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A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

A visit to the charming Old Town of Semarang will offer loads of photo ops. I, for one, couldn't stop clicking away. Click, click, click. There's something about decrepit buildings that render them infinitely photogenic. I think what makes them so appealing is the layers of texture and hues that reveal themselves over time. At times, hidden brick is uncovered, a thin layer of moss grows or a beautiful patina starts to form, all creating unique designs by nature.

Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. You're probably wondering where in the world is the Old Town of Semarang. I'll get to that right now.


A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

Semarang is the capital city of Central Java, the largest island in Indonesia. As I researched what to see on my travels through Java, I came across Kampung Pelangi. Thanks to my love for all things creative, I added this village to my list of things to see. That's how I ended up in Semarang, a city I had never heard of. Of course, my stay lead me to exploring what more the city had to offer.

Enter: The Old Town of Semarang.

Kota Lama Semarang, its name in Bahasa Indonesia, dates back to the 17th century. During this period, Semarang became a multi-cultural trading hub in South East Asia. Javanese, Chinese, Malay, Arabs and the Dutch all passed through or settled in Semarang over the span of 350 years. Each culture left its mark to varying degrees but it's the Dutch who gained control of the city in 1682. As a result, they contributed greatly in the construction and planning of Semarang. During this Colonial Era, many buildings and houses were erected in conformity with Dutch architecture.

A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

As time went by, the Dutch eventually left Semarang and the Outstadt was forgotten. For many years following, the once prestigious Old Town gave way to a red light district where crime and prostitution were rampant. Finally recognizing the value in its Dutch heritage, the city took the initiative in restoring many of the buildings to their former glory. This insightful conservation project turned the Old Town of Semarang into one of the prettiest areas in South East Asia. Don't worry, the Old Town of Semarang is now safe.

A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

Unfortunately, as Semarang developed into a modern metropolis, some parts of the old town were, once again, gravely neglected. Perfectly aged patinas took over forgotten surfaces. Tree roots clung to crumbling walls. Plaster began to fall leaving behind abstract outlines. That brings me back to what I was saying at the beginning of this post: There's just something about decrepit buildings that render them so photogenic. In my opinion, this state of disarray is exactly what makes the Old Town of Semarang so charming. I was absolutely smitten with the beautiful, natural decay of these abandoned buildings.

Click, click, click.

A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

Having said that, decrepit buildings might not be everyone's cup of tea but bear with me. I'm about to reveal other reasons why the Old Town of Semarang is worth a visit. First of all, it's surprisingly clean. In fact, Semarang (in general) was named the cleanest tourist destination in South East Asia for 2020.

Second of all, there's no shortage of ways to spend your time in the Old Town. Some of the former Dutch residences have been revived into quaint coffee shops, cute boutiques or inviting restaurants. Of course, all keeping in line with the original Dutch architecture. Walking around the Old Town of Semarang will make you feel like you stepped back in time nearly 300 years.

Next up....Calling all vintage enthusiasts!

A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

Klitikan Market (or Padangrani Market) specializes in the sale of vintage items. Here, you'll find several stalls spilling with a crazy amount of bygone items some of which are antiques. From creepy dolls to Chinese enamel dishes to jewelry and everything in between, perusing Klitikan Market makes for a fun experience. Rummaging through the items will give you a glimpse into the history of Semarang. You might even find a memento to take home.

Read also: Finding Unexpected Street Art in Semarang

A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

Klitikan Market is a stone's throw away from Blenduk Church. Built in 1753 in neo-classical style, Blenduk Church is the most famous landmark in the Old Town of Semarang. It's hard not to miss as it hovers over the town square known as Srigunting Park. The glaringly white walls of Blenduk Church create a lovely backdrop against the greenery of the park. Srigunting Park beckons passersby to take a leisurely stroll through its manicured gardens. While you're there, remember to strike a pose on the pink bicycle.

A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

After exploring the nooks and crannies of the charming Old Town of Semarang, you can head by foot to nearby Chinatown. Following the Javanese, Chinese are the second largest ethnic group in Semarang. Naturally, establishments such as temples and markets catering to the large Chinese community have sprouted. The most famous Chinese temple is Tay Kak Sie built in 1746. I didn't visit this temple as I was too 'busy' soaking up the atmosphere in Chinatown. To compensate, here's a photo of a small temple I came across while wandering around.

That sums up my visit! Now do you believe me when I say the charming Old Town of Semarang is worth a visit? Even if you're not into decrepit buildings (wink).

A Visit to the Charming Old Town of Semarang

Is the Old Town of Semarang somewhere you'd like to visit?


A Visit to the Charming Old City of Semarang

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