Kuala Lumpur is the bustling capital of Malaysia, and its showpiece of grandeur and prosperity. The city's somewhat unromantic name translates as 'muddy confluence'. Chinese prospectors searching for tin came up with it when they arrived at the meeting point of the Klang and Gombak rivers in 1857. KL has come a long way since then, with the river water now reflecting the city's elegant, glittering skyscrapers.
Today, Kuala Lumpur is a blend of old and new worlds, where visitors will find a melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures. Many begin their adventure in Merdeka Square, which is the heart of the city. The modern business centre and colourful streets of Chinatown lie southeast of the square. Travellers heading south will find the picturesque National Mosque (Masjid Negara) and the impressive railway station. To the west, nature lovers can enjoy the city's green belt, where the lush and tranquil Perdana Botanical Gardens provide some respite from the KL's frenetic pace. The National Museum and (Muzium Negara) and the Malaysian Parliament are also found on this stretch.
Kuala Lumpur's playgrounds, attractions and shopping malls make it a wonderfully child-friendly destination. Parents may want to begin their sightseeing at the Petronas Towers, which offer breath-taking views of the city. The Perdana Botanical Gardens are worth visiting too, as kids will find plenty of wide open spaces to play in. The sight also has some lovely picnic spots, and is home to the Bird Park and Butterfly House.
Other child-friendly activities include looking at toys in Chinatown, or walking through the vast Taman Negara national park. If the temperature climbs too high, children will enjoy any one of Kuala Lumpur's many water parks. When the sun goes down, parents can treat kids to the unique and unforgettable Fireflies Tour, which takes visitors down the Selangor River by boat to watch fireflies lighting up the mangrove trees.
Kuala Lumpur's climate is typically tropical, meaning it's hot and humid all year round, with no distinct seasons and very little variation in temperature. The mercury hovers in the region of 86°F (30°C) all year, but can reach around 95°F (35°C).
Rainfall in the city is heavy and storms occur year-round, usually in the late afternoon. The showers often come as a relief to visitors who are unaccustomed to the heat, and don't generally disrupt itineraries very much - provided that visitors carry a lightweight rain jacket at all times.
Another balm for the heat is the amount of air-conditioned buildings visitors are likely to spend time in; Kuala Lumpur is a modern city and well-equipped to handle its tropical climate. June, July and August receive slightly less rainfall on average and, for this reason, many recommend them as the best months to visit the city.
Kuala Lumpur is an exotic garden of flavours, where travellers can indulge in a wide variety of the region's most delectable cuisines. Visitors will find thousands of roadside stalls and food bazaars that cater to all kinds of tastes and budgets. Popular bites include satay (marinated and barbecued meat, normally chicken, beef or mutton), nasi lemak (savoury rice steamed in coconut milk) and chicken rice and fried noodles.
Indigenous Malaysian cuisine is influenced by Thai, Indian and Chinese cooking, and offers exciting flavours. Indian Muslim (Mamak) cuisine is especially fragrant, with spices, curry leaves, and coconut milk characterising its dishes. Malaysian Chinese food is also widely loved, and remains distinctly Chinese.
Pubs, bustling bars, pumping clubs and karaoke lounges offer lots of after-dark entertainment in a city that never sleeps. Indeed, visitors will find one of Asia's best nightlife scenes when they explore Malaysia's capital. And though Kuala Lumpur is predominantly Muslim, its cosmopolitan nature allows for alcohol to be widely available.
The city centre has some of KL's trendiest clubs and most eccentric bars. Bukit Bintang is another of the city's most popular areas for night-time entertainment, where visitors can dine at great restaurants or enjoy vibrant bars.
Tourists looking for a quieter night out should stop at a karaoke bar - a staple in Malaysian society. Singing is entirely optional and it's great fun to simply watch. Local theatres and cabarets are also an option, and cinemas show contemporary English, Malay, Chinese, Hindi and Indonesian movies.
Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's retail, fashion and electronics centre. The Golden Triangle is the city's premier shopping area, where visitors can pick up high-end items produced by the most sought-after brands. Bukit Bintang Street is the best place to start spending. The Suria KLCC is another of the country's most famous shopping spots, given its location beneath the iconic Petronas Towers.
The Central Market on Jalan Hang Kasturi is a great place to buy anything from antiques and paintings to handicrafts, clothing and quirky souvenirs. Best buys include pottery, wood carvings, and brass, pewter and silver jewellery. Visitors can also walk across to nearby Chinatown, where they can purchase dried food, jewellery and herbal medicines - among other things. They'll need to embrace haggling, though, as it's very much part of the culture.
The easiest way to get around Kuala Lumpur is on the five different commuter train routes, each operated by a different company. The KL Monorail serves the main shopping and hotel districts, while the LRT serves Chinatown. Fares are reasonable and the trains are frequent on all routes, operating from about 5.30am to midnight.
City buses are hot, crowded and totally unreliable. Taxis can be hailed at the roadside or found at obvious locations outside hotels, shopping centres and the like. Metered fares rise steeply between midnight and 6am, and drivers sometimes raise the price during peak hours or in bad weather. Hiring a car and self-driving is not recommended in Kuala Lumpur as the traffic is stressful and confusing and public transport is more than sufficient.
Kuala Lumpur is a year-round destination, where the skyline is a contrast of towering contemporary structures and charming heritage buildings. Visitors can enjoy a melting pot of Southeast Asia's traditional cultures and religions, as well as the affluent city's modern attractions.
The iconic Petronas Twin Towers are the world's tallest twin buildings, and Kuala Lumpur's most striking landmark. They're a good place for visitors to begin their sightseeing. The breath-taking National Mosque (Masjid Negara), Friday Mosque (Masjid Jamek) and the intricately ornate, Moorish-style Kuala Lumpur Railway Station carry an old-world charm. Visitors will find more interesting old buildings around Merdeka Square, where Malaysia first declared its independence in 1957. History buffs will love learning about the country's culture and heritage at the National Museum.
Outdoor enthusiasts must venture to the vast Taman Negara national park, which contains some of the world's oldest rainforest. Visitors can spend their time trekking, fishing, river rafting, bird watching or even climbing the peninsula's highest mountain, Gunung Tahan.