The Many Architectural Styles of Malaysia

The Many Architectural Styles of Malaysia

Apart from eating lots of delicious food, my other favorite part about visiting Malaysia was gawking at its wonderful architecture. Malaysia is made up of so many different cultures, and has also been colonized at various points by the British, Dutch and Portuguese, so you can imagine the architecture is kind of all over the place– but I liked that.

In all my travels, I don’t think I’ve been to a country that has more architectural styles than Malaysia. Here is just a sampling of what I encountered:


Buildings with Mughal architecture began popping up at the turn of the 20th century in Kuala Lumpur. Majority of the buildings in this style of architecture can be found near Merdeka Square and Chinatown.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Malayan Railway Administration Building, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

 Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

National History Museum, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

National Textiles Museum, Kuala Lumpur


Many parts of Malaysia were under British rule from the 1800s up until the 1950s. Many of the older buildings were built under British architectural influence. Tudor style buildings were especially popular because the structure could be modified to acclimatize with Malaysia’s hot and rainy environment.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

The Royal Selangor Club, Kuala Lumpur


Another popular British architectural style you’ll still find is Victorian. A majority of schools, theaters and historical buildings around KL were built in this style. One of the most well preserved examples is the Central Market.
Malaysia - Jan 2014

Central Market, Kuala Lumpur


While there aren’t terribly many gothic structures in Malaysia, a few of the most well known cathedrals built in the 1800s were made in this style.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Church of St. Francis Xavier, Melaka


From mid-1600s to mid-1800s the Dutch colonized the southern port city of Melaka. This would actually be the longest that Melaka was colonized by foreign rule. Even today many of the buildings look like they could be straight out of Amsterdam.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Christ Church, Melaka

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Colonial Shophouses


Prior to the Dutch colonization, Melaka was actually a Portuguese colony. At that time Melaka was primarily built as a fortress, although today there are only a few remnants known as the A Famosa.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Middleburg Bastion, Melaka


Many buildings in Kuala Lumpur, especially in the Old Center, draw inspiration from Straits Eclectic and European architecture. Many of them even  employ white and red brick patterns with an emphasis on old Grecian-Spanish architecture.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Old Market Square, Kuala Lumpur

Straits Eclectic (Malay)

Also known as “Peranakan” or “Baba-Nyonya” architecture, this uniquely Malaysian style can be exhibited in the traditional shophouses Melaka. Inspired by British, French and Chinese architecture, this style was one of my favorites.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Color Beads Shop, Melaka

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Restoran Famosa, Melaka

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Ng Choon Teck, Melaka


With Islam being the official religion of Malaysia, you’ll find Islamic architecture often in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from actual mosques, there are many subtle Islamic geometric patterns and motifs designed into many structure.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

National Mosque, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

National Mosque, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Jamek Mosque, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Al Bukhary Mosque, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Kuala Lumpur Tower from a distance, Kuala Lumpur


After Malay, a majority of Malaysia’s ethnic group is made of up Chinese. You’ll find all sorts of intricate Chinese-style buildings across the country, as well as many Chinese temples.

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Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Xiang Lin Si Temple, Melaka

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Local temple, Melaka


The third main ethnic group in Malaysia is Indian, so of course it’s fairly common to find Indian-influenced architecture, especially in certain areas of Kuala Lumpur like Little India or Brickfields.
Malaysia - Jan 2014

Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Sri Kandaswamy Kovil, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Batu Caves, Gombak

Late Modernism & Post-Modern

You can’t talk about architecture without mentioning the Petronas Towers! Kuala Lumpur’s claim to fame, these twin towers were some of the first modern skyscrapers built in the city. Almost twenty years later and now KL’s skyline is brimming with modern and post-modern buildings.

Malaysia - Jan 2014

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur


Which architectural style is your favorite?



  1. June 19, 2015 / 8:02 am

    Thanks so much for featuring this about my country, and you’re absolutely right, we have all kinds of architectural styles everywhere! Glad you enjoyed seeing them ;-)

    • Beth Williams
      July 10, 2015 / 2:11 pm

      Malaysia is such a beautiful country! I love your home and can’t wait to return this fall :)

  2. James
    December 17, 2014 / 4:24 pm

    Beth, I’ve added these on my pocket! I’d definitely see all of this in person next year. Sultan Abdul Samad Building interests me second to Petronas Towers.

  3. April 8, 2014 / 9:02 pm

    You picked the right places to go in Malaysia. I made a quick drop to Johor Bahru and seen very few temples in the city, I wasn’t very happy. I want to visit Kuala Lumpur on my next trip to the country and see these interesting sights you posted.

    • Beth Williams
      April 10, 2014 / 8:48 pm

      I hope you get a chance to visit more of Malaysia!

      • Clyde
        May 16, 2014 / 12:09 pm

        Yes, Beth, it would be nice if we could fund the author to a Malayan rural house.

  4. April 2, 2014 / 4:46 am

    My favorite is definitely Dravidian. But who knew there were so many different architectural styles in Malaysia, very cool write up!

    • Beth Williams
      April 2, 2014 / 4:30 pm

      Thanks Ron! Dravidian is quite a cool type of architecture.

  5. March 28, 2014 / 8:04 pm

    Wow, such a diverse range of architecture! My personal favourites were Mughal and Dravidian, but the Gothic and Islamic styles are amazing, too!

    • Beth Williams
      March 30, 2014 / 5:09 pm

      I honestly like all of them! I love that there are so many different styles in such a small area.

  6. March 25, 2014 / 10:41 am

    Gorgeous buildings! I like the Mughal and Dravidian styles best. The detail in the Dravidian buildings is so cool–would love to see them up close in person!

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 4:16 pm

      They’re so intricate and detailed up close, the photos don’t nearly do them justice.

  7. March 24, 2014 / 1:08 am

    Great comparison post of architecture in Malaysia.Your photos make me realize how much of a melting pot of cultures the country is.

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 4:09 pm

      Before traveling there I really had no idea. I expected it to be similar to Singapore, but it was so much more of a melting pot than that!

  8. March 23, 2014 / 8:57 am

    Great post, I love how eclectic the mix of architecture is. The Dravidian influences is my favorite I think.

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 4:07 pm

      Seeing all the Dravidian and Mughal architecture really makes me want to visit India!

  9. March 21, 2014 / 11:06 am

    How cool! Thanks for introducing us to the different sites of Malaysia! My fav is Al Bukhary Mosque – stunning architecture!

    • Beth Williams
      March 25, 2014 / 4:02 pm

      I really like that one as well. It was a building I saw from the train, so I had to get off at the next stop to go check it out!

  10. March 16, 2014 / 11:17 pm

    Fascinating subject! And your photographs really describe each one well and make for a interesting topic. I never knew the names of each of the styles Malaysia had to offer, as I too was just there and found the styles to be so eclectic, that i didn’t really know what I was looking at. and never really realized Malaysia had such a diverse history until i was there and even then didn’t understand all the architectural styles I was looking at. Thanks for the history lesson!

    • Beth Williams
      March 17, 2014 / 8:16 pm

      I really didn’t expect Malaysia’s architecture to be so eclectic, so I was really surprised to see such a variety myself!

  11. March 16, 2014 / 3:09 pm

    I’ve been to Malaysia before but I didn’t even notice all these styles! You’re so knowledgable!

    • Beth Williams
      March 17, 2014 / 8:29 pm

      Thanks Charlotte! I studied a lot of art and architecture in university :)

  12. March 14, 2014 / 8:27 pm

    Wow amazing pictures and very interesting topic. I never knew Malaysia was so eclectic… true i don’t know much about Malysia but i never realised it had such a diverse history

    • Beth Williams
      March 17, 2014 / 8:07 pm

      You should visit if you get a chance!

  13. March 13, 2014 / 4:13 pm

    Great post Beth. Your photos are so nice! I can’t beleive the mix of architecture in Malaysia. It’s quite amazing. I am very drawn to that National Textiles Museum building so I would probably have to say that the Mughal is my fav. Discovering amazing architecture is one of the main reasons why I travel so this post was right up my alley!

    • Beth Williams
      March 14, 2014 / 8:07 am

      Mughal is my favorite as well. Architecture is one of the reasons I’m most excited to finally visit Europe this summer!

  14. March 13, 2014 / 12:56 pm

    I honestly had no idea there was still a lot of British Victorian architecture in Malaysia! Oh dear, poor Malaysian school children being stuck with our Victorian schools!

    • Beth Williams
      March 14, 2014 / 8:06 am

      Are schools in Britain even still built in Victorian style? I would assume not!

      • March 15, 2014 / 9:47 pm

        Hi Beth, there are many schools still in their original Victorian buildings in the UK- especially in London. They don’t build new schools like that but there are many schools in London that have been around since the Victorian era and so remain in the original building. It is not easy to control the temperature in them- they get so hot in warm weather!

        • Beth Williams
          March 17, 2014 / 8:08 pm

          Ugh, I can imagine! Even a lot of older schools in the US don’t have air and they get so hot in the summer.

  15. March 13, 2014 / 10:00 am

    I love the Chinese influence! Sultan Abdul Samad Building looks amazing!

    • Beth Williams
      March 14, 2014 / 8:05 am

      That buildings was one of my favorites in particular, especially at night when it is all lit up!

  16. March 12, 2014 / 11:59 pm

    My favorite were Mughal and Gothic…Malaysia is definitely on my RTW list!

    • Beth Williams
      March 14, 2014 / 8:01 am

      I love Mughal architecture, I feel it so interesting to look at!