Top 11 Attractions in Kota Bharu (2024)
One of the must-visit places in Kelantan is Kota Bharu, the royal city of this state. As it is located close to Thailand, you will notice that Kelantanese culture is a mash-up of Malay and Thai influences, which is reflected in a lot of its spicy and rice-based cuisine. Besides the unique taste of Kelantanese cuisine, this city has a rich history and heritage, and here are some of the top attractions in Kota Bharu you should visit.
1. Istana Jahar
In 1855, Sultan Muhammad II of Kelantan built the Istana Jahar for his grandson, Long Kundur, who was Raja Bendahara and third in the line to the throne. Long Kundur eventually succeeded Sultan Muhammad II in 1889 and became Sultan Muhammad III. In July 1992, Istana Jahar was opened to the public as a museum of Kelantan’s regal customs.
The palace, which got its name from the Jahar tree, includes a pentagon-shaped porte-cochère with a balcony from which members of the royal family will see events and activities in front of the palace. Among the best features of the palace are the wooden carvings and a spectacular porch. There is also a Royal Boat, which was given by the Chulalongkorn King, which you can see during your visit here.
Through the exhibition of royal costumes, ceremonies, and weaponry in this Kota Bharu attraction, you will gain insight into the Kelantanese royal culture and lifestyle.
2. Moonlight Beach (Pantai Cahaya Bulan)
Pantai Cahaya Bulan is a famous beach in Kelantan and one of the must-visit attractions in Kota Bharu. It is roughly 10 kilometers from Kota Bharu and was the place to land for the Japanese forces on December 8, 1941, when they attacked the British. This beach was once known as Pantai Cinta Berahi (Beach of Passionate Love), a name given by a lovelorn British soldier who was posted to the beach during World War II. Some locals still refer to the beach by its former name, though they prefer to call it PCB.
You can feel the onshore breeze that blows as soon as you arrive at this beach. During the monsoon season, which runs from October to December, the waves and coastal winds will be several times greater. In addition to feeling the breeze, you may marvel at the view of the South China Sea, which stretches wide in front of you and is surrounded by coconut and casuarina trees.
This beach area is fairly lively during the school holiday season or on weekends, with individuals visiting with their families just to enjoy the wind on the beach or to fly the kites sold here. Aside from kites, you can find stalls selling local snacks like fish balls, colek, and various Kelantanese keropok, as well as textiles such as songket and kain batik.
3. Bank Kerapu War Museum (Muzium Perang Bank Kerapu)
This World War II Memorial is located on Jalan Sultan next to Padang Merdeka. This Kota Bharu attraction was originally the first commercial bank of Kelantan, The Mercantile Bank of India Limited, and operated in 1912. During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, Kempeitai seized the building and used it as the Japanese Secret Police Office and a lock-up facility for anti-Japanese investigations. After the war, the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank took over this bank.
In 1981, the Kelantan State Government took over the building for the use of the Kelantan State Museum Corporation, and the upper floor served as a Handicraft Hall. The “World War II Memorial” was established in 1991 and was used entirely as an exhibition of the historical impacts of World War II.
This museum exhibits artefacts and pictures of World War II, emphasising the Japanese invasion of Malaya, which began with the attack on Kuala Pak Amat Kota Bharu, Kelantan. The museum also features a timeline of the war, from the initial attack to the defence and finally the eventual surrender of the Japanese after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.
4. Siti Khadijah Market (Pasar Siti Khadijah)
The Siti Khadijah Market (Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah) is a local wet market that sells a variety of local and Thai goods such as fresh seafood, meat, fruits, and vegetables, as well as souvenirs, accessories, and bags. Budu, serunding ikan, nasi dagang, keropok, kuih akok, and kuih tahi itik are among the typical Kelantanese ingredients and ready-to-eat meals available. As a result, Pasar Siti Khadijah is an excellent venue to put your bargaining skills to the test.
This market is one of the many beautiful attractions in Kota Bharu for photographers because of the colourful backdrop provided by the stalls and the opportunity to capture a glimpse of local life and recognize the large number of businesses run by women. Interestingly, the market’s name was changed from Pasar Besar Buluh Kubu to Pasar Siti Khadijah since most of the businesses here are managed by women. It was named after Prophet Muhammad’s wife, well-known for her business acumen.
5. The Handicraft Village and Craft Museum (Kampung Kraftangan Dan Muzium Kraf)
The Handicraft Village and Craft Museum, also known as ‘Balai Getam Guri’, is part of Kelantan’s government initiative to showcase the local handicraft industry. It is a fine craft museum that exhibits craftsmanship in the Kelantan community. Traditional embroidery, batik, silverware, and matting are some of the handicrafts you can find here.
Besides that, visitors can watch and learn about the process of producing such crafts, including demonstrations of traditional needlework, songket weaving, and batik drawing performed expertly by the artisans. This is also one of the popular attractions in Kota Bharu to get gifts for your friends.
6. Senok Beach (Pantai Senok)
The Senok beach is located quite close to Kota Bharu’s city center, being only 15-20 minutes away by car. This stunning beach provides one-of-a-kind panoramas that will transport you to another realm. The breeze that usually blows from the beach between aligned rows of casuarina trees creates an indescribable sensation.
Aside from the beach being a wonderful shooting location, the trees on the beach provide a lovely backdrop for romantic engagement pictures. Some people believe the area is similar to Nami Island in South Korea, which became popular after being featured in the television romance drama “Winter Sonata”. You can camp or have a modest BBQ party while enjoying the natural beauty of the beach.
A lighthouse can also be found within a 5 to 10 minutes walk, and from there, you can see the fishermen returning home after fishing and the sunset adds to the beauty of this scene, making this one of the most beautiful attractions in Kota Bharu.
7. Al-Sultan Ismail Petra Mosque (Masjid Al-Sultan Ismail Petra)
Located about 5 kilometres from the city centre of Kota Bharu, near Istana Mahkota and Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital, is Al Sultan Ismail Petra Mosque. This mosque has two floors of prayer rooms and can fit a maximum of 5,000 people is the chosen place of worship for Friday and Eid prayers among the locals. Non-Muslims can also use this Kota Bharu attraction as a rest stop because of the large parking area and other amenities.
8. Ar-Rahman Mosque (Masjid Ar-Rahman)
This mosque is located 7 km away from the Sultan Ismail Petra airport and its a magnificent building with very intricate architecture. The design of this building took inspiration not only from the Kelantan culture but also from Turkey, Yemen and Indonesia. As for the structure of the building, it was built using only the highest quality teak and timber wood.
9. Kelantan State Museum (Muzium Negeri Kelantan)
As another one of the many historial attractions in Kelantan, this place initially served as the Kota Bharu City Council office which was later refurbished and made into a museum in 1998. Another level was added to the building to allow more space to share the rich history of Kelantan to all the visitors of this place. You will get to see the ‘wayang kulit’, a traditional puppet-shadow show that is accompanied by singing and story narrations.
10. Royal Clock Tower (Menara Jam Tambatan Diraja)
Located near to the Kelantan Merdeka Square, this Kelantan attraction is not only a clock tower but also a small observation deck within the city. With the height of 150 feet above the ground, you will be able to see the town and the nearby Kelantan River from the top. For a more beautiful view, you should visit this clock tower during the night to see the night sky lighted up by the city lights.
11. Kota Bharu Street Art
Located among the alley of Medan Ilmu Kota Bharu, you can find many illustrations are inspired by the Kelantan and the Malay culture. The drawing of the Middle Eastern carpet on the floor is simply breathtaking for its colours and intricate design. If you are looking for a place to take great pictures, this is one of the places to visit.
With so many unique attractions in Kota Bharu that you can visit, it is time for you to arrange a visit here with your friends and family. You will not only be amazed by the distinctiveness of the buildings, natural beauty and delicious food, but you will also learn to fall in love with the people and culture.