Melaka and George Town, Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca

N5 25 17 E100 20 45
Date of Inscription: 2008
Minor boundary modification inscribed year: 2011
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Property : 218.76 ha
Buffer zone: 392.84 ha
Ref: 1223bis

Melaka and George Town, historic cities of the Straits of Malacca have developed over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. The influences of Asia and Europe have endowed the towns with a specific multicultural heritage that is both tangible and intangible. With its government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications, Melaka demonstrates the early stages of this history originating in the 15th-century Malay sultanate and the Portuguese and Dutch periods beginning in the early 16th century. Featuring residential and commercial buildings, George Town represents the British era from the end of the 18th century. The two towns constitute a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

Melaka and George Town, Malaysia, are remarkable examples of historic colonial towns on the Straits of Malacca that demonstrate a succession of historical and cultural influences arising from their former function as trading ports linking East and West. These are the most complete surviving historic city centres on the Straits of Malacca with a multi-cultural living heritage originating from the trade routes from Great Britain and Europe through the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and the Malay Archipelago to China. Both towns bear testimony to a living multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, where the many religions and cultures met and coexisted. They reflect the coming together of cultural elements from the Malay Archipelago, India and China with those of Europe, to create a unique architecture, culture and townscape.

Criterion (ii): Melaka and George Town represent exceptional examples of multi-cultural trading towns in East and Southeast Asia, forged from the mercantile and exchanges of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures and three successive European colonial powers for almost 500 years, each with its imprints on the architecture and urban form, technology and monumental art. Both towns show different stages of development and the successive changes over a long span of time and are thus complementary.

Criterion (iii): Melaka and George Town are living testimony to the multi-cultural heritage and tradition of Asia, and European colonial influences. This multi-cultural tangible and intangible heritage is expressed in the great variety of religious buildings of different faiths, ethnic quarters, the many languages, worship and religious festivals, dances, costumes, art and music, food, and daily life.

Criterion (iv): Melaka and George Town reflect a mixture of influences which have created a unique architec¬ture, culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and South Asia. In particular, they demonstrate an exceptional range of shophouses and townhouses. These buildings show many different types and stages of development of the building type, some originating in the Dutch or Portuguese periods.

Suggested Bases:

George Town is the capital city of the island and state of Penang, on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia. It is the second largest city in Malaysia, with a population of 708,000 as of 2010, and 2.5 million in the Greater Penang area. Founded as a trading outpost by the British in 1786, George Town has evolved into a melting pot of sorts, with its cosmopolitan, multicultural character evident in its architecture, festivals and even food; the city is well-known as the food capital of Malaysia. Aside from the city’s living heritage coexisting with modern shopping malls and skyscrapers, a variety of natural attractions, such as the Penang Hill and beaches, are also within easy reach. Along with fellow former Straits Settlement, Malacca, George Town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. [read more]

Malacca City (Malay: Bandaraya Melaka, and officially Melaka City) is the capital of the state of Malacca, Malaysia. Modern-day Malacca is a vibrant old city with a unique historical and cultural background from being the capital of a powerful Malay kingdom before the colonial era, as well as subsequent Portuguese, Dutch and British rule. The city centre was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in July 2008, along with Georgetown, Penang. Before the arrival of the first Sultan, Malacca was a simple fishing village inhabited by local Malays. The Malacca Sultanate was founded by Parameswara, also called Iskandar Shah or Sri Majara, the last Raja of Singapura (the Malay name of Singapore) following a Majapahit attack in 1377. Parameswara found his way to Malacca in 1400 where he found a port, accessible in all seasons and on the strategically located narrowest point of the Malacca Strait. [read more]

Kuala Lumpur, called KL by locals, is Malaysia’s federal capital and largest city at 6.5 million (city-proper population of 1.8 million). Kuala Lumpur is a cultural melting pot with some of the world’s cheapest 5-star hotels, impressive shopping districts, food from all parts of the world, and natural wonders within day-trip distance. As in most of Malaysia’s cities and towns, Malaysian Chinese form a majority of the population, at 55%, in Kuala Lumpur. Malays (who form the majority of Malaysia’s population, overall) and Malaysian Indians are also present in large numbers in the city, and there are substantial numbers of more recent immigrants and workers from South and Southeast Asia, Eurasians, and expatriates from Western countries and the Middle East. The result is a mix of cultures that meld together to make Kuala Lumpur a modern and diverse capital. [read more]

11 replies »

  1. I LOVE Malacca. Lived there for a month a couple of years ago and it truly became one of my favourite places in Malaysia. The locals are lovely and the food (much like the rest of the country) was delicious. Can’t wait to go back.


  2. For me, Melaka’s appeal is the food and the architecture. It’s just dawned on me that every entry is going to mention the food as a highlight but that’s Malaysia in a nutshell (or should that be a coconut shell?!).

    The eclectic mix of architecture is best appreciated on foot, following the town’s Heritage Trail (you can pick up a map at the Tourist Information Centre), visiting China Town and the Old Town. And when you’re ready to start eating, head to Jonker Street.

    Depending on your interests, there is plenty to keep you occupied for a few days in Malacca. We’re not so into museums, but if you are, you’ll probably need to stay a week! If you only visit one museum it should be the Baba-Nonya Heritage Museum where you can learn about the history of the region.

    Other ‘must see’ sights in Melaka include the Stadthuys (a Dutch-built historical building), Dutch Square, historic Christ Church, and the 17th century Cheng Hoon Teng Chinese temple.

    We enjoyed walking along the river that cuts through the town, particularly at nightfall when lights from the traditional houses produce a photogenic reflection. There is also a thriving street art scene in Melaka which I have yet to fully appreciate since it has mushroomed since our last visit to the city, around four years ago. A lot of murals can be seen from the riverbanks, and the narrow alleys in the old town are another good place to go street art hunting.


  3. Perhaps the most conspicuous symbol of the Chinese presence in Penang is Kek Lok Si, “The Temple of Supreme Bliss,” founded in 1891. This sprawling Buddhist temple complex built into Penang Hill is among the largest in Southeast Asia.

    I slipped off my shoes and stepped into a vast prayer hall where I discreetly observed worshippers kneeling before a gleaming Buddha so massive, it made them appear as insignificant as the ephemeral smoke wafting from their heavily perfumed incense sticks.

    Meandering aimlessly through a maze of towers, pagodas and gardens dotted with tortoise-filled ponds, I encountered a photo-worthy sculpture or mural at practically every turn.

    I saved the best for last. The Sky Lift, a tram that climbs to the top of the mountain, takes visitors to see the impressive, 90-foot statue of Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy, that was added in 2009. A sweeping, bird’s-eye view of the city is a bonus.


  4. The Melaka streets are full of colourful, photogenic Baba Nyonya shophouses, with their mandatory shuttered windows while on Jalan Tukang Emas – also known as “Harmony Street” – an Islamic mosque and Hindu and Buddhist temples are neighbours. But it is the magnificent crimson-coloured 18th-century Dutch church – Malacca’s own “Red Square”, that draws the most tourists. It was the oldest building I’d ever seen when I first visited all those years ago. The Dutch built the church to commemorate the centenary of their colonial rule of Malacca in 1653. Eventually the British, having conquered the Dutch, transformed it into an Anglican church but, in looks alone, it will forever remain Dutch.


  5. Like most tourists, I started my tour in the Dutch Square or the Stadthuys (Jalan Gereja, Malacca), which is believed to be the oldest Dutch building on this side of the world. Also known as the Red Square because of its bright, salmon-colored structures, this is where visitors have their photos taken, most of them in front of the Christ Church, the Tang Beng Swee Bell Tower, and the Queen Victoria Fountain. It took me a while to get past the crowds of tourists wanting to get every angle of the square, but I cannot blame them. The whole square is picturesque, with the undeniable European feel from its old world architecture and romantic cobblestone steps. Walking further, I immersed myself in the extensive Malacca history as I made my way to their complex of museums. For RM 5, I was able to visit three: History and Ethnography Museum, Literature Museum, and the Democratic Government Museum.


  6. A trishaw is one of the best ways to take in Penang and all its romantic colonial architecture, UNESCO Heritage sites, and seaside. The canny trishaw cyclist will be able to cut through traffic quickly and recommend some good places to try out the famous Penang cuisine.


  7. Chew Jetty: It’s the most interesting because it isn’t every day that you see something like this! Clan jetties are Chinese waterfront settlements comprised of wooden houses built on stilts. They were built more than a century ago by poor Chinese immigrants who moved to Penang from Fujian province and worked near the port.


  8. Me and m husband were there in November last year, as part of a tour. I wasn’t expecting to like Penang, pre conceived ideas, but I was completely wrong and really loved it. We visited the Peranaken Museum, which I found incredibly fascinating, especially all the beautiful costumes and jewellery. There was so much more that we didn’t see and I would love to go and spend more time there. I’m working on trying to persuade my friend in Canada to go with me next year, combined with Langkawi and Singapore.


  9. Head to the nearby Khoo Kongsi (18 Cannon Square) for what is one of the most intricately designed clan houses in Southeast Asia. Similar in purpose to those found in places like Singapore, Hoi An, Melaka, etc – these clan houses served as the headquarters of family associations. There is an entrance fee of MYR 10 – pretty steep for a temple in Malaysia but worth it for the architecture. On certain evenings, Khoo Kongsi is also floodlit which makes the building’s details stand out even more.


  10. A big part of Penang’s identity is its Peranakan history. The term refers to the earliest Chinese immigrant traders who mixed with locals, creating a unique culture in terms of food, art and architecture. Some of their traditional homes have been turned into hotel-museums. The two most well-kept mansions are the Pinang Peranakan Museum and the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion or the Blue Mansion. If I had to choose one, I would go for the Pinang Peranakan, simply because it is more ornate.


  11. George Town’s center is UNESCO World Heritage listed thanks to its unique architecture, culture, and townscape. You need to set aside at least a couple of hours to wander around this Penang famous place to visit. There are neighborhoods to visit within it as well with Little India, its famous Chinese shop fronts and colonial architecture left by the British. It’s also easy to visit with it being centrally located within the most popular parts of Penang. Some area to explore include Love Lane, Armenian Street and around Queen Street, Chulia Street and Market Streets for Little India. There are also some Penang points of interest to visit to learn more the history of this area at Peranakan Mansion and Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.