Medan travel guide

Medan Tourism | Medan Guide

You're Going to Love Medan

The fourth-largest city in Indonesia, and comfortably the largest on Sumatra, Medan is an exciting place to spend time. Bursting with energy, it's a city that offers historical sights, great food, nightlife, and access to the famous rainforests of the island.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Medan

1. Colonial Architecture

Medan was once a hub for local princes, rubber planters, and Chinese traders, and this economic heritage is still evident in a wealth of 19th-century buildings like the glorious Istana Maimoon palace or the Tjong A Fie Mansion.

2. Impressive Religious Sights

Medan is a meeting point of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. See awe-inspiring sights like the massive Maha Vihara Maitreya Buddhist temple or the beautiful Masjid Raya mosque.

3. Visit the Sumatran Interior with Ease

There are some gorgeous spots near Medan, including Lake Toba (a vast crater lake) and the Berastagi highlands.

4. Exciting Family Attractions

You'll find several huge amusement parks like Hairos Water Park and Hillpark Sibolangit that have all the rides and slides you could need.

5. Enjoy an Indonesian Spa Experience

Medan has a wealth of masterful masseurs. Make a booking at places like Zengarden and feel your stress evaporating in seconds.

What to do in Medan

1. Feel The Serenity

Vihara Maha Maitreya is the biggest non-historical temple in southeast Asia and one of the most popular destinations in all of Medan. The temple was completed in 1991 and acts as both a tourist attraction in Sumatra as well as a place of worship for local Buddhists. The complex is divided into three rooms, two for worship and one that acts as a reception banquet hall, though the structure remains open and free from extra adornment, helping to add to the temple's sense of sacred calm.

2. Be Sultan For A Day

Step back in time with a visit to the luxurious tropical Maimoon Palace located across from the Masjid Raya Al-Mashun Mosque. The palace was constructed in the late 19th century by Sultan Ma'mun Al Rashid Perkasa Alamyah and realized by Dutch architect Theodoor van Erp. It is popular not only for its historical nature but also for its unique blend of multicultural interior decor, featuring elements of Malay, Indian, Islamic, Spanish, and Italian furnishings. Maimoon Palace is the official residence of the Sultan of Indonesia, though today it functions mainly as a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Indonesia.

3. Take The Plunge

Get outside of the city for a day of fresh air and visit the stunning plunge Sipisopiso waterfall in the Batak highlands! Located just 100 kilometers from Medan, Sipisopiso is the highest waterfall in Indonesia and attracts thousands of visitors a year. The water comes pouring out from a small river inside the Lake Toba caldera, dropping some 120 meters into the lake below. There are several vistas which offer the best views of the falls to grab that perfect travel photo.

4. Join The Throng

Grab some local produce alongside locals at the largest market in Medan, situated near Centre Point Mall and the Hotel Karibia. Medan is famous throughout Indonesia and southeast Asia for having some of the most diverse and delicious food due to it's expansive immigrant population. Here you can buy fresh ingredients to try cooking yourself, or grab some ready prepared food from local stalls. Whatever food takes your fancy, make sure to try to durian fruit, which is grown locally in North Sumatra!

5. Give Something Back

Visit the newly established Integrated Mangrove Tourism Village, the first ever mangrove tourism village in the world, for a more sustainability-focused tourist activity. Mangroves are indigenous to Indonesia and are primarily used for export-quality products, though they also serve as a coastal barrier and shock absorber for huge tsunami waves. The tourism village project, which started in 2013, aims to both educate the public about the importance of nature conservation while also providing jobs to help stimulate the local economy. Spend a few hours walking around the fields and talking with enthusiastic locals to learn how you can get involved in similar conservation projects back home.

1. Feel The Serenity

Vihara Maha Maitreya is the biggest non-historical temple in southeast Asia and one of the most popular destinations in all of Medan. The temple was completed in 1991 and acts as both a tourist attraction in Sumatra as well as a place of worship for local Buddhists. The complex is divided into three rooms, two for worship and one that acts as a reception banquet hall, though the structure remains open and free from extra adornment, helping to add to the temple's sense of sacred calm.

2. Be Sultan For A Day

Step back in time with a visit to the luxurious tropical Maimoon Palace located across from the Masjid Raya Al-Mashun Mosque. The palace was constructed in the late 19th century by Sultan Ma'mun Al Rashid Perkasa Alamyah and realized by Dutch architect Theodoor van Erp. It is popular not only for its historical nature but also for its unique blend of multicultural interior decor, featuring elements of Malay, Indian, Islamic, Spanish, and Italian furnishings. Maimoon Palace is the official residence of the Sultan of Indonesia, though today it functions mainly as a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Indonesia.

3. Take The Plunge

Get outside of the city for a day of fresh air and visit the stunning plunge Sipisopiso waterfall in the Batak highlands! Located just 100 kilometers from Medan, Sipisopiso is the highest waterfall in Indonesia and attracts thousands of visitors a year. The water comes pouring out from a small river inside the Lake Toba caldera, dropping some 120 meters into the lake below. There are several vistas which offer the best views of the falls to grab that perfect travel photo.

4. Join The Throng

Grab some local produce alongside locals at the largest market in Medan, situated near Centre Point Mall and the Hotel Karibia. Medan is famous throughout Indonesia and southeast Asia for having some of the most diverse and delicious food due to it's expansive immigrant population. Here you can buy fresh ingredients to try cooking yourself, or grab some ready prepared food from local stalls. Whatever food takes your fancy, make sure to try to durian fruit, which is grown locally in North Sumatra!

5. Give Something Back

Visit the newly established Integrated Mangrove Tourism Village, the first ever mangrove tourism village in the world, for a more sustainability-focused tourist activity. Mangroves are indigenous to Indonesia and are primarily used for export-quality products, though they also serve as a coastal barrier and shock absorber for huge tsunami waves. The tourism village project, which started in 2013, aims to both educate the public about the importance of nature conservation while also providing jobs to help stimulate the local economy. Spend a few hours walking around the fields and talking with enthusiastic locals to learn how you can get involved in similar conservation projects back home.

Top activities & attractions in Medan

Where to Eat in Medan

If you want a sweet treat, the Medanese roll cakes at Bolu Meranti are a must. For sit-down meals, Cahaya Baru is a superb Indian option, and Sushi Tei is an excellent Japanese eatery. Meals should cost around Rp25-40,000.

When to visit Medan

Medan in June
Estimated hotel price
$16
1 night at 3-star hotel
Medan in June
Estimated hotel price
$16
1 night at 3-star hotel

Medan's temperature hardly budges from around 85 degrees all year round due to its tropical location. However, the dry season between March and August is probably the best time to go.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Fahrenheit (°F)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Medan

Plane

Flights land at Kualanamu International Airport (KNO). From there, you can take a fast rail connection (Rp100,000, 30 minutes) or take the DAMRI bus (Rp20,000). Taxis will cost around Rp150,000.

Train

Medan has good rail connections with other Sumatran cities, and "executive" class can provide a very comfortable ride. Services arrive at Stasiun Medan in the center.

Car

If you are driving up Sumatra's east coast, there's only one major artery: Jl. Lintas Sumatera. From the cruise port at Belawan, take Jl. Tol Belmera straight into Medan.

Bus

Buses run from north and southern Sumatra into Amplas Station Central. It's actually not that central, so a taxi ride will probably then be needed (around Rp50,000).

Airports near Medan

Airlines serving Medan

Lufthansa
Good (2,103 reviews)
KLM
Good (345 reviews)
SWISS
Good (450 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,185 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (922 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (300 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (312 reviews)
ANA
Excellent (136 reviews)
Malaysia Airlines
Good (47 reviews)
China Airlines
Excellent (41 reviews)
Oman Air
Excellent (5 reviews)
SAUDIA
Good (152 reviews)
Batik Air
Good (5 reviews)
AirAsia
Okay (22 reviews)
Garuda Indonesia
Excellent (17 reviews)
Batik Air
Good (1 reviews)
Indonesia AirAsia
Good (8 reviews)
Citilink
Excellent (2 reviews)
Lion Air
Excellent (3 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Medan

Medan Kota - the eastern half of the city center, Kota is home to the beautiful Masjid Raya Al-Mashun mosque and some excellent restaurants, like Wajir Seafood.

Popular Neighborhoods in Medan

Namo Simpur - a spread-out southern suburb, Namo Simpur is a great place to cool off and relax, thanks to the Hairos Water Park.

Medan Barat - the commercial hub of Medan and the best place to hunt for great food, Barat has a vast amount of eateries, offering Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, and European cuisine.

Where to stay in popular areas of Medan

Most booked hotels in Medan

Adimulia Hotel Medan
Excellent (9.1, 191 reviews)
$56+
Cambridge Hotel Medan
Excellent (8.8, 115 reviews)
$63+
JW Marriott Hotel Medan
Excellent (8.4, 406 reviews)
$91+
Grand Mercure Maha Cipta Medan Angkasa
Excellent (8.4, 283 reviews)
$40+
Aryaduta Medan
Excellent (8.1, 500 reviews)
$33+
Swiss-Belinn Medan
Good (7.9, 274 reviews)
$24+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Medan

Public Transportation

Buses in Medan tend not to cater to tourist needs. Instead, most visitors use "sudako" minivans which ply the most popular routes and charge around Rp5,000 for a standard journey.

Taxi

Taxis in Medan usually charge a meter drop of around Rp7,000, and then a fare of Rp6,000 per mile. It's advisable to negotiate a price before traveling, however.

Car

Car rental companies in Medan include Rental Mobil Medan and Medan 88 Rent Car, and prices are usually reasonable, starting at Rp35,000 per day.

The Cost of Living in Medan

Shopping Streets

Shopping in Medan is all about the malls. Sun Plaza, Cambridge City Square, Plaza Medan Fair, and Medan Mall all offer high-end international brands and dining options.

Groceries and Other

Local supermarkets include Carrefour and Brastagi. Prices are low, at around Rp15,000 for 12 eggs.

Cheap meal
$1.79
A pair of jeans
$45.60
Single public transport ticket
$0.36
Cappuccino
$1.20