Explore Jakarta Kota Tua: Today’s Old Batavia

28 Feb 2017

Housed in old colonial buildings, the many museums here will take you back to the era of Discovery and Aromatic Spices.

1. The Fatahillah Square


Here was the heart of the distinguished and feared administrative center of the then powerful and wealthy VOC, where the lucrative spices of nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, tea and other precious cargo were kept in the many warehouses, prepared for immediate loading onto large vessels for shipment back to Europe where they fetched fortunes for the VOC and the Netherlands.

When you get to stroll around here, you will feel yourself as transported back to the 17th century, surrounded by colonial style Dutch structures that have now been transformed into museums, cafes and art galleries.

On weekends and holidays, this particular area comes alive with throngs of visitors. Colorful vintage bicycles called Sepeda Ontel stand by for rent for a fun tour around prestigious landmarks. Culinary adventure is also festive here, from the low priced super tasty food offered by street vendors to fine dining in a gorgeous two hundred years old colonial building. Ah! And prepare yourself for spontaneous modern art performances that will excite you with their absolute creativity.

Fronting the old City Hall is the Plaza with a water fountain in its center, where people used to draw their water supply. Around the Plaza once stood the city’s main church, the Court of Justice, Banks and other buildings of important companies.

Today, the Town Hall now houses the Fatahillah Museum, otherwise known as the History of Museum of Jakarta, while surrounding buildings have been transformed into the Wayang Museum, the Museum of Arts and Ceramics, the Museum of Bank Indonesia, the Bank Mandiri Museum and others. Further down by the Canal are the Archives Museum, and Toko Merah or the Red Shop. Further northwards was the main port of Sunda Kelapa where ships lay at anchor, where you may now still see legendary phinisi schooners. The original VOC warehouses have been turned into the Maritime Museum. Other remains are the tower of the harbor master where ships had to pay their excise duty, and also a typical Dutch drawbridge.

2. The Jakarta History Museum or the Fatahillah Museum


Built in the 17th century as the Town hall in the Dutch VOC colonial era, the Stadhuis now contains the History of Jakarta Museum, where you can observe artefacts found when Jakarta was still called Sunda Kelapa, also the agreement in stone between the Kingdom of Sunda with the Portuguese. Some original furniture used in the 18th century, and the dungeon where Indonesian freedom fighter Prince Diponegoro was treacherously jailed can also bee seen.

3. Cafe Batavia


This cafe has long been a favorite point of interest. Offering iconic colonial ambience and original-style Dutch East India cuisine, Cafe Batavia is open daily. Housed in an 1830s buiilding, Cafe Batavia has two storeys comprising a bar, a stage for performances, and a lounge area on the ground floor. The upper floor features an upscale dining hall catering for 150 guests. With its tall slatted windows that allow abundant light into the interior and views onto Fatahillah Square, and period colonial-style furniture, this Cafe will certainly carry you back to the splendor of colonial days. With live music and alluring international menus, this could be just your new favourite place to unwind.

4. The Wayang Museum


Sometimes translated as the Puppet Museum, it was opened in 1975 but it stands on a historic site that dates back to 1640, as here was once the Old Dutch Church. The garden was the site where Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen, founder of Batavia was buriend. Besides displaying Indonesian traditional shadow puppets, and other collections of puppets from other regions, you can also see puppets from neighbouring countries, including those from Burma, Thailand and China. Here you can also learn how shadow puppets are made, or join a workshop on puppetry.

5. The Fine Arts and Ceramic Museum


This building was completed in 1870, and initially functioned as Court of Justice the Netherlands East Indies. After Indonesia’s Independence, it became military barracks and a logistics warehouse. In 1967 the office of West Jakarta Mayor was here. In 1974 it served as the office for the Jakarta Museum and the History Department. Finally, it was inaugurated as a museum in 1990. Marvelous displays of arts by Indonesian finest maestros are kept neatly following each period. You may find here paintings of Raden Saleh, Basuki Abdulllah, Effendy and many more.


The building is popular for prewedding pics. You may want to take your own selfie with its iconic white pillars as backdrop.

6. Kota Post Office and Art Gallery


Ir. R. Baumgartner designed this building in 1929 as a post office, created in early modern architecture style, known as Nieuwe Zakelijkheid, which was then popular in the Netherlands. To adapt to Indonesia’s tropical climate, the building was given many windows and a double facade structure to allow better air circulation. Back then, the postal service was crucial for news and communication to be distributed instantly. The building was set near the city hall, to ensure fast delivery of the most recent updates. You can still mail your holiday postcards here at ground level and browse through a contemporary a exhibition displayed on the second floor.

7. The Bank Mandiri Museum


The Netherlands Trading Society, then known as "Factorij", owned the plot site since 1913. A new building designed in the Dutch Nieuw Zakelijkheid style, which is a branch of modern architecture close to Art Deco, was opened here in 1933. The building was later bought over and became the property of Bank Exim in 1968. The legal merge of 4 Indonesian national banks changed its name to Bank Mandiri in 1999. This Museum shows how banking proceeded in the 19th and early 20th century, and comprises banking tools ranging from operating supplies, currencies, coin collections, cash counters, safe deposits and many more valuable items. Experience walking into this bank as costumer in the colonial era, since most of the interior, ornaments and furniture have been kept in their original positions. Don’t miss the amazing mozaic windows filled with colorful glass before you exit.

8. The Bank Indonesia Museum


"De Javasche bank" or "The Java Bank" was founded in 1828. Its function was to issue the Netherlands Indies’ Gulden. Bank Indonesia was founded on July 1st, 1953 being the nationalisation of De Javasche Bank. It then carried on commercial activities, at the same time acting as the only national bank in charge of issuing the Rupiah currency. The Museum was opened for public in 2009, designed to introduce Bank Indonesia's role in history, that include monetary policies and payment systems.


Try the audio and visual presentation on the story of fiscal and trade in Indonesia. Take a look at the awesome collections of currencies displayed dating back to the 14th century pre-colonial era, to various bank notes from countries around the world.

9. Toko Merah: the Red Shop


This eye catching red building was built in 1730 as the residence of the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies Baron van Imhoff, set on 2,471 square meters’ plot. The building changed function numerous times. From being a residence, to a naval academy, hotel, office and bank. In 1851, the building was purchased by Oey Liauw Kong to be used as his residence and shop. He painted this red, from which time it became known as the Red Shop or Toko Merah.


Today, Toko Merah is privately owned and is not open for public without pre-arrangement. But don’t worry, it still makes a vivid background for your holiday snapshots.

10. The Maritime Museum and the Tower of the Harbor Master


The Maritime History Museum of Indonesia was opened to the public on 7 July, 1977. The premises once housed th former Dutch East India Company warehouses. These warehouses were built between 1652–1771 by the Ciliwung River and are divided into two parts: warehouses on the west bank and those on the east bank. These were storage for spices, coffee, tea and cloths and other cargo ready for shipment to various ports in Asia and Europe. In 1942 the Japanese used them for military and for their arsenal.

The Menara Syahbandar or the Harbor Master Tower stands about 50 meters from the Maritime Museum, This is the former watch tower, signal box and observation post since 1839. The tower lost part of its function when the new harbor of Tanjung Priok was opened in 1886. Explore and see if you can find the inscription that states you are standing on Jakarta Zero Kilometer spot, as identified in the Dutch era.

Get Here

From the city centre of Senayan, you can easily take the Trans Jakarta bus and exit at Kota station, which is just by the Fatahillah Square. If you travel from the airport area, you can rent a car to make a quick sightseeing across this point of interest. Cab and Motorcycle taxis or Ojek are also easily found to hop on, to get here from anywhere you stay, just make sure that you agree on the fare first.

Get Around

Since this is a place where time seems to have stood still, it’s best to walk. It’s not such a big area if your feel are prepared for. Many of the buildings are delapidated since their owners have not rebuilt it, nonetheless, they are still super photogenic. Walking around along the paths will lead you to many surprising turns and hidden treasures. Cruising with the stylish Ontel bike may add a new list to your holiday adventures, since it’s quite cool. Vintage hats and helmets are available to rent and to complete your fabulous look.

Where To stay

Hotels and stay in facilities are many around this area, and you can freely choose which ones fit your budget and itinerary. But if money is not a problem, then you should to enjoy staying at the historic Hotel Indonesia, - now the Kempinski Hotel Indonesia - Jakarta’s very first 5-star hotel in opened by Indonesia’s First President, Soekarno, in 1962. A major city landmark, strategically situated in the very center of Jakarta, overlooking a roundabout and welcome fountains, the Hotel is surrounded by world class shopping malls. Enjoy Jakarta!

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