While Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta is forging a path towards becoming a global business hub, its old town Kota still holds the position of a traveler’s must visit in Jakarta list. Here is our guide to help you navigate your way through Kota Tua, so that you relish the delights in this historical location. In this area, you can explore the Dutch colonial roots of Indonesia, plus the historical quarter can give visitors an idea of how Jakarta’s city scape must have been before the skyscrapers took over.
It was back in the 1600s that Kota became the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company. As compared to other Southeast Asian colonial outposts, Kota’s colonial heritage has not been as well preserved. Today there are just a few remnants of the attractive wooden shuttered buildings left today. However, Taman Fatahillah (Fatahillah Square) and its surrounding areas are somewhat a sensory feast for visitors to the city.
Chicken Market Bridge
When touring Kota, you can set off on a walking tour at Kota Intan Bridge, which is also known as the Chicken Market Bridge. The bridge was constructed by the Dutch in the 17th century. It is a wooden drawbridge that extends over the Kali Besar canal, and used to be raised to accommodate merchant ships passing underneath. The Intan Bridge is probably the last remaining bridge of its kind, and it is no longer raised, and can’t be crossed by pedestrians owing to the fact that its planks are in disrepair. There has been however talk of a renovation project, but for now, it’s worth a visit to witness a rare monument to the city’s Dutch colonial era.
After the Bridge
With the Kali Besar canal on your right, it’s hardly a ten-minute walk from the bridge straight down towards Taman Fatahillah. Reaching the Taman Fatahillah however, does involve crossing a couple of busy roads. But if you are intimidated by the swarms of speeding cars and motorbikes, you can always find a group of locals and cross with them. Along this strip the buildings have a distinctly European feel, which is combined with a poignant sense of decay. As the square nears, the street becomes lined with trees and Gerobak (mobile food carts) selling strips of vacuum-packed sweets and Siomay Bandung, that is actually steamed fish dumplings served with peanut satay sauce. Eventually you will reach an intricate cast iron arch and that is what marks the entrance to Taman Fatahillah.
Spanning about 1.8 acres, the central square of Kota is usually full of Indonesian tourists. This square, encompasses the vibrant and edgy character of Jakarta. This is the business arena of over 200 carts selling all kinds of tourist souvenirs and street food. Here you can sample a number of local delicacies like the Gado-Gado (Indonesian salad with peanut sauce) and the Kerak Telor (omelette fried with sticky rice, dried shrimp, and shredded coconut) from the animated vendors for next to nothing. Every March, you can experience a food festival that is held at the Taman Fatahillah.
Do not miss out on the side streets that lead away from the main square to spot even more decaying colonial relics as well as local tattoo artists working at their street side studios. You can also rent one of the many bicycles that are available for hire (with a matching floppy hat thrown in for sun protection) and explore the square on two wheels.
On the Northern side of Taman Fatahillah you can find the famous Café Batavia (named after the former colonial name of Jakarta). The café is housed in a building that was once used by the Dutch government. It is a great spot for escaping the heat and taking a breather from all the exploring.
A handy guide to explore Jakarta’s old town Kota can help navigate your trip to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything. Also if you want to Book a Stay in Jakarta, you can check out our exclusive stay options in North Jakarta.