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Indonesia’s fourth largest city and capital of its North Sumatra province, is in ascendance as a leisure destination, after years as an industrial and commercial powerhouse.
Medan’s rich mix of ethnic groups and its remaining Dutch-colonial underpinnings mean it has plenty to offer the curious traveller. Wide boulevards, spacious parks and grand buildings sit among modern developments, including a well-oiled infrastructure that makes getting around easy.
One of Medan’s most popular spots is Maimun Palace on Brigjen Katamso Street. It served as the seat of power for the Sultanate of Deli, but is now a museum charting the city’s history. For a small fee, you can even dress up as a prince or princess, making this an immersive experience for all ages.
The Vihara Maha Maitreya is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Indonesia, and is well worth a visit, for a chance to see its ornate artwork, statues and sculptures. Built quite recently, in 1991, the temple is installed with modern features, and the tranquil gardens offer a little slice of peace in what is an incredibly busy and energetic city.
The Tirtanadi Water Tower is one of the best known buildings in Medan and serves as a convenient landmark for the disoriented newcomer. The tower opened in 1908 and it still hands out drinks to thirsty travellers.
One thing peculiar about Medan is the large number of theme parks in and around the city. Head out of town and an hour away lies Hill Park, in Green Hill City, which has several zones, including a “Lost City”, each packed with rides and attractions. Pantai Cermin Theme Park is the only water park in North Sumatra, and offers everything from water-slides to kayaking.
A few hours from Medan’s city centre is Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world, and the ideal place to enjoy a peaceful afternoon. Ecotourism is an up-and-coming aspect of travel to Medan, and the city has embraced this opportunity by offering visits to a preserved mango swamp, where visitors can find out more about the complex ecosystem.
Indonesian food is richly spiced and seasoned, and the heat of chilli is tempered by using coconut milk in many dishes. Look out for local delicacies such as durian pancakes, mie pangsit (wanton noodles) or the deliciously rich bolu gulung meranti (also known as meranti cake rolls).
You will discover a pleasing blend of ancient and modern when it comes to shopping in Medan. Check out Cambridge City Square, a mall stocked with boutiques, restaurants, and cafés, or visit the largest mall in Medan at Sun Plaza, well known for high-end luxury goods. There are plenty of other malls across the city, as well as traditional markets such as Pusat Pasar, which is the biggest market in Medan and famous for its spices.
Essential facts about Medan
Enjoy a hassle-free journey with all the information you need to know before your trip