17 houses of worship in Malaysia you should visit

Kuching City Mosque, Sarawak. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

Malaysia certainly has a rich history and heritage, and her multicultural, multi-religious people are united in their diversity. This has always been one of the things that makes the nation unique and interesting in the eyes of an international visitor.

One of the best ways for visitors to experience the true “Malaysian way of life” is by visiting some of the amazing religious sites around the country.

Most of these houses of worship are well-known because of their history, but there are also a handful that have become “popular” of late because of viral posts on social media. No matter what the reason, though, these places are definitely worth a visit.Here are a list of grand mosques, beautiful churches and stunning temples that you can check out across the nation.

Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim, Kuala Lumpur

Located near the Federal Government Complex in KL, the blue-domed Federal Territory Mosque or Masjid Wilayah features a blend of Ottoman and Malay architectural detailing, and is heavily influenced by the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (aka the Blue Mosque) in Istanbul, Turkiye.

Opened to the public in 2000, the mosque has more than 20 turquoise domes in different sizes. Set within a garden surrounded by a moat, Masjid WIlayah is one of the city’s landmarks that is popular among international tourists.

Jalan Tun Perak, KL

In the middle of the nation’s busy capital city, you will find the beautiful Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad Kuala Lumpur. Located right where the Klang and Gombak rivers meet, the mosque is next to the Masjid Jamek LRT station, so it is very accessible.

The building was designed by English architect Arthur Benison Hubback and built in 1909, while the architecture is Mughal inspired with iconic white domes – the largest of which is over 20m in height.

There are two main minarets with red and white stripes. Built on a Malay burial ground in 1908, Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad Kuala Lumpur is one of the best-known old mosques found in the city.

Klang, Selangor

The Sultan Sulaiman Royal Mosque in Klang was opened in 1934 by Sultan Sir Alaeddin Suleiman Shah. It is considered the state’s royal mosque, and there are four former sultans, several royal consorts and many members of the Selangor royal family buried within the premises.

Constructed by the British, the mosque combines various types of architectural styles, including Moorish and Western Art Deco.

Sultan Sulaiman Mosque in Klang, Selangor. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The StarSultan Sulaiman Mosque in Klang, Selangor. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

Jalan Tukang Emas, Melaka

Built by Indian Muslim merchants from South India in 1748, the Kampung Kling Mosque in Melaka was originally a wooden structure, but rebuilt in 1872 with bricks.

It is one of the few old mosques in the country with a pagoda-shaped minaret. Its architecture reflects Malay, Sumatran, Chinese, Hindu and European influences.

The mosque is located along Jalan Tukang Emas, which is also known as Harmony Street, as it is home to other places of worship like the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple (Taoist and Buddhist) and the Sri Poyyatha Temple (Hindu).

Kuching, Sarawak

Previously known as the State Mosque of Sarawak, the Kuching Mosque is one of the city’s heritage buildings and an integral part of the Kuching landscape.

The house of worship was built in 1968 as a replacement for an existing wooden mosque that was constructed in the 1850s. Located along the Sarawak River banks close to the edge of the city centre, the mosque is near many centuries-old shop houses so a visit here may just elicit a feeling of nostalgia.

Kuching Mosque is affectionately called “Masjid Lama” by locals and is best viewed during sunset, where the building strikes a beautiful silhouette.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple, KL. — Tourism MalaysiaSri Mahamariamman Temple, KL. — Tourism Malaysia

Jalan Tun H. S. Lee, KL

The oldest functioning Hindu temple in the country was founded by K. Thamboosamy Pillai and built in 1873, though it was only opened to the public in the late 1920s.

Named after the popular Hindu deity, Mariamman, this temple is said to be the richest in the country. In its early inception, the temple served as a place of solace for South Indian immigrants in Malaya, but today it is frequented by Hindu devotees from all over the country.

The most outstanding feature of the temple is the five-tiered gopuram or tower that stands at 22.9m. There are a total of 228 Hindu deities adorning the gopuram, all of which were sculpted by artisans from South India.

Jalan Kebun Bunga, Pulau Tikus, Penang

The annual Thaipusam celebration in Penang culminates at the beautiful Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple, known by the locals as the Waterfall Temple.

The Hindu temple complex features fantastic architecture inspired from the era of the Chola and Pallava kingdoms of India, verdant greenery and the distinction of being one of the largest Lord Murugan temples outside of India.

Located just a stone’s throw away from the Penang Botanic Gardens, the temple has an impressive seven-storey gopuram that’s 26.1m tall, an ornate tower at the entrance. You need to climb a flight of 511 steps to get to the main temple, where the gopuram is. There are also many beautiful sculptures, smaller temples, an 8.2m-tall statue of Lord Shiva, and an aviary with gorgeous peacocks and other birds all found within the complex.

Batu Caves, Gombak, Selangor

Unless you are a Hindu devotee, you may not be too familiar with the name of this temple, but you will definitely know where it is located.

The Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple is located at Batu Caves in Selangor, one of the country’s most iconic landmarks that attracts thousands of devotees and tourists every year, especially during major festivals like Thaipusam and Deepavali. The temple is located in the caves and to get there, you would need to walk up the rainbow-coloured 272 steps, past the towering 42m-tall golden statue of the Lord Murugan.

Batu Caves has three main caves you can explore, and the largest is the Temple Cave, which has a high ceiling and houses several Hindu shrines. In the Ramayana Cave, you can find paintings of scenes from the Ramayana Hindu epic, as well as statues.

Batu Caves, Selangor. — Tourism MalaysiaBatu Caves, Selangor. — Tourism Malaysia

Wadi Hana, Johor Baru, Johor

The Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple is another unique temple that’s worth a visit. It was listed in the Malaysia Book Of Records in 2010 as Malaysia’s first and only glass temple, but that’s not the only thing that’s interesting about this place.

It also has sculptures and paintings of Buddha, Mother Teresa, Guru Nanak and Sai Baba, and is one of the oldest Hindu temples in the country. Its interior has over 300,000 multicoloured pieces of glasses and thousands more glass beads.

Founded in 1922, this house of worship was originally meant to be a sanctuary for Hindu devotees, but as the community grew, so did the temple. In 2008, the original temple began its glass transformation; construction took a year to finish. Today, the glass temple is one of the country’s top tourist attractions.

Taman Persiaran Desa, KL

Situated on a hill that offers glorious views of KL’s skyline, the Thean Hou Temple is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu.

The deity is accompanied by two shrines dedicated to the goddesses Guan Yin and Shui Wei Sheng Niang (Goddess of the Water-front). Built by the Hainanese community in 1987, this temple was opened in 1989.

Thean Hou is extremely popular during religious and cultural events including Chinese New Year and Wesak Day. Over the years, the place has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, thanks to its magnificent architecture, which combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The complex also houses beautiful Chinese pavilions that are surrounded by plenty of flowers and greenery.

Air Hitam, Penang

Penang’s famous Kek Lok Si Temple is also the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, and one of the biggest in the region. It is home to a 30.2m-tall bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin.

The temple has a seven-storey pagoda and over 10,000 Buddha statues scattered around the place, many of which can be found in the Buddha Pavilion. Built in 1890, this temple is decked in lanterns and coloured lights during festive seasons.

There’s also the Liberation Pond, one of the newer extensions to the complex built along the way to the first level of the temple. The pond houses plenty of tortoises, and is surrounded by arched bridges and a viewing platform.

Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The StarKek Lok Si Temple, Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

Ipoh, Perak

This interesting temple was built into a limestone hill at the foothills of Gunung Tasek in Ipoh, Perak in 1926. There is a lovely pavilion with a pond and garden in front of the main temple; a statue of Guan Yin is placed in the pond.

Inside the temple, you can find more than 50 statues and paintings of other Buddhist deities. Colourful murals depicting characters and events from Chinese mythology and Buddhist scriptures decorate the walls of the cavern.

Visitors who are not Buddhist or Taoist devotees can still enjoy a visit to this unique temple as the architecture is simply magnificent. Apart from that, you can actually hike up all the way to the summit, where there is a double-storey pavilion which offers a panoramic view of the city and surrounding hills.

Sandakan, Sabah

This Buddhist temple perched on a hill in Sandakan, Sabah once served as a pit stop for the popular reality TV show, The Amazing Race 4 (2003).

Puu Jih Shih Temple was officiated in 1987 and is the biggest Buddhist temple in the district, making it a popular tourist attraction. There are more than a dozen statues of Buddha lined up along the side of the road that leads up to the grand temple archway, which is a marvel to look at. The temple is the best place to be if you’re looking to get a good panoramic view of Sandakan bay, the town and the Sulu Sea.

Sri Aman, Sarawak

This unique-looking chapel was built in 1997 by Father Richard Khoo on a hill in Sarawak’s Sri Aman Division. The front of the chapel is shaped like three white candles, which represent the Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit).

But before you get to the front door, you would have to walk up 185 steps from the parking area. These steps are also known as Jacob’s Ladder and symbolise the “ladder” to Heaven.

Mount Hosanna Chapel, Sarawak. — todayscatholic.com.myMount Hosanna Chapel, Sarawak. — todayscatholic.com.my

Jalan Tun Sambanthan, KL

The Church Of The Holy Rosary can be found near the Brickfields area in the capital city, standing strong among modern structures and skyscrapers.

This Gothic-inspired church was constructed in 1903 by Father Francis Emile Terrien, a French Missionary, together with the architect, Father Lambert. It was originally built for the Chinese Catholic community in KL, but as the congregation grew, the church was renovated and expanded in 1950.

Its original flat attap roof was replaced, while a tall steeple was added for the bell. More reconstruction and expansion took place over the years, but generally, a large part of the building’s original structure still exists today.

Jalan Gereja, Melaka

When the Dutch took over Melaka from the Porguese, they built the Christ Church as a place of worship. It was completed in 1753, and is currently the oldest functioning Protestant church in Malaysia.

Christ Church has gone through several changes under the domination of different colonials. It is painted in red, a hallmark of Melaka’s Dutch-era buildings. Christ Church today belongs to the Anglican Church; it was handed to the British and consecrated for use for Anglican services in 1838. Surrounded by a beautiful landscape, visitors here will probably feel like visiting a vintage church in Europe.

Seremban, Negri Sembilan

This Catholic church features Gothic architecture and was founded in 1848 by French missionaries, who had come to Seremban from Melaka.

The present structure was built in 1899 by Antonin Catesson, with expansions and renovations taking place a few times over the years beginning from 1935. The church also survived bombings during the Japanese Occupation. Its lancet entrances are topped with stained glass rosettes and the four corners of the main structure end in pinnacles.

Church Of The Visitation, Negri Sembilan. — UU BAN/The StarChurch Of The Visitation, Negri Sembilan. — UU BAN/The Star

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