Cirebon defiantly skirts pigeonhole analysis and musters a case for itself that compels busy West Java visitors to venture in for a look. At first glance the port city seems like just another byproduct of spinoff urban sprawl - a common impression when you inhabit the most populous island on the planet.
Java crams over 135 million people in a space roughly equivalent to Greece or Nicaragua. Life in the political, social and cultural polestar of Indonesia may radiate from Jabotabek - the metro megalopolis of Jakarta - but the likes of Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Borobudur, Dieng Plateau and Yogyakarta incite extensive forays far from the national capital.
Enter Cirebon, a former Sultanate now home to 300,000 people and a lot of history. The lifeblood of the city is a bulk cargo seaport built by the Dutch East India Company in 1865. For the average tourist, however, Cirebon’s charms reside in a fiercely independent culinary scene, traditional batik trade and cluster of heritage landmarks.
Cirebon’s Top 10
10. Cirebon Batik is a cornerstone of Javanese handicraft production.
5. Kraton Keprabonan was once a regular royal residence in the Sultanate era of the city.
9. Cirebon Mosque is a testament to the traditional design aesthetics of the island.
4. Kraton Kacirebonan is a minor palace in Cirebon.
8. Kejawenan Beach is a popular local hangout.
3. The Grave of Sunan Gunungjati, a foremost of apostle of Islam in Indonesia, is just outside the city proper.
7. Gunung Ciremai National Park protects rare endemic fauna and flora.
2. Kraton Kanoman was built in the late 17th century with many classical Javanese flourishes.
6. Sunyaragi Cave is a natural and cultural wonder just fifteen minutes from Cirebon.
1. Kraton Kasepuhan is Cirebon’s crown jewel royal residence. The Sultanate palace dates back to the early 16th century.
- Keraton Kasepuhan – This residence of the Sultan features two famous white lion statues at the entrance, which are symbol of pride.
- Welas Asih Temple – The oldest Chinese temple in the area, it was constructed as a monument to the goddess of mercy.
- Astana Gunung Jati – This grave of Gunung Jati is visited every 35 days by pilgrims, which makes it one of the most important historic sites in Cirebon.
- Gedung Naksa – Historic building where the Linggardjati Agreement was signed in 1947.
- Kanoman Palace – This palace is famous for its murals made from Chinese ceramics during the Yuan dynasty.
Cirebon Art & Culture
- Kraton Kacirebonan – Where the sultan resides and a great example of Indonesian architecture.
- Malay Art Gallery – Interesting gallery features works from both Indonesia and Malaysia.
- Cirebon Museum – Museum uses displays to chronicle the history of the west Java region.
- Kanoman Palace Belfry – This belfry is a souvenir from Sir Stamford Raffles, the former Briton governor for Java.
- Kuningan – This city near Cirebon is worth a visit for the historical architecture.
- Trusmi – Small village near Cirebon is the best place to go to find handmade batiks, the local customary clothing.
- Manisan Cinta – The most famous store in the city and a great place to stock up on local delicacies.
- Kebon Cai Street Market – This open-air market is the best place in the city to buy fresh fruits, specifically mangoes.
- Grage Mall – If you are looking for name-brand and designer labels, this is the best place to start.
- C.S.B. – This business centre is also surrounded by small shops and restaurants.
Gay & Lesbian Cirebon
- Patra Cirebon – This gay-friendly resort is a great place for those looking to try water and adventure sports while in Cirebon.
- Hotel Apita – A gay-friendly hotel that caters to a more discerning crowd, this hotel has smart rooms and a great pool.
- Mithas – This nightclub caters to a mixed crowd and has loud music for dancing.
- Rain Karaoke Lounge – A market karaoke bar that caters to all types of people, including the gay and lesbian crowd.
- Prima Hotel – This small, gay-friendly hotel offers cosy, romantic rooms and a great environment for a quiet chat.
- Sunyaragi Cave – Cave was once used by the Dutch for protection makes a great spot for photos.
- Cibulan Kuningan – A great place to take a swim or to fish in the crystal-clear waters.
- Bromo Volcano – Not far from Cirebon is this volcano, which is a favourite among hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Kebun Raya Cibodas – This park outside of Cirebon is a great place to take a hike and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
- Ciremai Mountain – Serious climbers will flock to this mountain, which is the highest volcanic.
- Come watch a match at Stadion Bima Cirebon.
- Professional sports can be enjoyed at the Stadium Ranggajati.
- Work out and stay in shape at the Star Sports Club.
- The Champion Gym is a great place to lift weights or take a swim.
- Come watch one of the Siadem F.C. Football Club’s exciting matches.
Outside of important religious and civic holidays like Idul Fitri, Independence Day and National Education Day, Cirebon has a few festivals on the yearly calendar.
Batik Day is national in scope but particularly germane in a city with indelible links to the artform. October 2.
Folk performance art is an essential part of the Cirebon experience, from Wayang Kulit to Topeng.
The city holds a fashion and food fair in late September.
When To Go
Like West Java capital Bandung, Cirebon has a tropical monsoon climate. Humidity is as thick as the shrimp paste the city is famous for and, predictably, keeps cendol vendors busy.
The wet season from November to March features a minimum of 9 in (230 mm) of rain a month. On average Cirebon receives over 72 in (1,800 mm) of precipitation a year.
On the whole temperatures stray between 62.5°F (17°C) and 84°F (29°C).
Traffic and transport delays aside, Cirebon is a relative snap to get to from Jakarta and Bandung, which is where the vast majority of visitors come from. Allocate 3.5 hours from the national capital and 2.5 hours from the provincial capital.
Whether by rail or bus, it pays to invest in business class fares when you travel in Java.
Within the city limits of Cirebon, the best mode of transport is a private car. The public transport system is inconsistent and taxis far from plentiful.
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Jl. Brigjen Dharsono No. 12C (Bypass), Cirebon Map
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