Semarang, the thriving capital of Central Java, provides a showcase of Indonesia’s past and present. This well-located coastal town of 1.5 million has long attracted explorers and fortune seekers from far and wide, including the famous Chinese Muslim Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho), who first arrived at the beaches in 1405. Now, Semarang is still one of the country’s main trading centres, bustling with modern industrial property, dynamic markets, and also a crowded harbour.
At precisely the same time, Semarang’s past is lovely preserved with city documents dating back to the 15th century, and the many Dutch colonial buildings that still stand throughout the city. The rich tradition of Java is brought to life in Semarang’s many temples, museums, and cultural centres featuring puppet shows and other conventional performances.
This city is also home to a large ethnic Chinese population. That’s why you can easily find Chinese temples dotting the landscape. Moreover, Chinese cuisine adds more flavour into the varied and tasty food offerings found in the city’s markets and restaurants.
Even Semarang has mostly urban delights with markets, shops and colonial architecture to research. It is situated between the coast, and the mountains offer up some scenic sights as well. The Tanjung Mas international harbour across the north is a location which, though past its prime as a marine centre, still elicits romantic notions of travelling with the frequent comings and goings of merchant ships and cruise liners. All around the crowded port area are colonial buildings dating back to the 17th century. Around Jalan Letjen Suprapto 32 is the striking Gereja Blenduk, the earliest church in Semarang constructed in 1753. On the south are the Bukit Sari hills, offering excellent views across the city and Mount Ungaran, with tea and lavender plantations and temples to explore.
A favourite site for picture taking is Tugu Muda, a monument to commemorate a World War II battle between Japanese soldiers and Indonesian defenders. Behind it is the magnificent Lawang Sewu construction, which once functioned as a railway company headquarters in Dutch colonial times. Those seeking an escape from the hectic roads can quickly escape Taman Budaya Raden Saleh, a large garden in the city centre. The park is also host to a range of festivals throughout the year, such as the Ruwatan Traditional Ceremony every May. Moreover, Mangkang Zoo in West Semarang features orang-utans, many exotic birds, deer and snakes.
Semarang Restaurants & Dining
Semarang includes a vast casual dining landscape with hawker stalls across the city offering a broad assortment of inexpensive and tasty Indonesian fare, and Javanese specialities. Local dishes to try to include Bandung, a pressure-cooked milkfish, Lumpia Semarang (bamboo take stuffed spring rolls), Gudeg (sweet and sour veggies Javanese style) and Wingko Babat (flame-broiled sticky rice with coconut), available at several street stalls. The best location to observe the freshest varieties of local food is Simpang Lima, the enormous town square, especially along the famous shopping street Jalan Pandanaran. Another area to go for a cheap meal is Semanwis, just open weekend evenings, for Semarang cuisine.
Suppose you are bakery lovers, you can visit Dyriana Bakery & Cafe around Pandanaran Street, an air-conditioned place with cakes, banana bread, and coffees, where you can watch the mouthwatering products being ready. The longstanding Toko Oen restaurant on Pemuda Street is a favourite for beef, fried rice and sweet desserts.
For a special day out, try Pesta Keboen, in Jalan Veteran 29, serving a mixture of Indonesian and Dutch cuisine in a beautifully renovated Dutch colonial house. A more stylish solution is Sisingamaraja Website, or ‘Stwo’ restaurant, on Jalan Sisingamaraja, serving Japanese, Peranakan and Western foods.
Semarang Public Transport Information
Semarang has an international airport as well as a regular bus, ferry and train services connecting it to other areas in Indonesia. Achmad Yani International Airport in Semarang has daily flights from and to Jakarta and other cities across Indonesia, as well as support to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Semarang also has ferry service connecting Semarang to three vents on Borneo’s Kalimantan, the Sampit, Kumai and Pontianak ports. Suppose you want to get around by road. In that case, Semarang has daily bus service to and from Jakarta as well as Yogyakarta, Pekalongan, Surabaya and Cirebon, with a choice of air-conditioned or economy buses. Luxurious ‘VIP’ buses and mini-bus services are offered at many agencies across town. Another cosy option is the Joglosemar executive-class tourist bus service which links Yogyakarta, Solo and Semarang.
Semarang has train service between Semarang and Jakarta on the Argo Murial Bromo Anggrek express line, which departs in the Tawang station twice daily. A Jakarta-Surabaya route with the Sembrani support makes a stop at Semarang. It takes about 6-hours to reach Jakarta. Economy class services could be taken from the Poncol train station, for a 7.5-hour visit to Jakarta. Executive class trains also associate Semarang with Bandung and Surabaya. One of the very scenic Semarang train paths is the support to Pekalongan, which offers excellent views across the Java Sea along the shore.
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