09 Apr Travel to 1920s Java with Our Self-Guided Art Deco Heritage Walk through Bandung
Surrounded by lush coffee plantations, the city of Bandung was once a social magnet for the colonial elite, European noblemen and the rich and famous. In the roaring twenties, artistic freedom and economic prosperity fuelled a building boom of hotels, holiday homes, cafés and boutiques in tropical Art Deco, neo-classical and Indo-European styles. No wonder the charming hill retreat was also known as ‘the Paris of Java’! The once-idyllic town has long evolved into a dense metropolitan area, but if you look carefully, you’ll see traces of its carefree and creative past everywhere. It is the only city in Asia to be included on the prestigious Globetrotter’s list of ‘Top 10 World Art Deco Cities’. This heritage walk through the heart of town reveals 12 amazing original Art Deco gems.
1. Bethel Church
Protestant church boasting an elegant art-deco tower
This church is one of the few Art Deco buildings in Bandung that is still in its original state as well as still used for its intended purpose. Its highlights are the massive pipe organ in perfect working condition and beautiful original stained-glass windows at the backside of the church. The church was designed by Java-born Dutch architect Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker in 1925 for the city’s fast-growing protestant congregation.
The door is always open, and don’t be too shy to talk to the friendly folks at the office located at the back of the church! The lady in charge, Mrs Pecty Willer, is happy to help and tell you more about the building. She has been coming to this church ever since she was a little girl and is happy to share her many stories.
Jl. Wastukencana No.1 | open daily 6.30 am – 8 am, 9 – 11 am, 5 – 7 pm | +62 22 4201794
2. City Hall Park
The old Pieters Park
The oldest park in Bandung has always been a popular place for a Sunday afternoon stroll. In the old days, the colonial elite would gather around the gazebo to enjoy dance performances or a picnic. The park also doubles as event venue: thousands of people flock here for the annual Bandung car show and military parade with drumming, music band and precision marching.
Bandung has long been a small town: it only got its city status in 1916, and the residence of local planter Andries de Wilde was promptly transformed into a City Hall. Two Art Deco wings and towers were added to the classic colonial building to give the new government of the resort town a bit more standing.
Jl. Merdeka X Jl. Wastukencana
3. Bandoengsche Melk Centrale (BMC)
Fresh yoghurt, milk and ice cream since 1928
Nostalgia meets hip in this coffee and milk bar. The Bandoengsche Melk Centrale (BMC) is Indonesia’s oldest working milk factory. It was founded in 1928 by South African farmers who settled their dairy farms in the highlands of Lembang, just north of Bandung. The Dutch government lend a helping hand by sending over cows all the way from the northwest of the Netherlands. Fun fact: the cows that produce BMC’s milk today are their descendants! You can’t go wrong by ordering a refreshing glass of milk (Rp. 12.000) or plain yoghurt (Rp. 23.000). In the mood for something a little more adventurous? The yoghurt cocktail (Rp. 29.000- Rp. 32.000) is a great choice. Enjoy it with a cheeky soes diplomat (Rp. 6.000), an old Dutch delicacy from the small bakery, if you really want to indulge!
Jl. Aceh No.30 | 0pen daily 8 am – 10 pm | +62 22 4204595
4. Braga Permai
Traditional Dutch treats in a chic tea room
Established in 1923 as ‘Maison Bogerijen’, this was one of the chicest establishments in town. It was the dining spot of choice for officials and visiting delegates. Maison Bogerijen even received a royal seal of approval from the Dutch Queen! The restaurant’s Art Deco building was very modern for its time: its oven directly tapped into the city’s main gas pipe. Unfortunately, the building’s original façade is no more, but it’s still a great place to enjoy a mean hot chocolate or a signature ice cream coup. A local favourite is the rum raisin flavour: three generous scoops of ice-cream with whipped cream served in a coconut. Authentic Dutch delicacies such as tompoesjes (sponge sandwich layered with cream, order in advance!), speculaas almond (dark ginger cookies stuffed with almond paste) or ontbijkoek (spicy ginger breakfast cake) are great choices too.
Jl. Braga No.58 | Open daily 9 am – 12 pm | +62 22 4233 7788 | website
5. Snoephuis (Sumber Hidangan)
Oldschool candy store filled with Dutch treats
Sumber Hidangan is a must-visit! This old-school bakery is affectionally called ‘Het Snoephuis’ (‘House of candy’) and stocks typical Dutch cakes, pastries, bread and sweets. The bakery uses original Dutch recipes from the 1920s with an oriental twist, spicing up their treats with a hint of cinnamon, clove or nutmeg. Ontbijtkoek (spicy breakfast ginger cake), gevulde speculaas (dark ginger cookies stuffed with almond paste), and boter staaf (butter cake stick stuffed with almond paste) are great choices here. In for a surprise? Enjoy these goodies with a scoop of tutti frutti ice cream! Another superb sweet treat is bolu marsipan (mergpijp, or rolled sponge cake) topped off with a beautiful cinnamon scent or a ‘fusion’ ice cream sprinkled with Dutch hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) and local palm sugar.
The café’s classic décor so typical for shops back in the day is in immaculate condition, complete with ceramic floor tiles and period furniture. Sure, it may be a little dusty inside, but it’s still the perfect place to travel back to the 1920s and get a sense of what the ‘Paris of Java’ was all about!
Jl. Braga No.20-22 | open daily 9 am – 3.30 pm | +62 22 4236638
6. Kopi Aroma
Bandung’s coffee pioneers
Oleh Tan Houw Sian was Bandung’s coffee pioneer. He has been brewing coffee from this small shop since 1930. Bandung’s best-known coffee shop is now in its third generation: Widya Pratama, who is also a Professor in Economics at Padjadjaran University (UNPAD) runs the business with his daughter: “Many friends ask me why I gave up my career to sell coffee beans,” she says. “But for me, it’s not about giving up, it’s about pursuing a beautiful mission: maintaining the quality and tradition.” The décor of Coffee Aroma hasn’t changed a bit since the 1930s: even the machinery is original.
The shop is more popular than ever before, so be prepared to queue. “We are grateful that our shop is doing so well, but secretly we also feel a bit sad about the coffee wave and hype of our store,” Pak Widya confesses. “I wish we could give every single customer the attention they deserve”.
Jl. Banceuy No.51 | open daily 9 am – 3 pm | +62 22 4230473
7. Warung Kopi Purnama
Legendary coffee in a nostalgic atmosphere
This iconic coffee shop has been catering to coffee lovers in Bandung since 1930, and it is just as popular as it was back then. Claimed to be Bandung’s first coffee shop, Kopi Purnama is one of the longest-running coffee businesses in town, currently helmed by the 4th generation. In 1930 Yong A. Thong, a Chinese-Indonesian from Medan opened ‘Chang Chong Se’, but he had to rename it ‘Warung Kopi Purnama’ in the 1960s, the days of anti-Chinese sentiment. The shop has always been a local hot spot with regular clientele, who keep coming back for, as the old advertisements at the back of the café put it, “a sip of hip”. Milky coffee is what this historic shop does best. Try the kopi susu panas (Rp. 14.000), best enjoyed seated on the café’s charming indoor terrace. Feeling hungry? The café offers a mixed Malay and Chinese menu, with famous dishes such as pisang goreng keju (16.000), roti selai srikaya (17.000) and bubur ayam (14.000).
Jl. Alkateri No. 22 | open daily 6.30 am – 10 pm | +62 22 4201841
8. PLN Building
by star architect CP Wolff Schoemaker
(Left image: KIT)
Designed by Bandung’s star architect CP Wolff Schoemaker, this building was built in 1933 for the Gemeenschappelijk Electriciteitsbedrijf Bandoeng en Omstreken (State Electricity Company). They tapped into a water source north of Bandung to light up the city’s streets and homes. Today, the building still serves as the regional headquarters of the local electricity company PLN. It was damaged by a fire during the struggle for independence in 1946 and was completely renovated. Located in the courtyard of the building is an old well. Legend has it that long before the Dutch arrived, King Wiranatakusuma discovered holy water springing up right here. Up until today, every Thursday night local people come here to pay respect and get water from the well. The courtyard is normally only accessible for the workers of PLN, but if you ask nicely at the gate, the well keeper may give you a little tour.
Jl. Asia Afrika No.63 | +62 22 4230747 | website
9. Gedung Merdeka
Colonial dancehall-turned-independence landmark
In the colonial days, this was Concordia, the city’s majestic dancehall. Kitted out with Italian marble floors, wooden furnishings, and crystal chandeliers, it was the place-to-be for the rich and famous to party. In 1926, the dance hall was completely revamped in the then-fashionable Art Deco style by Dutch architects Van Galen and Schoemaker. In 1955 history was made here: the first-ever Asian African Conference brought together leaders of 29 Asian and African countries, most of which had recently emerged from colonial rule. The newly independent states signed the Bandung Declaration of the nonaligned movement, a clever move to avoid taking sides in the Cold War.
Ever since this significant moment in world history, the building is called Gedung Merdeka: Independence Building. The free museum next door features a reconstruction of the signing of the Bandung Declaration, complete with figures of all the prominent heads of state present including Zhou Enlai (China) Nehru (India) and Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam).
Jl. Asia Afrika No. 65 | open Tue – Thu, Sat- Sun 9 am-4 pm, Fri 2-4 pm, closed on Mon and holidays | +62 22 4233564 | website
10. De Majestic
A glimpse of local nightlife in the colonial days
The Majestic used to be a cinema playing Western films popular with the Bandung elite. Today, the iconic landmark is still an entertainment venue and mini theatre, organising Sudanese and international music events, shows and parties. Look up, you will see the formidable gaping mouth of the Batara Kala — the God of the underworld — and his intense eyes staring down at you. It was a favourite design element of star architect Schoemaker, who loved incorporating traditional Hindu elements in his buildings.
Jl. Braga No.1 | open 8am-5pm, closed on Saturdays | +62 22 4200504
11. Hotel Savoy Homann
Once the most modern hotel in the Dutch-indies
Once a modest village-style hotel, this building was completely transformed in 1939 by Dutch architect Albert Aalber. He turned it into the most strikingly modern hotel in the Dutch Indies: “From the stripped-down forms, streamlined wind tunnelled look, and ribbon-like curvy glass windows, Hotel Homann exemplifies the stylistic flair of the Art Deco movement of which Bandung is renowned for,” according to a 1940s Architecture Magazine.
A second renovation in 1989 stirred up controversy as original features such as stained-glass windows, balustrades and furniture were stripped from the building. According to the hotel management, the modernisation was much-needed: “Guests were afraid of the old furniture. We are very proud of the hotel’s unique heritage and several of the rooms are still completely intact.”
Jl. Asia Afrika No.112 | +62 22 4232244 | website
12. Grand Preanger Hotel
Grand hotel in true Art Deco style
It’s hard to imagine that this grand hotel was once a bankrupted grocery store. In 1897, Dutch businessman W.H.C. Van Deeterkom bought it and turned it into a hotel for the wealthy ’Preanger planters’, who flocked to the city during weekends to party. The Grand Preanger got a facelift in the roaring twenties, doing its name Grand Hotel justice in a cacophony of architectural styles. The architect in charge was Indonesian-born Dutch architect C.P Wolff Schoemaker, who was assisted by none other than the young draftsman Sukarno!
Charlie Chaplin stayed at the Grand Preanger Hotel during his first Indonesia trip in 1931. “Preanger Hotel is a fine hotel, in fact, the only place in this part of Java to enjoy a proper European-style bath,” he wrote in his diary. Also aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, the first woman ever to attempt to fly around the world, stayed here while on her historic trip. Sadly, not long after her stay at the Preanger, her plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean.
Jl. Asia Afrika No.81 | +62 22 4231631 | website
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Walk Created by Bandung Heritage Society
A non-profit organization promoting, celebrating and preserving Bandung cultural heritage, working hand in hand with local communities.
Words by Anne Kamphorst
A passionate traveller, curious and adventurous by nature. Anne studied heritage studies in Holland and has been fortunate to work on projects for social enterprises in the heritage, culture and media sector in the Netherlands and Indonesia. She’s fallen in love with the country – and a man! – and now calls Yogyakarta home.
Map Design by Abiyasa Adiguna Legawa
An illustrator/ graphic designer who takes inspiration from the surroundings in this ever evolving city.
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