Visit this impressive square for a glimpse into Kuala Lumpur's colonial past and to see the place where the Malaysian flag was raised for the very first time.
This square in the centre of Kuala Lumpur holds particular significance for locals, as it is the place where Malaysian independence was officially declared – hence the name Merdeka (literally "Independence" Square). This important moment in Malaysian history is commemorated in the square every year as part of the country's Independence Day celebrations.
Although Merdeka Square now plays host to concerts and events, its carefully tended lawn and hedges were once the cricket pitch of the Royal Selangor Club. Check out the Royal Selangor Club building itself, one of the many fine examples of colonial architecture that surround the square. This Tudor-revival structure was originally a meeting-place for prominent British military officers, where they could socialise and hold cricket tournaments.
Directly opposite stands the magnificent neo-Moorish Sultan Abdul Samad Building, which was completed in 1897. The architect Arthur C. Norman drew inspiration from his time in India for this government building, hence its domed turrets, highly decorated archways and beautiful red and white brick façade. Marvel at the 41-metre clock tower as you walk past.
You'll find a number of other gems just off the square, including the 19th-century St. Mary's Cathedral, mother church of the West Malaysia Diocese, and the National Textile Museum. The latter is a treasure trove of weaving and embroidery exhibits. The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is also well worth a visit for its wealth of historical photos and artefacts.
The main attraction, however, is the 95-metre flagpole in the south of the square. One of the tallest in the world, it marks the spot where, in 1957, the Union Jack was lowered and the Malaysian National Flag raised for the first time, thereby officially marking the start of Malaysia's independence from the UK.
You'll find Merdeka Square right in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, just west of the Gombak River and a short walk from the Jamek Mosque. Public transport is an easy and cheap option but, if you want to drive, there's a paid underground car park at the southern end. The square is open every day and entry to it, the city gallery and the textile museum is free of charge.