8 amazing things to do in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

If you are traveling to Java in Indonesia, you are likely to visit Yogyakarta during your trip. It is one of the best known cities in the country, is the capital of the province with the same name, and has more than half a million inhabitants. The main reason to visit Jogja, as locals call it, is because of its location near Borobudur and Prambanan. As a result, many tourists visit the city, making it a focus point for tourism and is thus full of fun cafés and restaurants. There are also many interesting buildings to admire.

Yogyakarta is considered to be one of Java’s most important cultural cities. You can therefore find many traditional forms of art here: batik, ballet or puppet shows. Did you know that Yogyakarta used to be the capital city of Indonesia for four years? That was between 1945 and 1949, during the Indonesian Revolution. As a result of the Dutch colonisation there are many monumental buildings, while Indonesian influences can be seen everywhere as well. Here are eight great things to do during your visit to Yogyakarta.

Jalan Maliaboro

The best known place for souvenir shopping is Jalan Maliaboro. There are many stores, that you can of course visit, but I found that the street stalls were a lot more fun. You can find all sorts of souvenirs, from stuff that is clearly made in China, to beautiful masks, statues and clothes. Together with my travel partner Anouk, we went to the market and only spent a few euros, but each returned with many souvenirs. I bought a batik-style mask and a table runner. She bought, among other things, a leather bag for which you would have to pay at least four times as much back in The Netherlands. Haggling is super fun and not at all uncomfortable. You just start with a third of the price, and eventually end up at around half the original price.

Kraton Yogyakarta

This is the royal palace Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat, the residence of the Sultan of Yogyakarta. Sultans no longer have any power by the way, nowadays their function is more ceremonial. You can also visit the palace, which is definitely worth it, because inside you will find a museum, and beautiful buildings and a courtyard that you can visit. There are also daily performances being held. The palace was built in 1755/1756, but most of the structures you see originate from 1921 – 1939. The palace has been a victim of earthquakes multiple times, but it was always rebuilt afterwards.

Wayang Kulit

This is a traditional doll show, with flat leather dolls whose shadows are projected on a canvas. It is often accompanied by live gamelan music. I saw a performance when I was in Kraton, but there are also performances held in the Sonobudoyo Museum.

Ramayana Ballet

Ramayana ballet is a traditional ballet depicting the story of Ramayana, an important figure in Indonesian culture. I saw the ballet at Prambanan, but it is also performed in Yogya.


Just outside of Yogyakarta you will find Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex dating back to the ninth century. It is one of the most visited sights in Indonesia. Prambanan and Borobudur are often compared to each other, as they are both large temples not too far from Yogyakarta, but the big difference is, next to religion (Hindu vs. Buddhist), the fact that Prambanan is decorated in a very special and detailed way, and Borobudur is larger in scope. In my opinion, you shouldn’t miss either.

Sunrise at Borobudur

The sunrise at Borobudur was on top of my bucket list for quite some time … and I finally did it! The Buddhist Borobudur complex dates back to 750 – 850 AD and has nine floors, of which the top three floors are circular. The most characteristic are of course the many stoepa’s: according to legend, eternal happiness awaits you when you are able to touch the Buddha’s in the middle. You can, of course, also watch the sunrise. Since Indonesia is so close to the equator, the sunrise is almost always visible around the same time every day.

Read my article about the sunrise at Borobudur here.

Discovering the surroundings

The surroundings in Yogyakarta are beautiful! Discover the rich rice fields, visit small authentic villages, and get blown away by the intense bright green vegetation. I fell in love instantly. There are many different ways to discover the area, for example by bicycle or carriage.


One of the reasons for going to Indonesia is of course the delicious food. For just a few euros you can get an amazing meal, freshly prepared and well seasoned. Each region has their own traditional dishes. A real specialty is Rujak Es Crim: a fruit/vegetable salad with ice cream on top. Also the famous Mie Ayam can be found here a lot. Check out this article for a list of tips on where to eat traditional dishes in Jogja, written by an Indonesian who has lived there for years!

These were my Yogyakarta tips for your next trip. With so many attractions and things to do in Yogyakarta you won’t have to worry about getting get bored, and I think it will soon become one of your favorite places in Java, if not all of Indonesia!

Hotels in Yogyakarta:

€ – The beautiful Griya Nalendra Guest House is built in traditional style, offering free wifi and breakfast. There is also a restaurant to get dinner. The rooms are comfortable and have free air conditioning. Check out the most recent prices here.

€€ – In the center of Yogyakarta, you will find the Jambuluwuk Malioboro Boutique Hotel, a 5-star hotel with free wifi and breakfast and a beautiful outdoor swimming pool that seems like something out of a tropical fairy tale. Check out the most recent prices here.

€€€ – If you want to stay in Yogyakarta itself, then the luxurious The Phoenix Hotel is a must: a stylish classic hotel offering a beautiful courtyard with swimming pool. Check out the most recent prices here.

Indonesia travel to plans? Read all my articles about Indonesia here!

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