Melaka (or ‘Malacca’) is a state with a capital city of the same name situated about a two-hour drive south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In addition to its historic significance in Malaysian history, Melaka is famous for its unique cultural heritage, food and crafts, making it a wonderful destination to visit. It’s possible to visit Melaka as a day trip from Kuala Lumpur. However, I strongly recommend spending a few days there to truly enjoy its history, culture and amazing food. On a recent visit to my family in Kuala Lumpur, I spent a weekend in Melaka with my family and stayed at the lovely Casa del Rio Hotel in the city centre.

A Famosa fort Malacca photo
The 16th century Portuguese A Famosa fort in Melaka.

A (very) brief history of Melaka (Malacca)

Often called the ‘historic state’ of Malaysia, Melaka can trace its history back to the 15th century when Parameswara, a prince from Temasek (present-day Singapore) settled in the area and founded a settlement. Located strategically at the narrowest point of the Straits of Malacca (till this day, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes), Melaka grew rapidly into a regional powerhouse with merchants from all across Asia arriving at its port. Through the centuries, it was conquered, first by the Portuguese, then by the Dutch and was finally handed over to the British in 1824. Remnants of these trading and colonial influences are still visible in Melaka.

The historic Christ Church.

It had been more than 20 years since my last visit and I’d heard so many great things about Melaka, especially since it received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008. What I found was a lively place with gorgeous architecture, amazing food and an infectious vibe.

A weekend in Melaka at Casa del Rio

We arrived in Melaka after a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and quickly found our hotel: Casa del Rio ( The hotel is conveniently located in the heart of the historic city centre fronting the Melaka River.

Casa del Rio fronts the Melaka River.

The Mediterranean character of the hotel was unmistakable, with its large central courtyard featuring a reflective pool and fountain, and beautiful tiles. We were welcomed with a refreshing drink and a delicious lemongrass/ginger sorbet before being shown to our room: the Presidential Suite!

A delicious welcome at Casa del Rio!
The courtyard with its reflective pool and fountain.

Casa del Rio Presidential Suite

The suite was massive, with separate dining and living areas, a study, and an equally massive bedroom and bathroom. There was a large terrace outside with beautiful views of the Melaka River. In the distance, I could see the Straits of Malacca. The suite had a stately feel, with elegant furnishings and subdued tones.

The bedroom inside the Presidential Suite.
The huge bathroom in the Presidential Suite.
The living room in the Presidential Suite.

One special touch that quickly caught my attention was the “My Personal Melaka” guest book in which guests could share their favourite Malacca experiences with future guests. I was later told that this book could be found in every room. There was also a book shelf with various books on the history and culture of Melaka – one book I browsed through was ‘Kebaya Tales’ which brought back several childhood memories of my own.

My personal Melaka guest book.

Exploring Melaka

In the next two days, we discovered many things to do in Melaka. We explored the historic centre of Melaka, strolled around Jonker and Heeren streets (around the corner from the hotel); visited the famous A Famosa fort (built by the Portuguese in the 16th century), Christ Church and Stadhuys (buildings from the Dutch colonial era) and wandered around the markets, art galleries and shops.

Melaka highlights

weekend in melaka
The Stadhuys, built by the Dutch in the 18th century.
The historic Christ Church, also built by the Dutch in the 18th century. Notice the quirky rickshaws!
Gorgeous blue houses in Heeren Street. I absolutely loved the architecture of these historic houses in Malacca.
A colourful shop in Jonker Street in Melaka.
A wondrous antique shop in Melaka.

Food stalls

We stopped at roadside stalls to taste some of the local food like cendol (rice flour jelly in coconut milk with palm sugar and shaved ice), dodol (sticky coconut toffee) and durian cake.

We dropped by this stall which sells all sorts of dodol, chili sauces and pastes.
A sweet ‘fish cake’ filled with custard.

Melaka river cruise

On our last evening we hopped on a Melaka River cruise (from the hotel’s private jetty). I recommend going just before sunset as this allows you to see the colourful waterfront before the sunset, and the riverfront lit up on the return trip.

A colourful house on the banks of the Melaka River.

Read about things to do in George Town Penang, Malaysia’s other UNESCO World Heritage listed city.

Indulgence at Casa del Rio

Wherever we went, the Casa del Rio hotel was never more than a short distance away. One blistering afternoon, we returned to the hotel after a wander and indulged ourselves in a delicious Nyonya lunch, served in a traditional tiffin carrier.

Nyonya tiffin lunch at Casa del Rio. A variety of curries and vegetables served in a traditional tiffin carrier.
A bit of everything on my plate. Yum!

The River Grill

The hotel’s main restaurant, The River Grill, faces the Melaka River and this is where we had our breakfasts every morning. One evening, we stuffed ourselves with fresh seafood and terrific satay. The prawns were simply delicious!

The River Grill has lovely views of the Melaka River.
The yummy seafood buffet!
The chef was a true satay expert! Those chicken and beef skewers were delicious!

The staff made us feel right at home. We celebrated my Mum’s birthday with a dinner at The River Grill – the Western-themed dinner featured roast beef, grilled tuna, a tasty lamb rack and a gorgeous chocolate dessert. The staff surprised us with a second dessert: a birthday cake for my Mum and a hilarious rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’! Needless to say, it was a memorable birthday!

The yummy dessert; the plating was excellent.

Satkara Spa

On our last day, I headed to the hotel’s Satkara Spa for a massage. I was welcomed by the friendly masseuse Nora, who led me into a spacious room. There were two massage tables, a bath-tub and a shower cubicle. The massage was superb! Mixing traditional Malay and deep-tissue techniques, Nora effortlessly found and kneaded away all the tension in my back and shoulders. I left the spa feeling totally rejuvenated!

The Satkara Spa
The beautiful couples treatment room at the Satkara Spa.

Casa del Rio certainly excelled in the little touches that make a stay memorable; from the welcome sorbet and unique guest book to lightly-scented pillows with the turn-down service (accompanied by a note describing the scent). As we stepped into our car to leave the hotel, I noticed a little card tucked under the windscreen wiper:

Another lovely touch!

We had a terrific time in Malacca. It sure was a treat to stay at Casa del Rio and stroll around this gorgeous city. If you’re visiting Malaysia, don’t miss Malacca! I highly recommend spending a few days to truly appreciate the city and Casa del Rio is the perfect base.

Getting to Melaka

Melaka is a roughly two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. You can get there easily by bus or taxi if you don’t have your own car.

Search for rental cars in Malaysia.

Note: A big thank you goes to the staff of Casa del Rio for their wonderful hospitality. All views expressed above are mine, and mine only.


12 Responses

  • Hi Scarlett,

    Thanks for your comment. What a cool place you’ve chosen to meet up with your friends! Two days is a tad short but I’m sure you’ll love it! have fun in Malacca! 🙂


  • Your photos have Fired Up my Enthusiasm for this lovely Olde town even more! I’m looking forward to my trip there soon and to meet up and celebrate birthdays of my school friends from KL & Singapore. I will be flying in from London. Unfortunately I’ll only be staying there for 2 whole days :(( Two months would be more to my liking! Kind regards 🙂

  • Anyone who sees these photos will definitely want to go to Malacca for a weekend or for months! I won’t be surprised if they’d decide to not leave the place anymore. Absolutely breathtaking.

  • Hi Keith,
    I loved reading your blog because it was written in such a way that almost any traveler can identify with it and experience it through your words. I am visiting Malacca soon and was searching for tips about the place and came across your blog and appreciate it.

  • The food culture in Malacca is remarkable … can remember my time there clearly, and your post only helped!

  • We didn’t overnight in Malacca – but we did visit recently for a day while on a cruise from Singapore. The Peranakan Mansion stands out the most for us. And those groovy musical trishaw rides! Good fodder for a magazine article and posts on our blog :-). Did you take one of those crazy trishaws?

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