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Kota Tua, Jakarta Overview

Long before Jakarta turned into a modern metropolis with skyscrapers, it was colonized by the Dutch in the 15th century. The Jakarta Old Town or Kota Tua Jakarta bears reminisce of the Dutch era, with its colonial architecture and historical references. The streets of the Old Town boasts of buildings and structures that date back to the colonial times, most of which are converted into museums today.

Also known as Old Batavia this relatively small area, covering 1.3 sq. km was once the most important administrative and business center of the nation. Though not all buildings are well-preserved it remains a charming tourist attraction today that gives a peek into Jakarta’s colonial history, culture and is also known for its busy night market.

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Things to Do

The Jakarta Old Town is fraught with colonial buildings that are turned into sightseeing spots today. Here is taking a look at some of the main tourist attractions within the Kota Tua area.

1. The Fatahillah Square – The Square was the main centre of the Dutch administration, surrounded by buildings that were homes or offices of the Dutch East India Company. A walk around the square is enough to be pushed back in time. On weekends and holidays, the Square, however, is buzzing with activities as visitors are either strolling or renting the colourful bicycles for a ride. There are street food stalls and various shops, as well as, occasionally art performances that also take place here. One can see or easily reach the important buildings of the Old Town from the Fatahillah Square.

2. Jakarta History Museum – Also known as the Fatahillah Museum this building was the Town Hall during the Dutch era. The museum is home to various artefacts that are related to the history of Jakarta. The displays range from exhibits starting from prehistoric times to finally Indonesia’s independence. Constructed in 1710, the architecture throws light on Dutch style and design. One can also view the colonial furniture used, as well as the dungeon where the freedom fighter Prince Diponegoro was jailed.

3. Wayang Museum – The Wayang Museum is also known as the Puppet Museum. The museum building dates back to 1640 and was the Old Dutch Church. The museum itself opened in 1975 and is home to traditional Indonesian shadow puppets, as well as puppets from other regions of Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, China and more. There is also a puppetry workshop that you can join to learn how to make traditional puppets.

4. The Fine Arts and Ceramic Museum – Once the Court of Justice of the Dutch East India Company, the building became a military barrack and a warehouse. It was later converted to the office of the Mayor and the office of the Jakarta Museum. Finally, in 1990 it was inaugurated as a Fine Arts and Ceramic Museum with beautiful collections of paintings and ceramic crockery. Paintings of famous artists, such as Basuki Abdullah, Raden Saleh and Effendy are displayed here. Its opulent white-pillared architecture makes for a good photo backdrop.

5. The Bank Indonesia Museum – The bank was the main financial center of the Dutch and was later nationalized. It was converted to a museum in 2009 and has an interesting display that tells the history of banks in Indonesia.

6. The Maritime Museum – The building was once a warehouse and today showcases the history of the seas and related marine activities over the years. The Harbor Master Tower or Menara Syahbandar stands near the museum and is an important attraction here.

7. Post Office and Art Gallery – The Post Office of the Dutch, this building was designed keeping the climate of Indonesia in mind. With multiple windows this Post Office houses a display on its second floor. You can also send a postcard from here back home.

8. The Bank Mandiri Museum – This museum shows the various banking processes of the 19th and 20th century, as well as currencies, banking tools, coins etc. The building however, is splendid with fascinating furniture, layouts and glass windows.

9. Batavia Café – A popular restaurant the Batavia Café is designed in colonial architecture. Built in the 1820s the café serves Dutch cuisine and also stages performances.

Some of the other attractions are the Kota Intan Bridge or the Chicken Market Bridge, the Toko Merah or the Red Shop, Luar Batang Mosque, Pasar Ikan or Fishmarket, Kim Tek le the oldest Buddhist temple in Jakarta and more. You can either sign up for walking tours or hire a bicycle to explore the Old Town. 

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