Six new hotspots in Jakarta Kota Tua

Dutch spice warehouse

Six new hotspots in Jakarta Kota Tua

Kota Tua is no longer a dilapidated and distant memory of a long gone past, but a new exciting chapter in Jakarta’s history. The cobblestoned streets of Jakarta’s old town have become a location of choice for the city’s creative entrepreneurs. One by one the crumbling merchant mansions and old warehouses around Fatahillah Square and the Kali Besar canal are being renovated. One-of-a-kind boutiques, galleries, and café’s now complement the city’s best museums and bustling open square. We spent an afternoon exploring the cobblestoned streets of the old town, checked out six new places and liked what we found:

1. Batavia Market .  Gedung Kantor Pos Kota . Jl. Taman Fatahillah No.3 . opens daily 10am-10pm


A popup museum brought back life into the old post office at Fatahillah Square

We like this new elegant café above the city’s post office – Kantor Pos – overlooking Fatahillah square. If you need a break from the hundreds of Indonesian school kids that want to take your picture, this is your oasis of calm. The space is huge, the ceilings high and the drinks cold. It was vacant for years until local celebrity architect Andra Matin and a group of like-minded individuals used the empty space as a pop-up gallery to bring back some life into the building and the old town. Now established as Konsorsium Kota Tua Jakarta, this group helps owners of dilapidated old properties to renovate their buildings into stunning spaces and also helps them to find hip and young tenants. In just a few years they managed to do what no-one thought possible: make the Kota more than a tick on your tourist itinerary, but a destination that you want to come back to. Who knows, maybe one day this will be a UNESCO World Heritage town?

A must-try in Batavia Market is the coconut pudding (Rp. 40.000), served in a young coconut and full of natural goodness. Also recommended are their veg and fruit juices for a healthy refreshment.

This space had been vacant for years until a pop-up gallery brought back life into the building.

Batavia Market cafe
Batavia Market is an elegant café, the space is huge, the ceilings high and the drinks cold

Dutch colony Fatahillah Square
Best thing about Batavia Market is the view over Fatahillah Square with the iconic old Dutch city hall

2. Gedung Cipta Niaga . Jl. Kali Besar Timur 4 No. 31 . opens daily 10am-7pm

Cipta Niaga Jakarta
The tiled floors and wooden make for a backdrop for experimental art

Next is a short stroll – or an old-fashioned cycle ride – to Gedung Cipta Niaga. This was topmost prime property in the colonial days, occupying the whole block so it would face the river and the square. It was once the headquarters of the powerful colonial trading company Internationale Crediet en Handels Vereeniging Rotterdam office and they hired the most prominent architecture firm they could find: Ed Cuypers en Hulswit, who designed the most prestigious buildings in colonial Java. Nice to know: Ed Cuypers was the younger cousin of Pierre Cuypers, who designed the famous Dutch Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Jakarta cycling
Do as the locals do and enjoy an old-fashioned bicycle ride

After Indonesian independence, it got snapped up by Cipta Niaga, one of Indonesia’s main trading houses (now operating as Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia or simply PPI) and finally lost its former glory when the city’s CBD moved South. Cipta Niaga and next-door Dharma Niaga may be a bit worn, but the high ceilings, tiled floors, stained glass windows and majestic art deco staircases made it a sought-after location for photo shoots, exhibitions and even … yoga classes.

Yes, it was us and about 40 local women who at 8am on a Saturday morning rolled out our mats on the dusty tiled floors. It was not just the location that was a bit different, this was yoga community style yoga with lots of laughter thrown in. An hour later we found ourselves in some sort of a joint circle group bend and with bodies stretched and minds open, we sat down with our newfound friends for tea and an interesting talk by two ladies who had embarked on a breast cancer prevention campaign. This was simply the most unique yoga class we had, ever…

Every month Komunitas Yoga Gembira offer this unique experience: an hour of yoga plus an hour of something else, like storytelling for children or an organic food demo. Locations keep changing, so make sure to check their Facebook page.

This was simply the most unique yoga class we had, ever…

Jakarta Pop-up art exhibition
Pop-up exhibition in Cipta Niaga at the Old Jakarta Reborn Festival in 2014 

Cipta Niaga holds many surprises. Walking out we stumbled upon an exhibition by the renowned Erasmus Huis called Heritage in Transition. A collection of stunning images by Dutch photographer Isabelle Boon which beautifully captured the lives of the people of Kota Tua. The building is like a hidden gem slowly being polished to shine as one of Kota Tuas’ main attractions. It’s not difficult to see how this building could be a boutique hotel, gallery or community space, or even all-in-one. The only thing they need to do is pick up a design idea by the famous Rem Koolhaas architecture firm OMA that was created as part of the Kota Tua Creative Festival in 2014.

3. Kerta Niaga . Jl. Kali Besar Timur 4 No. 31 . opens daily 10am-7pm

Kali Besar Jakarta
Kerta Niaga viewed from Kali Besar canal with its typical Dutch gables

You can’t miss Kerta Niaga, this is the newest hotspot in the old town! It’s a huge complex of three adjoining old spice warehouses, built early 20th century to store the previous commodities for the Borneo-Sumatra Maatschappij, but has been cleverly revamped into an exciting culi-creative destination with an urban kitchen, co-working space, art & craft marketplace, boutique hostel and coffee/gelato shop all under one roof. Our favourite spot in Kerta Niga is Kota’s newest coffee sensation, aptly named Kopi Kota Tua. This slick, stylish coffee shop stands out in the old town with its whitewashed walls, large communal wooden tables and a cool industrial interior. But its’s the coffee that keeps us coming back. For a single brew you can’t go wrong with any of their beans, but the real champion is the distinctly flavoured gayo wine brew (Rp. 45.000). Harvested in the northern tip of Sumatra, gayo wine has a fruity, strong aroma and amazingly sips indeed just like a glass of wine!
Mon-Fri 10am-10pm. Sat-Sun 7am-10pm.

Jakarta Kopi Kota Tua
Our favourite spot in Kerta Niga is Kota’s newest coffee addition Kopi Kota Tua

Kerta Niaga is also the new venue for pop-up exhibitions by the Jakarta’s Dutch Cultural Institute Erasmus Huis. When we were there, there was a photo installation of a Dutch photographer.


Kerta Niaga before the renovation … (image: Arsitek)


And after the facelift (image: @rocktavianus)

4. Historia Food & Bar & Djakarté. Jl. Pintu Besar Utara No. 11

Jakarta Historia Bar
We love the lofty interior, that so effortlessly combines solid teak tables with elegant vintage cabinets and chairs (image: Two Humans Travel)

Next were what our perhaps our two favourite café’s in the old town: Historia Food & Bar and next door Djakarté. At Historia we love the lofty interior, that so effortlessly combines solid teak tables with elegant vintage cabinets and chairs, but the real highlight is the floor to ceiling murals of scenes of life in the colonial Kota. We also like how the menu takes its inspiration from the rich spice trade history that put Jakarta on the map 500 years ago. They have a great selection of spice-infused smoothies, cocktails and teas, handcrafted by expert mixologists. When we asked manager Putri Karleti, she explained ‘We use ingredients like cinnamon, nutmeg and sesame to create exciting flavour combinations’.

Historia Bar takes its inspiration from the rich spice trade history that put Jakarta on the map 500 years ago.

The quiet courtyard terrace makes for a perfect hideout to escape the hustle and bustle of Kota Tua. Both Historia and Djakarté were selected by UNESCO as pilot site projects and best-practice examples of revitalization to inspire other owners of historical buildings and there are some informative displays to explain how that all works.

Bar Historia
Highlight in Bar Historia is the floor to ceiling mural created by local artists with scenes of life in the old Kota

In need of a refreshing drink? We loved the Jamrud Katulistiwa, cucumber, pineapple, honey, basil and mint, heavenly goodness in a glass (Rp 38.000). Hungry? Try the Bakpao Ketawa, literally translated as ‘happy bun’, this is the local version of a hamburger, small steamed buns filled with spicy all-time favourite beef rendang and a sprinkle of spring onion (Rp. 35.000). The Gemblong Pisang (grilled banana dipped in melting coconut sugar, Rp 27.000) is a real treat. All dishes are prepared and presented with love, care and a hint of history.
Mon-Fri 10am-10pm.  Sat-Sun 8am-10pm . 

Healthy detox juice
Jamrud Katulistiwa is a heavenly mix of cucumber, pineapple, honey, basil and mint with Bakpao Ketawa; three happy buns on a plate

5. Wonderloft Hostel .  6-8 Jl. Bank  

Jakarta Wonderloft Hostel
Wonderloft is a boutique hostel in the heart of Jakarta’s old town

‘So many tourists come to Kota Tua, but there is no hotel’ that is what owner Karen was thinking when she had the idea for a boutique hostel in the heart of the old town. When she was shown this dilapidated building opposite Bank Indonesia, she immediately saw the potential of the beautifully arched spaces and large floorplates right in the middle of Kota Tua. A six-month renovation stripped the building back to its bare shell, original details intact. Karen’s team created a comfortable lounge area on the ground floor and added four floors of capsule bedrooms and Wonderloft opened early 2017.

6. Semasa Coffee . Gedung OLVEH . Jl. Jembatan Batu No. 50 . opens daily 9am- 6pm

semasa di kota tua
Old-school full flavoured cuppa at Semasa Cafe in Gedung OLVEH (image: Semasa)

Last stop and a little walk past the Jakarta Kota train station we find a beautiful bright white art deco building squeezed between some pretty typical modern Jakarta buildings. This is Gedung OLVEH which once was an office for a Dutch Indies Insurance Company (OLVEH stands for Onderlinge Levenszerkering Van Eigen Hulp … just try to pronounce that…). It’s a pity that these days they don’t build offices like this anymore. Everything from the logo typeface on the façade to the details on the columns and the spiral staircase is handcrafted in true art deco style. Thankfully the Sarasvati Foundation and Konsortium Kota Tua have paid homage to architect C.P. Schoemaker who was described as “the Frank Lloyd Wright of Indonesia” and restored this real gem!

If a unique souvenir from one of Indonesia’s up and coming local designers is what you are looking for, this place is certainly worth the visit.

We headed straight for the top floor where we found Semasa Café on the top floor is an intimate space overlooking the busy crowd heading for the station. The space is bright with tall windows and lots of light, but only seats about 20 of Jakarta’s young and fashionable. You can choose to relax at the tucked away communal table, at a few of the low tables by the windows, or you can belly up on a stool to the little coffee bar. The café serves up a nice selection of Indonesian coffee, as well as premium teas from China, Japan, and Indonesia. If you need to cool down, we recommend the iced matcha latte or lychee iced tea (IDR35.000).

Jakarta tea shop
Signature specialty tea with snacks (image: Semasa)

Within the café, the concept store features a small but well-curated variety of handicrafts from Indonesia’s bourgeoning creative industry including postcards, tote bags, ceramics, essential oils, handcrafted wooden plates, and specialty teas. If a unique souvenir from one of Indonesia’s up and coming local designers is what you are looking for, this place is certainly worth the visit.

indonesia crafts arts
Featuring a small but well-curated variety of rotating handicrafts from Indonesia’s bourgeoning creative industry (image: Semasa)

Insider tip: keep an eye on Semasa’s Instagram and stay tuned for next editions of the OLVEH weekend market, featuring a wide range of cool products by local brands and a great selection of handmade sweets and bites, all accompanied by live music by local artists.

Our verdict:
Kota Tua is now so much more than the obligatory tourist stroll, it’s become one of Jakarta’s new hipster hoods. With so many new hot spots opening in the old colonial ghost buildings and cool events around the clock, it’s become a destination itself, a place to come back to. The friendly folks from Konsorsium Kota Tua are doing an impressive job of injecting new life into old buildings and we can’t wait to see more historic gems being reborn!

Buy the Kota Tua map as part of the Java Neighbourhood Guide in the iDiscover shop and explore the neighbourhood easily.

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