29 March 2017

Semarang - The Multicultural City

Semarang is one of the metropolitan cities of Indonesia. The fifth largest city in Indonesia, it is the capital of the province of Central Java, lying in the northern part of the province. In the midst of its economic and technological development, the city has been able to maintain a heterogeneous culture. A harmony between Javanese, Chinese, Arabic and Dutch culture can be felt in the city.

This harmonization of different cultures grew through the city's history. Located beside the Java Sea, Semarang has long been one of the commerce centers of Java. Semarang port is situated between two major ports of Java: the port of Sunda Kelapa (Jakarta) in the West, and Surabaya port, in the East. Its position made it a popular transit point for ships travelling on to these larger ports, thus resulting in the mix of cultures and ethnicities from East Asia and Europe.

The cultural diversity can easily be seen in the architecture of the buildings in some areas; Kauman is influenced by Islamic culture, Chinatown bares proof of the Chinese community that evolved in Semarang before the Dutch came to Indonesia, and the Old City provides glimpses of European culture. Blenduk Church, a Protestant church which was built by Dutch in 1753, is a landmark of the Old City area, which was once the European commercial and cultural district.

Today, Semarang is also a stop-off point for foreign cruise ships which anchor in Tanjung Emas port. The cruise-goers are able to visit various tourist destinations in and around Semarang and Central Java, including the famous Borobudur and Prambanan Temple.

In addition to historical sightseeing, Semarang also offers more modern attractions, especially for those who like hanging out at night, as it’s a city that never sleeps. Simpang Lima (five-way intersection) in the heart of the city is one the best destinations at night. The area is filled with a gamut of food vendors which are open from early evening until morning.

Place to Visit

Old City

The Old City (Oudstad) of Semarang is dubbed “Little Netherlands” because of the tremendous amount of colonial buildings. The most famous is Blenduk Church (Gereja Blenduk) which was built in 1753. The Old City’s historical buildings include those that are used today as residences, offices, a hospital, a market, schools and places of worship.

Lawang Sewu

Gedung Lawang Sewu which is known as “the building with a thousand doors” is a landmark building in Semarang. Constructed from 1904 to 1919, the building was used as the head office of the Dutch East Indies Railway Company (Nederlandsch Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij) until 1942. Today, Lawang Sewu attracts an average of 1,000 visitors daily. The building is also occasionally used for exhibitions and ceremonial events.

Kreo Cave

Located in the hills and valleys of the Kreo River, Kreo Cave is a forest area in Semarang. Kreo Cave (Gua Kreo) is believed to be Sunan Kalijaga’s (one of the "nine saints" of Islam in Java) legacy. Visitors will enjoy the beautiful natural scenery such as paddy fields, steep cliffs, and clear rivers, along with spotting wild monkeys. Kreo Cave is in the center of Jatibarang’s reservoir and is connected by a bridge.

Sam Poo Kong Temple

Sam Poo Kong, which is also known as Gedung Batu Temple, is the oldest temple in Semarang. Built by the Chinese Muslim explorer Admiral Zeng He (Cheng Ho), the Sam Poo Kong temple complex includes five temples in a mixed Chinese and Javanese architectural style. After a three-year renovation from 2002 to 2005, the temple is now one of the grandest in Southeast Asia.


Local Food


Lumpia is a popular food among Semarang’s people and tourists. It reflects the acculturation of Javanese and Chinese food. Lumpia is a type of spring roll made from flour dough filled with bamboo sprouts and prawn and then fried. It is completed by a sweet sauce with pickles, fresh green chili, and fresh chives.

Bandeng Presto

Bandeng Presto is milkfish (bandeng) which is pressure cooked until the bones become tender. Accompanied by chili paste, it is served with warm rice.

Gimbal Tofu

Gimbal tofu consists of fried tofu, chopped raw cabbage, rice cake, bean sprouts, egg, and dreadlocks (shrimp fried in flour batter). It is mixed with a peanut sauce containing shrimp paste.

Mie Kopyok

Kopyok noodle is made from boiled noodles, bean sprouts, and pieces of lontong (steamed rice cake). It is wrapped in banana leaf with salt, celery, tofu, and garlic water. Fried onion and crackers are the best companions to Mie Kopyok.


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