Indonesia’s capital is full of vibrant neighbourhoods, from ones full of bohemian charm to those known for high-end luxury stores. Here are six of the coolest Jakarta communities worth exploring during your stay, so jump aboard a bajaj motor-rickshaw and get acquainted with this dynamic city.
If you’ve got a penchant for cool restaurants and edgy street art, don’t miss this up-and-coming neighbourhood. Tucked between Jalan Kemang Selatan and Jalan Benda Bawah in the city’s south, Jalan Benda is where you’ll find artists who are slowly transforming their neighbourhood from its once ramshackle appearance into one of Jakarta’s funkiest spots. While here, make sure to stop by Glory Frame & Gallery to see Simon Kristiandi’s evocative, black-and-white photography of old Jakarta, and refuel with a coffee from Kopi Dimana, which is famous for its single origin brews.
Packed full of elegant buildings, and home to many of the country’s highest-ranking officials, Menteng is a suburb that oozes sophistication and prestige. Grab a photo by its landmark fountain, then head to its canal-side Jalan Surabaya flea market to peruse the eclectic collection of bric-a-brac from every corner of the Indonesia. Menteng is where a young Barack Obama once lived when he moved to Jakarta with his family in 1967. Pass by his old school, the State Elementary School Menteng, to see the statue erected in his honour and inscribed with his words: “The future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”
Head into the heart of Jakarta’s old Chinatown, and you’ll discover a uniquely high-energy neighbourhood. While navigating its tiny alleyways and muddy streets may feel overwhelming, you’ll be rewarded with some of the city’s best street food. Pop into Bakmi A-hin for their famous noodle dishes and wontons, Gado-Gado Direksi for their signature rice dish and finish up with one of Kopi Es Tak Kai’s legendary Medan-style condensed milk coffees.
Jakarta’s trendiest suburb, Kemang is the place to visit to see the pulse of what’s hot in the city and to pick up clothing from some of the country’s best up-and-coming designers. This is the suburb of choice for many expats, which is reflected in the number of languages you’re likely to hear in the streets. Kemang is also Jakarta’s brunch capital, with Baconerie, FJ on 7 and Casa all local favourites that fill up with the young and trendy on the weekends.
Don’t forget your camera when visiting this historical centre, as the photo opportunities abound in Jakarta’s Old Town. Once known as Batavia, Kota Tua is a visual reminder of Indonesia’s colonial past, with European-style buildings, crumpling mansions and even old timey bicycles with matching hats to rent. Visit Fatahillah Square, where you’ll find the Jakarta History Museum, located in the city’s historic Town Hall. Also worth a stop is the tiny Wayang Museum (puppet museum), where visits can learn about the importance of puppets in Indonesian storytelling and ceremony. Every Sunday you can even catch a live puppetry performance, complete with a traditional Indonesian gamelan orchestra.
This quirky suburb is the city’s epicentre of cool. From hipster cafes to laid-back restaurants, Panglima Polim is packed with places to eat and drink, and makes for a relaxing stop after a busy day. Pull up a stool at Convivium Cafe Deli to try their signature roast chicken alongside Jakarta’s cool kids, or pop into Sinou Kaffee Hausen for a lychee iced tea and a slice of cake.
These six suburbs are just scratching the surface of Indonesia’s capital, so there are plenty more Jakarta secrets to unlock during your next visit.