Just over 100 years ago, Johor Bahru was a tiny fishing village known only to its handful of residents. But times change, and so, it seems, does Johor Bahru. Since Malaysia won independence in 1957, Johor Bahru has expanded rapidly. Today, it's home to over 3 million permanent residents and host to over 16 million annual tourists. As you'd expect, it's packed with attractions, with a little something to suit every taste, budget, and family. If you're planning a visit, check out our guide to the 20 best things to do in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
20. Zenxin Organic Park
Located just a short drive from Johor Bahru is Zenxin Organic Park. If you're into organic food and sustainable food practices, this is the place for you. The farm boasts a huge array of activities for you to enjoy, including herb growing workshops, cookery classes, and educational tours around the grounds. Kids, in particular, will love the chance to feed the park's cute collection of animals.
19. Pasar Karat
You don't have to be a shopping addict to enjoy Pasar Karat, but it probably helps. The fun kicks off at 8 pm and keeps going into the wee hours. A cross between a flea market and a food fair, it's a slightly strange but immensely enjoyable shopping experience where you'll get to sip a cup of milky tea as you browse through the stalls of hot and spicy foods, clothing, and electronics. Even if you come away empty-handed, it's still an incredible way to spend an evening.
18. Villa Nabila
Some people say Villa Nabila is haunted. You can see why they'd think so. Tucked away in a strip of jungle overlooking Danga Bay, this ruined colonial mansion is eerie enough to make you shiver. As supernaturalconfessions.com says, no one's quite sure who built it, who owned it, or who was responsible for its abandonment. If you believe the rumors, either a greedy maid with an eye for the family jewels or a vengeful father with a murderous mind had something to do with it. Either way, it's definitely worth a visit if your nerves are up to the challenge. Just make sure to visit in a group with an even number of people... the spirits have a thing against odd numbers.
17. Danga Bay Park
Danga Bay Park is the kind of old-fashioned funfair that's designed to appeal to adults as much as kids. Expect plenty of nostalgia-infused attractions like a carousel, a Ferris wheel, a rocking ship, and bumper cars. Time your visit for the evening if you can - the sight of the fairy lights twinkling from the stalls is gorgeous. Admittance is free, so if you want to save some bucks, simply take a stroll around and soak up the atmosphere. If you can't resist a ride or two, you'll find the cost more than reasonable. Just be sure to keep plenty of change handy to indulge in some hot and spicy snacks from the food stalls.
16. Hutan Bandar MBJB
If you've got kids, don't miss a visit to Hutan Bandar MBJB. As visitmalaysia.today notes, the park was developed by the Research and Consultancy Unit of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in 1987 with the aim of creating a special recreation area that integrates the area's natural topographic structures, water resources, flora, and fauna with some top-notch entertainment facilities. The result is a family-friendly park with a ton of fun activities and attractions, including a children's game site, water spraying animal sculptures, BBQ facilities, a climbing frame complex, a skatepark, an outdoor gym, and multiple hiking trails. If you're feeling peckish, you'll find plenty of vendors selling a tasty array of snacks peppered around the park.
15. Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm
Have you ever wanted to wrestle a crocodile? Us neither, and at Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm, it's definitely not on the cards. What is on offer is the chance to hand feed a few of the resident reptiles with some choice chicken. By hand feed, we don't mean wafting a roast chicken breast in front of their noses and waiting for them to gently take it. We mean tossing a whole chicken into their pit while standing as far back as possible. When these things move, they move fast. If that sounds a bit too wild for your tastes, head for the baby crocodile enclosure, where kids can hold the cute little crocs while experts fill them in on all there is to know about these deadly but fascinating creatures.
14. Arulmigu Rajamariamman Devasthanam
Johor Bahru's most famous Hindu temple opened in 1911, and still serves as the city's primary point of worship. It offers daily ceremonies and regular festivals, but even if you don't intend to participate, it's still worth a visit for the beauty of its architecture. From the outside, it looks innocuous enough, but prepare for your jaw to drop once you get inside. Its use of color is inspired, with vivid images of Hindu gods splashed across the ceiling and gold flecks embellishing the walls.
13. Johor Zoo
As Out of Town Blog writes, Johor Zoo is a must-visit for animal and wildlife lovers. Founded in 1928 in the heart of Johor Bahru, it ranks as one of the oldest zoos in Southeast Asia. It's home to a vast assortment of animals, including elephants, gorillas, lions, and flamingoes. Visit at feeding times for the chance to have some one-on-one time with your favorites.
12. Taman Merdeka
If the hustle and bustle of the city has left you in desperate need of some peace and quiet, take the advice of thelostpassport.com and head for Taman Merdeka Park. This massive park boasts over 31 acres of sparkling streams, glistening lakes, landscaped meadows, and nature trails, all of which combine to create an immensely relaxing, deeply tranquil experience that's guaranteed to revive your spirits. If you're prepared to tackle a crowd, visit on the weekend to enjoy some open-air theatre.
11. Desaru Beach
If you want to escape the crowds without venturing too far from the city limits, do what hordes of Singaporeans do every weekend and head for Desaru Beach. Located just 5 kilometers away from the city, it promises plenty in the way of sun, sea, and sand. Water sports like parasailing and boating are popular pastimes, but it's also a superbly tranquil spot that's perfect for simply digging your toes into the soft sand and relaxing. If hunger strikes, you'll find plenty of beach bars and seafood restaurants scattered around the shoreline.
10. City Square
If you want to indulge in a little retail therapy during your visit to Johor Bahru, be sure to visit City Square. Widely regarded as one of the best shopping centers in the city, it's home to over 300 boutiques, department stores, and chains. There's also an impressive assortment of restaurants, plus a karaoke booth and games arcade to keep the kids happy.
9. Ulu Choh Dirt Park
If you're looking for a good time and don't mind getting a little muddy in the process, head for Ulu Choh Dirt Park. Set around 30 minutes from the city, it's a vast playground designed to be explored as fast and furiously as you dare aboard a dirt bike, a quad bike, or a buggy. Don't worry if you left your wheels at home - you can rent a bike directly from the site, and get a few lessons in how to use it to boot. As perfectly suited to adults as to kids, it's a great place to enjoy some high-octane thrills and spills. If you'd prefer a slightly tamer experience, the park also offers off-road jungle tours.
If you're traveling with little ones and don't factor in at least one trip to Legoland during your visit to Johor Bahru, they'll never forgive you.... and neither should they. With over 20 slides, rides, and water-based attractions, it offers toddlers, tweens, and teens hours of top-notch entertainment. Once they've finished enjoying the rides, head over to Sea Life Malaysia to get up close and personal with the resident sharks.
7. Jalan Tan Hiok Nee
Recommended as one of the top things to do in Johor Bahru by The Crazy Tourist, taking a stroll around Jalan Tan Hiok Nee is one of the best ways to soak up some traditional Malay culture. Named after one of the city's founding fathers and recognized as one of the very oldest neighborhoods in Johor Bahru, the district is bristling with curiosity shops, antique stores, and plenty of cafes and restaurants to grab a meal or a coffee. The architecture is just as splendid as the stores, so be sure to bring your camera along for the ride.
6. Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory
If you get a craving for something sweet, do as diveintomalaysia.com recommends and head for the Hiap Joo Bakery & Biscuit Factory. The establishment has been treating locals and visitors to its selection of charcoal oven-baked goodies for over 80 years, and it looks in no danger of losing its charm any time soon. Its range of buns, cakes, and biscuits is outstanding, but the signature fluffy banana cake beats them all. Just be warned that it's one of the most popular eateries in town, so expect long lines at the door.
5. Menara JLand
Recommended as one of the best things to do in Johor Bahru by Trip 101, Menara JLand is one of the best and most exciting new additions to the city's skyline. An asymmetrical skyscraper that towers into the clouds, it's impressive enough to look at, but it's the views its offers over Malaysia and Singapore that make it worth a visit. Be sure to check out the Sky Bridge, a glass walkway that offers dizzying views to the ground below. Once you've had your fill of the scenery, head for the Aerial Entertainment Space to indulge in some virtual reality games.
4. Istana Bukit Serene
Istana Bukit Serene is the royal palace and official residence of the Sultan of Johor. It's an awe-inspiring place, not least of its most intriguing landmark, Laman Mahkota. Described by The Culture Trip as looking like a spider that's lost half its legs, this sculpture-come-tower is impossible to miss. Its four arches straddle the driveway leading up to the palace. In their center sits an embellished crown that's roughly the size of a Range Rover and a million times more glamorous. Glorious at any time of the day, it comes into its own at night when its illuminated jewels sparkle under the moonlight.
3. Angry Birds Activity Park
Give the kids a break from temples and monuments and treat them to a day of wild adventure at Angry Birds Activity Park. Inspired by the mobile phone game of the same name, it boasts a ton of attractions for little ones to enjoy, including a piggy shooting gallery and Captain Black Bird’s ship. There are also anti-gravity trampolines, go-kart tracks, a space soccer cage, and a mammoth foam pit.
2. Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque
Architecture buffs shouldn't miss a visit to Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque. Commissioned by Sultan Abu Bakar and designed by Tuan Haji Mohamed Arif bin Punak at the turn of the 20th century, it boasts an impressive mix of Victorian-Moorish architecture and traditional Islamic design. Keep your eyes peeled for the four minaret towers that bear more than a passing resemblance to British clocktowers.
1. Tasik Biru
If hiking is your activity of choice, head for Tasik Biru. Located just a short distance from the city in the pretty little village of Kangkar Pulai, this oasis-like lake is almost startling in its beauty. It used to form part of a copper mine, and while the mine has gone, the copper sulfate in the ground remains. When sunlight hits the copper, the lake turns an astonishing shade of cobalt. The hike to the lake from the nearest road is a lengthy two and a half hours through jungle-like thickets, so be sure to slap on the sunscreen before heading out and pack as many bottles of water as you can carry. Be sure to bring your camera too - if any lake was made for Instagram, it was this one.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn