Top 10 Kota Bharu Attractions (2021)

Kota Bharu is the state capital and the royal city of Kelantan. In Malay, the name means “new city” or “new fort.” The Malaysian city is near the Thai border in the northeast. Located in close proximity to Thailand, Kelantanese culture is a mash-up of Malay and Thai influences. A lot of the cuisine is spicy, and rice is the staple of the native diet. Besides the unique taste of Kelantanese cuisine, this city has a rich history and heritage.

1. Istana Jahar

In 1855, Sultan Muhammad II of Kelantan built the Istana Jahar for his grandson, Long Kundor, who was Raja Bendahara and third in the line to the throne. It was known as Raja Bendahara Palace. Long Kundur succeeded Sultan Muhammad II in 1889 and became Sultan Muhammad III. Since July 1992, Istana Jahar has served as a museum of Kelantan’s regal customs. The opening ceremony was officiated by the Sultan of Kelantan. The palace gets its name from the Jahar tree that grows in the royal grounds. The palace 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. The exquisite ukiran, wooden carvings, and a spectacular anjung are among the best features of the palace. A second gallery is dedicated just to weaponry. You may also see a Royal Boat, which was given to the Kelantan Sultan by King Chulalongkorn during his visit. Through the exhibition of royal costumes, ceremonies, and weaponry, you will gain insight into the Kelantanese royal culture and lifestyle.

2. Moonlight Beach (Pantai Cahaya Bulan)

Pantai Cahaya Bulan is one of the famous beaches in Kelantan, Malaysia. 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

This World War II Memorial is located on Jalan Sultan next to Padang Merdeka. The building 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 World War II, the bank was taken over by The Hongkong & Shanghai 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 artifacts and pictures of World War II, with an emphasis on 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 Japanese attack on Kelantan, the defense of the British Army, and the Japanese occupation of Malaya until their surrender due to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

4. Siti Khadijah Market

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 in the center of Kota Bharu has become a delight for photographers not only because of the colorful backdrop provided by the stalls but mostly because of the opportunity to capture a glimpse of local life and recognize the large number of businesses run by women. In fact, the market’s name was changed from Pasar Besar Buluh Kubu to Pasar Siti Khadijah since the majority of the businesses are managed by women. It was named after Prophet Muhammad’s wife, who was 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 among the locals, is a part of the initiative to showcase the local handicraft industry in Kelantan. It is a fine craft museum that exhibits craftsmanship in the Kelantan community. Traditional embroidery, batik, silverware, and matting are among the handicrafts available. Visitors can watch and learn about the process of producing such crafts, including demonstrations of traditional needlework, songket weaving, and the drawing of batik performed expertly by the artisans. This is also a great location to get gifts for your friends.

6. Kopitiam Kita

If you haven’t visited this most famous eatery, then your tour of Kota Bharu is incomplete. This is a unique kopitiam to enjoy breakfast or brunch, with a large selection of kuih muih and nasi berlauk. This well-known kopitiam, which is located on Jalan Sri Cemerlang in Taman Desa Jasa, was founded by N.H. Wong, who bought supplies from local food sellers and then sold them to customers. During peak hours, finding a table might be difficult, but the wait is well worth it. The locals’ favorite menu is the roti titab, a soft and tender Hailam toast with the perfect combination of half-boiled egg and kaya. Nasi tumpang is also a popular dish among the locals who enjoy authentic Kelantanese cuisine. If you’re lucky, you could even run across a local star or politician.

7. Pulau Suri Floating Market

Despite the muddy water, the Kelantan River is home to a number of income-generating businesses that help to support the local population. The Kelantan River is fascinating because it contains islands in its estuary, the most renowned of which being Suri Island, known for its floating market. Suri Island was found by a hamlet midwife named Suri about half a decade ago. Suri Island currently has around fifty families involved in various economic activities, including ecotourism, making it a popular homestay destination. A 40-minute boat voyage from Jeti Kok Majid in Tumpat or a 15-minute journey from Jeti Kuala Besar in Kota Bharu will take you to the island. With native food like kerabu kelapa goreng, ketupat sotong, lokan bakar and bunga nipah, the fishing town on Suri Island has been luring boatloads of tourists to its floating market. There are also small stalls selling fruits, fresh raw materials, kerepek, and tudung in addition to the meals offered in the sampan.

8. Senok Island (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 itself is a wonderful shooting location, the beach woods provide a lovely backdrop for romantic engagement pictures. Some even believe that the location is quite similar to the Nami Island in South Korea that was featured in the television romantic drama series Winter Sonata. 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 be found within a 5 to 10 minutes walk, and from there, you can see the fishermen returning home after fishing. The lovely light sunsetting adds to the beauty of this scene. Don’t let these moments pass without capturing them with your camera lens!

9. Al Sultan Ismail Petra Mosque

Al Sultan Ismail Petra Mosque is located 5 kilometers from the city center of Kota Bharu, close to the State Palace, Istana Mahkota, and the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital. With two floors of prayer rooms and a capacity of 5,000 people, this mosque becomes the local community’s chosen place of worship for Friday and Eid prayers, as well as other social and spiritual events. Non-Muslims can also use the mosque as a rest stop because of the large parking area and other amenities.

10. Kampung Laut Mosque

Kampung Laut Mosque is a mosque in Nilam Puri across from the University Malaya Academy of Islamic Studies. According to legend, a group of missionaries sailed across the Malay Archipelago to promote Islam in the 1730s. Unfortunately, their boat suffered a leak and was having problems continuing their journey. The missionaries on board swore that if they were brought safely to the shore, they would immediately construct a mosque to commemorate the incident. Their prayers were answered, and the missionaries arrived at Kampung Laut Tumpat. Another theory claims that the mosque was erected in the 15th century by a group of government transporters from the Kingdom of Champa.

This ancient mosque certainly does not look like the one we see today. The original mosque was built in a simple architectural style, with four pillars for the base and palm leaves for the roof. From the mid-nineteenth century until the early twentieth century, the mosque became a popular meeting point for Sultans and religious leaders. The mosque also once operated as a marketplace. During this period, the mosque was expanded and upgraded, adding 20 pillars, a three-tiered roof, a tower, an attic, and a water tank, as well as high-quality timber flooring.

The distinctiveness of Kota Bharu is not in its building, natural beauty, or scrumptious food but in its people and culture. Many tourists regard Siti Khadijah Market to be the face of Kota Bharu and the state. This is because the market provides a look into their daily lives, close-knit community, female independence, and entrepreneurial abilities.