Johor Bahru, or “JB”, is just across the border from Singapore in Malaysia. Nusajaya / Iskandar Puteri is a suburb of Johor Bahru and best known for Legoland Malaysia and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town. Whether you visit for a couple of days or a couple of months, JB has something for the whole family. We’ll share what to do in JB and the best hotels for your stay. It’s even a great affordable spot to stay if you want to visit Singapore for a day or two per week (see: Malaysia - Singapore Boarder Crossing).
Malaysia is an amazing country, so it is no wonder that it was chosen as a filming location for movies such as Blackhat starring Chris Hemsworth, Anna and the King featuring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat, Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Fair Game starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, the less known The Sleeping Dictionary staring Jessica Alba and Brenda Blethyn, and Jackie Chan’s Police Story 3: Super Cop. The “Blue Mansion” (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion) on Penang Island, Malaysia also appeared in Crazy Rich Asians! The country is really growing and is currently at the forefront of modernization while retaining its great value. It’s no wonder that it’s also a hot weekend destination for people living in Singapore!
The top things to do in Johor Bahru are not all in the same area, so we’ve separated them into three sections: JB city, Nusajaya, and Bukit Indah.
In this Article:
What to do and Where to stay in Johor Bahru
What to do in Johor Bahru
The main areas in Johor Bahru are JB City, Bukit Indah, and Nusajaya.
Things to do in JB City
Johor Bahru City Square
A conveniently located mall across from the JB Sentral Railway station. The train from Singapore stops at JB Sentral after crossing the border. TIP: Restaurants get crowded soon after the train arrives. If you’re already in JB, plan to eat earlier, and if you’re coming from Singapore you may want to eat a little farther out.
The Old Temple Of Johor Bahru
Located just across the street from Johor Bahru City Square is the Old Temple of Johor Bahru, which was built in the 19th century and tells the story of how the Chinese community immigrated to Johor Bahru.
Adjacent to JB City Square and home of the Angry Birds Activity Park.
Angry Birds Activity Park
An indoor playground with 5 different play areas. NOTE: As of 2019, it is compulsory to purchase Angry Bird socks at the counter in addition to your admission ticket in order to enter the play areas. One pair is 6 RM (approx. $1.50 USD)
The largest mall in JB. It includes a movie theatre, indoor climbing wall, 7 floors of shops & restaurants, and an indoor ice skating rink.
Unlike the open concept Singapore Zoo, the Johor Zoo is an old-style zoo (originally opened in 1928) with cages and enclosures. At 2 RM (approx. $0.50 USD) for adults, and 1 RM (approx. $0.25 USD) for children – the price can’t be beat.
Danga Bay Theme Park
The place to go at night. The rides operate from 3 PM to midnight daily. There’s no fee to enter the park area, but each attraction costs from 2 RM to 10 RM per ride. It can get pretty crowded on the weekends and is popular among couples and families.
Hiap Joo Bakery and Biscuit Factory
Cash only. Famous for their large loaves of banana cake.
Bazaar Karat (a.k.a. “Pasar Karat”)
A large open-road flea market that comes to life at night selling food, a wide selection of new and second hand clothes, antiques, souvenirs, accessories, electronics and many other items from locals. It is only open in the evenings and best to attend after 8 PM. Haggling is expected.
Taman Merdeka Park
This park has an open-air theater, rock sculptures, a monument dedicated to Malaysia’s independence, a few cannons and a clock tower.
Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception
Built in 1883, it is one of the oldest structures in Johor. This is apparent in its British colonial style design.
Things to do in Nusajaya
Legoland Malaysia is the star attraction of Nusajaya. It has the theme park, water park, and newly opened SEA LIFE Malaysia aquarium. While you can technically visit both parks in one day, families recommend spending two days because most kids want to spend a full day in the water park as well. Tickets HERE.
Mall of Medini
This open-air mall is fairly new and still under development - although a number of places are open and operational. It has a roof, but is not enclosed. There are a couple of convenience stores, some restaurants, and a coffee shop. The mall also has a Causeway Link bus stop to get to and from Singapore.
Sunway Citrine Hub
Getting groceries delivered from AEON was convenient, but we liked the selection at Jaya Grocer in Sunway Citrine Hub better. Sunway Iskandar is a planned city in the process of being built. The Sunway Citrine Hub is one of the first complexes to be completed and opened. This facility has that small-town new-generation feel with boutique restaurants and cafes (like Pizz@, Sushi House, and The Story Juice Bar), the Jaya Grocer, a hair salon, and even a “Mr. D.I.Y.” store - which has all of the knick-knacks you could need for just about anything. Beware of the lake on the other side of the parking lot, however (mosquito zone!).
A number of upscale restaurants sitting on the boat harbor as well as a shopping center that includes a DC Superheros Cafe, Toys R Us, Starbucks, Hotel Jen Johor Puteri, Somerset Puteri Harbour, CARiNG Pharmacy, and even a grocery store. There is even a freshmart just a block away at the Teega Walk.
Puteri Harbour Theme Park
Two indoor theme parks, Sanrio Hello Kitty Town and Thomas Town. Perfect for preschoolers and their parents. Hello Kitty Town has activities that involve the whole family, whereas Thomas Town lets the parents sit back while the kids play. Tickets HERE.
Kota Iskandar: Johor State Administrative Center
”Fill your time marvelling at the stylish architectures and scenic spots through our gallery, gardens and open spaces.” The facility houses the Sultan Ismail Building (BSI), a souvenir shop, waterscapes and lush gardens, the Kota Iskandar Mosque, and the Jauhar Gallery. You can join their BSI Guided Tour, a tour of the Parliament building, or the excursion bus tour around Kota Iskandar’s attractive surroundings. It is an amazing architectural site where “Johor’s Heritage Comes Alive” located at Puteri Harbour.
Things to do in Bukit Indah
Stores & Shops
Bukit Indah is between Nusajaya and JB City, although a little closer to Nusajaya. It is also surrounded by a circle of streets containing shops, stores, banks, open-air eateries, restaurants, a much larger grocery store (Tesco Bukit Indah), printing shops (PrintTech), pediatric offices, baby stores, etc.
AEON Bukit Indah
A shopping mall and supermarket. The mall has stores, restaurants, and a TGV movie theatre. The supermarket gets very crowded on the weekends, and the 8th and 28th of the month for sales. You can also order groceries online through the honestbee website or app. Be aware that the honestbee delivery drivers are on motorbikes and carry the groceries in a large insulated backpack box. We didn’t know, and our first order included several heavy items including a 9.5 liter water jug. You don’t usually give a tip as the service charge is already included in your order, but we gave that first driver a nice tip after he carried all the groceries to our front door.
Bukit Indah Recreation Park
Many people come to this park to jog and exercise. We also saw a number of people here playing Pokemon Go. While it is a decent place to exercise, realize that it can get quite warm as only about half of the park has tree coverage.
Bonus thing to do in Johor Bahru (JB City and Bukit Indah)
Although this isn’t a usual “tourist” activity, movies in Malaysia are very cheap, have the latest releases, and are in English (usually with Malay subtitles) – making it a popular pastime for day-trippers from Singapore. Prices can start as low as 8 RM (approx. $2 USD) on weekdays. Movie theatres can be found at Paradigm, JB City Square, and AEON Bukit Indah (Bukit Indah is closest to Nusajaya).
Where to stay in Johor Bahru
Legoland Hotel (4-star, prices vary)
Families enjoyed the themed rooms. Restaurants are reserved for hotel guests only, but many guests recommend eating off-site for better prices.
Ramada Meridin Johor Bahru (4-star, from $50 USD)
Just behind Legoland with an amazing pool area, two restaurants (including value sets of Masala Curry Chicken or Kuey Teow for RM 15.90, and a Crispy Fish Burger or a ‘Javanese’ Lamb Skewer for RM 28.00), shuttle service to Singapore & the local areas, and even the “AA Supermarket” if you need a few groceries.
Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour, Johor by Shangri-La (4-star, from $80 USD)
Grand Paragon Hotel, Johor Bahru (4-star, from $48 USD)
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Johor Bahru (4-star, from $61 USD)
Tours in & through Johor Bahru, Malaysia
If you’re in the area, check out some of the entertainment that Johor Bahru has to offer. With Legoland, SEA LIFE Aquarium, an indoor ice staking rink, climbing wall, many movie theaters, Hello Kitty Town, and the Angry Birds Activity Park, you really can’t get bored.
However, if you want to make it a part of a bigger trip, consider looking into the Marvelous Singapore & Malaysia tour if you want to combine all of the highlights of Malaysia with Singapore - or enjoy the coastal waters by booking the Colorful Snorkelling Experience (from Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur) to explore even more of Malaysia! Both are amazing trips! The amazing "Bangkok to Singapore on a Shoestring” tour that hits all of the highlights of southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore!
Alternatively, use all of the helpful advice we have given you in this article and continue on your journey into Singapore by crossing the border and exploring Singapore as well!
Check out these articles about exciting places to go in Singapore:
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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore