Serving as the gateway to the Perhentian Islands, Kota Bharu is renowned for its unique cultural identity and traditional Kelantanese architecture. Ornate palaces and towering mosque minarets dominate the historic city centre, home to one of Malaysia’s most colourful markets.
Things to do in Kota Bharu
Kota Bharu clusters around Padang Merdeka, or “Independence Square”, where Kelantanese museums and palaces can be found. Don’t miss a visit to the former royal residence of Istana Jahar, where a museum details Kota Bharu's royal traditions and the culture of Kelantan.
On the northern edge of the museum is the Kampung Kraftangan, which exhibits traditional woodcarving and local handicrafts. It’s a great place to see batik being made first-hand and pick up some unique souvenirs to take home.
Visit the famous Siti Khadijah Market, set within a distinct, octagonal building in the heart of the city. It is named after Prophet Muhammad’s wife, with predominantly female vendors coming to sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to ready-to-eat snacks.
The highly ornate Masjid Muhammadi is the main house of worship in Kota Bharu. It features colonial architectural elements fused with Moghul-style domes, as well as Roman columns within its main prayer hall, which are embellished with carvings.
Getting around Kota Bharu
Sultan Ismail Petra Airport is the main gateway to Kota Bharu, around 20 minutes’ drive north of the city centre. You can catch the train along the Jungle Railway to either Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, while buses serve as the main means of getting around the city.