10 Things To Do In Palembang, Indonesia: Remnants Of An Ancient World

things to do in palembang indonesia

Once called the “Venice of the East” by the Dutch, Palembang is the capital of South Sumatra and one of the oldest cities in Southeast Asia. It is also known as Kota Pempek (Pempek City) for its local delicacy, pempek (fishcake with sago or tapioca pearls). This port city lies on both banks of the Musi River, spanned by one of the longest bridges in Indonesia - the Jembatan Ampera (Ampera Bridge). Most of the 120 canals which have made the city comparable to Venice are now replaced by roads, but that doesn’t make it any less charming.

Palembang’s existence can be traced as far back as the 7th-century. According to a 683 AD inscription, it was the first capital of the highly influential Srivijayan Empire. The city has always been an economic center, especially during the colonial period with the presence of oil refineries.

As of 2015, the city has around 1 million residents. Although the population is predominantly Malay, Palembang is a culturally diverse city with influences from other countries evident in its people, history, and architecture. Today, this cosmopolitan quality lives on with the 2018 Asian Games to be held here and in Jakarta. The Festival of Srivijaya, which will be held from August 16 to 20 this year, will also allow visitors to witness a grand spectacle celebrating the foundation of Palembang.

Read on to find out about the best things to do in Palembang, Indonesia.

1. Hang out by the Ampera Bridge

Ampera Bridge
Source: Photo by Flickr user zaddam hussein used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Palembang’s most iconic landmark is not just a place to view pretty lights at night. Built in 1962, this 224-meter (0.13 mile) vertical-lift bridge is the main link between the north and south banks. As a result of engineering mishaps, the bridge can no longer be opened to allow ships to pass underneath. Despite this, the bridge still retains much of its original architectural beauty. It’s also equipped with dancing neon lights, making the view better at night with city lights in the background.

In the vicinity of the bridge are markets, souvenir shops, and food stalls where visitors can sample local cuisine.

2. Go on a Musi River cruise

Perahu di Sungai Musi
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Zhilal Darma used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Covering an area of around 750 kilometers (466 miles), the Musi River divides the city into two parts: the north (Sebarang Ilir) and south (Sebarang Ulur). There are several types of boats docked on the port that can take you around the river. Visitors can choose from motor boats, speed boats, small boats or keteks to view the majestic sunset by the river.

While cruising the river, you might see some peculiar attractions such as a floating restaurant and an Arab village.

Musi River Cruise

Opening hours: All day

Price: 1.49 to 7.46 USD (20,000 to 100,000 IDR)

3. Learn about local legends at the Kemaro Island

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

This mystical island is located on a delta of the Musi River, around 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the Ampera Bridge. With its towering nine-level pagoda, it’s hard to miss when you’re cruising down the river.

According to the locals, the graves of Prince Tan Bun An of China and Princess Siti Fatimah of Sriwijaya can be found on the island. Despite their tragic end, the two royals had a love story that inspired many Palembang residents through the ages. Beside the Buddhist temple stands a tree known as the “Tree of Love”, a symbol of true love between the Chinese prince and Palmebang princess. It also symbolizes the love that binds the two cultures together.

Aside from being a Musi River attraction, the island is also a prayer place for Buddhists. It becomes more crowded during the Cap Go Meh Festival.

4. Sample Palembang cuisine at the historic Kuto Besak Fort

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Arisdp used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Aside from being a historical treasure, this 18th-century riverside palace is also a great spot for checking out local delicacies. Once the center of the Palembang sultanate, the fort now houses a wide array of food stalls and dining establishments. It is also a great place for viewing the sunset as well as sailboats cruising along the Musi River.

Adjacent to the fort is the Museum Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II which houses a variety of historical artifacts.

Kuto Besak Fort (Benteng Kuto Besak)

Address: Jalan Sultan Mahmud Badarudin, 19 Ilir, Bukit Kecil, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: All day

Entrance fee: None

Museum Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II

Address: Jalan Sultan Mahmud Badarudin, 19 Ilir, Bukit Kecil, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: 9 am to 3:30 pm (Monday), 8 am to 3:30 pm (Tuesday to Thursday), 9 am to 4 pm (Friday), 9 am to 3 pm (Weekends)

Entrance fee: 1.49 USD (20,000 IDR)

5. Catch a glimpse of ancient history at the Sriwijaya Kingdom Archaeological Park

Taman Purbakala Kerajaan Sriwijaya - Pendopo Utama
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gunawan Kartapranata used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Near the northern bank of the Musi River lie the remnants of an ancient civilization, and visitors are free to catch a glimpse of this lost world. Formerly known as Karanganyar archaeological site, the area used to be a 7th-15th century settlement and seat of Srivijayan political power. The first excavations began in the late 1980s, providing the world with a window into pre-colonial Indonesia.

Excavations have revealed waterways, reservoirs, and floating islands called balai kambang - all of which are related to the Palembang Sultanate. Archaeologists have also found pools, water channels and relics such as Chinese ceramics, Buddhist statues, beads, and pottery.

Sriwijaya Kingdom Archaeological Park (Taman Peninggalan Kerajaan Sriwijaya/TPKS)

Address: Jalan Syakhyakirti, Kelurahan Karanganyar, Kecamatan Gandus, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: Hours vary but the park is open all week

Entrance fee: 0.22 USD (3,000 IDR)

6. Experience serenity at the Bukit Siguntang Hill

Bukit Seguntang Tombs
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gunawan Kartapranata used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Also located on the north bank of the Musi River is this sacred piece of heaven. Known as the highest point in the city, this 30 meter (98.42 foot) hill used to be frequented by royal and aristocratic families to relax and meditate. It is also has an ancient tomb complex and a variety of relics including a large Buddha statue discovered in the 1920s.

Scattered around the area are a lot of gazebos where visitors can get some shade.

Bukit Siguntang Hill

Address: Jl. Sultan Mansur (Bukit Lama), Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: All day

Entrance fee: None

7. Visit the unique nature parks

Source: Photo by Flickr user baka_neko_baka used under CC BY 2.0

Aside from vital archaeological sites, Palembang also has a lot of parks that showcase its natural beauty. One of which is the Punti Kayu Forest Park, known as the only forest park in the city and the largest downtown pine forest park in Indonesia. The park is divided into many areas including a mini-zoo and flower garden. The park was established in 1938 and is currently a government-protected area.

Another immersive park to check out is the Palembang Bird Park. Located beside the OPI Waterpark, this spacious and airy sanctuary allows visitors to get the zoo experience without the barriers. The park houses a variety of birds as well as other animals including turtles, fish, rabbits, and iguanas. It also has a fish spa.

Punti Kayu Forest Park

Address: Jl. Kolonel H. Burlian Km. 6, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: 9 am to 4 pm

Entrance fee: Adult - 0.74 USD (10,000 IDR) on weekdays and 0.93 USD (12,500 IDR) on weekends. Children - 0.37 USD (5,000 IDR). Various charges may apply for certain attractions.

Contact: +62 711410666, [email protected]

Website: TWA Puntikayu

Palembang Bird Park

Address: Jl. Gubernur H.A. Bastari, Komplek OPI Mall, Jakabaring, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: 8 am to 6 pm

Entrance fee: 3.74 USD (50,000 IDR)

Contact: +62 7115740127

Website: Palembang Bird Park

8. Witness the beauty of Lematang Indah Falls

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Although it is around six hours from the Palembang city center, the sight alone makes the long trip worth it. Located on the slopes of Mount Dempo in the City of Pagar Alam, the 40-meter (131.23 foot) falls are surrounded by beautiful scenery as well as several cafes and seating areas. Visitors would have to be careful with using the stairs to get to the falls, though.

Lematang Indah Falls (Lematang Indah Air Terjun)

Address: Perahu Dipo, South Dempo, Pagar Alam City, Indonesia

Opening hours: 7 am to 5 pm

Entrance fee: 0.07 to 0.29 USD (1,000 to 4,000 IDR)

Getting there: There are buses in the city going to Pagar Alam

9. Discover Palembang's colonial history at Masjid Agung Palembang and Monpera

Masjid Agung Palembang
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user fitri agung used under CC BY 2.0

Aside from being the largest mosque in Palembang, Masjid Agung Palembang is an architectural treasure with its Indonesian, Chinese, and European aesthetics. Named after Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin I, the 17th to 18th-century mosque took around ten years to build.

There are shops in the vicinity that sell fabrics, handicrafts, food and more. Also nearby is the Monumen Perjuangan Rakyat (Monpera), the symbol of the people’s struggle for independence from colonial rule. The main building also houses many historical artifacts including old money, clothes, weapons, and photographs.

Masjid Agung Palembang (Great Mosque of Palembang)

Address: Jl. Jend. Sudirman, 19 Ilir, Bukit Kecil, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: All day

Entrance fee: None

Monumen Perjuangan Rakyat (Monpera)

Address: Jl. Merdeka No.1, 19 Ilir, Bukit Kecil, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 8 am to 3:30 pm

Entrance fee: Local tourists - 0.37 USD (5,000 IDR), Foreign tourists - 1.49 USD (20,000 IDR). Various discounts are available

10. Have some fun at OPI Water Fun

Kopiko Wai Winding River at Volcano Bay
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jedi94 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Whether you’re just starting the day or ending it, why not head to a water park for some fun? Opened in 2011, this water park has a variety of attractions such as water slides and a lazy river. According to the authorities, they are also planning to provide more attractions, especially on dry areas.

When you’re tired of the water activities, head to the Palembang Bird Park which is right next to the property.

OPI Water Fun (Ogan Permata Indah Water Fun)

Address: Jln. G. A Bastari Komplek OPI Jakabaring, Palembang, Indonesia

Opening hours: Weekdays - 8 am to 6 pm, weekends and holidays - 8 am to 7 pm

Entrance fee: Weekdays - 2.99 USD (40,000 IDR), Saturday - 3.74 USD (50,000 IDR), Sundays and holidays - 4.49 USD (60,000 IDR)

Contact: +711 5740052, +711 5740051, [email protected]

Website: OPI Water Fun

Discover what remains of an ancient world

Jembatan Ampera awak
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Badan Usaha Milik... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Palembang can be overlooked in favor of more popular tourist destinations in Indonesia. When you want to go off the beaten track, head to this culturally diverse city which was once the heart of a powerful ancient kingdom.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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