Semarang is the capital city of Central Java and is the fifth biggest city in Indonesia. And as many other big cities, Semarang indeed has many unique tourism spots to explore. In facts, Semarang has more various kinds of tourism, such as:

1. Historical Tourism

Semarang was a vital city in Indonesia during Dutch colonialism in 18th century. Thus there are many historical buildings in Semarang ready to be explored and learnt. Try coming over to Kota Lama Area and you will see many old buildings with Classic-European architecture.

These buildings were used to be Dutch governmental buildings during their colonialisms. But now most of the buildings have been reused for other purpose such as banks, restaurants, hotels, tourism explorations, educations, and more. Some buildings are even still active with their original purpose such as churches, banks, and train station.

Kota Lama Semarang (Source: Credit: boring_stones)
Kota Lama Semarang
(Source: Credit: boring_stones)

Other historical tourism objects in Semarang are Hindunese temples. It is known that the most ancient religion in Indonesia is Hindu. Hindu has developed in Indonesia (or Semarang, to be specific) long before the Dutch started colonializing Indonesia.

So it is not a surprise to find some temples in Semarang such as Gedong Songo Temple nearby the Mount Ungaran. Hypothetically, the temple was built in 9th century. The word “Gedong Songo” means “Nine Buildings” which represents the facts that there are nine temples in this one area.

This area has stunning scenery with Mount Ungaran on the background. If you look around, there is a pine forest which is naturally neat. Nearby the forest, you can find a wellspring of sulfur-contained water. At the morning, the fogs may block your view but the chilly weather is really fresh to breathe in.


2. Nature Tourism

If you are more into nature exploration, Semarang can also be one of your choices. Try visiting its beautiful Marina beach on Jalan Yos Sudarso, about 4 kilometers from the city. The beach is located only few hundred meters away from the airport. So if you take a plane to Semarang, you can just walk to the beach soon after your plane has landed.

Marina beach is open for 24 hours with only $0.2 of ticket. In the morning, you can see the sun rises. The breeze is fresh some people loves jogging here every morning or every late afternoon when the sun is about to set. During the day, you can take a boat ride around the beach. Swimming is possible too if the weather is nice. At this area, there is a dragon fruit field which also contributes a lot to the beauty of the beach. After sunset, there is a culinary market where you can taste many kinds of local foods with really cheap prices.

Dusk at Marina Beach (Source: Credit: Indra Kusuma)
Dusk at Marina Beach
(Source: Credit: Indra Kusuma)

Besides the beach, there is also Taman Lele Tourism Village located on Jalan Walisongo on Pantura Path. With refreshing environment and plenty choices of entertainments, this ecological village is very suitable for family vacation. Taman Lele has many guava trees and wellsprings where hundreds of catfishes are living. That is how the village gained the name “Taman Lele” which literally means “Field of Catfish”.

Taman Lele also has a mini-zoo. The animals available there are just animals originally lives in Semarang such as iguana, crocodile, rabbits, and many kinds of birds. Nearby the zoo, there is a swimming pool and playground where the children can have fun to kill time.

After a day exploring the village, you can come along to the lake. Sitting down on the side of the lake with your family to rest and enjoy the astonishing sunset. Or if you still have energy for activity, try renting a duck boat for $0.8 and have a ride around the lake. Taman Lele also provides hotel and restaurant with gazebo and internet connection to accommodate you for a longer stay.

A Gazebo Nearby the Lake in Taman Lele Village (Source: Credit: Uswatun Khasanah)
A Gazebo Nearby the Lake in Taman Lele Village
(Source: Credit: Uswatun Khasanah)

3. Religious Tourism

Islam is the majority religion in Semarang. Then of course, there are several beautiful mosques in Semarang worth to visit.

Let’s say Masjid Agung Jawa Tengah (The Great Mosque of Central Java) at Gajah Raya Road. This famous mosque was built with sophisticated architectural style and advanced engineering. Even if you are not a moslem, you still are allowed to come inside as the building was intentionally made for both religious and tourism purpose.

The main building is standing huge in the middle of this 10 hectares of area with pyramid-shaped roof, the traditional roof shape of Java. The top of the roof is adorned with a dome and four identical towers in symmetrical position. It is a common combination in Islamic buildings. Next to it is Al Husna Tower with 99 meters of height and 19 levels of floor. The first floor is used for radio station. Upper that is a Museum of Islamic Culture. The 18th floor is a café which is able to rotate to 360° (Imagine how would it feel if the world is spinning around you while you are eating!).

Masjid Agung Semarang also has a wide plaza at the front of the main mosque with six huge electrical umbrellas. These umbrellas can be opened and closed as needed anytime. They usually let it open during a bright day so people could enjoy the sun. But if you wish to see them closed, you can just tell the management and they will close it for you.

The 6 Electric Umbrellas are Still Closed in Front of the Main Building (Source: Credit: Ilham Ramadhan)
The 6 Electric Umbrellas are Still Closed in Front of the Main Building
(Source: Credit: Ilham Ramadhan)

The greatness about Semarang is, many religions can develops together harmonically on the same place.  So even if Islam the most religion in Semarang, that does not mean other religion has no astonishing buildings for you to explore. For example, there is Klenteng Sam Po Kong on Jalan Simongan. This ancient klenteng also has a historical value.

This place was used by a Chinese Admiral named Cheng Ho as a transit port once he landed to Indonesia. Admiral Cheng Ho was originally a moslem. But the Chinese-ethnicity people in Semarang respected him a lot so they praised him as a God.

The Chinese architectural style and fengshui is heavily applied to this building. But they also added more green colors at some ornaments to respect Admiral’s actual religion. At the perimeter wall is a series of relief about Cheng Ho’s arrival in Indonesia.

There is also Blenduk Church on Jalan Jendral Suprapto at Kota Lama area. This Christian Church was a heritage from Dutch colonialism. Built in 1753, the church looks standing out with detailed Neo-Classical architecture. The church is still active for religious purpose.


4. Culture Tourism

As an old city, Semarang has strong cultural heritage. It may not have an ancient kingdom like Yogyakarta or Solo, but they still have their tradition on their daily values. The people of Semarang like to gather around every week to socialize. At modern days, they are doing it on Pasar Rakyat Simpang Lima (Simpang Lima Folk Market). Simpang Lima is a crossroad between five important road in Semarang; Jalan Pandanaran, Jalan Gadjah Mada, JalanAhmad Yani, Jalan Ahmad Dahlan, and Jalan Pahlawan. At the center of the crossroad, there is a wide plaza.

During weekdays, you will see nothing special on this plaza. But if you pass by this crossroad at Saturday night or Sunday morning, you will see how crowded this plaza would be as it turns to be a folk market. There are many kinds of goods sold at this market; from all the small things like accessories and souvernirs, to household needs such as appliances and stuffs. You can also buy many kinds of foods and beverages here; from light snacks as boiled peanuts, to heavy meal such as nasi pecel. Musical performance also takes part of this folk market to live up the atmosphere.

Other cultural experience you can get in Semarang is visiting Pecinan (Chinatown). Some people of Semarang have Chinese ethnicity. Most of their ancestors came to this land along with the famous Admiral Cheng Ho. Although they are born and raised in Semarang and also having Indonesian nationality since birth, these Chinese-ethnicity people never forget their roots. That is how the Pecinan exists in Semarang.

A Barongsai Performance in Pecinan (Source: Credit: Bayu Hastiono P.)
A Barongsai Performance in Pecinan
(Source: Credit: Bayu Hastiono P.)

Exploring Pecinan is really amazing as most of the buildings are still using the traditional Chinese architecture and feng shui wisdom. Around Imlek Day, the village will be filled with many traditional ornaments and decorations to brighten up the environment. To get more experience, do not forget to visit Semawis Market which is available from Friday to Sunday.

The market offers you many kinds of Chinese souvenirs and culinary. During the Imlek Day, you can also see a barongsai performance; a traditional dance from China where the performers are wearing dragon costumes and imitating the dragon roaring, jumping, and flying around.


5. Culinary Tourism

Semarang also has various culinary to spoil your appetite. Some popular foods in Semarang are lumpia semarang (a kind of spring roll), wingko babat (dry cake made out of coconut), tahu petis (tofu with black sauce fillings), grilled corn, and much more.

A Bite of Lumpia Semarang (Source: Credit: Chandra Marsono)
A Bite of Lumpia Semarang
(Source: Credit: Chandra Marsono)

To explore and find many kinds of Semarang culinary, you can simply go to one of the culinary center in Semarang such as Jalan Pandanaran, Simpang Lima area (especially during Folk Market), or Manggala Food Festival on Jalan Gadjah Mada. (more information culinary in Java.)