Originally founded by the Dutch colonial power in 1682, Semarang is now a part of Republic of Indonesia and functions as the capital of the Central Java Province. This coastal city is situated in northern part of Central Java and surely have undergone a rapid expansion throughout the last decade.
The weather in Semarang is pretty hot and humid, so you better plan your clothes accordingly if you’re going there. As the infrastructure has improved greatly, more travel options are available to choose from. Since it’s located in the Pantura – the main route along the northern coast of Java – Semarang usually serves as transit city for people travelled from western part of Java to the eastern part and vice versa.
A bustling major port since the colonial era, people visiting Semarang usually are on business purpose. However, since the city itself has been around for more than 300 years, Semarang surely has a lot of historical landmarks and attractive spots. As a result, here are things to do in Semarang, Central Java Indonesia.
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Religious Sites in Semarang
As the fifth largest city in Indonesia, Semarang is home to many different religions and culture. Different kingdoms have ruled this land in the past, such as the Hindu-Buddhist Medang kingdom, Demak Sultanate, and more. Each of them leaves a cultural and religious impact in many forms, such as temples and shrines. The arrival of Zheng He the Chinese Muslim explorer also contributes to the construction of many religious sites and the fusion of Chinese and Javanese architectural style and technique.
1. Great Mosque of Central Java
This 10 hectares large mosque complex have three main building placed in a U-shape and a central courtyard with six hydraulic umbrellas. The roofs are influenced by the traditional Javanese house “Joglo” and the hydraulic umbrellas were inspired by the Al-Nabawi Mosque in Medina. The Great Mosque of Central Java has the capacity of 15.000 persons, while the auditorium can hold up to 2.000 persons.
The 99 meters Asmaul Husna Tower nearby are used for calling nearby Muslims to prayer and also used for da’wah. There’s a rotating restaurant on the 18th floor of the tower and an observation deck at the top. The Great Mosque is absolutely one of the major attraction in Semarang with buses and trams providing transport to and from the complex.
2. Sam Poo Kong Temple
Sam Poo Kong temple was established by the famous Chinese Muslim explorer Zheng He during his visit to Indonesia around the 13th century. As such, the temple predates the city of Semarang itself and considered as the oldest Chinese temple in the area.
The temple was reportedly collapsed during a landslide in 1704, however, it has been rebuilt and constantly renovated ever since. The Sam Poo Kong temple complex spread over 3.2 hectares and comprised of five main buildings with unique mixed Chinese and Javanese architecture. There is a carnival celebrated here every lunar year on the 30th day of the sixth month, which is meant pay homage and respects to explorers like Zheng He.
3. Tay Kak Sie Temple
Located about 5 kilometers away from the Sam Poo Kong temple, this temple was originally meant to worship the East Asian Boddhisatva deity Guanyin. The name Tay Kak Sie or Too Kong in Hokkien means “Temple of Supreme Consciousness”.
In the middle of 1800, the wealthy Jewish owner of Sam Poo Kong temple charged the worshippers a fee to pray there. Unable to cope with such hefty expense, the worshippers eventually abandoned the Sam Poo Kong and decided to bring Zheng He statue to the Tay Kak Sie where they can pray for free. According to some of the citizens, the Tay Kak Sie is the most beautifully decorated temple in Semarang. Judging from the ornaments used and architecture style, those citizens statement really holds true.
4. Buddhagaya Watugong Monastery
This large Buddhist monastery is comprised of two main buildings, the Avalokitesvara Pagoda and the Dhammasala, and several other small buildings. There is a natural stone that shapes like a gong, from which the name Watugong derives from, located at near the security outpost. The Avalokitesvara is recorded as the tallest pagoda in Indonesia at 45 meters high.
With seven levels of floor, this pagoda contained more than 30 statues including the 5 meters tall Avalokitesvara Boddhisatva statue in the middle of the room. This monastery was dominated by the red colours since it would bring happiness according to the belief. The two-story Dhammasala building serves as a function hall for the ground floor and praying room for the second floor, Semarang attractions.
5. Church Blenduk
The name Blenduk, which means dome, derives from the large, copper dome on top of the church. Built around 1753, this church initially had a “joglo-esque” roof type.
Meanwhile, after the renovation in 1894, the church was remodelled by adding two towers and a dome, replacing the previous roof. The Architect’s Society of Indonesia awarded this church in 2009 as the Best Maintained Old Place for Worship. The church was still used for regular Sunday service until now, and also a popular tourist attraction in Semarang.
6. Gedong Songo Temple
Built around 8th-9th century using volcanic rocks by the Mataram Kingdom, Candi Gedong Songo represents one of the oldest Hindu structures in Java, along with Dieng Plateau. It even predates the famed Candi Borobudur and Prambanan. The architectural style is very similar to the Dieng Plateau, which signifies both are designed and constructed by the same entity.
In the present day, Gedong Songo has not used for religious purposes anymore. Instead, it serves as a major tourist attraction in Semarang area. As a result, it’s open for visitors and there we can learn about Semarang history and it’s culture. The things to do in Semarang Indonesia.
The Historical Landmarks
Semarang landmarks are filled with colonial-style buildings that were left from the Dutch colonial era. Nowadays, it serves as a reminder of history and major tourist attractions because of the distinctive and unique architecture of the colonial era. Semarang also houses a number of museums that are worth visiting for.
7. Kota Lama (Old City)
Kota Lama refers to a region in Semarang that formerly was a flourishing trade centre during the 19th to 20th century. Also known as Oudstadt, this 31-hectare area was meant as a separate region nicknamed “Little Netherland”. The Dutch built a fort and five lookout towers in this region for better protection and to oversee surrounding areas. However, most of them were already decommissioned and demolished. One of the entrances to this area that still survives to this day is Jembatan Mberok. Every building in Kota Lama was designed in colonial era European architectural style and about 50 buildings still retain their shape until the present day. However, some of the buildings were neglected and deteriorated due to a vacancy in the building ownership.
8. Lawang Sewu
In Javanese language, Lawang Sewu translates to “Thousand Doors”. The name derives from the building’s design and architecture which includes a copious amount of doors and windows. Lawang Sewu was originally built as a headquarter for the Dutch East Indies Railway Company. It consisted of four buildings within a complex, with the main building have a twin identical towers. Due to years of neglection and the fact that Lawang Sewu was used as a prison to execute people by the Japanese during their reign in 1942-1945, Lawang Sewu gained notoriety as a haunted place. However, since the renovation completed in 2011, the government have been trying to abolish the superstition and attempted to renew its image to become a major tourist attraction.
[toggle title=”9. MURI Museum” state=”opened”]
Museum MURI is a museum that holds a collection of Indonesian world records created in 1990 by a famous Indonesian artist Jaya Suprana. There are over 1200 records kept inside this museum. Most of these records are unique and weird stuff, while some are “the most” stuff, such as the biggest tree, the largest island, etc. and the rest are fastest or first on doing something.
[toggle title=”10. Jamu Nyonya Meneer Museum“]
This museum belonged to one of the largest Jamu producers in Indonesia, Nyonya Meneer. Jamu is an Indonesian herbal concoction that is very healthy to the human body. Since Jamu was considered as an Indonesian cultural heritage, this museum was built by Nyonya Meneer to conserve and protect the knowledge about Jamu productions and all of its healthy benefits.
[toggle title=”11. Mandala Bhakti Museum“]
This war memorial museum holds a lot of historical data, documentation, and weaponry of Indonesian military during the Independence War. Designed by Dutch architect Kuhr E., this building was originally meant as a courtroom for Europeans in Semarang. After the Independence, this building was taken over by the Indonesian Army and was used as a command headquarters for the army until 1985, where it was decommissioned and functions as a museum. Many of the military equipment was left behind and exhibited in the museum such as the Browning machine gun and the 25 PDR field gun located in front of the museum.
[toggle title=”13. Ranggawarsita Museum“]
[toggle title=”14. Johar Market“]
Located in the middle of Semarang City, this historical market was the largest and the most sophisticated market in Southeast Asia in 1930. A large fire in 2015 incinerated nearly 8.000 kiosks and vendors, crippling the economic growth of the city. It has been repaired and renovated since then. At the present day, it still serves as the largest traditional market in Central Java.
[toggle title=”15. Tugu Muda Tower“]
[toggle title=”16. Semawis Market“]
This night market is located in the Chinatown district of Semarang. Originally founded by the Semawis Coffee Community in 2004, right after the Chinese New Year was officially recognised as a public holiday, the market starts out as a small bazaar that sells Chinese New Year traditional foods and stuff. Nowadays, the market is chock-filled with so many food stalls and street vendors that sell all kinds of food. This market is definitely a place to visit for every culinary lovers.
Enjoy the Natural and Other Attractions
Not only historical buildings and temples, Semarang also has many natural spots and interesting places that are beautiful and attractive to tourists and visitors alike. Some of this spots are located outside the Semarang city but are still within the Semarang Regency.
17. Benowo Waterfall
Located in Mount Ungaran not far fromSemarang, this waterfall is a favourite among Semarang’s nature lovers. The trip to the waterfalls can be quite difficult and tiresome, but really worth it since the waterfall has such a beautiful scenery.
18. Lawe Waterfall
Not far from Benowo Waterfall, this beautiful thundering waterfall lies deep in a remote area. The mountainside road that leads here have an amazing and beautiful view. Many clove trees growing around this area which supports the tobacco industry around the area.
19. Kali Pancur Waterfall
One of the major tourist attractions in Semarang, Kali Pancur Waterfall is located in the village of Nogosaren. This 150 meters waterfall is decorated with beautiful natural stones overgrown with lush greeneries. Like the Benowo and Lawe waterfall, the path to Kali Pancur is quite difficult since it was rocky and slippery.
20. Kayon Pine Forest
This serene and placid pine forest located near Batur Village, Semarang Regency has become popular and famous among Semarang youngsters lately. Many people like to take pictures while sitting on the bent pine tree trunk, which made it looks like a chair and seemed very comfortable. People also love to come to this forest to have a picnic with their friends and families.
21. Rawa Pening
This lake name Rawa Pening translates literally to Clear Swamp. Located at the Ambarawa Basin and covers a wide area of over 2.500 hectares, this lake is actually shallow and almost swamp-like, hence the name. Many popular tourist attractions are built around the lake, such as Eling Bening, Kampoeng Rawa, etc. Due to the numerous aquatic plants living in the lake and constructions around it, experts predicted that Rawa Pening will dry itself out by 2021 if no prevention was made. Since this lake is very important to the communities living around it and to the Semarang city itself, the local government has enacted the green-belt policy to prolong the lake lifespan.
22. Maron Beach
Maron Beach is one of the famous tourist attractions in Semarang that offers the beauty of sandy beaches that can be very crowded by tourists during the weekend. Many people also visit this beach to view sunsets which can be very beautiful from here.
23. Tirang Beach
This beach offers an alternative for those who prefer desolate beaches than the crowded one. There are some mangrove plantations nearby the beach, and the beach itself is not really good for swimming. Locals usually come to the beach to fish some grouper or barramundi who lives near the rocks around the beach.
24. Marina Beach
In contrast with the Tirang Beach, Marina Beach was meant for pure entertainment and recreational purposes. It offers a lot of beach activities such as speedboats, jet skis, etc. There is an amphitheater as well. The paved road along the beach makes a perfect jogging track in the morning.
25. Tinjomoyo Gardens
Tinjomoyo was known as a zoo in the past. However, due to instability in the land makes it hard to built heavy objects as it was prone to landslide, the government decides to move the zoo to another location in Mangkang. Afterwards, the area was renovated and reopened as a public camping ground and outdoor activity. You can still see some local wildlife like monkeys and birds around this area.
This amusement park located at Jalan Sriwijaya is another major tourist spot in Semarang. Wonderia Recreation Park opened in 2007 and has many attractions like bumper cars, ghost house, roller coaster, etc. It’s a perfect destination for those travelling with small children.
27. Umbul Sidomukti
Umbul Sidomukti is an outdoor recreational complex located near the Sidomukti village. The complex consisted of many facilities: Outbound and Training, Nature Swimming Pool, Camping Ground, Meeting Room, and much more. There are also many outdoor activities here like the flying fox, ATV, cliffhanging, etc.
28. Kampoeng Lele Park
As another nature-themed family trip destination, Kampoeng Lele offers a lot of facilities such as swimming pool, a small zoo, artificial lake, gazebo, lodging, children’s playground, and venue.
30. Water Blaster Waterpark
As the largest waterpark in Semarang, the Water Blaster Waterpark is the perfect choice for families who wants to enjoy a pleasurable water entertainment. With a lot of impressive rides like the water slides, wave pool, etc this waterpark is always crowded especially during public holidays.
31. Jungle Toon Waterpark
This waterpark venue is located in the Simongan area. Very popular among children, this waterpark boasts many attractive rides that are quite similar to the Water Blaster Waterpark.
32. Eling Bening Tour – This the beautiful place where you can see swamp and enjoy other great facilities.
33. VW Hills – The best photography spot for you where there are many VW old 70’s cars. Vintage and Classic.
34. Jatibarang Reservoir and Kreo Cave – The natural crave and under the red bridge tour.
35. Ambarawa Train Museum – A tour by an old steam train.
36. Pendem Ambarawa Fort (Fort William I) – An old fort, was a great fort during World War era.
37. Lawe Waterfall – The most beautiful waterfall in Semaring. It’s clean and pure.
38. Rong Hill – Do you want to watch the whole Semarang city from 998 height above the sea level? Then, this is the hill.
39. The Hills Semarang – The culinary tour for you to try all Semarang tasty traditional food.
40. Pecinan Semarang – The old city where it has traditional market, culinary spot, and Chinese spot too.
Meanwhile, Semarang is a big city of Indonesia. It’s located and West Java and became the best tourist attraction both for local and international visitors. Thus, Semarang people is friendly and there are many great place to visit. Also, their traditional cultures and places are the best things that makes Semarang becomes even more beautiful. As a result, there are many things to do in Semarang Indonesia, then you may visit those amazing places on the lists. Happy holiday!