Weekend in Yogjakarta: the cultural capital of Java

From its vibrant street art to old-style shadow puppets, to traditional Batik techniques and UNESCO listed temples in its vicinity, Yogjakarta represents the best of the authentic Javanese culture.

Words and pics by: Veronika

To absorb the authentic Yogja vibe, we recommend you hop on a “Becak” – local means of transportion resembling Rikshaw – super convenient, affordable and you will support the local Becak drivers. There is over ten thousand of them, so you can easily get a ride anywhere in the city.

Start your tour de city at the main drag, Jalan Malioboro, sample all the aromatic local food, haggle for some traditional Batik and original souvenirs at the famous local market and do not miss all the produce and fragrant spices on the second floor.

One short becak ride will take you to the gem of this cultural hub – The Sultan’s Palace. A well-manicured complex of interconnected gardens with semi open pavilions, housing memorabilia and precious artifacts of the long lines of Sultans ruling Yogja. All the signage is in Indonesian only, so dust off your Indo lingo skills before you go.

Another bumpy becak ride and you hop off in front of shabby walls of the once great Sultan’s Water Palace. The whole area is only a sad reminder of the old opulent times, when according to the local guide – the Sultan used the palace to bathe with his harem. Now, the mutually interconnected system of pools is quite downtrodden and unkempt, covered in 50 shades of green mold. Despite the palace is only a reminder of its former glory, its interesting atmosphere and shabby aesthetics are worth a look.

Must visit for every cultural aficionado is the very visible form of traditional art “the Wayan Kulit” shadow puppets workshops. They are really easy to locate, dispersed seemingly everywhere in the district behind the walls of the Sultan’s Palace. You can enjoy watching the artists in the dusty studios, crafting the elaborate puppets, the quintessential Jogja artefacts. If you want to see them in action – the Sonobudoyo Heritage Museum holds shows almost every day of the week.

But it is not all about the traditional art and culture in Yogja. You can find vibrant politically and socially charged street graffiti art covering its walls. We found the backpacker district of Prawirotaman especially charming with all the cozy cafes, bakeries and little homestays tucked away in the labyrinth of small alleys.

When you feel like you’ve had enough of the city buzz, there is plethora of other remarkable attractions outside of Yogja too. The renowned majestic Hindu Temple of Borobudur built in 10AD checks all the boxes. It really pays off to wake up early for the visit of this shrine – labeled as the most impressive example of the Buddhist Architecture. There are over five hundred statues of Buddha and other decorative ornaments adorning the temple. As it is massively popular, the site gets taken over by tourists during the day. So book in for one of the sunrise visits, the temple has an indescribably mystical atmosphere at this early hour and offers magnificent views of the plains from up top.

The list of what to do outside of Yogja could certainly go on, as there is also a multitude of interesting treks to be had, caves to be explored, gushing waterfalls to be marveled at and long empty beaches to relax on.

This culturally charged city and its surroundings certainly won’t let you leave disappointed!


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