The charming historical township of Malacca in Malaysia (also known as Melaka) is perfect for a short stay holiday with kids. It has an ideal mixture of heritage sites, easy walks, basic museums and Malaysian nightlife to keep everyone occupied and entertained. And only a short commute from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, it makes for an underrated family getaway. Here's the suitcases&strollers travel guide to Malacca with kids.
Malacca still has a quaint old town feel to it that is missing from so many other Malaysian centres. The historical quarter has been well preserved and is delightful to explore – whether it’s a walk through the ochre square or just to explore the cute shophouses selling antiques. In the evenings there is the lively night market where you can buy curios or find a streetside restaurant seat and watch the traffic go by. It is not big but it is charming which makes it an ideal spot if you are traveling with kids.
Plus it is only a couple of hours' drive from Johor Bahru town, near the Singapore border, where LEGOLAND Malaysia and Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park are based. [To read more about these theme parks with kids, click on the suitcases&strollers story here.]
The beautifully paved roads and red buildings of the historic area are definitely Malacca’s highlight. Visiting here is like stepping back into seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe with the Portuguese Fort A Formosa ruins and the Dutch Christ Church. It’s a straightforward walk through the town to St John’s Fort where kids can climb on the cannons and run down the hill.
One of the newer attractions is the Submarine Museum (Perbadanan Muzium Melaka (PERZIM) Kompleks Warisan Melaka , Jalan Kota, Malacca, Malaysia) where you can climb inside the SMD Ouessant, a real, decommissioned Agosta 70 class submarine. Here you will get to see how a submarine really works and get up close to all the dials and controls. [For another unusual place to visit a submarine, see the suitcases&strollers story Driving Between Melbourne and Sydney.]
If you need a break from the heat of the day, head to the Melaka Wonderland Theme Park and Resort which is a water park with a lazy river course, water slides and a dinosaur park attached.
Jonker Street and its surrounds are delightful to visit by day – where you can photograph the shophouses and their gorgeous external Peranakan architectural elements. These terraces are home to antique stores. On Friday and Saturday evenings, Jonker Street is closed to vehicular traffic and becomes a thriving night market full of knick knacks, street food and sweaty visitors.
While street food is relatively safe by Southeast Asian standards for adults, it is not recommended for young children.
But it is worth trying the famed Chicken Rice Balls – a local street staple. Famosa Chicken Rice Ball and Ee Ji Ban are cleaner alternatives to some of the other more locally lauded restaurants (which still retain their stall-like appearance and hygiene standards). Balls of rice and broiled chicken make for a fun meal for kids to eat with their fingers. [For more travel tips on introducing kids to foreign foods, see the suitcases&strollers interview with celebrity chef Emmanuel Stroobant.]
Like most Malaysian urban centres, the streets of Malacca town can be precariously navigated by stroller, but it does mean sometimes dodging traffic on the street when a sidewalk suddenly disappears. The night market gets extremely busy and crowded, so it is not ideal for younger children. But for kids who are a bit more independent (and can be relied upon to not wander off), evenings in Malacca are an interesting and exciting way to learn how to barter.
It is not safe to drink the water from the tap in Malaysia. Only use bottled water for drinking and be wary of children drinking water in the shower or the bath.
The Majestic Malacca is a stunningly restored hotel that exploits all of its colonial charm with luxury modern conveniences. It is a chic and aesthetically pleasing place for parents to stay that does allow children. There is a small pool for splashing about but being in a historic building, there are not a huge amount of “grounds” for children to run around, so pack lots of entertainment with you. [For ideas on travel-friendly toys to pack when traveling with kids, click on the suitcases&strollers story here.]
For travel tips on negotiating the Singapore and Malaysian border crossings, see the suitcases&strollers story here.
Images: Fadlurrahman Maksom