A standard feature of local townscapes is rows of shophouses – two- or three-storey buildings traditionally containing a shop at street level, with residential quarters behind and above. For visitors, their most striking feature is that at ground level the front wall is usually set back from the street. This creates a so-called “five-foot way” overhung by the upper part of the house, which shelters pedestrians from the sun and pelting rain.

Shophouses were fusion architecture: facades have Western features such as shuttered windows and gables, while inside there might be an area open to the sky, in the manner of Chinese courtyard houses. Some, especially from the early part of the last century, are bedecked with columns, floral plaster motifs and beautiful tilework, while later properties feature simpler Art Deco touches. Sadly, shophouses ceased to be built after the 1960s and many have been demolished to make way for modern complexes, though some have won a new lease of life as swanky restaurants and boutiques.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Malaysia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

7 places to get off the tourist trail in Malaysia

7 places to get off the tourist trail in Malaysia

Already gaped at the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, lazed on a white beach in the Perhentians, met orangutans at Sepilok and filled a whole SD card with…

31 Aug 2017 • Marco Ferrarese insert_drive_file Article
9 tips for backpacking Malaysia

9 tips for backpacking Malaysia

Despite having turquoise-ringed tropical islands, misty rainforests, cosmopolitan and arty cities, colourful festivals and one of the world's most interesting e…

08 Jun 2017 • Marco Ferrarese insert_drive_file Article
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook