Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia's national capital and largest city, known as a melting pot of culture in Southeast Asia. It was once a British colony and now boasts a mixture of traditional and modern architecture featuring art deco buildings, elegant mosques, glass-and-concrete skyscrapers, and Malay stilt kampungs. Dominating the city’s skyline is the Petronas Twin Towers at Kuala Lumpur City Centre, the country’s iconic structure and most famous landmark. The twin skyscraper was the world’s tallest building between 1998 and 2004 and is currently the tallest twin building in the world at 451.9 meters.
However, the majestic Petronas Twin Towers aren’t the only tourist attraction worth seeing in the capital of Malaysia. If you want to delve deep into the country’s fascinating past, traditions, and culture, take a trip to the best museums in Kuala Lumpur. They offer fascinating displays, from textiles and religious artifacts to ancient and contemporary art and other exquisite pieces you won’t see anywhere else. Once you’ve dropped your bags off at a storage locker in Kuala Lumpur, you’re free to discover and explore the city’s cultural gems without burden.
Malay World Ethnology Museum
Also known as the Malay World Museum, Malay World Ethnology Museum features artifacts highlighting the diversity of Malay culture and society in the country. Its highly aesthetic collections of materials include traditional arts, authentic games, weaponry, jewelry, and clothing. Opened in March 2002, the museum building itself was designed after the traditional Malay house to help visitors be immersed in the unique Malay culture.
The Malay World Ethnology Museum is a stone’s throw from the National Museum, and you can visit both with the same ticket. Among the collections on display are wayang kulit or shadow-play figures, the wedding dais of Perak, the legendary Cik Siti Wan Kembang dress, and many more.
Location: 50566 Jalan Damansara, 50566 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
National Museum of Malaysia
Like most nations, Malaysia also has its own national museum, and it’s in its capital city, Kuala Lumpur. The idea was started by Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the country’s first prime minister. He wanted a center to showcase Malaysia’s culture and heritage to locals and visitors. Such an idea gave birth to the National Museum of Malaysia, which has served its purpose for years since its establishment in 1963.
The National Museum of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur has exhibitions of its national historical heritage artifacts. The galleries are divided into the country’s different eras, including Prehistory, Malay Kingdoms, the Colonial Era, and Malaysia today. The museum is also a venue for researching, collecting, recording, and publishing artifacts, items, and materials that are part of Malaysia’s heritage.
Location: 53, Jalan Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Malaysia is known for being home to some of the largest museums for Islamic art in Southeast Asia, and Kuala Lumpur’s Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is one of them. Its dimensions go for 30,000 square meters, containing more than 10,000 artifacts. The collection ranges from jewelry to some of the largest-scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. It also offers an extensive library of Islamic art books.
What makes the Islamic Arts Museum’s exhibition space unique are its galleries housed in an expansive open area. It has two levels of permanent galleries and two special exhibition spaces for temporary displays. It includes Architecture, Quran and Manuscripts, India, China, and Malay galleries, for Level one. As you head to the second floor, you’ll find galleries specific for Textiles, Jewelry, Arms and Armor, Coins, Metal, Wood, and Ceramics.
Located at Jalan Lembah Perdana, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is surrounded by other attractions, including the National Mosque, National Planetarium, the Royal Malaysian Police Museum, and more. The galleries are open daily from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM, while the Children’s library is from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM. There’s also a museum shop on the ground floor, offering an impressive selection of Islamic crafts and artifacts worldwide.
Location: Jalan Lembah Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery
The Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery show the bank’s role, not only as a leader of national numismatic but also as a supporter of the arts. It has numerous galleries for Malaysian Art, Islamic Finance, Numismatics, Bank Negara Malaysia, Economics, and Children. Besides exhibitions, the museum also offers visitors special programs and outreach activities.
A striking feature of the Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery is its Nautilus Staircase. This spiral structure begins from the lobby of the venue and links to all building floors. You can see this fantastic view firsthand by visiting the museum daily during its operating hours from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Location: Sasana Kijang, 2 Jalan Dato’ Onn, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
National Textile Museum
Textile production plays a significant role in Malaysia’s culture, making Kuala Lumpur’s National Textile Museum a must-visit place for those who want to immerse themselves in the country’s way of living. It displays the various textile trends and techniques from prehistory to present society. That’s why it serves as a platform not only for appreciation but also for research and cultural preservation.
The National Textile Museum’s galleries include the Pohon Budi Gallery, Pelangi Gallery, Teluk Berantai Gallery, and Ratna Sari Gallery. You can see these collections daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except for the first Monday of each month. As for the entrance fee, children aged 12 and below, high school students, and members of the International Council of Museums are free of charge.
Location: JKR 26, Jalan Sultan Hishamudin, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Royal Malaysia Police Museum
Learn about the past of the Malaysian police force at the Royal Malaysia Police Museum. It’s one of the intriguing Kuala Lumpur museums, featuring displays that will give you an insight into the history of the Royal Malaysia police from the beginning under British colonial rule until the seventies.
The museum has several galleries. They display examples of police uniforms through the centuries and replicas of the old Malacca streets where visitors can understand policing during the Dutch and Portuguese eras before the arrival of the British era. You’ll also see daily items used by the earlier police forces, including an old fire extinguisher, ancient typewriters, and notebooks. Outside the building are outdoor displays of armored vehicles, including a railway car, a Sankey AT-105 Armoured Car, and a Ford Lynx Scout Car used in Kelantan between 1952 and 1960.
Location: 5, Jalan Perdana, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Art House Gallery Museum of Ethnic Arts
The Art House Gallery Museum of Ethnic Arts is one of the capital’s hidden gems and a treasure trove of historical and ethnic jewels. It’s an art gallery and museum located at Central Market Annexe, highlighting native art from East Malaysia. It’s owned by Leonard Liu, an antique and art collector, and dealer since 1988.
This art gallery and museum is a must-visit attraction for those interested in ethnic and folk art pieces. It also displays paintings, tribal masks from around the world, Buddhist iconography, and more. It is open to the public daily from 11 AM to 7 PM.
Location: Level 2, Annexe Building, Central Market, 10, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Orang Asli Craft Museum
Get a better understanding of the Orang Asli, the first people or the aboriginal communities living in rural areas in the Malaysian Peninsula. The Orang Asli Craft Museum is dedicated to the country’s creative indigenous people and their role in the country’s history. It displays impressive arts and crafts that reflect their traditions, customs, beliefs, and history. It allows future generations to delve deeper into and connect with their heritage.
The museum also explains the different Orang Asli tribes and how they’re separated into three primary groups: the Senai, the Proto Malay, and Negrito. They are known for their handicrafts, especially their skills in wood carvings. Part of the displays at the museum include carved statues, masks, small Sepili figures, ornate bamboo containers, blowpipes, and more.
Location: Jabatan Muzium Malaysia, Jalan Damansara, 50566 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
National Visual Arts Gallery
Kuala Lumpur’s National Visual Arts Gallery was founded to promote Malaysian artworks and foster appreciation and understanding of such masterpieces. Its permanent exhibition, Nusa in Malay, shows Southeast Asia's cultural and social structures. It focuses on exploring stories, understanding different perspectives, and fortifying identity amidst super-diversity.
Currently, the National Visual Arts Gallery comprises more than 2,500 artworks and is considered one of the most established museums in Southeast Asia. As for its opening hours, you can come by any day of the week around 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Moreover, anyone can visit the museum for free.
Location: 2, Jalan Temerloh, Off Jalan Tun Razak, 53200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Museum of Illusions
A modern art museum, the Museum of Illusion in Kuala Lumpur, is a mind-blowing attraction, unlike any place you have visited before. It is situated in Bukit Bintang, a lively entertainment and shopping district in the city, a short walk from Monorail and Mass Rail Transit. Visitors are welcome to engage in over eighty fascinating and mind-boggling exhibitions that will delight and surprise your senses.
Check out every themed room and be amazed by the optical illusions waiting for you. It includes an Infinity Room, Tilted Room, Reversed Room, the Vortex Tunnel, Infinity Well, and many more. You can also visit with friends and organize events, team building, or a birthday party. It is open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM, so you have plenty of time to discover, take photos, and have fun.
Location: Ansa Hotel 1st&2nd floor, 101 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Urban Museum (UR-MU)
Urban Museum is a new contemporary art museum in Kuala Lumpur established in early 2022 but has already become one of the most renowned tourist attractions in the city. There are 10 galleries featured in the museum: Framing Modernity, Kampung Kita, Made's Garden, People, Power Play, Raksasa (Monsters), Sens-Asia, Structure, Superheroes, and the Sculpture Lounge.
To get into the Urban Museum, you’ll have to purchase a ticket from their official website in advance. Each ticket will then be valid for 90 minutes. As for getting to the location, public transport is recommended, as parking spaces are not available.
Location: 3, Jalan Bedara, Bukit Bintang, 50200Kuala Lumpur
What are the best free museums in Kuala Lumpur?
A visit to Malaysia’s capital isn’t generally expensive. But suppose you want to save more during your trip to maximize your travel budget. In that case, there are numerous free museums in Kuala Lumpur you should add to your itinerary. One of them is the hidden gem tucked behind the Central Market, the Art House Gallery Museum Of Ethnic Arts.
Other art museums and cultural attractions are not exactly free. Still, you can take advantage of free admission on special days. Free admission is also granted to young visitors and students.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Kuala Lumpur?
There are numerous museums in Downtown Kuala Lumpur, so choosing the best one can be tricky. But you can start your adventure at Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Art Gallery if you love art. If you want an out-of-this-world city experience, head to the Museum of Illusions housed in ANSA Hotel Kuala Lumpur in the heart of the city.
Are there any cheap museums in Kuala Lumpur?
You’ll have endless options when looking for cheap museums in Kuala Lumpur. That’s because nearly all museums in the capital are budget-friendly, if not free. They can cost as low as $0.5 for locals and a little over a dollar for foreign visitors.
Check out Orang Asli Craft Museum, the National Textile Museum, and the Islamic Arts Museum. A visit to each museum will cost you less than $5!
Discover the Best Museums in Kuala Lumpur and its National Treasures!
With a wealth of cultural treasures and world-class attractions (many attractions are free to enter), it’s easy to see why tourist love visiting Malaysia’s capital city. You won’t have any dull moments or boring days, whether you’re into arts, ethnic crafts, sculptures, or simply curious about Malaysian history. There are many choices when it comes to art galleries and museums, dining, unique adventure (try the Batu Caves) and even shopping in Kuala Lumpur.