Guide to Exploring Central Jakarta
Guide to Exploring Central Jakarta

Jakarta’s downtown area is the cherry on top of a shopping heaven. There are more than a dozen shopping malls in the neighborhood, each with its own class and flair. Whether you’re looking for high-end labels in Plaza Indonesia or low-cost batik collections at Thamrin City, the district offers it all. Head to Tanah Abang complex if you want to shop like the locals do or if you require wholesale fashion items and don’t mind the heat or crowds. Sarinah, Jakarta’s oldest department store, is also in the heart of the city.

Surabaya Street is another popular shopping destination in Central Jakarta. This antique street market runs the length of the street, with vendors selling a variety of products. The market has hidden treasures ranging from beautiful ceramics to an ancient kerosene light.


One of Jakarta’s nicest neighborhoods is Menteng in Central Jakarta. Originally a high-end residential enclave for Jakarta’s wealthy, this region has evolved into a lifestyle and gastronomic haven. Everything from old legendary eateries to cool new pubs can be found in this neighborhood. For fine dining with Indonesian cuisine, Lara Djonggrang and Bunga Rampai are outstanding options. Face Bar or Por Qué No? are great places to go for cocktails with a cool crowd.

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