Surabaya is the capital of the province of East Java. It is a bustling metropolis for business set in one of the most beautiful areas of Java. The city is most famous for its delicious local food, yet there is more to the Surabaya than its restaurants. Within a few hours from the city you can watch traditional bull races, see the sun rise over Bromo Volcano and visit the tumbling waterfalls of Madakaripura. To help you make the most of your time, here is a list of 15 things to do in (and around) Surabaya on your holiday.
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To help you find the best places to visit in the city we’ve shortlisted the five places that we’d recommend on a tour. Then, because we know you might have your own ideas about what you should do in Surabaya, we gave you 10 different options. We hope you like the list. Let’s get started!
The Essential List of Things to do in Surabaya
1. Bromo Midnight Tour
Bromo is an active volcano and one of the tourism highlights of East Java. The volcano is located in the Bromo Tengger National Park, an area famous for its striking landscape. Most tourists wanting to visit Bromo from Surabaya join the ‘Bromo Midnight Tour‘ so that they can watch the sun rise from behind the volcano. It’s one for the bucket list and should be top of your list of things to do in Surabaya. If you’re planning to stay close to Bromo I recommend Jiwa Jawa resort (luxury option).
2. Sampoerna Museum
It’s strange to recommend the museum of a cigarette factory as the best thing to do in Surabaya, yet the Sampoerna Museum easily makes the top of the list. Let’s start at the beginning… Sampoerna are a famous brand of clove cigarettes from Surabaya. The Museum documents the history of the company and is also a working cigarette factory.
The Sampoerna Museum is based in a grand colonial era building. The downstairs portion of the building houses the museum. There are lots of exhibits, many from the family collection, and old photos. As you tour the Museum you will see how the company started and how the advertising for Sampoerna has changed over time. On the second floor of the Museum is a viewing room over the working cigarette factory (it is a mesmerising thing to see!). The Museum also operates a free tourism bus around Surabaya. You can find the timetable for the tour bus here.
3. Traditional Food: Kartiko at Pasar Atom
Food is a big thing in Surabaya. In fact if you ask people ‘what are the best things to do in Surabaya?’ top of the list will be food. One of some places in Surabaya that still sells traditional food & snacks from Surabaya is Kartiko. Kartiko serves a large selection of traditional sweet and savoury food from the city. It’s always busy and the food is delicious (and cheap). Definitely add this to your list of things to do in Surabaya!
4. The Bull Races on Madura
The island of Madura is located just off the coast of Java. From July through to August buffalo races are held on the island. The races are held as a way to celebrate the rice harvest. If you are in the region between these dates you should try to visit the bull races. It’s a 3-4 hour drive from Surabaya, so you will have to do it on a day trip, or overnight trip, but it is definitely worth it. The bull races are as unique as they are unusual (and on Madura probably more popular than football).
Alternative Things to do in Surabaya
5. Tea at Majapahit
If you want to visit some of the historical landmarks of Surabaya you should definitely visit the Majapahit Hotel. The hotel is located in a grand colonial mansion, surrounded by manicured lawns. The mansion dates back to 1910 and still retains its classic atmosphere with polished floors and marble bathrooms. The best time to visit the Majapahit Hotel is in the afternoon for high tea and sandwiches. The hotel serves tea from 2-6 pm. If you come in a large group, you might need to reserve your spot one day before.
6. Taman Bungkul
If you are looking for a bit of greenery in Surabaya you should visit Taman Bungkul. The park is one of the main parks in Surabaya and a small pool of tranquility near the centre of the city. Taman Bungkul is located close to the Shangri-La Hotel and costs Rp 5,000 per person to enter. You can visit it at any time of day. The park is busiest in the evenings when you will find couples walking around and sitting on the benches.
7. Suramadu National Bridge
The Suramadu National Bridge is one of the longest bridges in South East Asia (the longest in Indonesia at the moment). The bridge connects Surabaya with the island of Madura. You can see the Suramadu National Bridge from most places on the waterfront of Surabaya. The best time to see it is in the evening when it is let up in multi coloured lights. If you want to visit Madura you should try to visit from July through to October when the traditional bull races are held on the island. More about that in a bit.
8. Visit Surabaya Monument
The emblem of Surabaya is an image of a crocodile and a whale. It comes from two Sanskrit words, Sura and Baya. Sura means whale and Baya means crocodile. According to legend the two animals symbolise peace and war. There are two sculptures of the emblem in Surabaya. It’s a famous place for photos for many tourists who visit the city.
9. See Cheng Hoo Chinese Mosque
Surabaya has a large population of Chinese Indonesians, many of whom originally came to the city as traders. The Cheng Hoo Mosque is a testament to how the Chinese have integrated into the local culture, adopting the local religion, yet keeping a sense of their heritage. You can see it everywhere in the decoration. The mosque is painted in bright red, green and yellow. At the entrance to the mosque is traditional pagoda that incorporates dragon and lion motifs.
10. Attend a Persebaya Game
Many Indonesians are passionate about their local clubs and the city of Surabaya has one of the biggest in the country, Persebaya. When at home Persebaya Football Club play at the Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium. The stadium has a capacity of 50,000, which gives the home games have plenty of atmosphere, so if you love football and you are passing through the city you should definitely try attend a Persebaya game.
11. Harbour Cruise on Artama III
Surabaya is a major seaport and one of the most interesting ways of exploring the city and seeing exactly what this means is joining a Harbour Cruise on Artama III. The cruise takes more approximately 2 hours and follows the waterfront of the city pass the bustling port and under the famous bridge (Suramadu Bridge). The cruise operates every Sunday from 9 am to 11 am and costs Rp 120,000 per person. You can find more information about it here.
12. Visit the Malls
If you are visiting Surabaya and you are looking for a place to do some shopping or just catch a movie then you might well find yourself in one of the cities many malls. It’s not a bad thing. Malls are a big part of modern Indonesian culture. The malls are a place where people come to meet up, hang out and socialise. If you want a recommendation of where to visit in Surabaya, two of the best malls in the city are Tunjungan Plaza and Ciputra World Surabaya.
13. Surabaya Bars and Nightlife
Surabaya is a bustling city and theres plenty of things to do when the sunsets over the city. The city has plenty of great restaurants that you can visit and there are also lively bars and nightclubs that cater to different interests. You can find chilled out places like Our Bar for a relaxing chat with friends or more lively places like Colors Pub and Restaurant. While it’s not anywhere near as Jakarta or Bali there are still many places to explore for a good night out.
14. Monkasel Submarine
The Monkasel is a Russian Submarine that saw service in the Indonesian navy shortly after Indonesian independence. After being decommissioned the submarine was turned into a tourist attraction. The Monkasel now rests in the heart of Surabaya on Pemuda Street near the bank of the Kalimas river. You can still enter the submarine and take a tour of the interior. It costs around Rp15,000-20,000 per person to visit the submarine.
15. Klenteng Sanggar Agung
Klenteng Sanggar Agung is a large Chinese temple used by adherents of Tridharma. The temple is the perfect place to visit if you are looking to escape the busy streets of Surabaya. Klenteng Sanggar Agung temple is on the edge of the city and overlooks the ocean. With hundreds of burning candles and the smell of incense hanging in the air the temple has a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
Surabaya is one of the largest cities in Indonesia and despite it’s reputation as a business city there are plenty of interesting places to visit here. From watching a match at Gelora Bung Tomo to taking high tea at Majapahit Hotel, I hope this list has given you a few ideas of fun things to do in Surabaya. Additional things that you should consider to do in Surabaya is to see sunrise at Kenjeran, explore the Chinatown and also visit Surabaya Carnival Park.
Budget Hotel – Hotel 88 Embong Kenongo from $27 a Night
Mid Range Hotel – Harris Hotel & Conventions Gubeng from $42 a Night
Luxury Hotel – Hotel Majapahit Surabaya from $119 a Night
Have you visited Surabaya? What would you recommend to tourists coming to the city? Share your thoughts in the comments below.