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Kuala Lumpur

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Kuala Lumpur
From top, left to right:
Skyline at night with the Petronas Towers, the KL Tower, and also the TRX Tower in the far background; Bukit Bintang intersection, Petaling Street, Sultan Abdul Samad Building on Merdeka Square, photo spots of Jamek Mosque which lies between the Gombak and the Klang River confluence, National Monument, Kuala Lumpur railway station, and the National Palace
Coat of arms of Kuala Lumpur
KL, The Garden City of Lights
Bersedia Menyumbang Bandaraya Cemerlang
English: Ready to Contribute towards an Excellent City
Anthem: Maju dan Sejahtera
English: Progress and Prosper
Kuala Lumpur is located in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is located in Southeast Asia
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is located in Asia
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Coordinates: 03°08′52″N 101°41′43″E / 3.14778°N 101.69528°E / 3.14778; 101.69528Coordinates: 03°08′52″N 101°41′43″E / 3.14778°N 101.69528°E / 3.14778; 101.69528
Administrative areas
City status1 February 1972
Transferred to federal jurisdiction1 February 1974
 • TypeFederal administration
with local government
 • BodyKuala Lumpur City Hall
 • MayorMahadi bin Che Ngah
Federal representationParliament of Malaysia
 • Dewan Rakyat seats11 of 222 (5.0%)
 • Dewan Negara seats2 of 70 (2.9%)
 • Federal territory243 km2 (94 sq mi)
 • Metro
2,243.27 km2 (866.13 sq mi)
Elevation94 m (308 ft)
Highest elevation94 m (308 ft)
 (2020 census)[5]
 • Federal territory1,982,112
 • Rank1st
 • Density7,802/km2 (20,210/sq mi)
 • Metro
 • Metro density2,708/km2 (7,010/sq mi)
 • Demonym
KL-ite / Kuala Lumpurian
City Index
 • HDI (2019)0.867 (very high) (1st)[6]
 • GDP (2019)RM 244,210 million ($59,831 million) (2nd)[7]
 • Per capita (2019)RM 129,472 ($31,720) (1st)[7]
Time zoneUTC+8 (MST)
Postal code
50000 to 60000
Mean solar timeUTC+06:46:46
Area code(s)03
Vehicle registrationV and W (except taxis)
HW (for taxis only)
ISO 3166-2MY-14
Official language(s)Malay

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysian pronunciation: [ˈkualə, -a ˈlumpo(r), -ʊ(r)]), officially the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (Malay: Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur) and colloquially referred to as KL, is a federal territory and the capital city of Malaysia. It is one of the fastest growing cities in Asia and the largest city in Malaysia, covering an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi) with an census population of 1,982,112 as of 2020.[8] Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.564 million people as of 2018.[4] It is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in Southeast Asia, both in population and economic development.

The city serves as the cultural, financial, and economic centre of Malaysia. It is also home to the Parliament of Malaysia, and the Istana Negara, the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (monarch of Malaysia). Kuala Lumpur first developed around 1857 as a town serving the tin mines of the region and served as the capital of Selangor from 1880 until 1978. Kuala Lumpur was the founding capital of the Federation of Malaya and its successor Malaysia, and the city remained the seat of the executive and judicial branches of the Malaysian federal government until these were relocated to Putrajaya in early 1999.[9] However, some sections of the political bodies still remain in Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur is one of the three federal territories of Malaysia,[10] enclaved within the state of Selangor, on the central west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.[11] Since the 1990s, the city has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the 2017 Southeast Asian Games. Kuala Lumpur has undergone rapid development in recent decades and is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Towers, which have since become an iconic symbol of Malaysian development.

The city, as well as Petaling Jaya and a few other cities in Malaysia is well connected with the RM31 billion MRT system. Residents of the city can also travel to other parts of Malaysia through KL Sentral.

Kuala Lumpur is one of the leading cities in the world for tourism and shopping, the 6th most-visited city in the world in 2019.[12] The city houses three of the world's ten largest shopping malls.[13]

Kuala Lumpur ranks 70th in the world and second in Southeast Asia for Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Ranking[14] and ninth in ASPAC and second in Southeast Asia for KPMG's Leading Technology Innovation Hub 2021.[15] Kuala Lumpur was named World Book Capital 2020 by UNESCO.[16][17]


Kuala Lumpur means "muddy confluence" in Malay; Kuala is the point where two rivers join or an estuary, and lumpur means "mud".[18][19] One suggestion is that it was named after Sungai Lumpur ("muddy river"); in the 1820s a place named Sungei Lumpoor was said to be the most important tin-producing settlement up the Klang River.[20] However this derivation does not account for this: Kuala Lumpur lies at the confluence of Gombak River and Klang River, and therefore should be named Kuala Gombak, since the kuala is typically named after the river that joins a larger river or the sea.[21] Some have argued that Sungai Lumpur in fact extended down to the confluence and therefore the point where it joined the Klang River would be Kuala Lumpur,[22] although this Sungai Lumpur is said to be another river joining the Klang River 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) upstream from the Gombak confluence, or perhaps located to the north of the Batu Caves area.[21]

It has also been proposed that Kuala Lumpur was originally named Pengkalan Lumpur ("muddy landing place") in the same way that Klang was once called Pengkalan Batu ("stone landing place"), but became corrupted into Kuala Lumpur.[22] Another theory says that it was initially a Cantonese word, lam-pa, meaning 'flooded jungle' or 'decayed jungle'. There is no firm contemporary evidence for these suggestions other than anecdotes.[23] The name may also be a corrupted form of an earlier forgotten name.[21]


Early years

Historical affiliations

 Sultanate of Selangor 1857–1974
 Federated Malay States 1895–1942; 1945–1946
Empire of Japan 1942–1945
 Malayan Union 1946–1948
 Federation of Malaya 1948–1963
 Malaysia 1963–present

Nobody specifically knows who founded or named Kuala Lumpur. Chinese miners were involved in tin mining up the Selangor River in the 1840s about 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of present-day Kuala Lumpur,[24] and Mandailing Sumatrans led by Raja Asal [ms] and Sutan Puasa were also involved in tin mining and trade in the Ulu Klang region before 1860, and Sumatrans may have settled in the upper reaches of Klang River in the first quarter of the 19th century, or possibly earlier.[22][25][26][27] Kuala Lumpur was originally a small hamlet of just a few houses and shops at the confluence of the Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang (Klang River). Kuala Lumpur became established as a town circa 1857,[28] when the Malay Chief of Klang, Raja Abdullah bin Raja Jaafar, aided by his brother Raja Juma'at of Lukut, raised funds from Malaccan Chinese businessmen to hire Chinese miners from Lukut to open new tin mines there.[29][30] The miners landed at Kuala Lumpur and continued on foot to Ampang, where they opened the first mine.[31] Kuala Lumpur was the furthest point up the Klang River to which supplies could conveniently be brought by boat, and therefore became a collection and dispersal point serving the tin mines.[32][28]

Despite a high death toll from the malarial conditions of the jungle, the Ampang mines succeeded, and exported the first tin in 1859.[32] At that time, Sutan Puasa was already trading near Ampang. Two traders from Lukut, Hiu Siew and Yap Ah Sze, arrived in Kuala Lumpur and set up shops to sell provisions to miners in exchange for tin.[33][34] The town, spurred on by tin-mining, started to develop around Old Market Square (Medan Pasar), with roads radiating out towards Ampang as well as Pudu and Batu (the destinations became the names of these roads: Ampang Road, Pudu Road, and Batu Road), where miners had also begun to settle in, and Petaling and Damansara.[35] The miners formed gangs[36] and the gangs frequently fought in this period, particularly factions of Kuala Lumpur and Kanching, mainly over control of the best tin mines.[37] Leaders of the Chinese community were conferred the title of Kapitan Cina (Chinese headman) by the Malay chief, and Hiu Siew, the early Chinese trader, became the first Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur.[38] The third Chinese Kapitan of Kuala Lumpur, Yap Ah Loy, was appointed in 1868.[27]

Important Malay figures of early Kuala Lumpur also included Haji Mohamed Tahir, who became the Dato Dagang ("chief of traders").[25] The Minangkabaus of Sumatra became another important group who traded and established tobacco plantations in the area.[39] Notable Minangkabaus included their headman, Dato' Sati, Utsman Abdullah,[40] and Haji Mohamed Taib, who was involved in the early development of Kampung Baru.[41][42] The Minangkabaus were also significant socio-religious figures, for example Utsman bin Abdullah was the first kadi of Kuala Lumpur, as well as Muhammad Nur bin Ismail.[43]

Beginning of modern Kuala Lumpur

Early Kuala Lumpur was a small town that suffered from many social and political problems – the buildings were made of wood and 'atap' (palm frond thatching). The buildings were prone to catching fire, and due to a lack of proper sanitation the town was plagued with diseases. It also suffered from a constant threat of flooding due to its location. The town became embroiled in the Selangor Civil War in part over control of revenue from the tin mines. Yap Ah Loy allied himself with Tengku Kudin [ms], and the rival Chinese gang allied themselves with Raja Mahdi. Raja Asal and Sutan Puasa also switched sides to Raja Mahdi, and Kuala Lumpur was captured in 1872 and burnt to the ground. Yap escaped to Klang where he assembled another fighting force and recaptured Kuala Lumpur in March 1873, defeating Raja Mahdi's forces with the help of fighters from Pahang.[37] The war and other setbacks, such as dropping tin prices, led to a slump. A major outbreak of cholera caused many to flee. The slump lasted until late 1879, when rising prices for tin allowed the town to recover.[28] In late 1881, the town was severely flooded, after a fire that had destroyed the entire town in January. The town was rebuilt a few times and thrived, due in large part to the tenacity and persistence of Yap Ah Loy.[44][45] Yap, together with Frank Swettenham who was appointed the Resident in 1882, were the two most important figures of early Kuala Lumpur with Swettenham credited with its rapid growth and development and its transformation into a major urban centre.[46]

The Government Offices of the Federated Malay States (Now the Sultan Abdul Samad Building) facing the Padang
, c. 1900

The early Chinese and Malay settled along the east bank of the Klang River. The Chinese mainly settled around the commercial centre of Market Square. The Malays, and later Indian Chettiars and Muslims, resided in the Java Street area, now Jalan Tun Perak. In 1880, the colonial administration moved the state capital of Selangor from Klang to the more strategically advantageous Kuala Lumpur, and British Resident William Bloomfield Douglas decided to locate the government buildings and living quarters to the west of the river. Government offices and a new police headquarters were built on Bukit Aman, and the Padang initially created for police training.[47] The Padang, now known as Merdeka Square, would later become the centre of the British administrative offices when the colonial government offices moved to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building in 1897.[45]

Frank Swettenham, on becoming the British Resident, began improving the town by cleaning up the streets. He also stipulated in 1884 that buildings should be constructed of brick and tile so that they would be less flammable, and that the town be rebuilt with wider streets to reduce fire risk.[46][48] Kapitan Yap Ah Loy bought a sprawling piece of real estate to set up a brick factory for the rebuilding of Kuala Lumpur, the eponymous Brickfields.[49] Demolished atap buildings were replaced with brick and tile buildings, and many of the new brick buildings had "five-foot ways" and Chinese carpentry work. This resulted in a distinct eclectic shop house architecture typical to this region. Kapitan Yap Ah Loy expanded road access, linking tin mines with the city with the main arterial routes of the present Ampang Road, Pudu Road and Petaling Street.[50] As Chinese Kapitan, he held wide powers on a par with Malay community leaders. Law reforms were implemented and new legal measures introduced to the assembly. Yap also presided over a small claims court. With a police force of six, he was able to uphold the rule of law, constructing a prison that could accommodate sixty prisoners at a time. Yap Ah Loy also built Kuala Lumpur's first school and a major tapioca mill in Petaling Street, in which the Selangor's Sultan Abdul Samad held an interest.[51]

The construction of railway spurred the growth of the city. The first headquarters of the Federated Malay States Railways (now the National Textile Museum
) near the F.M.S. Government Offices in the distance, c. 1910.

A railway line between Kuala Lumpur and Klang, initiated by Swettenham and completed in 1886, increased access and resulted in rapid growth. The population grew from 4,500 in 1884 to 20,000 in 1890.[28] As development intensified in the 1880s, putting pressure on sanitation, waste disposal and other health measures. A Sanitary Board created on 14 May 1890 was responsible for sanitation, road upkeep, street lighting, and other functions. This would eventually become the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council.[52] In 1896, Kuala Lumpur was chosen as the capital of the newly formed Federated Malay States.[53]

20th century–present

Kuala Lumpur expanded considerably in the 20th century. It was 0.65 km2 (0.25 sq mi) in 1895, but was extended to encompass 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi) in 1903. By the time it became a municipality in 1948 it had expanded to 93 km2 (36 sq mi), and then to 243 km2 (94 sq mi) in 1974 as a Federal Territory.[54]

The development of a rubber industry in Selangor fueled by the demand for car tyres in the early 20th century led to a boom, and the population of Kuala Lumpur increased from 30,000 in 1900 to 80,000 in 1920.[55] The commercial activities of Kuala Lumpur had been run to a large extent by Chinese businessmen such as Loke Yew, who was then the richest and most influential Chinese in Kuala Lumpur. The growth of the rubber industry led to an influx of foreign capital and planters, with new companies and industries becoming established in Kuala Lumpur, and other companies previously based elsewhere also found a presence here.[55]

During World War II, Kuala Lumpur was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army on 11 January 1942. Despite suffering little damage during the course of the battle, the wartime occupation of the city resulted in significant loss of lives; at least 5,000 Chinese were killed in Kuala Lumpur in just a few weeks of occupation by Japanese forces, and thousands of Indians were sent as forced labour to work on the Burma Railway where many died.[56] They occupied the city until 15 August 1945, when the commander in chief of the Japanese Seventh Area Army in Singapore and Malaysia, Seishirō Itagaki, surrendered to the British administration following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[57] Kuala Lumpur grew during the war, and continued after the war during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), during which Malaya was preoccupied with a communist insurgency and New Villages were established on the outskirts of the city.[46]

The first municipal election in Kuala Lumpur was held on 16 February 1952. An ad hoc alliance between the Malay UMNO and Chinese MCA party candidates won a majority of the seats, and this led to the formation of the Alliance Party (later the Barisan Nasional).[58] On 31 August 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British rule.[59] The British flag was lowered and the Malayan flag raised for the first time at the Padang at midnight on 30 August 1957,[60] and on the morning of 31 August, the ceremony for the Declaration of Independence was held at the Merdeka Stadium by the first Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Kuala Lumpur remained the capital after the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. The Malaysian Houses of Parliament were completed at the edge of the Lake Gardens in 1963.[61]

Kuala Lumpur had seen a number of civil disturbances over the years. A riot in 1897 was a relatively minor affair that began with the confiscation of faulty dacing (a scale used by traders), and in 1912, a more serious disturbance called the tauchang riot began during the Chinese New Year with the cutting of pigtails and ended with rioting and factional fighting lasting a number of days.[62] The worst rioting on record in Malaysia, however, occurred on 13 May 1969, when race riots broke out in Kuala Lumpur.[63] The so-called 13 May Incident included violent conflicts between members of the Malay and the Chinese communities, the result of Malaysian dissatisfaction with their socio-political status. The riots caused the deaths of 196 people, according to official figures,[63] and led to major changes in the country's economic policy to promote and prioritise Malay economic development over that of other ethnicities.

City, Federal Territory, Greater Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur achieved city status on 1 February 1972,[64][65] becoming the first settlement in Malaysia to be granted the status after independence. Later, on 1 February 1974, Kuala Lumpur became a federal territory.[66] The territory of Kuala Lumpur expanded to 96 square miles by absorbing the surrounding areas. Kuala Lumpur ceded from Selangor to be directly controlled by the central government, and it ceased to be capital of Selangor in 1978 after the city of Shah Alam was declared the new state capital.[67] On 14 May 1990, Kuala Lumpur celebrated the centennial of the local council. The new federal territory Kuala Lumpur flag and anthem were introduced. On 1 February 2001, Putrajaya was declared a Federal Territory, as well as the seat of the federal government.[68] The administrative and judicial functions of the government were shifted from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya. Kuala Lumpur however still retained its legislative function,[69] and remained the home of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Constitutional King).[70]

From the 1990s onwards, major urban developments in the Klang Valley extended the Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area.[71][72] This area, known as Greater Kuala Lumpur, extends from the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur westward to Port Klang, east to the edge of the Titiwangsa Mountains as well as to the north and south. The area covers other administratively separate towns and cities such as Klang, Shah Alam, Putrajaya and others,[73][74] and is served by the Klang Valley Integrated Transit System. Notable projects undertaken within Kuala Lumpur itself include the development of a new Kuala Lumpur City Centre around Jalan Ampang and the Petronas Towers.[75]


A satellite view of Klang Valley or Greater Kuala Lumpur

The geography of Kuala Lumpur is characterised by the huge Klang Valley, bordered by the Titiwangsa Mountains in the east, several minor ranges in the north and the south, and the Strait of Malacca in the west. Kuala Lumpur is a Malay term that translates to "muddy confluence" and is located at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers.[76]

Located in the centre of Selangor state, Kuala Lumpur was a territory of Selangor State Government. In 1974, Kuala Lumpur was split off from Selangor to form the first Federal Territory governed directly by the Malaysian federal government. Its location in the most developed state on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, which has a wider stretch of flat land than the east coast, has helped it develop faster than other cities in Malaysia.[77] The municipality covers an area of 243 km2 (94 sq mi),[2] with an average elevation of 81.95 m (268 ft 10 in).[78]

Climate and weather

Protected by the Titiwangsa Range in the east and Indonesia's Sumatra Island in the west, Kuala Lumpur is sheltered from strong winds and has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af), hot, humid and sunny, with abundant rainfall, especially during the northeast monsoon season from October to March. Temperatures tend to remain constant. Maximums hover between 32 and 35 °C (90 and 95 °F) and sometimes topping 38 °C (100.4 °F), while minimums hover between 23.4 and 24.6 °C (74.1 and 76.3 °F) and have never fallen below 17.8 °C (64.0 °F).[79][80] Kuala Lumpur typically receives at least 2,600 mm (100 in) of rain annually; June and July are relatively dry, but even then rainfall typically exceeds 131 millimetres (5.2 in) a month.

Floods are frequent in Kuala Lumpur after heavy downpours, especially in the city centre, because irrigation structure lags behind the intense development in the city.[81] Smoke from forest fires in nearby Sumatra sometimes casts a haze over the region, and is a major source of pollution, along with open burning, motor vehicle emissions, and construction.[82]

Climate data for Kuala Lumpur
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 38.0
Average high °C (°F) 32.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 27.7
Average low °C (°F) 23.4
Record low °C (°F) 17.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 193
Average rainy days 17 17 19 20 18 14 16 16 19 21 24 22 223
Average relative humidity (%) 80 80 80 82 81 80 79 79 81 82 84 83 81
Mean monthly sunshine hours 185.0 192.4 207.9 198.8 206.8 194.4 200.2 189.0 163.8 169.1 152.3 162.6 2,222.3
Source 1:[80]
Source 2: NOAA (sunshine hours, 1961–1990)[83]
Climate data for Kuala Lumpur
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily daylight hours 12.0 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.3 12.3 12.2 12.1 12.0 12.0 11.9 12.1
Average Ultraviolet index 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12
Source: Weather Atlas[84]


Kuala Lumpur was administered by a corporation sole called the Federal Capital Commissioner from April 1, 1961, until it was awarded city status in 1972, after which executive power transferred to the Lord Mayor (Datuk Bandar).[85] Thirteen mayors have been appointed since then. The current mayor is Datuk Mahadi Che Ngah, who has been in office since October 1, 2020.[86]

Local government

The local administration is carried out by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, an agency under the Federal Territories Ministry of Malaysia.[85] It is responsible for public health and sanitation, waste removal and management, town planning, environmental protection and building control, social and economic development, and general maintenance functions of urban infrastructure. Executive power lies with the mayor in the city hall, who is appointed for three years by the Federal Territories Minister. This system of appointing the mayor has been in place ever since the local government elections were suspended in 1970.[87]


Kuala Lumpur's eleven parliamentary constituencies, with estimated population and percentage of the total, are congruent with administrative subdivisions under the authority of the Kuala Lumpur City Hall authority.[88] These 11 districts can be divided into 29 subdistricts.

  1. Bukit Bintang (103,820 - 5.8%)
  2. Titiwangsa (198,690 - 11.1%)
  3. Setiawangsa (179,000 - 10.0%)
  4. Wangsa Maju (227,330 - 12.7%)
  5. Batu (91,290 - 5.1%)
  6. Kepong (10,740 - 0.6%)
  7. Segambut (125,300 - 7%)
  8. Lembah Pantai (189,740 - 10.6%)
  9. Seputeh (230,910 - 12.9%)
  10. Bandar Tun Razak (273,870 - 15.3%)
  11. Cheras (159,310 - 8.9%)


The Malaysia Parliament House (Bangunan Parlimen Malaysia), located at the end of Jalan Parlimen
5 / 11
4 / 11
2 / 11

Kuala Lumpur is home to the Parliament of Malaysia. The federal Constitution stipulates the three branches of the Malaysian government: the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative branches. The Parliament consists of the Dewan Negara (Upper House / House of Senate) and Dewan Rakyat (Lower House / House of Representatives).[10]

List of Kuala Lumpur representatives in the Federal Parliament (Dewan Rakyat)

Parliament Seat Name Member of Parliament Party
P114 Kepong Lim Lip Eng Pakatan Harapan (DAP)
P115 Batu P Prabakaran Pakatan Harapan (PKR)
P116 Wangsa Maju Tan Yee Kew Pakatan Harapan (PKR)
P117 Segambut Hannah Yeoh Tseow Suan Pakatan Harapan (DAP)
P118 Setiawangsa Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad Pakatan Harapan (PKR)
P119 Titiwangsa Rina Mohd. Harun Perikatan Nasional (PPBM)
P120 Bukit Bintang Fong Kui Lun Pakatan Harapan (DAP)
P121 Lembah Pantai Ahmad Fahmi Mohamed Fadzil Pakatan Harapan (PKR)
P122 Seputeh Teresa Kok Suh Sim Pakatan Harapan (DAP)
P123 Cheras Tan Kok Wai Pakatan Harapan (DAP)
P124 Bandar Tun Razak Kamaruddin Jaffar Perikatan Nasional (PPBM)


A pedestrian mall by the Central Market

Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding urban areas form the most industrialised and economically, the fastest-growing region in Malaysia.[89] Despite the relocation of federal government administration to Putrajaya, certain government institutions such as Bank Negara Malaysia (National Bank of Malaysia), Companies Commission of Malaysia and Securities Commission as well as most embassies and diplomatic missions have remained in the city.[90] The city remains the economic and business hub of the country. Kuala Lumpur is a centre for finance, insurance, real estate, media and the arts of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is rated the only global city in Malaysia, according to the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC).[91] The infrastructure development in the surrounding areas such as the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Sepang, the creation of the Multimedia Super Corridor and the expansion of Port Klang further reinforce the economic significance of the city.

The Merdeka 118 is the tallest building in Southeast Asia; it is also the second-tallest building in the world, after the Burj Khalifa

Bursa Malaysia, or the Malaysia Exchange, is based in the city and forms one of its core economic activities. As of 5 July 2013, the market capitalisation stood at US$505.67 billion.[92]

The Exchange 106 is the third-tallest building in Malaysia, located within TRX

The gross domestic product (GDP) for Kuala Lumpur is estimated at RM73,536 million in 2008 with an average annual growth rate of 5.9 percent.[93][94] By 2015, the GDP had reached RM160,388 million, representing 15.1% of the total GDP of Malaysia.[95] The per capita GDP for Kuala Lumpur in 2013 was RM79,752 with an average annual growth rate of 5.6 percent,[96] and RM94,722 in 2015.[95] Average monthly household income is RM9,073 (~$2,200) as of 2016, growing at a pace of approximately 6% a year.[97] The service sector, comprising finance, insurance, real estate, business services, wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels, transport, storage and communication, utilities, personal services and government services form the largest component of employment, representing about 83.0 percent of the total.[98] The remaining 17 percent comes from manufacturing and construction.

The large service sector is evident in the number of local and foreign banks and insurance companies operating in the city. Kuala Lumpur is poised to become the global Islamic financing hub[99] with an increasing number of financial institutions providing Islamic financing and the strong presence of Gulf financial institutions such as the world's largest Islamic bank, the Al-Rajhi Bank[100] and Kuwait Finance House. Apart from that, the Dow Jones & Company is keen to work with Bursa Malaysia to set up Islamic Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs), which would help raise Malaysia's profile in the Gulf.[101] The city has a large number of foreign corporations and is also host to many multi national companies' regional offices or support centres, particularly for finance and accounting, and information technology functions. Most of the country's largest companies have their headquarters here, and as of December 2007 and excluding Petronas, there are 14 companies that are listed in Forbes 2000 based in Kuala Lumpur.[102]

Other important economic activities in the city are education and health services. Kuala Lumpur also has advantages stemming from the high concentration of educational institutions that provide a wide-ranging of courses. Numerous public and private medical specialist centres and hospitals in the city offer general health services, and a wide range of specialist surgery and treatment that caters to locals and tourists.

There has been growing emphasis on expanding the economic scope of the city in other service activities, such as research and development, which support the rest of the economy of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur has been home for years to important research centres such as the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia, the Forest Research Institute Malaysia and the Institute of Medical Research.[103] A new financial district for Kuala Lumpur is currently under construction: the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX), formerly known as Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD). The TRX's landmark and prominent building is The Exchange 106 tower. The 70-acre development will be situated in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and will serve international finance and business opportunities. The new financial hub is a strategic enabler of the Malaysian government's Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), an initiative by the Malaysian government to turn Malaysia into a high income economy nation.


The National Museum of Malaysia, located along Jalan Damansara.

The major tourist destinations in Kuala Lumpur include the Petronas Twin Towers, the Bukit Bintang shopping district, the Kuala Lumpur Tower, Petaling Street (Chinatown), the Merdeka Square, the Kuala Lumpur railway station, the House of Parliament building, the National Palace (Istana Negara), the National Planetarium, the National Science Centre, the National Art Gallery (Balai Seni Negara), the National Theatre (Istana Budaya), the National Museum, the Royal Museum, the National Textile Museum, Islamic Arts Museum, Telekom Museum, Royal Malaysian Police Museum, the National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara), Federal Territory Mosque (Masjid Wilayah), Sultan Abdul Samad Building, DBKL City Theatre (Panggung Bandaraya), Medan Pasar, Central Market, KL Bird Park, KL Butterfly Park, Aquaria KLCC, River of Life KL, Saloma Link, the National Monument, and religious sites such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque, Thean Hou Temple and Buddhist Maha Vihara in Brickfields.[107][108] Kuala Lumpur plays host to many cultural festivals such as the Thaipusam procession at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. Every year during the Thaipusam celebration, a silver chariot carrying the statue of Lord Muruga together with his consort Valli and Teivayanni would be paraded through the city beginning at the temple all the way to Batu Caves in the neighboring Gombak, Selangor.[109]

The entertainment hub of the city is mainly centred in the Golden Triangle encompassing Jalan P. Ramlee, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Ampang Road and Bintang Walk as well as Kuala Lumpur's largest nightlife and entertainment hotspot, TREC KL. Trendy nightclubs, bars and lounges, such as Marini's on 57, Skybar at Traders Hotel, the Beach Club, Espanda, the Hakka Republic Wine Bar & Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, the Luna Bar, Nuovo, Rum Jungle, No Black Tie, the Thai Club, Zion Club, Zouk KL, Club Kyō, Dragonfly KL and many others are located here.


Kuala Lumpur alone has 66 shopping malls and is the retail and fashion hub of both Malaysia and Southeast Asia.[110] Shopping in Malaysia contributed RM7.7 billion (US$2.26 billion) or 20.8 percent of the RM31.9 billion tourism receipts in 2006.[111]

Suria KLCC is one of Malaysia's premier upscale shopping destinations due to its location beneath the Petronas Twin Towers. Apart from Suria KLCC, the Bukit Bintang district has the highest concentration of shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur. It includes: Pavilion KL, Fahrenheit 88, Plaza Low Yat, Berjaya Times Square, Lot 10, Sungei Wang Plaza, Starhill Gallery, Lalaport BBCC, Quill City Mall and Avenue K.[112] Changkat area of Bukit Bintang hosts various cafes, alfresco dining outlets, illegal activities such as prostitution and more. It is best known as one of the red-light districts in Kuala Lumpur. Bangsar district also has a few shopping complexes, including Bangsar Village, Bangsar Shopping Centre, KL Gateway Mall, Bangsar South, KL Eco City Mall, The Gardens and Mid Valley Megamall.

Apart from shopping complexes, Kuala Lumpur has designated numerous zones in the city to market locally manufactured products such as textiles, fabrics and handicrafts. The Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur, commonly known as Petaling Street, is one of them. Chinatown features many pre-independence buildings with Straits Chinese and colonial architectural influences.[113][114]

Since 2000, the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism introduced a mega sale event for shopping in Malaysia. The mega sale event is held three times a year – in March, May and December – in which all shopping malls are encouraged to participate to boost Kuala Lumpur as a leading shopping destination in Asia which has been maintained until present with new mega sales.[115]


Ethnicities of Kuala Lumpur – 2020 Census
Ethnic group Percent
Others Bumiputra

Kuala Lumpur is the most populous city in Malaysia, with a population of 1.98 million in the city proper as of 2020. It has a population density of 8,157 inhabitants per square kilometre (21,130/sq mi), and is the most densely populated administrative district in Malaysia.[2] Residents of the city are colloquially known as KLites.[116] Kuala Lumpur is also the centre of the wider Klang Valley metropolitan area covering Petaling Jaya, Klang, Subang Jaya, Puchong, Shah Alam, and Gombak, with an estimated metropolitan population of 7.25 million as of 2017.[117]

Kuala Lumpur's heterogeneous populace includes the country's three major ethnic groups: the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians, although the city also has a mix of different cultures including Eurasians, Kadazans, Ibans and other indigenous races from around Malaysia.[98][118]

Historical demographics

Historical population
1890 20,000—    
1900 30,000+50.0%
1931 111,418+271.4%
1957 316,537+184.1%
1970 451,201+42.5%
1974 612,004+35.6%
1980 919,610+50.3%
1991 1,145,342+24.5%
2000 1,305,792+14.0%
2010 1,588,750+21.7%
2020 1,982,112+24.8%
Kuala Lumpur expanded as a Federal Territory in 1974
Source: [119][120][28]

Historically Kuala Lumpur was a predominantly Chinese city, although more recently the Bumiputera component of the city has grown substantially and they are now the dominant group. The Kuala Lumpur of 1872 beside the Klang River was described by Frank Swettenham as a "purely Chinese village", although a Malay stockade already existed at Bukit Nanas at that time.[25] By 1875, after participation in the Selangor Civil War by Pahang Malays had ended, Swettenham noted Malay quarters near the Chinese area in a sketch map he had drawn. There were said to be 1,000 Chinese and 700 Malays in the town in this period. Many of the Malays may have settled in Kuala Lumpur after the war.[25] The population of Kuala Lumpur had increased to around three thousand in 1880 when it was made the capital of Selangor.[121] A significant component of the Malay population in Kuala Lumpur of this period consisted of Malays recruited by the British in 1880, mostly from rural Malacca, to establish a police force of 2–300, many of whom brought their families.[122] Many of the Malays were originally from the other islands of Malay Archipelago i.e. Sumatra and Java. The Mandailings, the Minangkabaus, Javanese, and Buginese began arriving in Kuala Lumpur in the 19th century, while the Acehnese arrived in the late 20th century.[123] In the following decades that saw the rebuilding of the town, it grew considerably with a large influx of immigrants, due in large part to the construction of a railway line in 1886 connecting Kuala Lumpur and Klang.[28]

A census in 1891 of uncertain accuracy gave a figure of 43,796 inhabitants, 79% of whom were Chinese (71% of the Chinese were Hakka 客家人), 14% Malay, and 6% Indian.[121] Another perhaps more accurate estimate put the population of Kuala Lumpur in 1890 at 20,000.[28] The rubber boom in the early 20th century led to a further increase in population, from 30,000 in 1900 to 80,000 in 1920.[55] In 1931, 61% of Kuala Lumpur's 111,418 inhabitants were Chinese,[120] and in 1947 63.5%. The Malays however began to settle in Kuala Lumpur in significant numbers, in part due to government employment, as well as the expansion of the city that absorbed the surrounding rural areas where many Malays lived. Between 1947 and 1957 the population of Malays in Kuala Lumpur increased from 12.5 to 15%, while the proportion of Chinese dropped.[124] The process continued after Malayan independence with the growth of a largely Malay civil service, and later the implementation of the New Economic Policy which encouraged Malay participation in urban industries and business. In 1980 the population of Kuala Lumpur had reached over a million,[54] with 52% Chinese, 33% Malay, and 15% Indian.[125] From 1980 to 2000 the number of Bumiputeras increased by 77%, but the Chinese still outnumbered the Bumiputeras in Kuala Lumpur in the 2000 census at 43% compared to 38%.[98][64] By the 2010 census, according to the Department of Statistics and excluding non-citizens, the percentage of the Bumiputera population in Kuala Lumpur had reached around 45.9% (44.7% Malay), with the Chinese population at 43.2% and Indians 10.3%.[126]

A notable phenomenon in recent times has been the increased portion of foreign residents in Kuala Lumpur, which rose from 1% of the city's population in 1980 to about 8% in the 2000 census, and 9.4% in the 2010 census.[98][126] These figures also do not include a significant number of illegal immigrants.[127] Kuala Lumpur's rapid development has triggered a huge influx of low-skilled foreign workers from Indonesia, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia into Malaysia, many of whom enter the country illegally or without proper permits.[128][129]

Birth rates in Kuala Lumpur have declined and resulted in a lower proportion of young people – the proportion of those below 15 years old fell from 33% in 1980 to slightly less than 27% in 2000.[98] On the other hand, the working age group of 15–59 increased from 63% in 1980 to 67% in 2000.[98] The elderly age group, 60 years old and above has increased from 4% in 1980 and 1991 to 6% in 2000.[98]

Languages and religions

Religion in Kuala Lumpur – 2010 Census[126]
Religion Percent
Unknown / None
Chinese Ethnic Religion
No Religion

Kuala Lumpur is pluralistic and religiously diverse. The city has many places of worship catering to the multi-religious population. Islam is practised primarily by the Malays, the Indian Muslim communities and a small number of Chinese Muslims. Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism are practised mainly among the Chinese. Indians traditionally adhere to Hinduism. Some Chinese and Indians also subscribe to Christianity.[130]

As of the 2010 Census, the population of Kuala Lumpur was 46.4% Muslim, 35.7% Buddhist, 8.5% Hindu, 5.8% Christian, 1.4% of unknown affiliations, 1.1% Taoist or Chinese religion adherent, 0.6% follower of other religions, and 0.5% non-religious.

Kuala Lumpur is one of the three states where less than 50% of the population are self-identified Muslims, the other two being Penang and Sarawak.

Statistics from the 2010 Census indicate that 87.4% of the Chinese population identify as Buddhists, with significant minorities of adherents identifying as Christians (7.9%), Chinese folk religions (2.7%) and Muslims (0.6%). The majority of the Indian population identify as Hindus (81.1%), with a significant minorities of identifying as Christians (7.8%), Muslims (4.9%) and Buddhists (2.1%). The non-Malay bumiputera community are predominantly Christians (44.9%), with significant minorities identifying as Muslims (31.2%) and Buddhists (13.5%). All bumiputera Malays are Muslim;[131] due to the criterion in the definition of a Malay in the Malaysian constitution that they should adhere to Islam.[132]

Bahasa Malaysia is the principal language in Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur residents are generally literate in English, with a large proportion adopting it as their first language. Malaysian English is a widely used.[133] It has a strong presence, especially in business, and is taught as a compulsory language in schools.[118] Cantonese and Mandarin are prominent, as they are spoken by the local majority Chinese population.[134] Another major dialect spoken is Hakka. While Tamil is dominant amongst the local Indian population, other Indian languages spoken by minorities include Telugu, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Hindi.[135] Beside Malay, there are a variety of languages spoken by people of Indonesian descent, such as Minangkabau[136] and Javanese.


Panorama view of Kuala Lumpur in 2020
Panorama view of Kuala Lumpur in 2020


The Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (right) contrasts with Keretapi Tanah Melayu (left) Administration Building, a darker, similarly Mughal-styled building. Both were designed by A. B. Hubback

The architecture of Kuala Lumpur is a mixture of old colonial influences, Asian traditions, Malay Islamic inspirations, modern, and postmodern architecture.[137] A relatively young city compared with other Southeast Asian capitals such as Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila, most of Kuala Lumpur's notable colonial-era buildings were built toward the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These buildings were designed in a number of styles – Mughal/Moorish Revival, Mock Tudor, Neo-Gothic or Grecian-Spanish style or architecture.[138] Most of the styling has been modified to use local resources and adapted to the local climate, which is hot and humid all year around. A significant architect of the early period is Arthur Benison Hubback who designed a number of the colonial-era buildings including the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and Jamek Mosque.

Prior to the Second World War, many shophouses, usually two stories with functional shops on the ground floor and separate residential spaces upstairs, were built around the old city centre. These shop-houses drew inspiration from Straits Chinese and European traditions.[113][114] Some of these shophouses have made way for new developments but there are still many standing today in the Medan Pasar Besar (Old Market Square), Chinatown, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Doraisamy, Bukit Bintang and Tengkat Tong Shin areas.

Independence coupled with rapid economic growth from the 1970s to the 1990s and with Islam being the official religion in the country, has resulted in the construction of buildings with a more local and Islamic flavour arise around the city. Many of these buildings derive their design from traditional Malay items such as the songkok and the keris. Some of these buildings have Islamic geometric motifs integrated into the designs of the building, due to Islamic restrictions on imitating nature through drawings.[139] Examples of these buildings are Telekom Tower, Maybank Tower, Dayabumi Complex, and the Islamic Centre.[140] Some buildings such as the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia and National Planetarium have been built to masquerade as a place of worship, complete with dome and minaret, when in fact they are places of science and knowledge. The 452-metre (1,483 ft) Petronas Towers are the tallest twin buildings in the world and the tallest buildings in the country.[141] They were designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art.[142]

Late modern and postmodern architecture began to appear in the late-1990s and early-2000s. With economic development, old buildings such as Bok House have been razed to make way for new ones. Buildings with all-glass shells exist throughout the city, with the most prominent examples being the Petronas Towers and Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Kuala Lumpur's central business district today has shifted to the Kuala Lumpur city centre (KLCC) where many new and tall buildings with modern and postmodern architecture fill the skyline. According to the World Tallest 50 Urban Agglomeration 2010 Projection by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, Kuala Lumpur ranks 10th among cities that have most buildings above 100 metres with a combined height of 34,035 metres from its 244 high rise buildings.[143]


The Perdana Botanical Garden or Lake Gardens, a 92-hectare (230-acre) botanical garden, was the first recreational park created in Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian Parliament building is located close by, and Carcosa Seri Negara, which was once the official residence of British colonial administration, is also sited here. The park includes a butterfly park, deer park, orchid garden, a hibiscus garden, and the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, which is the world's largest aviary bird park.[144] Other parks in the city include the ASEAN Sculpture Garden, KLCC Park, Titiwangsa Lake Gardens, Metropolitan Lake Gardens in Kepong, Taman Tasik Permaisuri (Queen's Lake Gardens), Bukit Kiara Botanical Gardens, the equestrian park and West Valley Park near Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), and Bukit Jalil International Park.

There are three forest reserves within the city, the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve in the city centre, the oldest gazetted forest reserve in the country 10.52 ha or 26.0 acres, Bukit Sungai Putih Forest Reserve (7.41 ha or 18.3 acres) and Bukit Sungai Besi Forest Reserve (42.11 ha or 104.1 acres). Bukit Nanas, in the heart of the city centre, is one of the oldest virgin forests in the world within a city.[145] These residual forest areas are home to a number of fauna species, particularly monkeys, treeshrews, pygmy goats, budgerigars, squirrels and birds.

The view of Kuala Lumpur from Titiwangsa Lake Gardens


According to government statistics, Kuala Lumpur has a literacy rate of 97.5% in 2000, the highest rate in any state or territory in Malaysia.[146] In Malaysia, Malay is the language of instruction for most subjects while English is a compulsory subject, but as of 2012, English was still the language of instruction for mathematics and the natural sciences for certain schools. Some schools provide instruction in Mandarin and Tamil for certain subjects.[147]

Kuala Lumpur contains 14 tertiary education institutions, 79 high schools, 155 elementary schools and 136 kindergartens.[148]

Several institutions in the city are more than 100 years old — such as Bukit Bintang Girls' School (1893–2000, relocated to Taman Shamelin Perkasa in Cheras and renamed GIS Garden International school Seri Bintang Utara), the Victoria Institution (1893); Methodist Girls' School (1896); Methodist Boys' School (1897); Convent Bukit Nanas (1899), St. John's Institution (1904), Confucian Private Secondary School (1906), Kuen Cheng High School (1908), Tsun Jin High School (1913) and Maxwell School (1917).

Kuala Lumpur is home to the University of Malaya (UM). Established in 1949, it is the oldest university in Malaysia, and one of the oldest in the region.[149] It was ranked the best university in Malaysia, the 22nd-best in Asia, and third in Southeast Asia in QS World University Rankings 2019.[150] In recent years, the number of international students at the University of Malaya has risen, as a result of increasing efforts made to attract them.[151]

Other universities located in Kuala Lumpur include Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TARUC), UCSI University (UCSI), Taylor's University (TULC), International Medical University (IMU), Open University Malaysia (OUM), Kuala Lumpur University (UniKL), Perdana University (PU), Wawasan Open University (WOU), HELP University and the branch campus of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) and University of Technology Malaysia (UTM). The National Defence University of Malaysia is located at Sungai Besi Army Base, at the southern part of central Kuala Lumpur. It was established to be a major centre for military and defence technology studies. This institution covers studies for the army, navy, and air force.[152]

Greater Kuala Lumpur covers an even more extensive selection of universities including several international branches such as Monash University Malaysia Campus, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and Xiamen University Malaysia.



Frieze depicting Malaysian history at the National Museum

Kuala Lumpur is a hub for cultural activities and events in Malaysia. Among the centres is the

The Saloma Link seen at dusk.

The premier performing arts venue is the Petronas Philharmonic Hall located underneath the Petronas Towers. The resident orchestra is the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO), consisting of musicians from all over the world, and features regular concerts, chamber concerts and traditional cultural performances.[156] The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) in Sentul West and Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPac) in Damansara Perdana are two of the most established centres in the country for the performing arts, notably theatre, plays, music, and film screening. It has housed many local productions and has been a supporter of local and regional independent performance artists.[157] The Future Music Festival Asia has been held in the city since 2012, featuring local and international artists.[158]