A historical road trip to the state of Melaka is anything but boring. We’ve rounded up all the best places to check out with the kids in this vibrant state, also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Melaka has a special place in our hearts for many reasons. It’s one of our go-to destinations for a short family holiday; and the history of this Malaysian state is one of the most common themes in our history textbooks.
From its legendary beginnings to the great diversity of culture it boasts, Melaka is the place to be for an unforgettable family vacay. This is all thanks to its rich history as the birthplace of a sultanate, as well as being one of the earliest international trade centres in the region. You can see the unique mix of cultures (Malay, Chinese, Indian, even Portuguese, and Dutch) reflected in Melaka City’s architecture, community enclaves, and food.
Without further ado, here’s our guide to all the best places to eat, play, and stay with kids in Melaka!
How to get to Melaka from Singapore
A bus trip to Melaka will take around four to five hours, depending on the traffic condition. Buses to Melaka depart from various terminals in Singapore, including Boon Lay, Golden Mile Tower, HarbourFront Centre, and Tampines. You can search for your nearest bus terminal and book tickets via redBus and Easybook.
Bus companies: KKKL Travel & Tours, Luxury Coach, Super Nice Express, etc.
The most convenient (and flexible) way of travelling to Melaka is by car. The journey can be shorter than three hours from Woodlands Checkpoint on a good day. Another great thing about driving is that you can stop for breaks and food whenever you want (full list of rest stops here).
As Melaka is a popular destination among Malaysians and tourists, do note that the routes can be congested during school holidays and festive seasons.
Where to stay in Melaka
From wallet-friendly to lux hotel stays, Melaka has it all. You can find established international brands like DoubleTree by Hilton and Holiday Inn, as well as quaint boutique hotels housed within restored heritage buildings like The Majestic Malacca and Baba House Melaka. We highly recommend you check out the heritage hotels for a ‘step back in time’ experience!
If you love heritage stays as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that there are loads of heritage Airbnbs for rent in Melaka. My personal favourite is Casugria (check out our video review), a restored Dutch villa that’s believed to have belonged to a Dutch Governor in the mid-19th century. For modern comfort, there are many Airbnb units up for rent at Atlantis Residences, with access to a fun kids’ pool.
Pro-tip: Opt for accommodation near Jonker Walk area (Jalan Kota Laksamana, Jalan Parameswara, Jalan Banda Kaba) to save on travelling time!
How to get around Melaka
There are public buses that can take you around Melaka City and to other Melakan towns. As of 2023, buses can accept contactless payment methods (debit and credit cards) on top of the Touch ‘n Go card (the Malaysian equivalent of EZ-Link). You can find the schedules and routes on the bus company’s website.
Grab is available in Melaka, and the most widely-used among all the ride hailing apps in the state. Ride-hailing is definitely the fastest and most hassle-free way of getting around, especially if you’re exploring the town centre where parking can be scarce.
What to eat in Melaka
Now for my favourite part of the guide – the best dishes and places to try in Melaka! ‘Melting pot’ best describes the wide array of cuisines this state offers: food traditional to the three dominant ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese, and Indian), Peranakan fare, and the one-of-a-kind Kristang cuisine.
Melaka is home to the Kristang people, also known as Eurasians or Melaka Portuguese. Having a mixed heritage of Portuguese, Dutch, British, Malay, Indian, and Chinese, you can expect Kristang dishes to be unlike any other. Well known traditional dishes include curry debal (or devil’s curry, named such for its spiciness) and Portuguese grilled fish. Keen to try these? Head to the Portuguese Settlement’s seafront dining area, where you’ll be spoilt for choice. My personal go-to is J&J Corner (stall 10) and Monterios Portuguese Seafood Restaurant.
Pro-tip: Head down for early dinner to beat the crowd, plus you’ll get a splendid sunset view as you dine!
Melaka is one of the Malaysian states with strong Peranakan (locally referred to as Baba Nyonya) culture. So if you’re a fan of this cuisine, do check out Baba Ang and Baba Low for authentic Baba Nyonya food. Some of the must-trys are nyonya laksa (especially the one from Baba Low), udang masak lemak nanas (pineapple prawn curry), telur cincalok (omelette with fermented shrimp paste), and – I’ve saved the best for last – nyonya cendol!
Other local food and hawker fare
You’ve heard of satay, but have you heard of satay celup? It’s a dish unique to Melaka that shares a similar concept to hotpot. However, instead of cooking raw or semi-cooked food in hot soup, you cook it in nutty satay gravy. Capitol Satay Celup is one of the famous restaurants for this. Warning: this can get highly addictive, and you may find yourself ordering more skewers of meat and vegetables!
Another must-have in Melaka is chicken rice balls. I look forward to this every time we visit Melaka on a family trip, more so when my favourite restaurant – Hoe Kee Chicken Rice – recently reopened on Jonker Street. Drizzle some dark soy sauce on the rice balls and pair each with a slice of chicken, generously dipped in chilli sauce. Ah, heaven!
Looking for late night bites? Mamak restaurants (Indian Muslim restaurants) like Pak Putra operate past midnight. This particular one is said to serve the best naan and tandoori chicken in town. Be prepared to queue, as this restaurant gets more popular as the night goes on.
Cafés and western fusion-style restaurants
Whether you’re in need of a caffeine boost, or craving for Western-style brunch – Melaka has got you covered with cafés. Some of these are super popular: pancakes from The Daily Fix Café, burgers at The Baboon House, coffees named after each Malaysian state at Calanthe Art Café, and fusion dishes at Kaya Kaya Café.
What to do in Melaka
It’s not an exaggeration to say that you’ll find remnants of Melaka’s rich history at every corner of its state capital. From the ruins of fort A Famosa (Portuguese for ‘The Famous’) to the Church of Saint Paul (the oldest church building in Southeast Asia), the iconic Red or Dutch Square to the quiet Chinese cemetery at Bukit Cina (with graves dating back to the Ming Dynasty).
Start your day early with a visit to A Famosa, then take a short hike up St. Paul’s Hill to the church ruins. Situated on top of the hill, the church area offers you one of the best views of Melaka City. Slowly make your way downhill, where you’ll pass by the old Dutch Graveyard (you could pop in for a visit) towards the Red Square. Cross the road to explore the ruins of Middelburg Bastion (a 17th century bastion built by the Dutch), and by then, you’ll be just in time for lunch and shopping at the famous Jonker Walk (where Hoe Kee Chicken Rice and cafés are located).
Melaka isn’t just for history buffs, there are many exciting family-friendly activities to do as well. Take the Klebang sand dunes for example, where you’ll find yourself transported into a desert-like world. Klebang Beach is also just nearby, with a small playground and ATVs for rent. Oh, and you’ll find the best coconut shake you’ll ever tasted right down the road!
For a more leisurely sightseeing activity, you can book the fam on the Melaka River Cruise. Think of it like a canal cruise, where you’ll see pre-war buildings, colonial architecture, and colourful street art along the way.
Last but not least, don’t forget to go on a trishaw ride around Jonker Walk area at night. The trishaws are decorated in different themes, everything from traditional Malay to pop culture-inspired ones. Last I check, there were even a few Frozen-themed rides blasting the ever popular Let It Go.
Have a great time in Melaka!