Semarang is a busy trading and administrative city, mostly because of its Tanjung Mas harbor and its status as Central Java capital. This city is already a busy port city since the colonial era, with lots of the remnants of the era still intact and can be seen today. In fact, many of the colonial era buildings have become the icon of this city.
Located on the northern coast of Java, Semarang population is predominantly a Javanese. However, Semarang is actually a huge melting pot of many cultures including European, Arabic, Chinese, Indian, and Malay. Centuries of interactions between many traders from many places has created a unique city. Here are the places you must visit in Semarang.
Turning back time at the Old City
Kota Lama, literally old city, is the old part of the city, built by the colonial ruler. Originally called Oudstadt, this area is like a time capsule from the eighteenth century. There are lots of grand European building, initially designed for the center of administration and elite residential area.
Carefully planned city, it has everything a wealthy European ever need at that time. Small opera house, beautiful houses, an integrated trading district, and an iconic church. Gereja Blenduk (Koeplekerk) is a pantheon styled church that is still standing strong until today.
Hunting for the legendary spring roll
The cultural fusion in Semarang also reflect on its culinary aspect. One of the food you must try when visiting this city is its lumpia (spring roll). Now, you can get lumpia in any city in Indonesia but the tastiness of Semarang’s lumpia is second to none, or so they say.
It has a legendary status and many people come to the city just to try lumpia at some of the well-known vendor, most of them have been around for decades. Gang Lombok is the best place to hunt for this delicacy.
Kelenteng Sam Po Kong
Located on the western part of the city Kelenteng Sam Po Kong (sometimes also called Gedung Batu) is a temple built to honor Admiral Zheng He who visited this city in 1405. This site is actually a compound of several temples; Dewa Bumi, Juru Mudi, Sam Poo Tay Djien, and Kyai Jangkar. This complex is popular because it offers many photo spots. This instagrammable destination is also another proof that Semaranag is indeed a rich city culturally.
The mysterious majestic Lawang Sewu
Lawang Sewu means a thousand doors in Javanese. This abandoned building has some really scary legends and myth. Lots of horror television shows took place in this building. This building is originally built for the Nederlandsch Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij (Dutch East Indies Railway Company).
The design involves lots of doors and arcs, thus the name Lawang Sewu. The structure has been used differently across time. Japanese used this massive building as military headquarter during World War II. This three-story mammoth was also the site of the Battle of Semarang, a bloody five days battle between Indonesia’s Railway Youth Forces (AMKA) against Japanese Kempeitai and Kidobutai.
There are lots of the AMKA tortured and died in this battle. To commemorate this fight, the government built Tugu Muda Monument.
How to get to Semarang and What to do there
Semarang is really accessible by any means of transportation. Cruises comes and go in Tanjung Mas seaport. Overland, there are trains and buses (via Tawang Station and Terboyo Bus Station) connecting this city to virtually any part of Java.
Ahmad Yani Airport is served with many flights to many big cities in Indonesia and neighboring countries. Getting around the city is a different beast, though. Public transport is very good, with minibuses going to different parts of the city.
Be sure to ask for direction before taking one. Taxis are everywhere and can get you anywhere easily. When visiting Kota Lama, Becak might be the best option for maximum enjoyment.