Kuching, Malaysia is a city often overlooked by travelers to the island of Borneo. With its rich history, delicious food, and friendly locals, Kuching is an inviting and welcoming place.
Unlike many cities in Asia, it is not overly built up or flooded with tourists. It still has an incredibly local, mellow feel that has long since left other more popular Asian cities.
People tend to treat Kuching mainly as a gateway to the national parks and jungles of the Malaysian Sarawak state and fail to explore the city itself.
We think that’s a big mistake! There are lots of cool things to do in Kuching that are waiting to be discovered if you know where to look.
Best Time to Visit Kuching
The weather in Sarawak, Malaysia is generally constant all year round. The temperatures are always hot, but the rainfall is heavier between the months of October and March.
The wet season will draw fewer tourists, and temperatures and prices will be slightly lower. Most visitors opt for the dry season between April and September.
Top Things to do in Kuching
Explore the City Centre
Kuching is a lovely city to explore on foot. Walk along the river and enjoy the beautiful views of the city skyline, then stroll along the smaller streets searching for cool graffiti and unique art installations.
Visit the Sarawak Cultural Village
The Sarawak Cultural Village describes itself as a “living museum.” About a half hour drive from the city center, this award-winning village offers you the opportunity to learn about all the diverse ethnic groups that can be found in Sarawak.
The employees are often dressed in traditional clothing and put on dance and music performances multiples times a day. If you’re interested in diving deeper into authentic Malaysian culture, the Sarawak Cultural Village is one of the best things to do in Kuching.
Say Hello to the Cats
Kuching really has a thing for cats and this is evident all over the city. In fact, “kucing” actually means cat in Malay. Within the city limits, you’ll find multiple different cat statues scattered around.
Perhaps the most famous of the cat-themed Kuching attractions is the Cat Museum. Inside this modern, conical building, you’ll see all kinds of displays about the history of cats in Sarawak, the cat’s cultural significance, the wild cats of Borneo, and more.
Exploring all the cat attractions is one of the most unique and quirky things to do in Kuching, Malaysia.
Walk the Old Kuching Heritage Trail
Although not so much a trail as it is a cluster of significant buildings and monuments, the Old Kuching Heritage Trail deserves a spot on your itinerary. The trail centers around the Sarawak River that runs through the city center. It’s a perfect opportunity to take a walk and enjoy the scenery.
Some of the best Kuching attractions on the trail sit right at the waterfront and are easy to explore by foot.
This English style manor was built as a wedding gift to his wife by Charles Brooke, a former Rajah of Sarawak. The building served as both a residence and a place for official meetings.
Fort Margherita was also built by the Brooke family and was designed to protect the city from pillagers that might arrive by the river. Tourists can visit the Brooke Gallery inside to learn more about their rule of Sarawak.
Visit Semenggoh Wildlife Centre
Located just outside of Kuching, the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre offers a unique opportunity to see the elusive semi-wild orangutans up close. The centre is opened daily, but orangutan spottings are not guaranteed. They roam wild throughout the park and only come in sight during meal times when fruits in the jungle are hard to find.
Explore the Nearby National Parks
One of the best things to do in Kuching is to visit the national parks. The city is a great jumping off point for multiple parks in the area where you can see flora and fauna like orangutangs, giant rafflesia flowers, and proboscis monkeys.
Some of the best nearby national parks include Gunung Gading National Park, Kubah National Park, Santubong National Park, and Bako National Park.
Where to Eat and Drink in Kuching
Indah Cafe became our favourite place to eat in Kuching. In short, it’s a vegan paradise and the most unique restaurant in Kuching! You can find all kinds of smoothies, juices, wraps, and sandwiches here as well as coconut rice dishes and even burgers. The restaurant also has a small gift shop inside and can help organize local tours and activities.
If you want to try the favourite local dish of kolo mee, head to Noodle Descendants. Here, you’ll be served a piping hot bowl of noodles and chopped pork. Be aware that this is a popular spot and the lines can get really long, but eating kolo mee is one of the best things to do in Kuching and is worth the wait!
This neighbourhood restaurant is run by the sweetest local family. At Borneo Delight, you’ll find a wide variety of curries, noodles, meat, and seafood dishes.
James Brooke Bistro
James Brooke Bistro is another restaurant run by a lovely local family. It has great food for good prices, but the main highlight is the family of cats that live there. They had two big cats and four kittens when we were there. Talk about a cat city’s favourite!
Life Cafe – Padungan
If you need to see some healthy food on the menu, head to the Life Cafe to find a wide variety of vegetable, noodle, and dumpling dishes. Don’t miss the delicious homemade drinks and tea options.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, try Dyak. The Dyak people are an indigenous tribe of Borneo with many subdivisions. Dyak Restaurant serves lots of traditional Malaysian foods from these cultural groups. This restaurant also has a number of vegetarian options upon request.
Street Food and Markets
Undeniably, some of the best food in Kuching can be food at street stalls and local markets. Try the Top Spot Food Court in the city center or the Jalan Market right by the river. If you’re at a loss for what to do in Kuching, the street markets should be your very first stop.
Where to Stay
The LimeTree Hotel
Sustainable hotels are hard to come by in Kuching, but one that really stands out is the LimeTree Hotel. Not only does it have strong environmental initiatives in place, but the whole hotel is coloured lime green as if to prove their commitment to sustainability. The hotel has won numerous awards from TripAdvisor and AsiaRooms.com.
The Marian Boutique Lodging House
The Marian Boutique Lodging House is one of our top picks for a hotel in Kuching, Sarawak. Perched on a hilltop in the old town, this beautifully designed hotel used to be a series of colonial bungalows in the 1800s.
Photo courtesy of The Marian Boutique Lodging House
Grand Margherita Hotel
This clean and modern hotel is one of the top-rated green hotels by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture in Malaysia. At the Grand Margherita Hotel in Kuching, Sarawak, you’ll have beautiful views of the nearby river and close proximity to the downtown area.
How Much Time Do You Need in Kuching?
If you plan on visiting other parts of Sarawak, especially some of the national parks, Kuching is a perfect place to start your journey. Many people write it off as simply the gateway city for these national parks, but we think you should plan a bit more time here to do the city justice.
Between two and three days should be enough to see all the main highlights and taste plenty of local food. If you’re doing day trips to the nearby national parks, then certainly add on more days.
While we were originally unsure of what to do in Kuching, our visit to the city was very enjoyable. It’s still an under the radar tourist destination and has lots of hidden gems if you know where to look. We highly recommend that you don’t skip over all the awesome things to do in Kuching during your time in Sarawak.
What are your favourite things to do in Kuching? And where are your favourite hidden spots in Malaysia?
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