- Sam Poo Kong Temple, Jl Simongan No. 129, +62 24 7605 277. The beautiful Sam Poo Kong temple (Gedung Batu) was built to honour the Muslim Chinese admiral named Cheng Ho of the Ming Dynasty who visited Semarang in the early 15th century. It was extensively renovated in 2006 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of Cheng Ho’s voyage to Semarang. In the entry area there are a couple of stores that sell Chinese art and objects, including giant candles and, of course, there’s a place to eat. This temple complex is one of the major temples for certain Chinese religions, notably Kong Hu Chu (Confucianism), and is replete with a long stone mural depicting major events of Cheng Ho’s time here, as well as several different temples, each with its own specific style and architecture. You can burn an envelope in a special prayer oven, or ask a soothsayer to read fortune-telling sticks for you. The temple area is open to visitors if you pay an additional fee, otherwise you can see much of it from behind a chain – but the mural is behind the temples – but only those seeking to pray may actually enter the temples.
Northern Semarang has a lot of old Dutch colonial buildings. This was where the old walled city was located. The wall is no longer there, but many of the old buildings remain, especially in the area called Kota Lama (The Old Town or Oudstadt). On certain months, this part of Semarang is flooded by the rising tide (called “rob” in Javanese).
- Tanjung Mas. A busy, important port during Dutch occupation (from 17th century to 1945).
- Gereja Blenduk (GPIB Immanuel), Jalan Letjen Suprapto 32. The name means “domed church”. A beautiful Protestant church built in 1753, it is the oldest church in Semarang. It has a baroque organ, a rarity in Indonesia
Simpang Lima. Vast town square and shopping district at the heart of Semarang. At night, you can eat, drink, or just wander around. On Sunday mornings, this is the venue for Semarang’s Car Free Day, where families gather and enjoy activities such as cycling, roller-blading, playing basketball or simply enjoying the atmosphere while eating in their favorite food stall selling chicken porridge (bubur ayam) or other food.
Taman Budaya Raden Saleh (Raden Saleh Cultural park), Jl Sriwijaya No.29. A park and a center of cultural activities in Semarang, with theater and dance performances and the occasional art exhibition in the four buildings in the complex. It has a total area of 89,926² m and was formerly the site of Semarang’s zoo before relocation. Suitable for family recreation or simply just watching artists practice for their performances.
Semarang has very good landscape – some say the best landscape thanks to its coastal area in the northern part of the city, with Tanjung Mas as its international harbour and hilly area in the southern part stretching from Candi Sari area to Bukit Sari with the picturesque Mount Ungaran in the background. Unlike some other large cities in Indonesia, there are still a fair number of green areas and tree-lined streets. Be warned, however, that the sea is slowly reclaiming the coastal lowlands – a beautiful park showcasing traditional architecture has been partially inundated – and daily sea flooding occurs in some places, plus the temperatures and humidity can make it uncomfortably hot (above 32C). The highlands are more temperate but have also seen increases in temperature to an average of just about 29C.
Before you get into the hilly area named Bukit Sari, you will see on your left Taman Tabanas Gombel where you can stop by, drink tea and see Semarang from the hill. It’s a really beautiful view in the daytime and a very special romantic view during the nighttime.
Mount Ungaran, with its tea and jasmine plantations, Bandungan village with its Gedungsongo (9 Shrines) Park and traditional fruits and vegetables market, Gua Kreo (Kreo Cave) with its interesting stalactite and stalagmite formations and, of course, the marina at Tanjung Mas are some alternatives for those who have more than 2 free days in Semarang.
There are some Dutch colonial buildings around Tugu Muda; the most famous one is Lawang Sewu which means A Thousand Doors in Javanese, although it doesn’t have that many doors. It was built as the headquarters of the local railway company, and over time served various purposes. The Dutch reputedly used the foundation as a sort of jail and torture centre. Flashlight tours of the foundation, with it’s interesting system of small pools of water to help keep it cool, are a fun scare. The attic, with its twin water towers, is also interesting as it was used by the military at one point as a badminton court. During World War II, it was used as the Japanese army’s headquarters, and further atrocities were committed by the Japanese. Lawang Sewu’s main attraction is its tall stained glass windows. The building is now undergoing restoration and usage by the railway company once again, after many years of laying vacant and being used for events; fortunately it is still open to the public. Tour guides are available at the building’s entrance. Though reputed to be haunted by a variety of supernatural beings from various eras due to the great number of executions there before and during WWII, Lawang Sewu remains one of Semarang’s most prominent landmarks.
- Museum Ronggowarsito, Jl. Abdurrahman Saleh No. 1, +62 24 7602389. 08:00-14:00, except on Monday. Javanese culture and art. Rp 2,000.
- MURI (Museum Rekor Indonesia), Jl. Setiabudi no.179 Srondol. Mon-Fri, 08:00-16:00. Indonesian Record Museum.
- Nyonya Meneer. Jamu (traditional Javanese medicine) museum. Jl. Kaligawe. Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 10:00-15:00.
- Mandala Bhakti. Military museum. Jl. Mgr.Sugiyopranoto.
- Water Blaster (Water Boom). Enter through Graha Candi Golf Real Estate, proceed towards the interior of the complex with its dazzling hills view and quite an exotic feel of high breeze. This park offers a variety of water activities for adults and children, and its own food and beverage stands, so outside food and beverages aren’t allowed. Unfortunately, in the past, this park had some problems with safety due to faulty construction and poor design, and a speed water slide that has a short end, which requires a guard hold an inner tube to prevent a rider from smacking into the wall at the end. Prices range between $5-10.
- Catfish Park (Taman Lele). Kecamatan Tugu. Open daily. Facilities: children’s playground, cultural and art shows, animal shows.
- Marina Beach. North Semarang. Facilities: swimming pool, children’s playground, beach volleyball, water sports.
- Ngaliyan Tirta Indah, Jalan Raya Ngaliyan Kecamatan Ngaliyan. Facilities: swimming pool, beautiful plantation, flower garden, sports centre.
- Puri Maerokoco and Kampoeng Laut (a famous over-the-water restaurant). Tawangmas PRPP, a clone of TMII (Jakarta). Facilities: cultural and art shows, boat, water bike, small train, fishing pond.
- Sodong, 20 km from Semarang. Beautiful plantation, fishing pond, swimming pool.
- Mangkang Zoo, located in West Semarang. There are a lot of animals here but it lacks public appeal.
- Semarang Fair, Jl Sriwijaya no 29. Visit this annual which showcases various cultural entertainment. It is held every July.
- Jateng Fair, at PRPP Marina. Annual showcases of Central Java Promotions and Development. It’s held between June and July.
- Wayang Orang Ngesti Pandowo, Jl Pemuda. Watch Javanese theatrical performances.
- Jaran Sampo, Tay Kak Sie and Sam Poo Kong Temples. Attend the biggest ceremony of the Chinese community in Java, featuring a colourful procession and dances of decorated horses and ‘liong’ (dragon).
- Dug Der Festival, Johar, Kota Lama, Polder Tawang. Annual festival, one week before fasting month, or puasa. The name is derived from the sound of bedug (“Dug” – the sound of a gigantic drum often associated with Islam), and meriam bambu (“Der” – the sound of the traditional bamboo cannon). At the end of the festival, there’s “Ngarak Warak”, meaning procession to bring Warak across the city’s main street (normally from the Mayor’s office to the Johar Market). The Warak is a mythology animal, part giraffe, part lion, part Chinese dragon, part horse and part bird. It’s the icon of the festival. You can buy toys at the festival, normally a warak laying an egg, thus the name “Warak Ngendog”.
- Semawis Night Market, Gg. Warung, Chinatown. Weekly night market, during Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. You could walk along the Gang Warung, and enjoy the hawker style local food, also some souvenirs from Semarang. There’s also the annual, larger Semawis Market before the Chinese New Year. Check the website for more information.
- Wayang Wong Ngesti Pandowo, Jl. Sriwijaya No. 29 (inside Taman Budaya Raden Saleh, Ki Narto Sabdho building). A weekly show of Javanese drama in the form of human puppet (wayang orang in Indonesian or wayang wong in Javanese), with stories from folklore, Mahabarata and Ramayana. There is a show every Saturday night. An excellent chance to get a glimpse of Javanese culture in Semarang Rp 25,000.