One of Kuala Lumpur’s most popular tourist attractions is the Central Market, which goes by its local name of Pasar Seni. It is situated in the capital’s very heart, close to Chinatown. Visitors flock to the marketplace in order to buy original items and authentic souvenirs at the lowest prices in the city, as well as to get in touch with the multinational Malay culture, which is represented through the masterful arts and crafts that are sold here by their creators.
The market was founded by the Chinese captain Yap Ah Loy, who had been put in charge of law and order in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown back in 1888. Initially the area served as a food market, and it is there that most citizens bought fresh fish, vegetables and fruits. A hundred years later, the market was moved to another part of the city, and its building was scheduled for demolition. However, the Malay Association of Cultural Heritage stood up for unique construction, compelling authorities to recognize it as a valuable monument of colonial architecture with high historical importance. The Central Market has since turned into true center of Malay art and a plethora of souvenir and art shops, as well as craft workshops, have since appeared there.
In the early 2000s, the Kuala Lumpur Central Market was reconstructed, although its unique charm and character have been largely preserved. Today, the building is made up of a two-storey indoor trade center, where visitors can buy any number of original creations: national clothes, handmade items of made of batik and wood, pictures, utensils, and much more besides. In addition to actually buying the goods, guests can also see how these souvenirs are made, how local artists work, and much more besides.
Pasar Seni is organized in a way that allows its visitors to learn the about the cultures of the different nationalities that inhabit Malaysia. Each ethnic group has its own trading zone: for example, the market has Malay and Indian Lanes, as well as a Chinese Strait, the Malacca Street.
The Central Market’s second level features a large food court, which comprises of a great number of restaurants that offer traditional Asian dishes at affordable prices. There is also stage near the market building, where multi-cultural performances – concerts, performances by dance and theater groups, and colorful celebrations – are regularly held.
The Annexe gallery is situated directly behind Pasar Seni. This is a true center of modern art, where fashion shows, art installations and experimental exhibitions are organized in addition to traditional art displays.
Opened in 2011, a market known as Kasturi Walk is adjoined to the Central Market. This is a covered pedestrian street with numerous stands and shops selling authentic goods at far lower prices than at Pasar Seni.