About 90 minutes after boarding a Gaurda Indonesia flight from Jakarta, I landed in Semarang, Indonesia. Rich with culture and history, I couldn’t wait to see what the city had to offer.
What To Do
Eager to start my adventures, I chose a tour of Sam Poo Kong; also know as Gedung Batu Temple. Sam Poo Kong is the oldest Chinese temple in Semarang.
Each of its five temples is beautifully decorated with traditional carvings and sculptures. Perhaps the most impressive is the bronze statue of Admiral Zheng weighing in at a whopping 3.7 tons (8,157 lbs), and standing at a height of 10.7 meters (35 feet).
My next stop in this historic city was Lawang Sewu. Architect C. Citroen designed this beautiful colonial era building in 1904 and its name is Javanese, and means “One Thousand Doors” which couldn’t be more fitting. With each turn there seemed to be more mysterious doors begging to be opened.
The building was designed with 600 archways and windows along with some amazing stained glass adding to its ambiguity.
Reportedly haunted by soldiers and employees that died during the Japanese invasion in 1945, Lawang Sewu has an air of mystery and I couldn’t help but feel a bit uneasy. Although I didn’t see any smoky figures wandering around, I understood why the myth is so believed by the locals.
Semarang is also home to other historic buildings such as Blenduk Protestant Church; the oldest church in the province. The Great Mosque of Central Java and the Tay Kak Sie Temple are other historical sites worth a visit.
If sight seeing isn’t your forte, Semarang, Indonesia offers plenty of shopping; both high end and low cost. Among the many roadside vendors, shoppers can find a plethora of shopping opportunities in local malls and outlets. The Paragon Mall is an amazing shopping center where shoppers can find high end merchandise as well as local goods.
Where To Eat
There is no shortage of fine dining in Semarang and one great example is Nest’co the Bistro, which has the best premium steaks as well as a signature duck confit.
In the mood for seafood, Semarang is home to one of the best fresh seafood restaurants. Godong Salam Seafood in Ungaran is a unique, over the water restaurant that offers the best of local seafood dishes as well as a variety of beverages and desserts. The live band and service oriented staff make eating at this restaurant a wonderful experience.
No visit is complete without trying the local cuisine and I highly recommend Soto Bangkong. The owner, at the impressive age of 100, still oversees the cooking and meets with the customers.
He uses the freshest ingredients to make an amazing local dish called Soto Bangkong (chicken soup) and I would suggest it to anyone looking to indulge in regional cuisine.
Where To Sleep
Accommodations in Semarang range from 5 star hotels to economical hostels. If you’re looking to stay somewhere luxurious Semarang offers travelers a variety of options. I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Semarang. Complete with luxury suites, swimming pool, gym, and a lounge.
The Crowne Plaza also offers a restaurant with a very impressive menu. The staff is exceptional and I had the pleasure of meeting Angeline, assistant marketing communication manager, as well as Lidwina, director of sales and marketing. Both were very kind and helpful.
Wologito Homestay is a perfect choice when homestyle surroundings are required. Located just 30 minutes from the city and 15 minutes from Semarang’s Ahmad Yani Airport the well maintained home offers a variety of rooms, a kitchen with a microwave and living rooms with TV’s.
For rates starting at $10 USD travelers can enjoy this modern two-story house, peacefully located in a safe and secluded neighborhood.
If backpacking is more your style, finding reasonable accommodations in Semarang is quite easy as the city boats a number of hostels including ImamBonjol Hostel. Located in the heart of the city close to sightseeing, restaurants, and nightlife, the hostel offers rooms as low as $1.17 SG per night.
They also have private rooms as well as shared rooms free Wi-Fi, and air conditioning. With amenities like bicycle rentals and a gym the ImamBonjol Hostel is a perfect choice for the cost conscious.
Semarang, Indonesia is an underrated city with amazing art, music, and literature as well as fine dining and shopping. My experience there was nothing less then remarkable and I look forward to visiting again soon.
I would highly recommend Semarang for travelers seeking adventure, culture and history along with the perfect mix of modern shopping and dining. Semarang, Indonesia ~ An Underrated City Worth Visiting