Rather than a discernible city centre, Kuala Lumpur has several hubs of activity. Close to the rivers’ original “muddy confluence”, the former colonial district and its distinctive architecture surrounds Merdeka Square – don’t miss the informative new Textile Museum here – with the busy tourist hub of Chinatown just southeast. In between the two lie the city’s attractive old Jamek Mosque and the craft cornucopia that is Central Market. Worthwhile forays can be made north to Little India’s more locals-oriented shops and altogether grittier Chow Kit Market.
Some 2km east, the Golden Triangle presents the city’s modern face, lively Bukit Bintang packed with upmarket hotels, restaurants and designer shopping malls. Overlooking it to the north is the tall, strikingly modernist Petronas Towers; visitors flock to the skybridge here, though in fact the westerly Menara KL Tower, poking out of wooded Bukit Nanas, has better views.
Southwest of the centre – and tricky to reach across one of KL’s many pedestrian-unfriendly traffic flows – a clutch of worthwhile sights surround the green and airy Lake Gardens, notably Masjid Negara, one of the country’s largest mosques, and excellent Islamic Arts Museum. Below here, the National Museum is not as good as it could be, while Brickfields is another strongly Indian district, worth a peek for its day-to-day residential streetlife.