5 Most Beautiful Old Towns in Indonesia
Reminiscing about Europe in Sumatra, Paris in Java, and the 18th century metropolis
25 Aug 2019

Reminiscing about Europe on Sumatra, Paris on Java and the metropolis of the 18th century, these beautiful old Indonesian cities will take you back in time.

Indonesia's long and winding history has left a number of priceless heritage sites. These charming and historic old towns bear witness to the stories and events that helped shape the country. Find below the most beautiful old towns scattered in Indonesia.

Surabaya Old Town

Surabaya Old Town / Everyone Sinks Starco (Flickr)
Surabaya Old Town / Everyone Sinks Starco (Flickr)

Surabaya, East Java, was once a busy port city and a trading and transit center for traders from all over the archipelago. European, and Japanese explorers, at one time established bases in this city, leaving traces of the architecture of their countries. Some of their buildings are still functioning today, for example Hotel Majapahit and Kepanjen Cathedral. Tea drinking at Hotel Majapahit is still one of the most popular activities for those who want to experience the past life in Surabaya.

Malioboro Street

Malioboro Street, Yogyakarta / Andhi Anindyajati (Flickr)
Malioboro Street, Yogyakarta / Andhi Anindyajati (Flickr)

Yogyakarta may be better known for its ancient Javanese temples, but it also has a beautiful old town. Colonial era buildings and landmarks are scattered throughout the city, and its centers, Kotabaru and Malioboro are packed with charming architecture. Fort Vredeburg, built in 1776, was strategically placed to monitor activity at the nearby sultanate palace complex, and now serves as a museum of the nation's pre-independence struggles. Many of the other landmarks in the area - markets, shops, banks, post office and more - also operate in former colonial buildings.

Jakarta Old Town

Jakarta old town / ACK (Flickr)
Jakarta old town / ACK (Flickr)
Fatahillah Museum in Jakarta Old Town / siska maria (Flickr)
Fatahillah Museum in Jakarta Old Town / siska maria (Flickr)

Located in the north coast area, Jakarta's Old Town was once a bustling business district. The Sunda Kelapa port was an important center for the intercontinental spice trade which was regulated by the Dutch East India Company, which also established its headquarters in the port. In the early 1600s, the Dutch drew up ambitious city plans to build forts, public squares, churches and other landmarks. Some of these buildings still stand today, being reused as museums and heritage sites. The old city hall is now the Jakarta History Museum, while the former High Court is now the Fine Arts and Ceramics Museum.

Bandung Old Town

Braga, Bandung / macronix (Flickr)
Braga, Bandung / macronix (Flickr)

Being a center of fashion and beautiful architecture, Bandung was nicknamed 'Paris van Java' during the colonial era. Dutch officials built European culture in the city, and this heritage is preserved in its streets and landmarks. Jalan Braga is considered as one of the cultural centers of the old city, shrouded in sophisticated buildings which are now mostly modern bars or cafes. Not far from Braga, Jalan Asia Afrika is almost entirely occupied by colonial heritage buildings, some of which have been reused as government offices and museums.

Semarang Old Town

Blenduk Church, Semarang / Crisco 1492, Wiki Commons
Blenduk Church, Semarang / Crisco 1492, Wiki Commons

This city in Central Java was once a colonial trading center and military center during the 1700s. Dubbed 'Little Amsterdam', the buildings here channel the European architecture of the time - characterized by elegant white and brick facades, grand entrances and colorful stained glass. Some of the highlights not to be missed include the 'a thousand doors' office building, Lawang Sewu, and the Blenduk Church with its iconic dome.