Malacca is often seen only briefly by those passing through, but there are some gems in this picturesque southern state that are worth pausing for. Centuries as a maritime trading hub have given it the energy, heritage and architecture of different dynasties, and central Malacca City has always drawn the crowds. It has a laid-back atmosphere common to many ports all over the world, and diverse populations from across Asia have gathered in its ever-bustling streets for generations, creating the region’s unique Peranakan culture. Though somewhat over-touristed, Malacca’s underlying character can be found if you look from a local perspective.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Being a changeable and touristy town, the eating options in Malacca can be hit and miss, but its diversity has created some diamond foodie moments. The region’s distinctive Nyonya cuisine pulls together a sense of nostalgia and a few imaginative ingredient substitutes made by those original ‘nyonya’ grandmothers! It’s fusion cooking at its best, blending the culinary heritage of Chinese, Malay and other South Asian cultures into comforting dishes that embody Malaysia’s vibrant immigrant history. The most famous Nyonya dish is probably laksa: a rich, spicy noodle soup for which every cook has their own secret recipe. Try a few versions in out-of-the-way, family-run cafes, and let the flavours in each bowl tell you a different story.
Images of Malacca are dominated by the russet walls of the Stadthuys: a Dutch-colonial building in the UNESCO-listed centre, surrounded by the Red Square and the History & Ethnography Museum. Tours of the complex offer a diverting couple of hours and, if you’re lucky enough to find them quiet, the chance to delve deeper into the region’s history. Get an alternative experience of the city’s heritage with a low-key wander along the riverside. Stroll past waterside houses that display a cross-section of the city’s sea-trading past, immerse yourself in local life as you meander down side streets, and people-watch as you sip something cool in one of the town’s vibrant cafes.
Throughout Malacca, mosques, churches and Buddhist temples sit almost side by side, and the atmospheric ruins of the 16th-century Portuguese-built A Famosa Fort are just a short walk from alleyways full of striking street art. As with many cities, this heady mix contains enclaves dedicated to individual cultures including, of course, Chinatown and Little India. Jonker Street forms the backbone of Malacca’s Chinatown; fluttering red flags and globe-shaped lanterns hang between filigreed lamp posts and lush palm trees. Time your visit to coincide with the weekend Night Market, where you can browse anything and everything as you stuff yourself on street-food snacks, and cast your eyes over Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, the oldest operational temple in Malaysia.