Are you looking for a destination that has it all: culture, food, nature, and adventure? Then you should definitely check it out, so many things to do in Medan, the vibrant capital of North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Medan North Sumatra is not only a gateway to Lake Toba, the biggest volcanic lake in the world, and other stunning spots in the area, but also a place where you can experience the rich diversity and history of Indonesia. But what if you are traveling with mom & babies? Don’t worry, Medan is also a family-friendly city that offers plenty of fun and educational activities for kids and parents alike. All you need is some planning and some tips to make your trip easier and more enjoyable. Here are some things you need to know before you pack your bags and head to Medan.
The Place to Visit in Medan
Medan has plenty of places to visit for moms & babies who want to have fun and learn something new. Here are some of the activities you can enjoy in Medan:
Visit Maimun Palace
This is one of the most famous landmarks of Medan, built by Sultan Ma’mun Al Rashid Perkasa Alamyah in 1888. The palace shows a mix of Malay, Islamic, Indian, and European influences in its architecture and design. You can see the lavish rooms and halls of the palace, as well as the collection of weapons, costumes, and furniture. You can also take a picture with the guards wearing traditional Malay attire, or even rent a costume yourself and pose like a royal. The entrance fee is only 10,000 IDR (about 0.7 USD) per person, and the costume rental is 20,000 IDR (about 1.4 USD) per person.
Explore Tjong A Fie Mansion
This is another historical building that reflects the multicultural heritage of Medan. It was built by Tjong A Fie, a Chinese merchant, and philanthropist who was one of the richest and most influential people in Medan in the early 20th century. The mansion is a blend of Chinese, Malay, and European styles, with intricate carvings, paintings, and furniture. You can learn about the life and legacy of Tjong A Fie and his family, as well as the social and cultural history of Medan. The entrance fee is 35,000 IDR (about 2.5 USD) per person, and you can also join a guided tour for an extra fee.
Enjoy the food
Medan is a paradise for foodies, as it offers a variety of cuisines from different ethnic groups, such as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Batak, Javanese, Minangkabau, and more. You can find street food stalls, cafes, restaurants, and markets that serve delicious dishes at affordable prices. Some of the must-try foods in Medan are:
- Soto Medan: A soup made with coconut milk, chicken, vermicelli noodles, boiled eggs, and spices. It is usually served with rice cakes, fried onions, lime juice, and sambal (chili sauce).
- Bika Ambon: A cake made with tapioca flour, eggs, coconut milk, sugar, and yeast. It has a honeycomb-like texture and a sweet and sour taste. It comes in different flavors, such as pandan (screwpine), durian (a tropical fruit with a strong smell), cheese, chocolate, and more.
- Lontong Sayur: A dish made with rice cakes cooked in banana leaves, served with vegetable curry, tofu, tempeh (fermented soybean cake), boiled eggs, and crackers. It is a popular breakfast item that can fill you up for the day.
Visit Lake Toba
If you have more time and want to see more of North Sumatra, you can take a day trip or an overnight stay at Lake Toba, the biggest volcanic lake in the world. Lake Toba is about four hours drive from Medan, and you can enjoy the scenic views of the mountains, the forests, and the lake along the way. You can also take a ferry to Samosir Island, which is located in the middle of the lake and is home to the Batak people, who have their own unique culture and traditions. You can see their traditional houses, dance performances, and handicrafts, as well as swim, fish, or kayak in the lake.
Admire Mesjid Raya Al Mashun
This is the grand mosque of Medan, built by Sultan Ma’mun Al Rashid Perkasa Alamyah in 1906. The mosque has a striking black dome and an octagonal shape, with influences from Moroccan, Turkish, Indian, and Spanish styles. The mosque can accommodate up to 1,500 worshippers and is open to visitors outside of prayer times. You can admire the intricate details of the mosque, such as the stained glass windows, the marble floors, and the calligraphy. You need to dress modestly and cover your head and legs before entering the mosque. You can also rent a robe at the entrance for a small fee.
Shop at Pasar Petisah
This is one of the oldest and busiest markets in Medan, where you can find almost anything you need or want. The market sells clothes, accessories, electronics, books, souvenirs, antiques, and more. You can also find a lot of local snacks and delicacies here, such as martabak (stuffed pancake), kue lapis (layered cake), pisang goreng (fried banana), and es cendol (iced dessert with green jelly). The market is open from early morning until late night, but it is best to visit in the afternoon or evening when it is more lively and colorful. Be prepared to bargain hard and watch your belongings as it can get crowded and chaotic.
Getting There and Around Medan City
The easiest way to get to Medan is by flying to Kualanamu International Airport, which is about 40 km from the city center. There are direct flights from Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and other big cities in Southeast Asia. From the airport, you have two options to get to the city: the airport train or the airport taxi. The train is faster and cheaper, but it only takes you to the City Railway Station, where you may need to take another taxi or public transport to your hotel. The taxi is more comfy and convenient, but it is more pricey and may take longer depending on the traffic. You can book a taxi at the arrivals area of the airport or use an online app like Grab or Gojek.
This is the cheapest but also the longest option. You can take a bus from Jakarta to Palembang, which takes about 18 hours and costs Rp 250,000. Then you can take another bus from Palembang to Pekanbaru, which takes about 12 hours and costs Rp 300,000. Finally, you can take a third bus from Pekanbaru to Medan, which takes about 10 hours and costs Rp 250,000. The total travel time is about 40 hours and the total cost is Rp 800,000.
This is an adventurous option if you want to enjoy the sea view and experience the local culture. You can take a ferry from the Port of Tanjung Priok in Jakarta to Belawan Port in Medan, which takes about two days and 14 hours. The ferry ticket prices range from Rp 533,500 to Rp 853,500 depending on the class and the date of travel. You can book your ferry tickets online at Pelni or other ferry websites.
By Car and Car Ferry
This is a flexible option if you have your own car or want to rent one. You can drive from Jakarta to Merak Port in Banten Province, which takes about three hours and costs Rp 200,000 for tolls and fuel. Then you can take a car ferry from Merak Port to Bakauheni Port in Lampung Province, which takes about two hours and costs Rp 150,000 for the car ticket and Rp 15,000 for the passenger ticket. From there, you can drive to Medan via Palembang and Pekanbaru, which takes about 21 hours and costs Rp 1,200,000 for tolls and fuel. The total travel time is about 26 hours and the total cost is Rp 1,565,000.
To get around Medan, you can also use Grab or Gojek, which are easy to find and affordable. You can choose between a car or a motorcycle, depending on what you like and how much you want to spend. If you have a baby car seat, you can bring it along and install it in the car. Or, you can take a becak, which is a traditional rickshaw that can fit up to two adults and a baby. A becak ride can be a fun and authentic way to explore the city, but make sure you agree on the price before you hop on.
Where to Sleep
Medan has a lot of places to stay for different budgets and needs. If you are traveling with mom & babies, you may want to look for a hotel that has family-friendly stuff and services, such as baby cribs, high chairs, babysitting, kids’ club, a playground, a pool, etc. Some of the hotels that have good reviews from families with kids are:
Grand Aston City Hall Hotel & Serviced Residences
This five-star hotel is in the heart of the city, near the City Railway Station and Centre Point Mall. It has big rooms and suites with modern stuff, as well as an outdoor pool, a spa, a fitness center, a restaurant, and a bar. It also has free shuttle service to the airport and other places in the city.
JW Marriott Hotel Medan
This five-star hotel is in the business district of Medan, near Sun Plaza Mall and Shri Mariamman Temple. It has nice rooms and suites with amazing views of the city, as well as an outdoor pool, a spa, a fitness center, a restaurant, and a lounge. It also has free Wi-Fi, free parking, and free breakfast for kids under 12 years old.
This three-star hotel is in the Chinatown area of Medan, near Tjong A Fie Mansion and Maimun Palace. It has cozy rooms with cool decor, as well as a restaurant, a bar, a coffee shop, and a meeting room. It also has free Wi-Fi, free parking, and free shuttle service to nearby places.
If you are looking for cheaper options, you can also find some budget-friendly hotels in Medan that offer decent facilities and services. Some of the cheap hotels that have good ratings from travelers are:
Sans Hotel Finest Medan
This three-star hotel is set in Medan, 5.2 km from Maimun Palace and 5.4 km from Medan Grand Mosque. The hotel has air-conditioned rooms with private bathrooms and free Wi-Fi. Medan Train Station is 7.4 km away and Pajak Ikan Medan is 6.8 km from the hotel.
Guests have showered Sans Hotel Finest Medan with praise, particularly highlighting the exceptional friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. Their assistance in arranging transportation, such as Grab car services to the airport, has been warmly welcomed. Inside the hotel, guests have found the rooms to be generously spacious and impeccably clean. The beds have been described as havens of softness and comfort, promising a restful night’s sleep. Furthermore, the breakfast offerings have garnered appreciation for their delectable diversity, ensuring a delightful start to the day.
For travelers, the hotel’s advantageous proximity to the airport, a mere 15-minute car ride away, has proven immensely convenient. The rooms maintain a high standard of cleanliness, with a reliable Wi-Fi connection catering to guests’ connectivity needs. The breakfast menu, featuring a selection of local dishes, has been celebrated as a delightful culinary experience that sets the tone for the day.
Despite its positive aspects, some customers have encountered issues during their stay at Sans Hotel Finest Medan, leading to critical feedback. The hotel’s location on a busy street has contributed to nighttime noise disturbances, which have been a point of contention for certain guests.
Furthermore, families traveling with children have faced challenges at the hotel. The limited room space has made it impractical to accommodate an extra bed or baby cot, posing inconveniences for those with little ones. Adding to the hurdles, the absence of an elevator within the hotel has made the task of transporting luggage or strollers up the stairs a cumbersome endeavor.
In terms of value for money, Sans Hotel Finest Medan undoubtedly excels. The rooms exude a sense of spaciousness and ample illumination, creating a welcoming atmosphere. The air conditioning system ensures a refreshing ambiance, even in the heat of Medan. Notably, the breakfast, in addition to being appetizing, manages to satisfy the discerning palates of guests, making their stay even more worthwhile.
Nestled in the heart of Medan, this hotel has garnered both praise and critique from its diverse range of guests. Many have lauded its convenient location, friendly staff, and budget-friendly rates. The hotel’s proximity to the airport, a mere 10-minute drive, has been a standout feature for transit travelers. Guests have commended the staff’s helpfulness, the cleanliness of the spacious rooms, and the simple yet tasty breakfast offerings.
However, not all reviews sing the hotel’s praises. Some have pointed out drawbacks, such as noise from the nearby busy street, small rooms lacking amenities like fridges and kettles, and subpar breakfast options. Maintenance issues have also been highlighted, with complaints of dusty rooms, worn-out bedding, and moldy bathrooms. Families with children may find the limited space, absence of elevators, and a dearth of child-friendly facilities less accommodating.
In summary, this hotel offers a convenient and budget-friendly stay in Medan, especially for transit visitors. While it boasts several positive aspects, including location and staff, it falls short in areas like room amenities and maintenance, making it a suitable choice for some travelers but not all.
In summary, Medan emerges as a versatile destination that promises a fulfilling experience for families traveling with young children. From its diverse cultural landmarks like Maimun Palace and Tjong A Fie Mansion to its mouthwatering array of local cuisines, the city has something for everyone. Lake Toba, with its breathtaking natural beauty and unique cultural heritage on Samosir Island, offers an extended adventure for those with more time to explore.
While the journey to Medan may require some planning, the city’s convenient transportation options and family-friendly accommodations ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay. Whether you’re strolling through vibrant markets or marveling at the architectural wonders of Mesjid Raya Al Mashun, Medan promises a blend of adventure, cultural enrichment, and culinary delights that will leave both parents and babies with cherished memories. So, pack your bags, gather your family, and embark on a memorable journey to discover all that Medan has to offer