Things to do in Ipoh

In this old Malaysian tin mining city, there’s a resurgence of culture – this time from the hipsters.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


The best things to do in Ipoh

It's the blend of traditional culture, industrial heritage, and contemporary cool that makes visiting Ipoh so interesting.

To help you make the most of your time, these are my top tips for what to do in Ipoh.

Through the open door of an empty shop, I see a family in the middle of a redecoration.

A woman is putting small paintings on the wall, arranging them in a cool pattern so they form a shape…

A boy is sweeping the floor..

Leaning up against a stool is a larger painting with the words, “Always give in to your dreams”.

Who knows whether it’s always been a dream of this family to turn their shop space into a trendy café, but that’s what’s happening here. They’ve seen the writing on the wall (so to speak) and they’re going with the movement that’s taking over the Malaysian city of Ipoh.

Things to do in Ipoh

Ipoh is about 200 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. It’s the third largest city in Malaysia but, with a population of less than 700,000 people, never feels too crowded and busy.

Known as the ‘City of Millionaires’ because of its rich tin mining past, it has all the right elements to foster its latest incarnation.

Ipoh has become the city for hipsters!

If you’re interested in visiting Ipoh as a day trip from Kuala Lumpur, then I would recommend this excellent guided tour.

I didn’t know this the first time I visited Ipoh. On that trip, Ipoh hadn’t really been part of my travel plans at first so I hadn’t done much research. It is just in a good location for a stopover and as a base for some other things I want to see.

On my next trip to Malaysia, I made sure to add Ipoh into the itinerary. A city of cool, with great food and quirky places to hang out, it’s a pleasure to hang out for a day or two.

Things to do in Ipoh: Laneways

Walking the grid of streets in the Old Town, you’ll notice all the cafes.

There are more than usual – that is my first observation. But then I also realise that I recognise the typography being used, the colour schemes, the approach to design.

They look like the cafes I am used to seeing in Shoreditch in London or Surry Hills in Sydney.

The best things to do in Ipoh, Malaysia

The boom times of Ipoh, when the wealth was made on the back of tin mining, has left behind a city with a colonial charm to its centre.

The old buildings – once used as shops, public buildings and craft factories – had been slowly falling into disrepair since tin prices collapsed in the 1980s.

What I notice when I look closely at the cafes is that, although the interior decoration may be modern in its hipster style, they are housed within these heritage buildings. Buildings that have been given a new lease of life.

Street art and hipsters, Ipoh, Malaysia

When I get a chance to explore a bit more, I find that this approach to an emerging culture has spread beyond the four walls of the cafes and onto walls all throughout the city.

Street art has blossomed, from small paintings next to windows to enormous murals across whole buildings.

Ipoh even has a series of street art pieces made by the Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacherevic. He was financed by a local cafe chain, Old Town White Coffee, but had the support of the relevant government bodies.

I guess they probably saw what his murals in George Town have done for the reputation of the city and were hoping to replicate that.

Street art and hipsters, Ipoh, Malaysia

At one particular block in the Old Town – hipster central, I dub it in my mind – it all comes together with a cafe called Plan B that has an indoor boutique market attached to it (with more people taking Instagram photos than actually shopping).

Heading out towards the back of the market, I find myself in an alley with pieces of art on the walls, as I head down the alley, I notice a gallery (with inconvenient opening hours – so trendy!) and then at one of the city’s new boutique hotels.

How do you get to Ipoh?

Ipoh is on the main train line between Kuala Lumpur and Penang (Butterworth) and this is probably the easiest way to arrive in the city by public transport.
There are also a lot of bus connections that go through Ipoh, but they drop you at the new bus terminal out of town. From there, a taxi is about 25RM or local buses come every 30-60 minutes.

How long should you spend in Ipoh?

Ipoh is definitely worth more than a day trip, especially because part of the charm is just hanging out in the trendy cafes and exploring the boutique shopping.
I would recommend spending two days in Ipoh, which gives you time to visit the cave temples and other natural sights on the city’s outskirts.

Is it worth visiting Ipoh?

I think Ipoh is definitely worth visiting because it offers a charming blend of heritage and modern hipster culture. There are lots of things to see in Ipoh like museums and historic architecture, but there’s also a fun and cool atmosphere that is enjoyable to explore for a day or so.

While the cool new cafes, shops, and street art have definitely increased the number of domestic tourists (particularly on weekends), there are more things to do in Ipoh than just that.

The city has a rich heritage, expanded with the wealth of the tin mining that was so important to the development here over the past century.

Things to do in Ipoh: Heritage

And on the outskirts of the city centre, there are some beautiful natural sights found in the dramatic mountains covered in luck tropical forest. This region is particularly famous for its caves and many of them have been turned into stunning cave temples over the years.

Things to do in Ipoh: Cave Temples

As far as attractions in Ipoh go, it’s easy to see the highlights in a day or two. The trendy historic centre, in particular, is quite compact and easy to walk around in half a day.

But it’s not always simply about the sights, is it? Ipoh is certainly a nice place to relax and enjoy the culture that developed.

It’s a cool change on the road north from Kuala Lumpur, so here is how you might like to spend your time, with my tips for the best things to do in Ipoh.


Let’s start with the cultural side of Ipoh, which is replete with bars, street art, bustling street markets and rich heritage. The historic and the contemporary elements are blended together – sometimes even in the same building – so you’ll easily discover both.

Concubine Lane

Between two of the Old Town’s main streets is Concubine Lane, a narrow pathway that feels like stepping back in time to the 1950s. The risqué name is rumoured to be due to businessman Yao Tet Shin providing his mistress with a house to live in here, but these days everything is all above board.

Concubine Lane, Ipoh

This narrow alley is lined with quaint shophouses that have mostly been turned into modern stores, restaurants, and other attractions. You’ll find an array of vintage trinkets as well as more modern wares like phone cases.

Definitely go and have a look, but try to look beyond some of the stalls to enjoy the nostalgic architecture and cobblestone street.

Street Art

As you meander through the city’s lanes, keep an eye out for the colourful and realistic murals adorning many walls, each piece tells a unique story, offering insight into local culture and history.

Street art and hipsters, Ipoh, Malaysia

In particular, there are the larger-than-life wall murals of Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic which have garnered attention worldwide.

Another noteworthy artist is Louis Gan who, deaf and mute, has channeled his artistic skills into beautiful murals using delicate watercolour techniques.


The markets in Ipoh are full of sights and sounds. The vibrant stalls at Pasar Besar Ipoh (an exceptionally large wet and dry market, located on Jalan Laxamana) offer an array of fresh produce, local delicacies, and artisanal crafts – particularly in the morning.

For a more eclectic experience, explore the night markets where you can sample delicious street food like laksa, fried chicken, satay, apam balik (peanut pancake) and pick up unique souvenirs like local wooden handicrafts.

Street art and hipsters, Ipoh, Malaysia

Around the cool and hipster parts of the Old Town, there are some smaller markets with artisanal products – the one at the Plan B cafe is probably the best known.


Ipoh’s heritage is a testament to its storied past. From the iconic Ipoh Railway Station to the immersive Heritage Trail, there’s much to discover about the city’s historical roots.

To see all the local secrets, there’s this guided heritage tour of Ipoh. Or head out to find the following spots yourself.

Ipoh Railway Station

A true architectural gem, Ipoh Railway Station was built in 1917 and boasts stunning colonial-era design with signature spacious verandahs and colonnades wrapping around the entire structure.

Sharing the same building as the iconic Ipoh Railway Station is the Majestic Station Hotel Ipoh which was closed down and abandoned in 2011 – it is slated to be redeveloped and renamed as Hotel Grand Majestic later in 2023.

Ipoh Railway Station

You may arrive (or depart) from the station. If so, take some time to marvel at the intricate details of this iconic landmark or swing by at night to take a look at it sparkling under the moonlit sky.

Heritage Trail

Embarking on the Ipoh Heritage Trail is like stepping into a living museum. This self-guided tour will take several hours and leads you through the heart of the city, passing by beautifully preserved heritage buildings and wall murals.

Heritage Trail, Ipoh

Follow the yellow footprints marking the route and look out for iconic buildings like the S.P.H. De Silva and Chung Thye Phin Building and dine at the country’s oldest bar and restaurant – the FMS Bar and Restaurant.

Many of the attractions are on Station Road, while you’ll have to go a little bit further away fro places like the St Michael’s Institution and Masjid India.

Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge No. 5

Reminiscent of a dystopian abandoned ship above water, the colossal Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge No. 5 is a reminder of the region’s tin-mining history.

This fascinating structure is about 25 kilometres south of the city, so it’s probably only worth the effort if you have a car and/or are going in that direction anyway.

But I think it’s really cool because you can climb aboard and explore the well-preserved machinery that once powered this thriving industry.


There are a few small museums in Ipoh that provide a window into the cultural and historical narratives of the city. One of the things I like about them is that they’re quite specialised, so you can really immerse yourself in the topic – perfect for curious travellers.

22 Hale Street

Housed in a beautifully restored heritage building, 22 Hale Street is small but it’s a great way to get a bit of an introduction to Ipoh’s history.

The museum has a good collection of artefacts that depict life in the early 20th century. In the Tycoons’ Room, for instance, you’ll meet some of the city’s notable residents, while the Peranakan Room has a wedding bed that serves as a way to talk about local customs.

There’s an audio guide that’ll take you through a lot of the detail, and there’s also a cafe and a gift shop on site.

Han Chin Pet Soo Museum

Venture into the enigmatic world of Han Chin Pet Soo, Malaysia’s first Hakka miner’s clubhouse, within walking distance of Concubine Lane.

The museum provides a glimpse of the dark underbelly of the tin miners’ club where “the four evils”: prostitution, gambling, opium smoking and triad activities, were carried out in clandestine fashion behind the club’s elegant facade.

Han Chin Pet Soo Museum, Ipoh

The exhibition also tells the story of the Hakka people and sheds insight into the inner workings of the tin mining industry.

Ho Yan Hor Museum

Next door to Han Chin Pet Soo Museum is the Ho Yan Hor Museum which shares the amazing origin story of Dr Ho Yan Hor, a herbalist who founded the famous tea brand in the 1940s.

Ho Yan Hor Museum, Ipoh

The museum is in the building where the tea was first made and it traces the origin and evolution of heritage herbal tea and provides a free tasting at the end.

Although it might sound like a particularly niche topic for a museum, I found it really interesting (and entrance is free, so you might as well pop in and have a look).

Cave Temples

Outside of the city centre, one of the most interesting things to do in Ipoh are its cave temples.

Richly decorated and full of cultural significance, they are a testament to the spiritual diversity of the city, offering a serene escape from the bustle of urban life.

Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple

Nestled within a limestone cave, Sam Poh Tong is a marvel of natural and manmade beauty and is touted to be the biggest cave temple in Malaysia.

Once you step though the entrance and into the cave, you’ll discover intricate shrines and statues adorning the temple’s interior, interspersed with the cave’s majestic stalactites and stalagmites.

Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple, Ipoh

Go through the other end and you’ll emerge in a clearing surrounded by high limestone cliffs where a small and serene building is nestled amongst the trees (plus a small pond full of turtles).

Kok Lok Tong Cave Temple

A highly underrated and hidden gem among Ipoh’s cave temples, Kok Lok Tong is spacious and inviting, replete with lush gardens exuding a sense of tranquility.

The temple’s main chamber is quite large and spread across two main layers, with large golden statues the focus of the higher one.

Kok Lok Tong Cave Temple, Ipoh

Going through to the other side of the cave takes you to a large landscaped area with a picturesque lake at the centre, creating a truly enchanting setting for reflection and contemplation.

Perak Tong Cave Temple

Perak Tong stands as one of the most revered cave temples in Ipoh housing a 12-metre Golden Buddha.

To reach the temple’s inner sanctum, there are about 450 steps. It’s worth the climb, though because once you’re there you’ll find ornate sculptures and intricate artwork adorning the walls.

A bonus of the climb is the panoramic view from the cave’s entrance, looking out over the lush tropical landscape around this part of Ipoh’s outskirts.

Food & drink

No visit to Ipoh is complete without indulging in its delectable culinary offerings. Whether you’re a coffee enthusiast, a fan of local delicacies, or seeking the best dining spots, the city has something to satisfy every palate.


Ipoh’s cafes exude a unique charm, each offering a distinct ambience and some great coffee! From the aromatic white coffee to artisanal blends, a cafe-hopping adventure is a delightful way to explore the city’s coffee culture.

Street art and hipsters, Ipoh, Malaysia

Some notable cafes include Kommons which has interesting takes on regular favourites such as the orange espresso and tiramisu latte; Rahsia (Malay for ‘secret’) boasting some of the best cuppas in Ipoh; and Jln Theatre Coffee which is a mainstay in the local coffee scene.

A must-try is Ipoh’s signature white coffee at local coffee shops Sin Yoon Loong and Nam Heong.

Local food

Ipoh is a haven for food enthusiasts, with its array of local delicacies – in fact, I’m sure some people just come here for the food! Some local specialties to try include:

  • Beansprout chicken (tauge ayam): A variation on the traditional chicken rice you find in Malaysia, with more flavourful chicken served with crunchy bean sprouts.
  • Chee cheong fun: A rice noodle roll that, done in the Ipoh style, comes with a curry and mushroom gravy. The roll can have different fillings (or none at all) like chicken, prawn, and vegetables.
  • Kai si hor fun: One of the most famous dishes, which is a rice noodle soup in chicken and prawn stock with slivers of chicken, prawns and vegetables.

As well as the local styles of food, you’ll also just find good quality restaurants here, so I suggest eating as much as possible!

Best places to eat

Navigating Ipoh’s culinary scene can be overwhelming, but fear not. Head to the bustling areas of Old Town and New Town, where you’ll find a plethora of eateries serving up a diverse range of delectable dishes.

Street art and hipsters, Ipoh, Malaysia

Don’t be afraid to ask locals for their recommendations; they’re always eager to share their favourite spots.

Some tips from me: For the best bean sprout chicken go to Sam Ma Chicken Rice; Ipoh Traditional Style Chee Cheong Fun is great for chee cheong fun; Tuck Kee Restaurant has some good noodle dishes; and Kedai Makanan Chuan Fatt is where you can get a curry mee with some delicious crispy pork as a side.

And for dessert, try ‘tau fu fah’, a silken beancurd dessert at Funny Mountain Soya Bean & Tau Fu Fah.

Day trips

While Ipoh offers a wealth of attractions within the city, it’s also a good base to head to a few other highlights in the region.

If you’ve got the time, there are these day trips from Ipoh to explore the natural beauty and cultural richness of the region.

Gua Tempurung

About 25 kilometres south of Ipoh, you’ll find Gua Tempurung, one of the largest cave systems in Peninsular Malaysia. There are five main chambers that you’ll be able to explore as you head more than two kilometres into the caverns, with an underground rivers flowing through much of it.

There’s a range of guided tours at the caves, giving you the option for short or long explorations (plus wet or dry options). All of them offer an exhilarating experience, allowing you to navigate the cave’s chambers and marvel at the impressive stalactites and stalagmites that adorn its interior.

If you don’t have a car, it’s a bit tricky to reach, so a good way to visit Gua Tempurung is on this guided tour from Ipoh that also includes some of the cave temples around the city.

Kuala Kangsar

Easy to reach by train or bus from Ipoh, Kuala Kangsar is a fascinating city that was almost chosen as Malaysia’s new capital city after the country’s independence.

It is still considered to be a ‘royal capital’ as it has the official residence of the ruler of Perak state. And through much of the city, you can see the grandeur and opulence that comes from this position.

Things to see in Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia

You can definitely see the influence of British colonialism on much of the architecture here, but the rich history of the Malay culture is also on full display. It’s a fascinating blend of the country’s heritage.

There are quite a lot of things to see in Kuala Kangsar but none of them takes particularly long – there aren’t any large museums for instance. My tip would be to just follow the heritage trail and see how the city has come together.

Cameron Highlands

High in the mountains, you’ll feel the change in temperature as soon as you arrive in the Cameron Highlands. The cooler climate means it’s long been a refuge for tourists – but also a place to grow tea.

And it’s these tea fields that define the experience when you visit the Cameron Highlands these days. The rolling hills are covered with the bright green tea trees, creating a gorgeous landscape that looks like a painting.

Cameron Highlands hiking, Malaysia

If you’re keen to do a day trip, you can take this great private tour to the Cameron Highlands from Ipoh. You’ll see some of the nature, visit a tea planation, and try some of the other local produce.

But my favourite things to do in the Cameron Highlands is go walking, and there are some great trails that lead through a mixture of natural forest and tea fields, to see the best of both.


With the artistic rejuvenation of the city, there is a good range of very cool places to stay in Ipoh’s heritage centre.


As well as a funky design, The Brownstone Hostel has comfortable and affordable dorm beds.


For something affordable but comfortable, Hotel Cheqinn has lovely rooms.


For a real hipster experience in Ipoh, try the M Boutique Hotel.


And for an upmarket hotel in the centre of the city, you should go for the WEIL Hotel.

8 thoughts on “Things to do in Ipoh”

  1. My late father work in ipoh n I spend a few yeats th ere with my mother n family. Nice quite town I went to school. Wish my father had stay in ipoh n not move around due to his work.

  2. Hipster Art and Cafes are just one of the many attractions in Ipoh.

    Ipoh City center is compact and comprised the Old Town and the New Town. Both sections separated by the Kinta River have pre-war buildings and places of worship more than 100 years old worthy of a visit. British heritage and old millionaire mansions of the tin-miners and colonial schools are all over Ipoh New Town.

    You may note the absence of big shopping malls in the city center. The are not enough of land to build big shopping malls. The modern and big shopping malls are all located outside the city center. Anyway, visitors don’t come to Ipoh for shopping. Ipoh’s No 1 attraction is Food. Ipoh is the unofficial food capital of Malaysia.

    Beyond Ipoh city centre are the attractions of the Kinta Valley with many small former tin-mining towns, numerous century old cave temples, hidden lakes and waterfalls, caves, the greens and the great outdoors, haunted mansions, place and castle, award winning golf courses, food gems, caves to explore, theme parks and many more depending on your interest.

    Ipoh and its surroundings have been movie locations for local and foreign movies.

    Ipoh is ideal as a travel based not only to sight see the attractions of the Kinta Valley, but also to Coastal Perak with nice beaches and islands better than Penang Island as well as North Perak attractions of Royal Town Kuala Kangsar, Taiping and Sepetang, Lenggong Unesco Perak Man, Royal Belum Rainforest and Kuala Kurau (most pretty coastal village town). You can even make day trip to Cameron Highland.

    Ipoh is a newly discovered tourist destination. However, transportation can be problematic. Moving around with own transportation is ideal.

    If you just want to explore the attractions of Ipoh city center, an over-night stay should be enough.


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