Crowned the ASEAN City of Culture, the magnificent city of Yogyakarta is definitely well deserving of the title. Known as the capital city of Indonesia’s special region of the same name, it is regarded as the nation’s cultural centre.
From visiting the royal palace to catching a Ramayana performance practised since ancient Majapahit times, here are a few extraordinary things you can do in Yogyakarta that you can’t find anywhere else in the world!
1. Visit the centuries-old Kraton, the royal palace of Yogyakarta
A grand palace complex that is the seat of the reigning Sultan of Yogyakarta and the royal family, the Kraton is a must visit for its historical architecture and interior.
What to expect:
- Each feature of the Kraton portrays a symbolic meaning that relates to the Javanese ancient beliefs and worldview.
- The foundation of the Kraton was built in 1755 with its north side facing Mount Merapi and its south side facing the Indian Ocean, both highly significant in Javanese beliefs.
- Browse through its interior and make your way to the Hamengku Buwono IX museum where you can marvel at a collection of memorabilia which belonged to the late Sultan.
- There’s also a painting museum, regalia museum and royal carriage museum which holds a lot of historical artifacts.
- Meet the Abdi Dalem, faithful caretakers of the royal households which is an honourable position passed down from one generation to the next.
- The Kraton is open to visitors from 8am to 2pm every day except on Fridays and Saturdays, whereby it closes at 12pm.
- It is located just a taxi or car ride away from other Yogyakarta attractions such as Malioboro Street and Beringharjo Market, so plan your trip to fit these other attractions too.
- The best way to ride around the city has got to be the traditional Becak (cycle rickshaw) or Andong (horse-drawn cart), and hop off to explore the Kraton Sultan Palace and Taman Sari Water Castle which you can find out about more below.
Jl. Rotowijayan Blok No. 1, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta
2. Visit Ullen Sentalu, an unconventional private museum showcasing Javanese culture
A Javanese culture and arts museum located in Yogyakarta’s Kaliurang highlands, Ullen Sentalu is not your ordinary museum with its unconventional layout and structure bringing with it an experience unlike any other.
What to expect:
- Ullen Sentalu is an abbreviation of the Javanese sentence “Ulating Blencong Sejatine Tataraning Lumaku” which means “The blencong light (the light used in Wayang performance) is a guide for humans on how to live their lives”.
- Located in the greeneries of Kaliurang highlands, it is a mostly open-aired area with the artifacts positioned as centrepieces at different sections of the area.
- There is no description on any of the artifacts and historical items. A museum guide will be narrating the story behind each artifact which is mostly associated with the old Javanese kingdom of Mataram.
- Ullen Sentalu is also a “living museum” whereby the artifacts on display may change from time to time which makes each visit a unique one.
- As it is mostly open-air, don’t forget to bring an umbrella or a raincoat just in case it starts raining.
- Visitors are not allowed to take pictures within the museum except at the Borobudur Relief section so take note!
Jl. Boyong No.KM 25, Kaliurang Barat, Hargobinangun, Sleman, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta
3. Watch the world famous Yogyakarta Ramayana ballet performance at Prambanan Temple
The epic story of Javanese culture and heritage based on the epic Hindu history, this famous Ramayana ballet is performed on an open stage with the historical Prambanan Temple as the backdrop which gives the whole performance a mystical feel!
What to expect:
- This story of Prince Rama was adapted from the engravings found on the ancient Prambanan Temple.
- Enjoy the enchanting story behind the ballet which showcases the heritage of the Javanese people as interpreted by an ensemble of over 200 dancers and musicians.
- A combination of theatrics, dance, and music, this is a must do experience whenever you visit Yogyakarta!
- As the performance is located just beside the Prambanan Temple, another must-visit attraction in Yogyakarta, it is much cheaper to join a tour package encompassing temple visits during the day and the Ramayana performance at night.
- Tickets to the ballet start from RM70 and are inclusive of dinner.
Jl. Brigjen Katamso 55152, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta
4. Be awed by Taman Sari Water Castle, a majestic remnant of the Yogyakarta Sultanate
Built in the 18th century, this gorgeous complex was a site of a former royal garden to the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. In 1995, it was listed as part of the World Heritage Site under UNESCO.
What to expect:
- There are four distinct sections to the complex which include a large artificial lake with islands and pavilions in the west, a bathing complex in the centre, pavilions and pools in the south, and a smaller lake in the east.
- Suffering substantial destruction during the British invasion in Yogyakarta in 1812, only the central bathing complex is well preserved.
- Today, the area surrounding Taman Sari is occupied by a settlement called Kampung Taman which is known for their batik and traditional craft painting traditions.
- Taman Sari is located just a few blocks from the Kraton palace which you should take note of if you’re planning for your itinerary.
- There is also a remnant of an underground mosque called Sumur Gumuling that is accessible via an underground tunnel from Taman Sari.
Wisata Taman Sari Jalan Tamanan, Patehan, Kecamatan Kraton, Kota Yogyakarta, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta
5. Attend ARTJOG, an annual international contemporary arts festival
True to its status as the ASEAN City of Culture, as well as the cultural hub of Indonesia and beyond, Yogyakarta has been hosting this contemporary arts festival annually since 2008! Happening at Jogja National Museum this 25th July to 25th August, the festival is definitely something not to be missed.
What to expect:
- Meet and support colourful personalities of the creative industry from various disciplines and backgrounds.
- ARTJOG is a space for sharing knowledge and aesthetic experiences along with the latest developments in the art scene.
- The month-long event gives a platform to artists from various disciplines to share their knowledge and love for their craft with members of the public.
- The theme for this year’s festival is “Arts in Common” which pushes the concept of art as a universal language.
- The opening day of the festival is Free of charge! Subsequent days of the festival will require a small entrance fee of RM15
- For more information, you can visit ARTJOG’s official website here.
Jalan Professor Ki Amri Yahya No.1 Pakuncen Wirobrajan Yogyakarta Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta
All these places and activities look amazing! Yogyakarta is definitely the central hub for culture and arts that is a must-visit for those looking for a unique experience not found anywhere else around the world.
Is your level of wanderlust skyrocketing already? For more information on the magnificent city of Yogyakarta as well as other amazing Indonesian destinations, click here.
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