The east coast of Malaysia is great to explore. However, with all the beautiful tropical islands it can be easy to forget that there is far more to explore here. Like Kuala Terengganu!
Kuala Terengganu is a city with over 250,000 people located towards the northern end of the east coast and close to the popular island of Redang. Many people do come through here just to go straight to Redang which is a shame! It is worth a stopover even if you can only spend a night.
Kuala Terengganu is in a pretty spot centred on a promontory on the South China Sea. It was a fishing village before oil was found here and now rapid development has lead to a great waterfront area. You’ll also find one of the best Chinatowns in Malaysia, picturesque, kampong-style stilt houses and some great food!
And that’s not even mentioning the best aspect of this city – its friendly people. It’s the friendliest place I have been to in Malaysia and that’s saying a lot.
If you are exploring the east coast of Malaysia, definitely add Kuala Terengganu to your list!
Below, I give you 19 reasons why with our best things to do in Kuala Terengganu. I also help you plan your trip with the best hotels in Kuala Terengganu, how to get there, how to get around and what we thought of our visit here. You can also see where all the best attractions in Kuala Terengganu are located on a handy map!
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Top 19 Best Things To Do In Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Below are our suggestions for what to do in Kuala Terengganu. Note that opening hours to many of the interesting places to visit in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia are limited or closed on Fridays. If you only have one day in this city, try to make it a different day.
When we visited, we also found that attractions we planned to visit no longer existed! Even the Lonely Planet that had only just came out had information that was out of date. This town is definitely one that is changing fast!
Everything below was definitely available when we visited in October 2019. Be wary of anything published earlier.
Visit The Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque
This stunning mosque, known as the Floating Mosque, is on an artificial island surrounded by water about 4.5 kilometres south east of the centre of Kuala Terengganu.
It’s pretty at any time of day but particularly beautiful at sunset when the traditional white, Moorish design looks spectacular against the setting sun.
Explore Taman Tamadun Islam And The Crystal Mosque
Taman Tamadu Islam is publicised as the world’s first Islamic civilisation park. There are two parts to it.
Zone A is the first part and it is free. Here you can visit the Crystal Mosque pictured above. Made out of steel and glass, it is quite unique. It is named after the huge crystal chandelier in the main prayer hall.
Zone B has an entry fee and is home to a series of miniature models of famous Islamic buildings from around the world such as Mecca’s Haram Mosque and India’s Taj Mahal. There are also river cruises.
It is located about 2.5 kilometres from central Kuala Terengganu and there are bus and taxi options.
After the serenity of the mosques, the next best place to visit in Kuala Terengganu is bustling Chinatown. This compact area is centred on Jalan Kampung Cina and is home to heritage buildings, temples and alleys with street art.
It’s really cute and makes for a lovely walk.
It’s a fun place for a quick stroll and, below, you will find some Kuala Terengganu things to do that you can do while you are visiting.
Find Some Street Art
More and more cities in Malaysia seem to be adding some fabulous street art to their alleys and streets and, thankfully, Kuala Terengganu has too!
The best way to find street art is to walk through Chinatown and check out every alley you see. Many will have street art. When I tried to find examples I had looked up beforehand, they just weren’t where they were publicised. It’s much easier (and more fun) to just look out for it as you go.
Visit Ho Ann Kiong Temple
Also located in Chinatown, the attractive Ho Ann Kiong Temple is worth a visit as you wander around.
This red and gold temple dates back to 1796, although it was rebuilt in both 1801 and 2010 after a fire. It’s smaller than I expected. Make sure you check out the stone carvings inside and outside the temple.
And when you are finished, walk around the back. There is a cool “wishing tree”.
Learn Chinese Peranakan History At Teck Soon Heritage House
In a previous life, this Chinatown shop house was owned by the Teck Soon Trading Company. Now, it is much more interesting as a history museum focused on Chinese Peranakan culture in this city. Painted beautifully in three shades of blue, even if you don’t want to enter, it’s worth checking out the outside.
Entry is free.
Shop At The Central Market
On the edge of Chinatown is the Central Market. This is the place to go for a lively atmosphere, to sample local food and buy fruit. There’s also a wide range of batik and locally weaved fabric here. Many stalls are shut on Fridays.
Visit The Zainal Abidin Mosque
For a mosque closer to the city centre, the Zainal Abidin Mosque is a Kuala Terengganu tourist attraction just a short walk from Chinatown. It’s pretty inside with 9 domes letting light in and pretty latticed windows.
Non-Muslims can enter if dressed appropriately.
Check Out Istana Maziah
Near the Central Market on the side of a hill is the Sultan’s Palace. You can’t go inside to visit but it’s worth taking a look at the outside as you walk past on Jalan Masjid Abidin.
Visit Bukit Puteri
Also located by the Central Market and Istana Maziah is Bukit Puteri. Here, there are a few Kuala Terengganu activities including a 200 metre hill you can walk up to get great views of Kuala Terengganu, the Sungai Terengganu river mouth and out to the South China Sea.
There are also historical remains here from when this area was used by the sultan during the civil war as a fort. There are still cannons, a flagpole, large bell and remains of defence walls. You can also find a lighthouse at the top of the hill.
Entry costs RM1. It was closed at the time of publishing so we couldn’t check it out.
Walk Along The Waterfront Area
The area along the river near Chinatown is lovely. There are pretty bridges and walkways and even a huge “I <3 KT” sign. It’s a nice place to walk in the evening and there are some food stalls to fill your belly as well.
Explore Pulau Duyung
Pulau Duyung is an island in the estuary close to the centre of Kuala Terengganu. It’s quite different to the other options of what to see in Kuala Terengganu as it feels like you go back in time if you walk around the older areas.
It is just a short taxi, bus or ferry (from behind Central Market but just once a day) from the centre and, unfortunately, modern housing estates are starting to take over the island. However, there are still old wooden houses and it can feel like you are in a smaller village.
You can walk around and soak up the island as well as visit old boat-building yards where boats are often built using old tools and techniques.
Learn History At The Muzium Kompleks Negeri Terengganu (Terengganu State Museum)
This is a top tourist attraction in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia if you want to learn more about the history of the area and to see traditional houses. It’s actually the largest museum in Malaysia with 4 interconnected buildings built on stilts and based on ancient Terengganu palace designs!
The highlight is definitely the buildings themselves and other traditional buildings that are here.
Inside, you will find information on natural history including rocks, minerals, flora and fauna found in the state, local textiles, traditional handicrafts, the Terengganu royal family, petroleum, the arrival of Islam into the Terengganu area and the history of human development in Terengganu. There are also old cars, boats and planes to check out. It’s a lot!
The only shame is that it could be better maintained and put in some type of order so you can get as much as possible from a visit. Still, it’s definitely worth a visit, even just for the buildings alone.
It’s located about 6 kilometres from the city so you need to bus, taxi or take a boat here from Shahbandar Jetty. Foreigner entry is currently RM15 for adults or RM10 for kids. It’s a fair bit cheaper for Malaysians.
Eat Everything At Town City Food Court
On the edge of Chinatown is the perfect place to kick back for lunch or dinner. There are some good Chinese food options. There is also a relatively good selection of cold beer and fans to keep things cool.
When I first entered, I was overwhelmed by some menus being only in Chinese, but people speak at least some English so don’t let that stop you!
Dine At Madame Bee’s Kitchen
Madame Bee’s Kitchen is home to an award-winning chef who makes delicious Peranakan dishes with local flavours and influences. I particularly recommend the Terengganu laksa.
It’s located in Chinatown in a great heritage building. Try to pop in for lunch while you are in town.
Taste The Great Coffee At Star Anise
A top 10 things to do in Kuala Terengganu list would not be complete without making sure you pop into Kuala Terengganu’s best coffee joint! Open from midday to midnight in Chinatown, you have no excuse not to grab a sweet coffee or to take a break between sightseeing for some pie or cheesecake.
Relax at Batu Buruk (Beach)
Looking for some beach time with your Kuala Terengganu main attractions? Head to Batu Buruk.
Located a short drive away, this is where you will find a long sandy beach with nice water although it’s a better place to picnic than swim. There are also cultural performances sometimes and swings right on the beach!
It is popular with locals, particularly on weekends, so weekdays can be a better time to visit with the absolute best time to visit being on Friday nights when there is a delicious night market.
If you aren’t heading out to Redang Island for a resort stay, definitely consider a snorkelling day tour. You get to visit five different sites where you can explore the amazing marine life of this area.
Visit Redang Island
If you aren’t a snorkeller, you can still visit Redang Island! This beautiful island is well worth your time so you can intersperse the city attractions of Kuala Terengganu with some amazing natural attractions.
While at least an overnight stay is best (read our guide to the best resorts here), it is also possible to day trip to Redang Island. Find our Redang travel guide here. You can also read exactly how to get to Redang from Kuala Terengganu here.
Kuala Terengganu Itinerary
The downtown area of Kuala Terengganu is home to many of the attractions above which are just a short walk from each other.
Below, I have listed a short circuit you could do on foot to visit them. You only need a couple of hours to do this.
Visit the following in this order to save your legs and see a lot in a short time:
- Istana Maziah
- Zainal Abidin Mosque
- Bukit Puteri
- Central Market
- Walk through Chinatown, looking for street art and while visiting the following attractions
- Star Anise
- Teck Soon Heritage House
- Ho Ann Kiong Temple
- Town City Food Court
- Waterfront area
Best Hotels In Kuala Terengganu
A plus about visiting Kuala Terengganu is that there is a range of accommodation and it is all very good value! I recommend staying somewhere central where you can walk to most attractions above. Make sure you are close to Chinatown and that will tick this box.
The Grand Puteri Hotel is my top choice because it is so centrally located, has great facilities and is incredibly good value.
You can easily walk to most Kuala Terengganu attractions listed above from here and then cool down in the pool when you are done. There is also a restaurant and a business centre.
There are a few different room types. We stayed in the cheapest which is fine – although you do somewhat get what you pay for. There are suites if you want a treat! I was very happy with the price we paid.
Getting To Kuala Terengganu
Kuala Terengganu is easy to reach from anywhere in Malaysia. There is an airport where you can fly direct from Kuala Lumpur or you can catch buses from many points.
You can also read our full guide to getting to Kuala Terengganu from Kuala Lumpur here.
At the time of writing this, direct buses from Singapore to Kuala Terengganu were not running. Your best bet is to get a bus to Johor Bahru and then catch a direct one from there.
Getting Around Kuala Terengganu
Most things to do in Kuala Terengganu are close together so it’s easy to walk between many of the attractions here.
For others, there is a good bus system in Kuala Terengganu which should get you to most places listed above. However, if you have limited time, it’s much easier to use taxis and they are affordable as well.
Use the Grab app (easy to install and get started if you don’t already have it) to get taxis. This works like Uber (in fact, Grab bought Uber in Malaysia) and makes life very easy.
Map Of Attractions In Kuala Terengganu
Kuala Terengganu With Kids
I visited Kuala Terengganu with my kids and found it a very easy place to be. Most attractions are short and sweet which is excellent for kids with short attention spans! They also particularly loved the Muzium Kompleks Negeri Terengganu thanks to all the buildings, cars, planes and boats!
The night market at Batu Buruk is also a winner.
There is also a playground out the back of the Town City Food Court perfect for a play while you get something to eat. The riverfront area is also good to get rid of some energy. There is another great playground near Shahbandar Jetty.
It can be easy to skip over Kuala Terengganu on your way elsewhere but don’t! It’s an easy way to see a different slice of Malaysia with some low key attractions and great food.
Even if you can only spare a night on your way to Redang Island, it’s worth it! Especially as many of the Kuala Terengganu activities are a short walk from each other meaning you can explore a lot in even just a morning. This city is great for walking around in and people are very friendly and helpful.
Don’t miss it!
Heading to Redang Island afterwards? Find all our Redang Island guides here.
Sharon is an Australian who has fallen in love with Malaysia! She explores Malaysia multiple times a year, often with her kids, and has previously lived in Penang.