Is KL cooler than Singapore?

We’ve never needed much reason to head to KL. It’s only an hour away, there is plenty of great food and the shopping is affordable. But the Malaysian capital has really upped its game in recent months. In fact, it’s so hot that local gig finder Bandwagon and ticketing outlet Peatix are opening offices there soon.

One of the reasons for setting up shop there is KL’s “vibrant music scene”, according to Bandwagon’s founder Clarence Chan. “We’ve been to many festivals and a lot of the local bands have very sizeable followings.”

The small events scene is also thriving. Peatix’s Malaysian general manager Yeap Mei Yi told us about all the “amazing alternative venues that have popped up, like giving this huge APW, a factory space in Bangsar that’s being repurposed.” 

Not convinced? Here are five other reasons to go back immediately.

, Is KL cooler than Singapore?

They’ve got some cool new bar trends

Singapore is not the only one with cozy little secret bars. There is a seriously cool one nestled in the residential area of Jalan Sin Chew Kee. Barlai could easily pass off as someone’s house. Inside, you’ll find a wooden picnic tables, hanging lightbulbs and road signs decorating the untreated walls. They do a pina colada (RM24($9)) with a dash of pandan syrup. For something more upmarket, hit up Mr Brooks in the hip hood of Bangsar, which is designed after a 1920s gentlemen’s club. It specializes in gin and cocktails, so go for the cucumber and pepper martini (RM75 ($28)). But finding the entrance requires some work. Hint: keep an eye out for a purple Sunbeam Alpine car.  

Also big these days are whisky bars. There’s The Whisky Bar that stocks more than 400 labels including some pretty rare single malt and Scotch. Gastrobar Torii specializes in Japanese whiskies and whisky-based cocktails. Don’t miss the speakeasy-style Whisky Tango Foxtrot and its wide selection of cigars and refined single malts.  

, Is KL cooler than Singapore?

Nightlife biggies are heading over

KL is getting its new and largest lifestyle center. The five-zone Trec is opening in the second half of the year, and will be the new home of superclub Zouk KL. Exciting openings in the enclave include the upscale Friendscino Restaurant and Bar and that will feature local and international DJs and The Scene by Pisco, which will serve bespoke cocktails. What’s more, Singapore nightclub Kyo has plans to open up a second outlet in KL later this year.  

, Is KL cooler than Singapore?
Aku Cafe & Gallery

There’s a profusion of art cafes

Chinatown is a good place to go if you’re keen on cafe hopping. Coffee fiends will love Aku Cafe & Gallery that does a mean cup of hand-drip coffee. This hidden gem is found on the second floor of a shop house and exudes modern Oriental charm. Upstairs, you’ll find the Findars Art Gallery, a quaint art space run by a local art collective that also occasionally hosts indie music gigs. Nearby, there’s also the Lokl Coffee Co that’s a great pit-stop for those who like to brunch.

, Is KL cooler than Singapore?
Kerutup Daging, Bijan

It’s still a food haven

For Malay fine-dining, head to Bijan and try the kerutup daging (RM35 ($13)), a beef stew in spicy coconut gravy. Meat lovers, it’s worth making a trip to Prime, an elegant steakhouse at the Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur. If you’re feeling adventurous, hop on a cab (approx. RM35 ($13)) to the residential area of Puchong that’s a 30-minute drive from the city center. It’s got plenty of authentic local eateries, like the Hai Sang Kopitiam. Its version of chicken rice (RM8.90($3.40)) has the chicken in a hearty broth.

, Is KL cooler than Singapore?
Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral

Lots of new places to stay

We stayed at the iconic The Westin that’s located in the heart of Bukit Bintang and we also drooled over the trendy Aloft Kuala Lumpur, the largest Aloft property in the world. The decor is modern and futuristic and there are 24-hour refueling stations. Plus, you can get a pretty good view of KL from its rooftop bar on the 30th floor. Another option is the newly renovated and arty Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur.



Getting there
Various airlines, including Silk Air and Air Asia, fly daily to from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, and takes about one hour. We found return tickets on Jetstar for $40.

The official currency is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM). Tipping is not expected, though welcomed. Most restaurants and all hotels include a service charge as part of your bill. Leave small change for your wait staff.

Exchange Rate
$1 = RM2.65