Colloquially known as Kota, Old Town Jakarta offers visitors a fascinating glimpse at Indonesia’s Dutch colonial past. While the capital is rapidly emerging as a global business hub, Old Town Jakarta has retained its charm. It shines brighter than ever in the beautifully preserved Kota Intan wooden drawbridge, a 17th century marvel that stretches over the Kali Besar canal.
In the 1600s, Kota flourished as the HQ of the Dutch East India Company. While its colonial heritage isn’t quite as well-preserved as other outposts in Southeast Asia like Penang and Singapore, Fatahillah Square is still peppered with charming wooden-shuttered buildings. Its European style streets are lively and colourful, lined with leafy trees and street stall vendors serving up local delicacies. For foodies, Old Town Jakarta is a paradise of flavour. Every year it hosts its annual food festival, held in Fatahillah Square.
Old Town Jakarta is the city’s original downtown area. It covers a pint-sized 1.3 square kilometre footprint and is easy to navigate by foot. Today, it’s located to the north of the city centre, just a stone’s throw from the ocean. Most visitors arrive by public bus, taxi or bajaj.
While Jakarta is largely defined by its colonial roots, its history runs much deeper than European settlers. In the 4th century, Jakarta was ruled by the Sundanese kingdom of Tarumanagara, one Indonesia’s oldest Hindu realms. Its legacy lives on to this day, with a handful of museums and historical sites celebrating Indonesia’s rich native culture.