It’s dense, it’s steamy… it’s the pandemonium that is Surabaya. One of the largest cities in Indonesia, Surabaya is the crowded mass that is often only glimpsed en route to Bali. Yet this living, breathing and utterly fascinating urban entity has much more to offer than simply as a stopover point.
Revel in the local art scene at the central Balai Pemuda arts centre, then wash off the inevitable sweat you’ll have accumulated at the Ciputra Waterpark. Or for a real culture shock, jump on the back of a traditional becak and zip through the crowds to discover night bazaars and food stalls along the G-Walk, breathing in the scent of true Indonesia (which will quite possibly give your nostrils a bit of a culture shock!) as you do so.
Surabaya’s Top 10
10. Jembatan Merah Located in the old city, this is the place you’ll find the Red Bridge, scene of intense fighting during Indonesia’s battle for independence.
5. Surabaya Zoo Widely regarded as the largest and best in Southeast Asia, the zoo can easily be found near the hilariously named Joyoboyo Bus Terminal.
9. Gereja Kelahirin Santa Perawan Maria Surabaya’s oldest church is a small bubble of serenity in an otherwise bustling city.
4. Bukit Darmo Golf Course If you feel like a leisurely game, swing on over to this 18-hole golf course in the elite residential area of West Surabaya.
8. Loop A youth hotspot in west Surabaya. A fantastic place to explore (or loiter in) the night markets.
3. Grahadi For some colonial-era architecture, take a stroll past the Governor of East Java’s residence.
7. Masjid Al Akbar Surabaya One of the largest mosques in Southeast Asia. The view from the top (luckily there is a lift!) is extraordinary.
2. Tunjungan 21 This is the best cinema complex in the entire city, showing many recent Hollywood films in English.
6. Monumen Kapal Selam This Soviet-built submarine served in the Indonesian Navy and is now open for public inspection.
1. House of Sampoerna This 250-year-old historical site contains a museum, art gallery and free English-speaking bus tour. So there’s no excuse not to go!
- Old City – An area of Surabaya that includes Dutch architecture, an Arab area and Chinese influence.
- Grahadi – Residence of the governor of East Kava during the colonial era.
- Gereja Kelahiran Santa Perawan Maria – The oldest church in the city offers beautiful glass panels and peaceful surroundings.
- Masjid Cheng Ho – A beautiful mosque with unique Chinese architecture.
- Masjid Al Akbar Surabaya – Said to be the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia.
Surabaya Art & Culture
- Balai Pemuda – Enjoy the local arts in Surabaya and the Seni Festival held each year in June.
- Monumen Kapal Selam – A Soviet submarine that served in the country’s navy is preserved as a monument and open for public viewing.
- House of Sampoerna – Found in the city’s old section, this Dutch colonial-style compound was built in the mid-1800s.
- Kelud Festival – A cultural festival held in the Mount Kelud area each November.
- Museum Rudi Isbandi – Home to a collection of 150 pieces of contemporary and modern art.
- Tunjungan Plaza – An upscale mall where you can find everything under the sun.
- 2. Mal Galaxy – One of the biggest malls in Surabaya, with two buildings that are connected.
- Kya-Kya Kembang Jepun – A nighttime street bazaar area filled with food stalls that gives a taste of the Indo-Chinese atmosphere and culture.
- Loop – A local bazaar and a great place to find wonderful food.
- Pasar Ampel – An Arab market that sells carpets and many other goods and food.
Gay & Lesbian Surabaya
- Pattaya – A friendly place many go to socialize and hang out.
- Studio East – A disco that hosts a gay night on Thursdays.
- Kowloon Club – Get to know new friends in this downtown joint.
- Stadium Night Club – Located in the TP shopping mall and a great place to hang out and meet people.
- Borneo Club – A local disco in the downtown area of Surabaya.
- G-Walk – An evening marketplace and a great place to take a walk or hang out, shop the bazaars or get some local food.
- Monumen Jalasveva Jayamahe – A monument on the waterfront dedicated to those who served in the country’s navy.
- Suramadu Bridge – A cable-stayed bridge, which connects Surabaya with Bangkalan on the island of Madura.
- Ijen Crater – One of the most breathtaking landscapes on the island.
- Taman Safari II – This large safari area is found on the foothills of Prigen and runs one of the most successful tiger conservation projects.
- Considered a golf paradise, Surabaya offers excellent golf courses, each with their own special features.
- For watching or participating in some great car races, check out the PARK circuit.
- Surabaya Johnny’s Bar and Grill offers a great place to watch your favourite games on large flatscreen TVs.
- The Surabaya International Dancesport Championships are held each year in June.
- The Motocross Park Circuit Kenjeran offers great events.
The Surabaya Culture Parade in April is the city’s favourite annual event.
For a culture hit, check out the Festival Seni Surabaya at the Balai Pemuda Arts Centre each June.
In July, float on by to the Kite Flying Festival.
Originating in Surabaya’s Japanese sister city, the Yosakai Dance Festival in July is perfect for kicking up your heels.
When To Go
Surabaya has a tropical climate, with the driest weather occurring in July and August.
Having only two main seasons (dry and wet), if you can’t make it in July, anytime between May and September is your best bet for some uninterrupted sunshine!
Be on the lookout in the wet season. Surabaya has been known to have the occasional flash flood and traffic jam.
Taxis are plentiful and, to a Western wallet, very cheap! But make sure you insist on a metered fare.
Trains in the cities are limited, but buses run regularly (with varying degrees of quality).
If you’re feeling adventurous, zipping around the city on a becak is like nothing else!