Indonesia is a certain up and coming holiday destination, and whether you choose to head to sun-soaked Bali, or somewhere a little more city-orientated, the port city of Semarang should certainly be on your visit list.
Perhaps slightly less well known than some other Indonesian destinations, Semarang manages to conserve much of the old, with plenty of the new thrown in for good measure. As the capital of Central Java, Semarang has plenty of modern day amenities, including shopping malls, business centres, and entertainment options, but there are also many nods back to the past, as well as plenty of cultural fairs and museums to check out too. Put simply, Semarang brings the perfect blend of culture and traditions, with modern-day facilities to make travellers feel comfortable.
Semarang has many and varied architectural delights including many wonderful examples of the Dutch colonial style, such at the famed Lawang Sewu which was originally the headquarters of the Dutch East Indies Railway Company. During WW2 it was used as an headquarters in the war effort and is reputed to be haunted! Not far away is the most popular attraction in Semarang, the Central Java Grand Mosque. Be sure to check you are wearing appropriate and respectful clothing when visiting this holy place. On the weekends tourists and locals alike enjoy the street food at Semawis market which is in the centre of Chinatown. The cuisine ranges from traditional Javanese, through Chinese to European.
It is very easy to book hotels online and the standard of accommodation in Semarang is very high, with the Hotel Horizon Semarang being a popular choice. When packing for your trip do remember that the climate in Indonesia is hot and humid so it is important to keep hydrated and protect yourself from mosquito bites with repellant that contains at least 30% DEET .
Another place of historical significance is the Tuga Muda, a large monument which was built to commemorate a battle between Indonesian freedom soldiers and Japanese soldiers back in 1945. There is much history pertaining to this, so certainly read up on it before you head there, to get the most out of your time. Around this part of the city you will also see the most in terms of Dutch colonial architecture such as the Lawang Sewu mentioned earlier.
If you have time to take a day trip out of town, the amazing Borobudur (below) and Prambanan Temples are just 2.5-3 hours drive south of the city.
Whilst Semarang has plenty of history and museums to explore, there is plenty in terms of fun and frolics too, and Marina Beach is a very popular spot. This is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre, kick back and relax in totally tranquil surroundings. You can enjoy beach time and water-sports there, as well as plenty of attractions to keep the kids occupied too. Of course, Catfish Park and Mangkang Zoo are also two places to visit if you are travelling with little ones in tow, whilst also offering a break from city life for a few hours too.
Head to Chinatown on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night and you will catch the night market. This is a must do for any visitor to Semarang, because it will show you traditions and daily life, whilst also giving you the chance to try traditional foods and buy some unusual souvenirs to take back home. Whilst you’re in Chinatown, check out Sam Poo Kong, an iconic 15th century temple.
As you can see, Semarang offers the perfect blend between tradition and modern, and when visiting a city of any kind, this is exactly what any visitor wants to see.
This post was written in association with Traveloka.