Visiting Surabaya: what are the best things to do and see in this ultra-dynamic and modern metropolis on the island of Java?
Let’s go to Indonesia! The Indonesian Archipelago is made up of several thousand islands, the largest of which is Java. It represents a dream destination and above all varied! Its heavenly beaches, its volcanoes, or its rice fields, Indonesia is considered a paradise on Earth. However, large interesting cities are to be discovered, like Surabaya!
Where is Surabaya?
Located on the island of Java, in the province of East Java, it is the second largest city in Indonesia after the capital Jakarta, with 3.5 million inhabitants. Surabaya is nicknamed “The City of Heroes” because of its important role in the country’s independence during the Indonesian National Revolution. In addition to being an industrial and modern city, Surbaya is the main seaport of Eastern Indonesia.
Visiting the metropolis assures you of discovering numerous religious sites, astonishing architecture, varied attractions and tasty cuisine. Let’s not forget to mention the incredible shopping sessions and the lively nightlife! Wondering what to do in Surabaya? It’s this way !
Do & See
Kenjeran Beach is a famous beach in Surabaya that must visited! This beach is nearby Suramadu Bridge and one of a favorite tourist destination in Surabaya. In here you can enjoy the sea panorama and also the beautiful sunsets. You can choose to enjoy the beach by walking on the sand or to take a boat tour.
Much of Surabaya’s heritage has been swept away by fast-paced modernisation, and the city was also heavily damaged in the aftermath of World War II during the struggle for independence, earning its title the “Hero City” of Indonesia. As a result, it has rather few major visitor attractions, but boasts a couple of distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct flair, including the Arab Quarter and Chinatown. Surabaya is also home to Masjid Nasional Al Akbar, one of Southeast Asia’s most imposing modern mosques.
The old Town
You cannot visit Surabaya without discovering the old town, located north of the city, which has kept its picturesque side. You will discover old colonial buildings, its Chinese and Arab quarter, the magnificent residence of the governor and many colorful temples and mosques.
One of the centerpieces in Surabaya’s eclectic mosaic of a cityscape, the Arab Quarter (also called Ampel) is a must-visit area of the city that much resembles the mazy old Arabic town centers. While here, take time to see the expansive, marble-floored Ampel Mosque.
Address: 53 Jl Ampel Masjid, Surabaya
Tugu Pahlawan (Heroes’ Monument)
This landmark monument can be seen in the city centre. The Tugu Pahlawan is a typical piece of grandiose post-independence Indonesian public art and was erected in memory of the independence fighters who fell in the Battle of Surabaya in November 1945.
Address: Taman Kebon Rojo, Surabaya
Kalimas Traditional Harbour
If you are looking for what to do in Surabaya, go in the early morning (before sunrise and therefore before all the hustle and bustle of the day), on the old port of Kalimas, to see the locals loading and unloading the boats. In the harbor you can also see old wooden boats, built six centuries ago.
For a strong whiff of the sea and a taste of what remains of old Surabaya visit the Kalimas Harbour, the city’s original port. This is where broad-beamed pinisi schooners unload produce along a 2 km stretch of quayside. The best time to visit is early in the morning when the boats are setting sail.
Address: Kalimas Harbour, Surabaya
Monumen Kapal Selam (Submarine Monument)
On the bank of the Kalimas River (opposite of Trillium Apartment), the Indonesian Navy’s first submarine – the Soviet-built Whiskey class sub Pasopat – is now a national monument honouring heroes of the independence struggle and celebrating the country’s seafaring tradition. Built in Vladivostok, it was bought by Indonesia in 1962.
Address: 39 Pemuda Street, Surabaya
Jalesveva Jayamahe Monument
One of the free tourist destinations in Surabaya, it can be used as tourism education as well. To enter, you need to make an agreement before visiting. Visitors can go up to the upper building directly below the iconic statue and visitors can enjoy the Suramadu bridge view. Unfortunately it’s located in restriction area of navy army, you can visit when it held Naval Base.
Suramada Bridge and Madura Islands
With its 5.5 km in length, the Suramada bridge, which has linked Java to the Madura Islands since 2009, is the longest in Indonesia. Modern, it is particularly pleasant to admire at sunset.
Taking a tour of Madura will make you disconnect a little from the big city of Surabaya. The greatest local tradition? The bullfights, an event not to be missed if you are looking for what to do in Surabaya!
House of Sampoerna (closed)
If you are going to visit Surabaya, then do not miss the visit to the Sampoerna house. Created in the 19th century, this magnificent complex of several buildings includes a cigarette factory and a museum on tobacco production. The Sampoerna house is built in the Dutch colonial style.
The museum’s most popular attraction is the operating production line of the famous local cigarette brand Dji Sam Soe (banned in a number of countries for excessive tar content). Come before 3pm on weekdays to see labourers at work; any day until 10 pm to see the tobacco/cigarette-related exhibits.
Address: 6 Taman Sampoerna, Surabaya
Opening hours: Daily 9 am-10 pm
Phone: +62 31 3539000
Kong Co Kong Tik Cun Ong (Taoist Temple)
This Taoist Temple was built in the 18th Century, this Buddha temple is endowed with golden Buddhas and red candles that invite in both Taoist and Confucian followers.
The strong smell of incense can be traced from meters away, which is why the temple draws in a good crowd.
Masjid Cheng Hoo Mosque
Built in the 15th century, this unusual mosque is dedicated to Chinese Muslims. The specificity of this mosque lies in the combination of several styles.
This mixture of Middle Eastern architecture, local Javanese culture and its yellow, green and red colors, reminiscent of certain temples in China, make it a magnificent building. Do not miss to go to the observation platform located next door, which offers a magnificent view of the city.
Get out of the hustle and bustle of the city center and get some fresh air in this eco-tourist zone located to the east of the city. Boat trips along the mangrove are possible. If you prefer to walk, a short walk is possible before settling in a small shop for a lunch with local flavors. Ideal if you are looking for what to do in Surabaya. A great place that changes a little monuments and museums.
Al Akbar Mosque
For some, it is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. With its almost 100 meter high minaret offering a unique panoramic view of the city, and its 65 meter high blue dome, it is one of the city’s best-known tourist attractions. You can admire the elegance of its marble interior from the first floor accessible to the public, the ground floor being reserved for Muslims.
Ideal if you are traveling with the family and wondering what to do in Surabaya, this is one of the largest water parks in Southeast Asia. You can enjoy 5 hectares of attractions, including swimming pools, slides and even a 5D cinema! It is inspired by the universe of the Persian tale “Simbad the sailor”.
Like its big sister Jakarta, the city of Surabaya is full of shopping centers, each bigger than the next! If you are going to visit Surabaya, expect to discover excess, air conditioning, floors by the dozens, and shops by the hundreds…
High tech, fashion, accessories, crafts, traditional jewelry, antiques, perfumes… From the great designers to the small traditional shops…
If you looking for something, no doubts, you will find it here! To name a few, you will find the Supermall, which is actually 3 shopping malls side by side, Tunjunhan Plaza, the second largest in the city, the smaller, open-air Plaza Graha Famili, which includes a large playground for children or the Ciputra World or the Lenmarc.
Visiting Surabaya is also an opportunity to discover or rediscover Asian flavors. Their reputation is well established… so it seems obvious that in a big city like Surabaya, you can discover delicious Indonesian flavors. From the small street “warung” to the gastronomic restaurant of the city’s big hotels, passing by the “food court” of the shopping centers, there will be something for all tastes and all wallets!
“Nasi goreng” (fried rice), “Sate Ayam” (chicken satay), “Sate Kambing” (lamb), “Gado gado” (vegetable salad with peanut sauce), “Bakso” (soup with meatball) , are typical dishes with captivating flavors that you will find difficult to forget!
And if you’ve been in Indonesia for a long time and you’re getting tired of the food (yes, it happens), the city is full of restaurants of all nationalities! You will inevitably find something to delight your taste buds!
Bromo and Ijen volcanoes (visiting around Surabaya)
Visiting Surabaya will also allow you to be well located to discover some of Java’s must-see tourist sites. From Surabaya, many tours are organized for a Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen combo. And honestly, both volcanoes are worth seeing! You can of course organize your trip yourself, taking care of your transport and your accommodation, but you may need to be patient. The tours offered are often more expensive, but the organization is necessarily much simpler!
Culminating at 2,200 meters above sea level and still active, Mount Bromo is one of the most famous volcanoes in Indonesia. Because of the dangerousness of the place, we prefer the ascent of Mount Penanjakan, to watch the sunrise over Bromo.
The “King Kong Hill” viewpoint is accessible on foot or by jeep. You can then go for a walk around the volcano and climb to the top of the crater.
Also called Kawa Ijen, its ascent is to be done in the middle of the night. Why ? You will witness the breathtaking spectacle of blue flames on the way. This phenomenon is due to the combustion of sulfuric gases in contact with air at temperatures exceeding 220°C.
Once you have reached the top of the volcano, after an ascent which remains accessible to everyone in terms of technique, you will patiently wait for the sunrise. The first rays of the sun will finally reveal the lake of a deep emerald color. The lake is located at the bottom of the crater. You will also be able to see the sulfur carriers on your way. They risk their lives every day in very difficult conditions.
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