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Situated along the Malaysia-Singapore border, Johor Bahru boasts a handful of sights, a flavorful gastronomic scene and enormous shopping malls. Although not originally a destination on our itinerary, we were lured to Johor Bahru, Malaysia by the affordable luxury accommodations and proximity to Singapore. During our stay, we explored the city, discovering historic attractions, delicious food and air-conditioned shopping centers. To help other travelers, we created a list of the top things to do in Johor Bahru.
The Best Things To Do in Johor Bahru
Our favorite Johor Bahru things to do are sorted into three categories: Learning, Eating and Shopping – and visitors can do all three right in the heart of the city. Start by learning about the many historic sights in JB that are found along the main street, Jalan Trus – and seek out more city landmarks, which are just steps away. Then, eat the most famous food in Johor Bahru at the restaurants in the city’s historic district. Finally, go on a shopping spree in the two top shopping malls in the city, which are located adjacent to the Johor Bahru checkpoint (or just go to cool off in the air conditioning!).
About this Johor Bahru Guide
- Our top recommendations of what to do in Johor Bahru can be toured on a self-guided walk through the city.
- We have included a Johor Bahru tourist map of recommended sights at the end of the post.
- Top places to visit in Johor Bahru outside the center are also highlighted.
- Wondering what to see in Johor Bahru on a day trip from Singapore? We give tips on how to get to Johor Bahru, the border crossing and booking a tour guide in Johor Bahru.
- Staying in JB? We offer hotel recommendations at the end of the post as well!
Use our list of Things To Do In Johor Bahru to plan your time in the city. Save, Bookmark or Pin this post of where to go in JB so that you can easily access it when you visit Johor Bahru!
Historic Attractions in Johor Bahru
We think the most interesting places in Johor Bahru are the historic buildings in the city center. We created our own Johor Bahru tour and walked to the century-old structures. Not all sights allowed entry during our visit; some were closed for renovations, while others are always closed to visitors.
Old Chinese Temple
Built in the 1870s, the JB Old Temple is one of the top Johor Bahru places to visit. The temple houses five deities, uniting five Chinese ethnic groups in one temple (although each ethnic group worships their own deity). The Old Temple is easy to spot with its bright red gate and vivid exterior. The temple’s bronze bell is more than 100 years old.
Raja Mariamman Hindu Temple
The Arulmigu Raja Mariamman Temple was built in 1911. The intricately decorated Gopuram (tower) features pastel-painted deities from Hindu mythology. Visitors are allowed inside, but only if dressed appropriately.
Gurdwara Sahib is the house of worship for Sikhs. The first temple was built in 1916, but it was completely rebuilt in 1957 and again in the 1990s.
Church of the Immaculate Conception
The Catholic church in Johor Bahru, the Immaculate Conception, was built in 1921. The statue of Mary that stands in the front of the church was donated by Sultan Ibrahim.
Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple
Dating to 1922, the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple began as a simple hut. However, in 2008 the temple was renovated with glass mosaics (there are more than 300,000 pieces of glass decorating the temple interior). The temple is a top Johor Bahru tourist attraction, but visiting hours are limited to 1pm-5pm daily.
Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque
Located on a hill overlooking the Johor Strait, Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque features numerous architectural styles, including English Victorian, Moorish and Malay. The mosque, which was built in the late 1800s, is big enough to hold more than 2,000 people. Note: The mosque is located outside the city center, but can still be reached on foot. We suggest walking through the Zaharah Botanic Gardens, where visitors will also find the Palace of Johor and the Johor Zoo.
Sultan Ibrahim Building
Completed in 1940, the Sultan Ibrahim Building is a JB landmark. It ranked as the tallest building in the city until the Merlin Tower was built in the 70s. Featuring a blend of native and colonial-style architecture, the Sultan Ibrahim Building was built to house the offices of the State Administration, which have since relocated.
Chinese Heritage Museum
The small Johor Bahru Museum of Chinese Heritage, housed in a historic building, details the history of Chinese immigrants. The exhibits and artifacts tell the story of the Chinese and they contributed to the development of the city. Note: There is a small fee to enter this Johor Bahru tourist spot.
The Best Food in Johor Bahru
Johor Bahru food might not have the same stellar reputation as other Malaysian cities (like Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Melaka), but visitors have several choices when it comes to good food in Johor Bahru.
Johor Bahru Hawker Centres
We were most enthralled by the local food scene at hawker stalls. Joining in – but not blending in – with the lunchtime crowd at the open-air food markets was one of our best JB experiences. The helpful locals were kind enough to guide us, letting us know what each dish was called and how spicy they were. We piled our plates high with the best, classic flavor combinations.
Where and What To Eat in Johor Bahru
Although we thoroughly enjoyed our adventurous introduction to Johor Bahru food at hawker stalls – and we highly recommend it as one of the top JB things to do – the experience may not be for everyone. The following list of restaurants are places that we didn’t go to, but are consistently rated by both locals and travelers as must-eat in Johor Bahru. Note: Expect a queue, as these are the most popular places to eat in Johor Bahru.
The old-school Hua Mui restaurant is a local favorite for their signature dish: Hainanese Chicken Chop. For more than 70 years, the family-owned restaurant has prepared meals for hungry patrons using fresh ingredients and traditional cooking methods. Reviews.
It Roo Cafe
A classic diner, It Roo Cafe is also famous for Chicken Chop. In fact, they claim to serve the ‘Best Chicken Chops in Town’ – a title awarded to them by The Star newspaper in 2003. Reviews.
Kam Long Curry Fish Head
For the past 30 years Kam Long has done one thing – Curry Fish Head – and they apparently do it well. Restaurant guests start lining up for a clay pot of steaming Curry Fish Head from Kam Long early in the morning. Reviews.
Hiap Joo Bakery
In business since 1919, the Hiap Joo Bakery is well-known for their banana cakes (they usually run out by noon!). All of their products – including buns, breaks and cakes – are cooked in a traditional wood-fired oven…and they are incredibly inexpensive. Reviews.
Opened in 1937, Salahuddin Bakery is another cake shop in Johor Bahru using traditional methods. The family-run establishment churns out 50 types of authentic pastries and breads. Reviews.
Need recommendations for fine dining in Johor Bahru? Check out reviews for the best upscale restaurants on TripAdvisor.
Johor Bahru Shopping
One of the top Johor Bahru activities is shopping! In addition to two city center shopping malls (which are top places to go in Johor Bahru on hot afternoons), the city also features a local night market.
Johor Bahru City Square
City Square mall ranks as the best shopping mall in Johor Bahru city center. The 7-story mall is comprised of more than 300 shops, featuring designer fashion brands, boutiques and electronics. Additionally, the mall hosts both restaurants and hair salons, making it easy to spend an entire day inside the mall. However, one of the top things to do in JB City Square is to head to the on-site cinema, which is the place to watch movies in Johor Bahru.
Komtar JBCC Mall
Located right next to City Square, Komtar JBCC Mall offers a variety of shopping and dining experiences. Shoppers looking for bargains can find them at one of the outlet stores and the popular Daiso dollar store. For practical purposes, there is a grocery store inside Komtar, as well as numerous hair and nail salons. Kids, however, might want to check out the Angry Bird Johor Bahru Activity Park (buy tickets online now!).
Bazar Karat, the Johor Bahru street market, is where to go in JB at night. Opening around 7pm or later on weekends, vendors at Bazar Karat sell various goods – from souvenir trinkets to apparel to street food. There is often live music at the market as well.
Johor Bahru Map
Use our map to create your own city tour of Johor Bahru. Use this link to to Google Maps for our Johor Bahru city center map online.
More Things To Do in JB
Need more tips of what to do in Johor Bahru? These sights are outside the city center and are places we did not visit ourselves – but they come highly recommended by fellow travelers.
Johor Premium Outlets
Located 30km north of Johor Bahru, the Johor Premium Outlet Mall is a favorite place for bargain shoppers. The outlet mall has more than 150 stores, including top brands – like Coach, Salvatore Ferragamo and Timberland. Travelers without a car can get a taxi (one-way fare is about 50RM).
Danga Bay Johor Bahru
Located to the west of JB, Danga Bay offers something for everyone! Kids can get a thrill on the rides at Danga Bay Attraction Theme Park, families can enjoy a seafood meal near the shore and couples can set sail on an evening cruise. The Danga Bay Beach is one of the popular beaches near Johor Bahru.
Stulang Beach in Johor Bahru
Close to the city center, Stulang Beach is a nice waterfront area with a few food options. However, swimming at the beach is not recommended.
Istana Bukit Serene
The Royal Palace, Istana Bukit Serene, is the official residence of the Sultan of Johor. The palace is not open to the public, but visitors can view the complex, tower and replica crown from the outside.
Hello Kitty Johor Bahru
The Sanrio Hello Kitty Town is an interactive theme park featuring all things Hello Kitty – an absolute fairytale for Hello Kitty fans! Buy Tickets Online!
The Malaysia Legoland resort is an adventure theme park for Lego lovers! In addition to the rides at the park, there is a water park, shows, hands-on activities and an on-site hotel. Buy Single Tickets here – or find out about 2-Day Packages!
Singapore and Johor Bahru
The relationship between Johor Bahru and Singapore reminded us of the bond between New Jersey and New York City. JB – like NJ – is less flashy, less visited by tourists and (much!) less expensive than the big city next door. Eager to take advantage of affordable accommodations, we opted to stay in Johor Bahru rather than Singapore…and then make the commute south for Singapore sightseeing. Getting from JB to Singapore, however, proved to be a little more taxing than we thought it would be.
Johor Bahru to Singapore
Our decision to stay in JB meant that our day trips to Singapore included a border crossing. The border crossing and transport transfers made the 35-mile trip a two-hour journey. For the locals, it was their mundane daily commute, but for us it was fascinating.
Day Trip to Singapore from Johor Bahru
Travelers like us – who choose to stay in JB instead of Singapore, but still want to see Singapore – will find that navigating the process isn’t as difficult as it is cumbersome. Even with a two-hour travel time, we felt it was worth the effort. We were able to spend long days sightseeing in Singapore. And, while the border crossing scramble always left us shaking our heads, we never encountered any issues at immigration.
How To Go From Johor Bahru to Singapore: Border Crossing
The actual border crossing was what concerned us most about staying in one country and visiting another. We fretted about what it might be like – and had a tough time finding info online. Once we got there, we found it to be hectic, but fairly self-explanatory – and signs in English to help guide the way. Below is our first-hand experience of our travel to Singapore from Johor Bahru.
From our hotel, we walked to the mall and down the long, narrow hallway that leads to the CIQ building. There, we would get our passports stamped by Johor Bahru immigration, go downstairs and wait for the Johor Bahru to Singapore bus that would take us across the bridge.
Once across the bridge, we took escalators up to the Singapore immigration building where we needed to fill out forms and get stamped into the country. Once through immigration, we would go back downstairs, find the same bus company we took across the bridge and take a short ride to the Kranji MRT station. From there, we would buy tickets for the subway and ride 15 stops into the city. For Singapore to Johor Bahru transport, we did the same thing…in reverse.
Usually this kind of colossal time waster would annoy me, but it didn’t. We were too swept up in the crowds, constantly on the move in a race-like frenzy, where the only prize for getting there first was to be the first waiting. There was always another bus coming, always another train. And, the lines at Singapore and JB immigration – if there were lines at all – moved fast (we timed our crossings to avoid peak hours).
Note: There are now direct buses between the cities (eliminating the need to ride the MRT) – and even an express bus from Changi Airport to Johor Bahru. Visitors can also opt to take a Singapore to Johor Bahru taxi. However, the immigration process is still required. Find more information here.
JB Day Trip from Singapore
Visitors staying in Singapore who want to visit Johor Bahru can easily plan their own 1-day trip to JB or join a popular guided Singapore To Johor Bahru day trip.
How To Plan Your Own JB One-Day Trip
Wondering what to do in JB for 1 day? It’s easy to fill your Johor Bahru day trip with the best activities in JB! First, plan how to go to Johor Bahru from Singapore: taxi, bus or MRT. Then, figure out your route of where to go in Johor Bahru using our helpful above guide.
JB Day Trip Itinerary
If we were planning a one-day trip to JB from Singapore, we would get an early start and arrive by mid-morning. Our Johor Bahru sightseeing adventure would begin with a self-guided Johor Bahru City Tour to the city’s most historic attractions (using the information provided above as a Johor Bahru travel guide). Mid-day, we would pop into one of the hopping hawker centers or dine on Chicken Chop at one of the popular restaurants (listed above in Things To Eat in Johor Bahru). In the afternoon, we would escape the heat of the day inside one of the malls. We would end our Johor Bahru One-Day Trip with a relaxing massage at the mall before heading back to Singapore.
Book a Johor Bahru Tour from Singapore
Visitors who would rather take a Johor Bahru trip with a guide can book one of the highly-rated tours. Let a guide lead the way to the best things to do in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Find recommended JB One-Day Tours on Viator.
What To Expect on a JB Trip
Visitors from Singapore will enter JB via the Johor Bahru CIQ (Border Control). The building is connected via a walkway to the JB City Square Mall. The new, sleek buildings are quite different from their surroundings. Just one street away from all the ‘new’ the scene changes: sidewalks, if they are there at all, are cracked and broken; storefronts are missing signs and crumbling; heavy scents waft through the air. Chalk it up to the charm of the city.
Where to Stay in Johor Bahru
When we started our search for Johor Bahru Accommodation, we were looking for a hotel near JB Sentral (the Johor Bahru bus terminal) and CIQ. We weren’t necessarily looking for a budget hotel in Johor Bahru – as the hotel rates were almost all less expensive than what we were finding in Singapore. In fact, because the hotels in Johor Bahru near Singapore were so affordable, we decided to book luxury accommodations at the Doubletree by Hilton.
The Doubletree Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru
The Doubletree is a luxury 4-Star hotel in Johor Bahru that offers spacious rooms, quality furnishings, a rooftop pool and fine dining – at an affordable price. In our opinion, it is the best place to stay in Johor Bahru! Start your search for the best rates at Doubletree!
Where To Stay in JB on a Budget
If you are looking for more affordable places to stay, there are plenty of options! We recommend starting your search for JB hotels on Booking.com – like we do!
We want to know: What are your favorite things to do in JB, Malaysia? What would you add to our list? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below!
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