Malacca is the name of the state as well as its capital on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It shares a border with Negri Sembilan to the north and Johor to the south. The state is regarded as the cradle of Malay civilization. This was where the most important Malay empire, the Malacca Sultanate, flourished for about one hundred years, during the 15th century, before it was defeated by the Portuguese, which started the colonial era in the Malay peninsula lasting until the independence of the country in 1957.
It was through Malacca that other states such as Perak and Johor were established. Although there is no sultan ruling Malacca today, the sultans of Perak and Johor trace their ancestry to the sultanate of Malacca.
On 7 July, 2009, the historic core of Malacca Town was inscribed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in a joint-inscription with George Town as the Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca.
Malacca covers an area of 1650 sq km. It is the third smallest state in Malaysia after Perlis and Penang. The state comprises three districts, namely Melaka Tengah, Alor Gajah and Jasin. As of 2007, Malacca has a population of 760,000. Before visiting Malacca, make sure to book your hotel.
Most visitors to Malacca confine themselves to visiting the historic city and the recreational sights in Ayer Keroh, which is between the city and the exit of the North-South Expressway.
The historic core of Malacca, today known as the Malacca Historic City, covers a very small area. You can easily explore it on foot. Depending on the number of sights you wish to visit, and the duration you intend to spend there, you can cover all the places within the core area in a day or two.
The historic city of Malacca is split into two by the Malacca River. The area to the east of the river was the former colonial administrative precinct. This is the location of the Portuguese fortress, of which only a remnant gate remains. Under the Dutch, administrative buildings were added, including the Stadthuys, which is today the oldest and biggest Dutch colonial building in the Far East. All the Dutch buildings are painted maroon. This is not the colour of the buildings during Dutch period. Originally beige or cream in colour, the buildings were repainted salmon red by the British in the 1920's, and repainted in darker red by the city much more recently.
The area to the west of the Malacca River are the commercial and residential areas of Malacca. It comprises two main roads namely the commercial Jonker Street and the formerly beach-side residential Herren Street. Today, due to repeated waves of land reclamation, Herren Street is no longer next to the beach, which has been extended about a kilometer out.
If you are coming to Malacca by car, you will note that parking space is quite limited. One of the bigger parking areas in the city is behind the row of historical townhouses at Herren Street. You should leave your car there and explore the city on foot. If you are planning to visit Malacca over a weekend, plan to arrive early, as the car park is often filled up by day-trippers before noon. Some of the major roads in Malacca are also closed to traffic during weekends, requiring you to detour around the city.
In the last few years, a number of big shopping malls and department stores have been built in Malacca. However, the majority of tourists prefer to go for street shopping. The liveliest is Jonker Walk, a pedestrianized promenade created from Jonker Street every weekend. This is a boisterous night market where you can enjoy all the local treats of the city. Although Jonker Walk has been criticized by many locals for bringing noise into the otherwise quiet neighbourhood, forcing many to pack up and leave, it has also helped Malacca tourism.
Even as you enjoy yourself looking at all the sights, don't forget to try the local delicacies. You can get them in the streets or in specialty confectioners. Malacca is famous among local tourists for Portuguese pineapple tarts, durian cendol, chicken rice balls, among others. There are lots of restaurants in the old city offering traditional Nyonya and Portuguese-Eurasian (called Kristang) cuisine.
Most of the centuries-old places of worship are on the west side of the Malacca River. They including some of the oldest mosques, Chinese temples and Hindu temples in the country. Most of these were built during the Dutch era, as very little is left from the Portuguese period. This includes the very streets, which were formerly rural paths. They are also some of the oldest extant streets in Malaysia.
To help you make sense of all the tourist attractions and sights in the city, I have grouped them by category on this page. Just select what you wish to see and go through the lists I provide. If you are pressed for time, take a look at my recommendation of Malacca Top Tourist Attractions.