Yes, the batik, this simple technique of dyeing fabrics that results in elaborate patterns, is definitively what pops up to your eyes as you arrive in Yogyakarta, or Jogja (jogh-jah) as it is locally called . But this city has much more to offer than this, being modern and cosmopolitan, but maintaining the charm of the traditional neighborhoods, where the pace of life with chickens here and there makes us forget that we are in a city.
Yogyakarta definitely is a city with charm with many things going on, where you can spend several days or even weeks without get bored.
The areas around the Taman Sari (Water Palace) and the kampung Kotagede are perfect for a random walk through the narrow alleys, too small for cars where only the motorbikes engines break the quietness of the place. Surrounding the Sultan Palace and limited by walls, the Kraton is a perfect place to wander along the grid of streets where the houses, painted with bright colours, have trees and nice gardens.
Due to the proximity to the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, Yogyakarta becomes the most touristic city of Java, but it deserves all the attention, and the high concentration of tourism, don’t change much its character.
But Jalan Malioboro, the commercial street of Yogyakarta, is strongly orientated to the tourism, not just foreigners but also from Indonesia, with the sidewalks full of souvenirs sellers, generally with batik articles, dozens of becaks (cyclo-rickshaws) asking “where you go” and a lot of touts with an annoying conversation trying to push you art galleries or shops.
A bit less popular between the tourists is the Kotagede, a cozy and quiet neighborhood, but where the market (Pasar Kota Gede) gatherer all the activity, mainly early mornings, with the sellers occupying also the nearby streets. A vibrant and lively market where we are welcomed with nice smiles and a lot of curiosity. A good place out of the tourist route to find local and authentic lifestyle and where the usual question “were are you from?” just bring curiosity and joyfulness when I answer “Portugal”.
Pasar Kotagede. Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta stands up for it’s cultural and artistic activity that is visible in the vibrant street art that is spread a bit everywhere in the city, as also for the number of galleries, antique shops, cultural centers and art associations. The street art here is alive and creative, far from being institutionalized or controlled like you find in Penang, filling empty spaces of the city with a colorful creativity and a sharp imagination. There are a lot of trendy places to hangout from vintage shops, stylish cafes or concept restaurants, as also quite some art events away form the touristic gamlean concerts or traditional Javanese dance shows.
Where to sleep in Yogyakarta:
There are many options far all budgets… from sophisticated villas to backpacker’s hostels, from the formal hotels to family style guesthouses.
I stay on the south part of the city (south of Kraton) on the Mantrijeron neighborhoods. Mantrijeron has a good balance between local lifestyle and tourist facilities, and away from the main busy roads, you can find nice places to stay. My choice was the Losmanos Hostel a recently open hostel with different kinds of accommodation: dorm 60.000 Rp, single room 110.000 Rp and double room 150.000 Rp. All with shared toilet, by the way are super cool and with a nice decoration… and hot water! The dorm is very-very basic, with just a mattress, a pillow and a fan… there aren’t lockers.
The wi-fi is very good and the staff is very friendly and helpful. This place with a nice concept and decoration is giving is first steps but already has a good vibe!
There’s a link for a map made by the crew that runs the business, Emi and Aldy, which give you the location the most important things in town, from sightseeing to restaurants, from supermarkets to laundry, from moneychanger to souvenirs shops. Very useful information based on local the experience! Thanks folks for this!
Address: Jl. Tirtodipuran, Gang Lesmana, Mantrijeron, Kota Yogyakarta
Phone: (0274) 4221665
But watch out: the price of the accommodation can change according to weekend and holidays!!!! So make it clear before you check-in.
Where to eat in Yogyakarta:
Basically, I just follow the Emi and Aldy map from Losmanos Guest House… there’s a lot of good tips on this map, most of them located near Mantrijeron and kampung Kraton areas.
- Mirang Raya, Ruman Makan Massakan Padang (Jl Parangtritis, 117). Tasty food with many options and cheap price.
- Duta Minang, Ruman Makan Massakan Padang (Jl Mayjen D. I. Panjaitan, 50). The classic padang food with many delicious options in a more sophisticated atmosphere but also with the cheap prices.
- Gudeg Bu Hj. Rini (Gudeg Wijilan). Jl Wilijan, 7… if you visit Yogyakarta you must try the gudeg… a jackfruit curry that despite the less attractive look is delicious!!! Along with this street, you’ll find a dozen of gudeg restaurants, but this one was recommended by local people and has friendly prices and a casual environment.
- Don’t miss the street-food along the streets of Yogyakarta… depending on the time of the day, you can find different types of food.
There are street food everywhere around the city, and on a short visit is impossible to have a stomach to try everything… but in these particular places I found the tastiest options:
- Jalan Kemasan on the way to Kotagede Market (Pasar Kotagede), early mornings. Inside the market there are also food stalls.
- Along Jalan Malioboro you find many food stalls with bakso (meatballs soup) and mie (noodles) options mainly concentrated on the top north of the street. There are as also food hawkers selling lotek (a mix of vegetables with peanut sauce on top… my favorite!), mainly located in the south part of the street.
- There are also some street-food stalls along Jl Mayjen D. I. Panjaitan, with soups, nasi and gado-gado.
Check more details at: A shot guide to hang ou in Yogyakarta
Sweets and snacks at Pasar Kotagede, that is one of the many options of street food available in Yogyakarta
How to move around in Yogyakarta:
Is a big city to do on foot!
The main train station (Tugu) is nearby the center of Yogyakarta but the bus terminals are located far out, like Jombor (buses to Borobudur).
There are a few options to move around Yogyakarta:
- Trans Jogja: modern buses with air-con, that link the main points of the city, like the bus terminals, train station, the historic center, immigration, airport, etc… It’s fast, confortable and efficient. But the bus stops are located far away from each other’s, and you always need to walk a bit until finding one. There’s a map online where you can see the bus number and routes, but at each bus halt, there’s a helper that sell the tickets and will help you. The ticket costs 3.500 Rp, no matter the distance. Usually, I didn’t wait more than 15 minutes for a bus.
- If you want to save some time, special for longer distances, the GoJek is the best, a moto-taxi service that you can call by a mobile application. A ride from the center to the immigration or airport cost around 000 Rp.
- Rent a bicycle… this is the most enjoyable way to visit the Kraton and the small alleys of the old part of the city, but the main streets have quite some traffic… but bicycles are still very popular between local population.
- “becaks”, a cycle rickshaws, are everywhere around the city, usually chilling at street corners while waiting for clients.
Arriving in Yogyakarta by train:
If you arrive by train you’ll probably end your journey at Tugu Train Station. The exit is not clear and maybe you will need to cross some lines and platforms until you find the exit. As you arrive at the street the usual ojeks and taxi drivers will approach you. The way is not clear and you’ll find yourself on a busy street, full of traffic, motorbikes and people.
But no stress, you just need to walk left, 400 meters until you reach a big T-junction. If you turn right you are at Malioboro Street (Jalan Malioboro) the commercial center of the Yogyakarta.
But probably you don’t want to stay in this area as the accommodation is more expensive and the concentration of touts trying to push you to art galleries or batik shops is high.
So, if you are planning to go to the south part of Yogyakarta, south from Kraton, you can get a Trans Jogja bus, at the bus stand located on the left side of the road, about 50 meters from the junction. At the bus stand (halt) the staff will help to get the right bus to your destination.