8 Places to Visit In Kota Kinabalu (Besides The Famous Mount Kinabalu)

A captivating mix of old and modern
By: Aqilah Najwa Jamaluddin
September 1, 2022

The Malaysian town of Kota Kinabalu, located on the northwest coast of Borneo, is an immensely favoured tourist destination, and it’s simple to understand why. Aside from its gorgeous waterfront, which overlooks the South China Sea and is alive with activity, tourists may immerse themselves in its booming arts and cultural environment or tour it’s wonderful bazaar. 

It was once identified as Jesselton in 1899, when it was under British colonial rule. In 1967, the city was then titled Kota Kinabalu after the beautiful Mount Kinabalu. The only remaining ancient features are the Atkinson Clock Tower and the Sabah Tourism Board building (originally Jesselton Post Office), both of which were bombed out at the close of World War II.

Sabah is becoming a popular tourist destination thanks to its closeness to tropical paradise. While the city core offers enough to see and do, KK also has a plethora of great natural tourist spots, including stunning beaches, green jungle, and charming tropical islands. In summary, whether you wish to stay in the city centre or venture further away, regardless of your schedule, there are enough places to keep you engaged.

Places To Visit In Kota Kinabalu

1. Atkinson Clock Tower

Credit: Blue Kinabalu

The Atkinson Clock Tower, which originates from 1902, is one of Kota Kinabalu’s most prominent monuments. The structure was named after Francis George Atkinson, a former District Officer in Jesselton, the term coined to Kota Kinabalu during colonialism. Atkinson died in 1902 at the age of 28 from malaria and a heart attack, but the tower still remains in recognition of his role in the creation of Kota Kinabalu. To get to the tower, you must climb up a picturesque hill off Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman that provides glimpses of the rest of the city.

2. Signal Hill Observatory Platform

The Signal Hill Observatory Platform, located just a couple of blocks from the Atkinson Clock Tower, is a terrific site to go if you’re seeking for a beautiful perspective of Kota Kinabalu. The observatory’s two white spherical domes shine against the vegetation as they are tucked in the woodland that wraps the slope. Its observation deck provides unobstructed views of the city below. The greatest time to visit, but also the busiest, is around sunset, when the islands and water shimmer in the twilight.

3. Kota Kinabalu Waterfront

Credit: Blue Kinabalu

The Kota Kinabalu Waterfront, which is studded with pubs and restaurants, nightlife and cafés, is one of the city’s brightest areas and is often packed. With retail complexes and hotels positioned all along KK Waterfront, it is a miniature of the town itself, with everything you could possibly desire right there. People go to the shore when night falls to enjoy some wonderful local food, live bands, or beverages. The vibrant environment is enticing. 

4. Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market

Credit: Travel Earth

The Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market is located along the waterfront in Kota Kinabalu and was once known as Pasar Filipino, or the Filipino Market. You may find that this alleyway is still called by its moniker by some locals, but despite the name, this is an excellent spot to visit if you want to buy some local goods. Pearls, local arts & crafts, wood sculptures, and fabrics are just a few of the products you could discover here. There are also traditional souvenir products such as t-shirts and jewellery, and negotiating is recommended to avoid overspending.

5. Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

Credit: Lonely Planet

The Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is the oldest and most magnificent mosque in the city. The structure is built on stilts over a sparkling lake, giving it the appearance of hovering on the water, and it can hold up to 12,000 worshipers at once. Try to see the mosque at nightfall, when it is lighted and mirrored in the inky seas that surround it. If you come during the day, you may see the exquisite blue and gold roof as well as the iconic minarets, and you can tour the interior of the mosque as long as you dress modestly.

6. Sabah State Museum

If you wish to discover additional information about the heritage of Kota Kinabalu and Sabah in particular, go visit the Sabah State Museum, which has three floors of artefacts. The name is a bit misleading because this is a museum compound that includes the Science and Technology Museum, the Sabah Art Gallery, and a tiny history town with reconstructions of local dwellings. As a result, this is a fantastic site to visit on a wet day, particularly if you are travelling with children and want to see a variety of displays in one location.

7. Mari Mari Cultural Village

Credit: Klook

No trip to Kota Kinabalu is complete without a tour to the Mari Mari Cultural Village for those who wish to learn more about the rich history and culture of the province of Sabah’s diverse indigenous communities. The themed village, situated in the beautiful forest northeast of the city, includes five tribal regions for you to wander; they give a peek at how various ethnicities formerly lived as hunters, fishermen, and rice farmers. You may learn how to cook some of their foods and manufacture some of their local handicrafts as well as learn about their lifestyles, customs, and cultures.

8. The City Park

Credit: Wikimedia

If you are in Kota Kinabalu’s city centre, one of the finest places to go is the City Park. The park is famous for being the sole green area in the city centre, so if you’re searching for a spot to rest and decompress, this is a perfect option. The British North Borneo Memorial, devoted to the men who perished here under the British Empire’s reign during World War I, is one of the park’s most notable landmarks. The monument was built in 1923 and is a small piece of historical heritage in the heart of Kota Kinabalu.

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