The ultimate hotel guide to Kuala Lumpur

With its buzzing neighbourhoods and glittering skyline, Malaysia’s ever-changing capital is home to some of the most affordable five-star stays in the world.

By Lee Cobaj
Published 9 Oct 2020, 08:00 BST
The view from an infinity pool on a terrance in Kuala Lumpur

The panoramic view from an infinity pool on a terrance in Kuala Lumpur, a city with an ever-increasing number of interesting hotels.

Photograph by Getty Images

Kuala Lumpur is a city on the up. Along with spectacular architecture, it has top shopping, world-class museums and a food scene to rival any of its Asian neighbours. The same could be said of its ever-increasing number of interesting hotels, too. These range from gorgeous heritage houses to stylish modern sky pads and cool co-living spaces, all with pleasingly low rates. Staying in KLCC, the buzzing downtown hub that surrounds the Petronas Towers, might seem like the obvious choice for first-timers, but this busy city is packed with a web of fascinating neighbourhoods: foodies flock to Jalan Alor in search of the perfect noodle dish; Bangsar’s lifestyle stores and coffeeshops attract a fashionable crowd; grittier KL Sentral and Chow Kit are brilliant if you’re on a budget; while the colonial district around Merdaka Square has a Golden Age of Travel aesthetic. And the monorails, free tourist buses and cheap taxis make it easy to get around.

The in-house Mexican bar and diner at MoMo’s.

Photograph by Ormond Group

Best for bargain hunters: Momo’s

With a colour-pop paint job, a great in-house Mexican bar and diner (think cauliflower tostada, chunky beef tacos, chilli sugar churros, jugs of margaritas), and clever attention to detail, MoMo’s is breaking away from Kuala Lumpur’s typically dreary hostel mould. Smart, environmentally aware and located in the grittier west of the city, you can book compact private rooms from just £10 per person per night. Choose from bunks, doubles or twins, all with comfy mattresses, TVs, wi-fi, hairdryers and en suite shower rooms stocked with fluffy towels and organic shampoo and shower gel.
Rooms: Doubles from £20, B&B. 

The all-day restaurant at The RuMA, in the capital's entertainment district.

Photograph by The RuMA

Best for design buffs: The RuMa

An oasis of calm on the edge of buzzy Bukit Bintang, KL’s entertainment district packed with malls, bars and restaurants, the RuMa is set in a soaring tower, where stand-out design cleverly blends old and new Malaysia to beautiful effect. Guest rooms feature blond and hard woods, elegant rattan chaises longues, and pretty copper pendant lamps. Elsewhere, there’s a cantilevered swimming pool, a secluded spa, and an all-day restaurant. 
Rooms: From £95, B&B.

The Sky Suite at Banyan Tree, an hotel based in a 59-storey skyscraper.

Photograph by Banyan Tree

Best for high-rise living: Banyan Tree

Expect your ears to pop as the high-speed elevator fires you up to the 52nd floor of this 59-storey skyscraper in the heart of the Golden Triangle. Family break, romantic getaway shopping, wellness or business — you name it, the Banyan Tree can accommodate it. Even the entry-level rooms are huge, with calming decor and ultra-modern bathrooms featuring egg-shaped tubs, LED colour-changing showers and Japanese electronic toilets. The pool is on the rooftop, alongside the fabulous Vertigo Bar, and the spa offers traditional Malaysian healing treatments. The location is tip-top, too, circled by the Golden Triangle’s multitude of shops, malls, and restaurants.
Rooms: Doubles from £150, B&B.

Best for style gurus: Alila Bangsar

A lone slab of black glass towering over hip Bangsar, the Alila has show-stopping views of the city, suburbs and distant Cameron Highlands. Up top, casual French restaurant Entier serves first-rate food at affordable prices, next door to noir-ish cocktail bar Pacific Standard. Downstairs, there’s Botanica + Co, a breezy cafe dishing up health foods and Asian favourites. Rooms are smart, modern and spacious, and the hotel even runs free shuttle buses to Bangsar Village. 
Rooms: From £65, B&B. 

The Loft at Villa Samadhi, where you can order breakfast any time of the time.

Photograph by Villa Samadhi

Best for a romantic hideaway: Villa Samadhi

You can order breakfast any time of day at this sybaritic retreat on the leafy edges of the city centre. Fitting the urban resort bill brilliantly, a series of 21 rooms and suites are housed in a Malay-style mansion set around a large lagoon-shaped swimming pool. Each has teak floors, carved panelling, antique furniture and beautiful big bathrooms. The poolside restaurant is only open to hotel guests, and serves modern Malaysian dishes such as dory fish curry in coconut milk and chilli prawn spaghetti. 
Rooms: From £115, B&B.

The sleek Bar Trigona at Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur serves drinks crafted with local ingredients. 

Photograph by Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur

Best for city chic: Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur

This airy hotel next to the Petronas Towers overlooks KLCC Park. It exudes the kind of smooth vibes one might expect from the Four Seasons brand: there’s a sleek marble lobby, a clutch of swish bars and restaurants, and first-class service. Facilities include a rooftop swimming pool and a serene spa. Rooms and suites — 209 in total — are stylish and generously proportioned. 
Rooms: From £145, room only.

The room at W Kuala Lumpur are as sophisticated as the rest of the hotel.

Photograph by W Kuala Lumpur

Best for party animals: W Kuala Lumpur

The W is the cool kid on the block, rocking the sexiest look in the city. There’s a fun vibe, from the pink-and-purple lobby, to the sparkly spa, and the ring-shaped rooftop pool with views of the Petronas Towers. The bedrooms are equally glitzy: batik-on-acrylic panels above the beds, hot pink sofas, rugs which look like they’ve been pixelated. Asymmetric bathrooms come with big bathtubs and Bliss amenities. Eleventh floor restaurant Yen serves up modern Chinese cuisine that’s best followed with cocktails on the Woo Bar deck overlooking the city. 
Rooms: From £130, B&B. 

Best for history buffs: Hotel Majestic

Architecture buffs will adore this historic hotel in Kuala Lumpur’s colonial district. Spread over two wings (the original 1930s-built Majestic wing and the Tower wing, built in 2012), guests can flit between atmospheric afternoon teas on the lawn, the rainbow-hued Orchid Conservatory, and the Cigar Room for late-night cognacs. Rooms in the Majestic wing channel a traditional aesthetic, while Tower wing rooms have an art deco feel. There’s also an outdoor pool and a spa. 
Rooms: From £95, B&B. 

The exterior of the newly opened Chow Kit.

Photograph by Ormond Group

Best for affordable luxe: The Chow Kit   

After five-star style at three-star prices? The brains behind the newly opened Chow Kit have stripped back such frills as hair conditioner, body lotion and in-room kettles to focus on a luxurious look and feel while at the same time keeping prices low. Interiors hit just the right note between modern and homey, with a welcoming lobby dotted with interesting Malay artworks, vintage furniture and elegant lanterns. Over six floors, there are 113 stylish rooms ranging from downright dinky dens to spacious corner suites (tea, coffee and extra amenities are available from stations in the corridor). The Kitchen serves moreish Malaysian food and a set breakfast, which includes a fresh juice, a hot drink and an a la carte dish (eggs benedict, nasi goreng) costs just £6. There’s also rooftop yoga and free neighbourhood tours.
Rooms: From £45, B&B.

Best for luxury lovers: Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur

At this grand hotel, you can do laps of the swimming pool while gazing out at one of Asia’s most spectacular skylines. The teal-and-taupe rooms are spacious and comfortable, with superb big beds and sylish black marble bathrooms. From the ample breakfast spread to candle-lit dinners at the Mandarin Grill, the food is consistently excellent here. Guests can also make sure they get a thorough pampering at the best spa in the city.
Rooms: From £129, room only. 

Published in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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