Exploring Jakarta’s colonial heritage – Batavia

Jakarta's Kota district

In the north of Jakarta there is a place where you can still feel the colonial time. You can embark on a journey into the past and experience the atmosphere of the Dutch era. The place is called old Batavia. It unites the remains of the Dutch colony that was setup here long time ago.

Exploring Batavia

Batavia was designed and settled by European Dutch in 1619 and at one point of time was renamed to Jakarta. The city expanded from a small Dutch colony into one of the world’s biggest cities. It’s metro population now is around 30 million people.

My trip started at the renovated museum of Bank Indonesia and set me up for the right mood. These buildings indeed stand out from Jakarta’s average architecture. They make you feel as if you were on a movie set.

Jakarta's traffic in Batavia
Traffic in Jakarta is crazy. Kota district, where Batavia is located, is mostly used by pedestrians. So it can get quite busy to cross the street
Dutch architecture in Batavia
European architecture really stands out from all the skyscrapers and 1-story buildings

My trip continued to the main square of Batavia where a former city hall was located. Now it’s another history museum. By the way, there are quite a few of different museums in old Batavia alone and the variety of them is astonishing – Jakarta’s history, sailing, Indonesian traditional dolls, even finance. Interesting differentiation, isn’t it?

The main square, of course, was bustling with people. As it’s the place that everyone definitely pass through, it’s full of merchants, street performers, bike rental agents and other interesting persons. As usual, right from the start I was asked permission take a photo with me, so seeing that there are a lot of potential askers I quickly entered into another popular tourist place – cafe Batavia, a place to take a rest from the pressure of being a European tourist in Southeast Asia.

Colorful bikes at the Fatahillah Square
Colorful bikes in the center of Kota district – the Fatahillah Square

Colonial heritage

I later continued my trip throughout the district and must say the feeling was perfect. The road finally got me to walk along the river and even though buildings were far away from what I was used to, I liked it. Apart from the river being quite dirty, of course.

Dutch architecture in Batavia
If you walk around the area you’ll find some places hidden from the main streets that actually look pretty nice
European architecture and Asian style
Jakarta is a city of contrasts and there are many places like this where someone is living under the bridge
Jakarta's contrasts
Overall the Dutch architecture that is left is mostly in a bad condition, so it kind of fits with local buildings
Rivers are dirty in Jakarta
It would look much prettier if it wouldn’t be so dirty. Especially the rivers

There was also an old watchtower on the way so I decided to have a look from above. There were no skyscrapers in 17th century, so you can see quite far.

Dutch watchtower in Batavia
The watchtower seemed quite shaky and unsafe as we walked up
Dutch watchtower Jakarta
Kristine enjoying the view from the watchtower
Jakarta's market in the Batavia area
There was a market behind the watchtower where we headed next
View from the watchtower
From the top of the watchtower we could see that it’s not the most pedestrian-friendly place. There was no place for us but the driveway

Sunda Kelapa

My final destination was an old port of Batavia where wooden ships dock. Turns out that these ships are still used for freight transportation, so it’s a bit strange that this place is considered a major tourist attraction. I got asked to pay for entering the port area (ok, only 60 cents), but when I came to the water all I can see were ships and trucks – basically, you get what you pay for, but I’m not sure what’s the hassle is all about.

Sunda Kelapa Jakarta
Jakarta’s Sunda Kelapa is the place where old wooden boats dock. It’s one of the main attractions, but I couldn’t see what was all the hassle about

Even though buildings are rather old and not renovated, you still have feel as if you’re not in the 21 century. It’s like continuing the journey in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie (persistent street merchants probably add to the experience). Also, dilapidated houses bring authenticity to the place which is hard to get otherwise. So you can truly experience how it must have looked at the time.

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