Alrighty-roo, are you ready for this epic Yogyakarta city guide? We spent 3 amazing days in Yogyakarta and we’re here to give you the run down on the things we consider must-do’s when you’re in the area. Yogya is one hell of a city! Yogyakarta has so much life, culture and a overall contagious vibe will keep you buzzing! Buckle up because we’re about to lay one fantastic city guide on you!
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Where To Stay In Yogyakarta
When trying to determine where you want to stay in Yogyakarta, please keep in mind there are districts and each districts offers something different. After some research we felt Jalan Prawirotaman and the South of Yogyakarta was for us.
The south is the bohemian part of the city where you’ll find cafes, shop and streets you can just mosey down. It was very quaint and offered plenty of options to fill our days with fun. Plus, it’s not far from the major tourist sites.
We stayed in a place call Pondok Kampoeng Djawa Guest House and it was perfect for the few nights we were in town.
It was clean, the staff was so helpful and the place was Javanese’d out (from a décor standpoint)! The street it was one was great as well – so many tour operators, great restaurants and bars close by.
What To See & Do in Yogyakarta
1) Watch The Sunrise From Borobudur
Without question, something we recommend as a must see when you’re in Yogyakarta. What’s Borobudur you ask? It’s a 95 ft high Buddhist temple that laid hidden for centuries under layers of volcanic ash and Java jungle until it was discovered in the 1880’s.
Borobudur consists of 5 platforms, 2672 carved teachings, 594 Buddha statues and 2 million volcanic stones fitted together like puzzle pieces. Impressed yet?
Our recommend, wake your butt up and see sunrise from Borobudur. You book this through any “tour operator” on the street or through your accommodation. We did it through our accommodation and it was great. You have the option to hire a guide upon you arrival.
If that’s not your thing or if you’re on a budget, no worries. You can enter the temple grounds by just paying the entry fee. No guide required.
2) Take a Spin Around Alun-Alun Square (The Southern Square Specifically)
Head here once night falls and you’re in for a treat. The place comes alive at night! Car bicycles, tricked out with sound systems and LED lights line the square. For a mere 25,000-30,000 rupiah ($2 USD), you can take these light machines for a spin around the square!
3) Get Cultured
Yogyakarta is known for its art, ballets and Batik culture. There are loads of art shops and galleries in town. For us, we happened to stumble into one and we were amazed by the work a few artists did with cloth. Take a look below. We were so impressed we ended up purchasing one!
If paintings are not your thing, no worries. Visit the famous Prambanan Temple and catch a night Ballet. The Ramayana Ballet is a Hindu love story about the Prince Rama trying to rescue his wife Shinta from the demon King Ravana. It is told through the art of dance, music and amazing costumes.
Plus, having the Prambanan Temple as the backdrop to the whole play is amazing in itself.
4) Take In The Tastes Of Indonesia
What better way than to experience a new culture than taste your way through it?! Never done a cooking class before? Well, no worries, we created a guide that will help set you up with a great school.
For us, we booked a cooking class through Via Via. Via Via is this amazing restaurant we stumbled upon by coincidence. It features fresh bakes good, an art gallery and an amazing menu of Indonesian dishes as well as some western items.
Completely impressed by the food, we booked our cooking class through them. Made, our cooking guide, has been doing this cooking class for 16 years and she did not disappoint!
We spent the morning at the market gathering our ingredients and the rest of our time chopping, cooking and sizzling together some delicious food! Made was amazing and the food was to die for. We highly recommend this class. Such a fun way to experience a slice of authentic Yogyakarta.
5) Visit A Palace & A Water Castle
The Kraton is the royal palace and the home to the reigning Sultan of Yogyakarta. Within the palace grounds you will find a museum displaying remnants and artifacts of Javanese culture.
To be honest, after seeing a few other palaces in Asia, the Kraton is a bit underwhelming. However, if you in the area, it’s a great way to pass the time on a nice day.
Located 15 walking minutes away, you’ll find Taman Sari. Taman Sari is the sight of the former royal gardens, baths and meditation center. Today, it is a beautiful complex filled with pools of water. Warning, swimming isn’t allowed 🙂
Both cost a fee to get in. The Kraton costs 7,000 rupiah (.50 cents) and Taman Sari costs 12,500 rupiah ($1 USD).
6) Be An Extra In A Film
If you are one of the lucky folks to get stopped and asked to be an extra in a movie, do it! Yes, you read that correctly. You could be the next Indonesia Movie Star (cue flashing lights and cameras).
Tell Me More…
Jesse was walking the streets outside of our hotel, when he was approached by a random man and woman. They walked right up to him and asked if he would like to be in a Dutch/Indonesian movie called “Wage.”
The plan was to meet at a nearby hotel around 5:30PM and a bus would pick him and a few others up and take them to the location for filming. Once the bus picked him up, they had a 30 minute ride to the other side of town where they where brought to an estate aka the movie set.
Jesse and the extras were all sent to the dressing room for costumes and makeup (real movie stars, we told you!) Jesse’s role was a Military General. His main role (which he believes he played brilliantly) was to sit and hold conversation at our dinner table while the stars entered the room and began to dance. Thats it!
Was This A Paid Gig?
HELL YES IT WAS! Ha, we couldn’t believe it.
Since we’ve been traveling for 8 months, with no income, we would take any money we could get. They offered to pay 600,000IDR (almost $45 USD) and included dinner!! Jesse was sold.
Any Down Sides?
Besides everything taking forever and going 6 hours longer than expected, no.
7) Get Your Shopping On
If you want a souvenir or need to cure a shopping itch, head over to Jalan Malioboro. Jalan Malioboro is a 1km street that runs north and south in downtown Yogyakarta. Shops fill the Dutch colonial buildings that line the streets.
This bustling street never closes. You can find anything from cheap trinkets, to tasty eats to expensive garments. If you want it, Jalan Malioboro more than likely has it.
8) Take a Ride
Hire a trishaw and zip off to any location in Yogyakarta. We took these things everywhere! Ha, they were so fun and a great way to get around the city.
Our tip for you? Make friends with a driver and have him be your driver for the rest of the time you’re in Yogyakarta. You’ll get a better rate on rides and plus, you’ll make a new friend.
Where To Eat In Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta is unlike many other Indonesian cities. It has a strong café culture! What do we mean by café culture?! The city has unique coffee shops, tasty gelato stalls and fantastic eateries all over town.
Of course there is plenty of tasty street food for those who are on a budget (like we were) but if you get a chance, break your budget rule and treat yourself. We sure did and we did not regret it!
A few places we recommend that we ate at are below. Now, we stumbled onto these solely on convenience. They were on the street where we stayed or close by. By no means did we research “the best places to eat in Yogyakarta” but honestly, we didn’t need to because these places did not disappoint!
- A great outdoor vegetarian restaurant with a killer vibe and amazing food. Now, we are not vegetarians but we heard so many good things about this place, we couldn’t pass it up. Our review? It. Was. Amazing. You sit on a bamboo padded floor and have unique flavors of wholesome goodness served to you. Okay, were done typing. Just check it out.
- Via Via
- Yes, this is where we took our cooking class but we wanted to include a whole spate section about it because it really is that good.
- II Tempo Del Gelato
- Being right across the street from where we stay definitely did not help. Let us just say we tried our best every night to pass it and not get gelato….but we failed every time J It was just too good to pass up!
Additional Things To Do In or Around Yogyakarta
Still wanting to do and see more?! While we saw and accomplished a lot during our 3 days in Yogyakarta, we weren’t able to do everything we would have liked to do.
The three items listed below are things we seriously thought about but they were either 1) a little too expensive for our budget or 2) took up the whole day and when we had only a few days to explore, we didn’t want to devote a whole day to a certain site.
If we had a few more days and a bit of a larger budget, we would have squeezed these in for sure!
- Mount Merapi Hike
- Kalibiru National Park Viewpoint
- Jomblang Cave Spelunking
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)