A little off the beaten track compared to the usual tourist traps, Semarang is perfect for those who want an authentic glimpse of urban Indonesia. Semarang’s history can be read in the pages of its diverse architecture, from the Dutch colonial See Lawang Sewu and native kampong (local hamlets) to modern office buildings and of course, Chinatown’s See Gedung Batu temple.
In Semarang, you’ll need to brush up on your Indonesian (language and customs), as the people, while very hospitable, are not used to a constant flow of western visitors. A couple of things to avoid include touching on the head and looking directly into a young man’s eyes more than a couple of times (which could lead to fisticuffs and general nastiness). Refrain from both and you’re in for a cultural treat, especially with the local cuisine, which is justifiably the pride of the city.
Semarang's Top 10
10. Mangkang Zoo A good kiddie attraction with monkeys, birds, snakes and deer.
5. Simpang Lima The bustling town centre is where you’ll find shopping malls, cinemas and an endless array of stalls offering traditional food for a song.
9. Semarang Harbour Relax and watch the local ‘Pinsi’ boats coming and going.
4. Marina Beach Snorkel, play volleyball, hire a pleasure boat or just soak up the sun.
8. See Lawang Sewu Originally built as an administrative building and railway station by the Dutch, it is still a great example of colonial architecture.
3. Gedung Songo Temples A group of Hindu shrines on a mountaintop with views of volcanoes in the distance. It’s baking hot in the middle of the day, so go early.
7. Ambarawa Train Museum Old locomotives await your investigation…
2. See Gedung Batu A gaudy red Chinese temple built in honour of Admiral Cheng Ho. Your future will be revealed to you here.
6. Gereja Blenduk The most historic church in Central Java.
1. Mesjid Besar Climb the towering minaret of the Grand Mosque for the best views over Semarang.
- Sam Po Kong Temple - This beautiful temple was built in honour of a Muslim Chinese commander who visited the area in the early 1400s.
- Kota Lama - The Old Town area of Semarang where you’ll find many of the Dutch colonial style buildings.
- Tanjung Mas - This international port was important during the days of the Dutch occupation from the 1600s until 1945.
- Gereja Blenduk - Or the “domed church”, this Protestant church was built in 1753 and is the oldest one in the city.
- Stasiun Tawang - This major railway station was completed in 1870 and is the oldest one on the island of Java.
Semarang Art & Culture
- Wayang Wong Ngesti Pandowo - Offers a weekly presentation with Javanese drama and folklore.
- Museum Rekor Indonesia - This Semarang museum is home to the country’s records.
- Nyonya Meneer - Established in honour of Mrs Nyonya Meneer, who used Javanese herbs to treat diseases.
- Mandala Bhakti - Home to a large assortment of military artefacts with photographs of some of the national heroes and weapons.
- Ronggowarsito - Home to antiques from the island of Java, including handicrafts and artwork, photos, paintings, fossils, heirlooms, statues and more.
- Simpang Lima - A well-known shopping area surrounded by many stores and theatres.
- Pasar Johar - Get a feel of the local atmosphere at this traditional market with handicrafts, traditional artefacts, produce, Semarang delicacies and more.
- Sri Ratu Mall - The oldest shopping centre in the city.
- Java Mall - Filled with shops that offer clothing, jewellery, shoes and accessories with many eateries in the adjoining areas.
- Paragon - This is the biggest shopping centre in the Province.
Gay & Lesbian Semarang
- Jatidiri Pool - A local meeting place in Semarang on Saturday afternoon and Sunday mornings.
- Hotel Santika Premiere - An elegant, gay-friendly hotel.
- Fridae - Offers on-ine personals to help you meet new people.
- Hotel Ibis Semarang - A modern, welcoming hotel.
- Simpang Lima Field - A local spot to hang out and meet new friends.
- Simpang Lima - A large town square in the heart of Semarang and lovely place to take a walk in the evening, get a bite to eat or something to drink.
- Taman Budaya Raden Saleh - Beautiful garden found in the centre of the city and a great place to go for outdoor recreation.
- Taman Tabanas Gombel - A place to enjoy local tea as you enjoy the beautiful surrounding mountain scenery.
- Kreo Cave - Discover the interesting stalagmite and stalactite formations it offers.
- Gunung Ungaran - This place in the Semarang area is well known for its tea and jasmine plantation.
- The Jatidiri Stadium is home to the PSIS Semarang soccer team.
- For a lovely local beach for swimming, check out Pangandaran Beach.
- The Semarang International Community organises sports activities including golf, squash, indoor soccer, bowling and cricket.
- Along the Semarang River, you will find an assortment of water sports and activities.
- The Sub-Aqua Club offers a unique game of underwater hockey.
The Muslim New Year Festival takes place every April each year and is celebrated with gusto!
May’s Ruwatan is a traditional Javanese sacrificial ceremony staged at the Taman Budaya Raden Saleh to stave off disasters.
Go Skateboarding Day is a free event held at Salatiga in June.
For lovers of mythology, the Dun Ger Festival in December/January celebrates the Warak – which is part-lion, part-giraffe, part-horse, part-bird and part-Chinese dragon. Scary!
In November/December, large crowds head to the mosques for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, for dancing, music and group praying.
When To Go
The dry season (May to September) is hot and humid, so beware a midday scorching.
Tropical monsoons can occur in October and November.
Generally, Semarang is hot year-round, with daytime temperatures above 30°C (86°F).
The city buses are air-conditioned, quick and cheap, and do longer trips between towns.
Taxis are also a good, inexpensive option, but only use the ones that have their meter on.
A great way to get to other parts of Indonesia is by ferry.
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