The city of Medan in North Sumatra sees a large number of tourists as it is the entry and exit point for stunning neighboring attractions like Lake Toba and Bukit Lawang. Unfortunately however, many people stay overnight in Medan and leave as quickly as possible, thinking that this is just another big city in Indonesia. They couldn’t be more wrong however, and Medan sees a lot of domestic tourists who realize its charms and who also recognize that it has some of the best food in Indonesia.
People flock here for the food scene, and whatever your tastes you won’t go hungry in the city. Most of Medan’s top attractions are focused around food and you can sign up for a food tour, or simply go it lone and explore the sights, smells, and tastes of the city by yourself. In addition to the restaurants, stalls, and food courts, Medan is known for its diversity, and this is reflected in the range of attractions that you can experience here including a strong Tamil influence, a large Chinese community, and the indigenous Batak people who also call Medan home.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Medan:
Tour Tjong A Fie Mansion
Anyone who has been to Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in Penang in Malaysia may find Tjong A Fie Mansion familiar, and Tjong A Fie was actually a relative of Cheong Fatt Tze hence the similarities between the two buildings.
The mansion is one of the top attractions in Medan and is a great place to see how people would have lived in this city in the 1900s.
You can take a guided tour around the mansion which will take around an hour and hear all about the history here with one of the attentive guides.
As you walk around make sure to check out all the ornate decorations and the pretty garden for which the mansion is famous.
Admire Mesjid Raya Al Mashun
Mesjid Raya Al Mashun, or simply Mesjid Raya as it is often referred to, is Medan’s main mosque and is known for being one of its prettiest.
The mosque was built using imported building materials such as Italian marble and you can take a tour and check out all the exquisite details here.
Some things to look out for include the pretty stained glass touches as well as the emerald green tiles, and the mosque is topped with dark elegant domes.
Non-Muslims are welcome to tour the mosque outside of prayer hours, but make sure to dress respectfully.
Dress up at Istana Maimun
Istana Maimun is the name of the royal palace in Medan which belonged to the Sultanate of Deli.
Nowadays parts of the palace are open to the public and have been turned into a museum.
These include the throne room and there are a few displays that explain the history of the royal family and some collections of ancient clothing and other objects of interest.
One of the big draws here is that for a small fee you can dress up in period garb and take pictures in the throne room, and you can also walk around the lush grounds that encircle the palace.
Have dinner at Merdeka Walk
Medan is famous for its food but if you are not sure what you want to eat then head to Merdeka Walk.
This is basically a kind of promenade which is lined with different restaurants and stalls selling all different kinds of food in the center of the city.
This means it is perfect if you are traveling with a large group as everyone can choose something different to eat and it offers you a snapshot of Medan’s varied food scene.
Just some of the choices here include noodle dishes, soups, rice, curries, fresh juices, and toothsome desserts.
Visit the Museum of North Sumatra
The Museum of North Sumatra is the best museum in the city and a must-visit if you want to know more about the history and culture of the province.
At the museum you will find galleries that tell the story of the different periods of North Sumatran history and take you through the Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim eras as well as the Dutch colonial period.
There are also collections dedicated to ancient weaponry, textiles, farming equipments, and sculptures, and you will also find some amazing wooden coffins carved in the shapes of dragons.
All in all, this is a treasure trove of history and a great introduction to Medan.
Walk around Kampung Keling
Kampung Keling is the traditionally Tamil part of Medan and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were actually in India.
The area is covered in shops selling colorful saris and Indian jewelry and there are also a wealth of Indian restaurants here that serve traditional Indian dishes.
It is also the spot of the Sri Mariamman Temple which was built in 1884 and is a riot of color.
Make sure to check out the ornate carvings that make up the temple roof, as there is nothing else like this in Medan.
Visit Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni
Also known as Our Lady of Good Health Church, Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni opened in 2005 and is something of an optical illusion.
Dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health, this is a Catholic church but it is modeled on an Indian temple and you can enjoy the ornate furnishings here and the elegant and colorful effigies on show.
It is also a powerful symbol of Medan’s diversity.
Visit Medan Post Office
Medan Post Office sits in the center of the city and is one of the most recognizable buildings in the area.
The post office was built in 1911 during the Dutch colonial period and was designed by a Dutch architect who built it in the traditional colonial style.
The post office has a large done on the top and signature half circle windows and is one of the best examples of colonial architecture in Medan.
Visit Vihara Maha Maitreya
Vihara Maha Maitreya is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Indonesia and a pretty spot to visit if you want to tour around all of Medan’s key religious attractions.
There is a large Buddhist community in Medan, and this is an important place of worship although visitors are also welcome to tour the building.
Make sure to look out for the pretty pools here and there is also a canteen here that sells delicious vegetarian food so try to time your visit to coincide with lunchtime.
Explore Rahmat Gallery
Rahmat Gallery is one of the quirkiest attractions in Medan and is a great choice if you want to do something a little unusual.
The gallery is notable as it is filled with preserved animals, so anyone with an interest in taxidermy definitely shouldn’t give it a miss.
The gallery is also a great way to check out a range of different species that are indigenous to Indonesia.
Best Things to Do in Medan (Indonesia):
- Tjong A Fie Mansion: flickr
- Soto Kesawan: kuliner.ilmci.com
- Mesjid Raya Al Mashun: wikipedia
- Tip Top Restaurant: travee.co
- Istana Maimun: flickr
- Merdeka Walk: flickr
- Museum Of North Sumatra: flickr
- Garuda Restaurant: myworldmyprivacy.blogspot.nl
- Kampung Keling: lihat.co.id
- Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni: flickr
- Cahaya Baru: meufood.blogspot.nl
- Medan Post Office: flickr
- Vihara Maha Maitreya: easybook.com
- Rahmat Gallery: wikipedia