If you’re visiting Jakarta for the first time, deciding where to stay in Jakarta can be tough. The city is huge and there are a lot of places to visit in Jakarta. If you believe the statistics, the population of Jakarta is 9.5 million people. However, this doubles if you include the wider Jakarta metropolitan area (where millions of people commute from).
At 16 million plus Jakarta instantly becomes one of the largest cities in South East Asia. Unfortunately, the city lacks any real public transportation system. The result of this lack of planning is a sort of organized chaos. So if you want to avoid spending hours in traffic jams you need to be careful when choosing where to stay in Jakarta.
To help you make the right choice (that fits your interests), I’ve written a short Jakarta travel. The guide covers the different tourism and business areas of the city, the best restaurants and what you can do when you are there. This is going to be a long one, so let’s get started.
Menteng – Upmarket
I once read that Menteng is the Beverly Hills of Jakarta. I’m not really sure if that is the description. Still, Menteng is one of the best areas to stay in Jakarta if you are visiting the city as a tourist. A lot of the best places to visit in Jakarta are easy to reach from Menteng. Monas and the Istiqlal mosque are a short 25-minute drive away. Bundaran HI and Plaza Indonesia (one of the best malls in Jakarta) are closer still.
While you are in Menteng I would recommend you visit Jalan Surabaya. The street is lined on one side with antique shops (selling the occasional real antiques) and some really nice coffee shops. My favourite coffee shop on Jalan Surabaya is Giyanti Coffee, which is hidden off the main road. Another place you can visit is the primary school where Barack Obama went when he was a kid. I’m not sure if you really want to visit to see the plaque, but it is a nice area to walk around.
Menteng offers a great mix of food for travellers on any budget. I used to live in Menteng and there are some really nice restaurants that I’d recommend. One of my favorites, both for the decor and the food, is Lara Djongrang (It is part of Tugu Group). The restaurant serves great Indonesian food in a beautiful setting. Another favourite is Ikan Tude Manado (Blora street), which is really famous for its spicy delicious fish. If you’re looking fo something non-Indonesian I’d recommend Do An Vietnamese restaurant and Sana Sini Restaurant.
Kemang – Young and Trendy
I learned a new word recently, hipster. It pretty much describes Kemang. This is the place to visit if you are a young flashpacker and want to have a lot of fun in Jakarta city. The area is popular with a young wealthy crowd that enjoys good food, nice coffee and busy bars. There’s also a big art scene, which means there’s always something interesting happening or opening.
The best thing to do during the day in Kemang is visit one of the many funky cafes in the area. My two favorite cafes in Kemang are The Reading Room and DiaLoGue. For nightlife I’d recommend visiting the Beer Garden, or if you are looking for something a bit more upmarket: Queen’s Head. For more recommendations on good bars in Kemang I recommend reading this article.
Kemang has a lot of great restaurants and nice places to eat out. Koi is a nice starting point. It is a restaurant come bar come art gallery spread over three floors. The menu offers a mixture of Asian and Western dishes at competitive prices. You can find out more about it in this nice review. Another good restaurant to visit, though with a very different style, is Mamma Rosy, which offers traditional Italian food. For nice food with a good view try The Edge, which is a rooftop restaurant with a swimming pool. Last but not least, Largo Bistrot and White Elephant also come highly recommended.
Jalan Jaksa – Backpackers
Jalan Jaksa is the backpacking street of Jakarta. A few years ago the 400-meter road was lined with small bars and cheap backpacker hostels. Nomadic Notes nicely summed up the feeling of the street in 2009. However, the road has changed quite a bit over the last few years and will continue to do so. At the end of the road there’s a new fancy café and a large luxury apartment block is being built on Jalan Jaksa.
While the character of Jalan Jaksa is changing, the area continues to be popular with backpackers. There are lots of small bars and nightclubs that line the side of the street. Outside of Jalan Jaksa there are some great places to visit. Melly’s Garden for instance, is a popular bar with young people from Jakarta. The combination of alcohol and nightlife makes Jalan Jaksa and the area surrounding it busy in the evenings.
There are a lot of dining options around Jalan Jaksa. In the evening, small restaurants and street food stalls start to appear, which makes for good budget food. For mid-range international cuisine, I would recommend visiting Ya Udah, a restaurant and bar, which is a five-minute walk away from Jalan Jaksa. The bar gets busy during the evening.
Jakarta For Business
Mega Kuningan – Corporate
Mega Kuningan is the central business district of Jakarta. It is convenient and it’s central. This is the place to stay if you are in Jakarta for corporate business or you have lots of money. However, getting here is a major pain as every road surrounding Mega Kuningan is guaranteed to be gridlocked with traffic.
On the plus side, there are a lot of nice bars and upmarket nightclubs around Mega Kuningan. If you are staying in one of the luxury hotels you will find that a lot of the bars have themed nights that you can attend. For example every Wednesday at the Blu Martini Bar, in the Marriott Hotel, there is an International Networking Event where you get free German food. Thursday nights is typically ladies night with free alcohol for women, and the list goes on.
Like the area, the restaurants in Mega Kuningan are expensive and cater to an international clientele. Traditionally high-end restaurants in Mega Kuningan have catered for Western tastes. For example Pepenero or Trattoria both offer great Italian food. Oak Room bar and restaurant is also popular for its tasty French cuisine. There are also some great options for Asian cuisine. One of the best restaurants for Asian food Eastern & Oriental (E&O), which offers a mixture of Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
Kemayoran – Conventions
Like any big city, Jakarta has a lot of business and trade conventions. The biggest trade conventions are held in Kemayoran at the Jakarta International Expo. If you happen to visit Jakarta for an exhibition I’d recommend staying in Kemayoran. Part of the reason for this is that the roads around Kemayoran are always busy, which makes travel with a car painful and frustrating. While Kemayoran is one of the nicer parts of Jakarta there are not a lot of places to visit here. Think convention, hotel bar, sleep (repeat the process for three days).
There are nice restaurants in Kemayoran. Some of the best restaurants in Kemayoran are actually linked to hotels. Botany Restaurant, located on the ground floor of Holiday Inn, is one such example. The menu is international and the chefs signature dish is spaghetti with olive oil, pesto sauce and salmon. Another nice international restaurant, which serves Indian food, is Udupi Shree Krishna (you can find more Indian restaurants in Jakarta here).
Tanah Abang – Textiles
If you are looking to source products from Indonesia and you are coming to Jakarta then you will want to visit Tanah Abang. This district of Jakarta has one of the largest textile markets in South East Asia, called Tanah Abang market (and also close to Thamrin City). The market has around 13,000 independently run kiosks where you can purchase textiles at wholesale prices. You can find out a bit more about the market on the Jakarta Tourism website (though it’s mostly just general information).
Tanah Abang is located close to the centre of Jakarta and there are a lot of great Indonesian and international dining options. A lot of the best restaurants are located in and around the shopping malls and large business buildings. Avec Moi, is one such example, serving delicious French cuisine. Ganesha Ek Sanskriti, which serves Indian food and En Dining, serves Japanese dishes, are also nice options. For Indonesian food, Beautika Restaurant and Bale Lombok both come highly recommended.
The definitions that I used for where to stay in Jakarta are not as simple as I described. The area around Jalan Jaksa is not just for backpackers. You can find great budget accommodation in Menteng and really nice luxury hotels in Kemang. The aim of the guide was to give you a quick overview of the city so that you can get an idea of the different areas of the city and choose to stay in the place that feels right for you. There are a lot more places to visit in Jakarta than the areas I reviewed, so make sure to make the most of your holiday to explore the city.
What do you think? What area of Jakarta would you recommend people stay in. Was there anything I missed and any great restaurants I overlooked? Share your thoughts with other travellers in the comments below.
Still need to book your hotel for Jakarta? Save yourself some time! Here’s a list of the best hotels near Jakarta Airport for every budget.