Yogyakarta has always been one of my favourite place in Indonesia and luckily my husband feels the same. It's (really) hard to find a place in Indonesia that we both like :-) Yogyakarta is a culturally rich city. It has character. There is something about it that make us always thing of going back for holidays. It's a good option for a short holidays.
Whenever we go to Yogyakarta, we always like to stay in The Phoenix Hotel by Accor. Not only it is strategically located in the city, it is also a nice and cosy colonial styled hotel. The hotel compound itself is not huge, but it is very charming and the decorations and ambience is just so lovely. Many people suggested me the other popular and famous hotel in Yogyakarta but the type of decorations and interior that suit us well is The Phoenix. The restaurant there, Paprika, provides amazing spread of breakfast buffet and imagine while you are having breakfast, a very soothing sound of traditional musical instrument played by two musicians can be heard. It is a great place to have dinner too with its ala carte menu. It doesn't happen very often that we happily eat in the hotel's restaurant. The hotel staffs are very lovely. Highly recommended hotel!
What to do in Yogyakarta?
Visiting Borobudur is a must. Borobudur is a 9th-century Buddhist temple located about 40 km north-west of Yogyakarta, around 1.5 hours driving, It is the world's largest Buddhist temple. The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. Borobudur is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many people like to go there to enjoy the sunrise. I am not a morning person and doesn't have desire to do that yet :-) We rent a car (without a driver as we like our own family privacy. But if you want to rent a car with a driver, you can do that as well. Just ask the hotel to help you with the car reservation. Please note renting through hotel is more expensive compared to if you find a car rental company by yourself) and I drove from the hotel to Borobudur. We left the hotel around 7.45 am so that we can reach there before it's too hot. Because we had our 2.5 years old with us, we only did one circular walk at the base and kept on climbing to the top. It was a hard work for a toddler and there's no way we could have carried him (he's way too heavy!). It is such a magnificent temple and the view from the top is simply breathtaking. From Borobudur, we drove to Amanjiwo Resort to have lunch (please note that the food is overpriced! but we're just buying the view). While we had our lunch at their restaurant, we can see Borobudur from a distance (last photo below). Very nice view!
Visiting Monggo Chocolate Factory and Shop at Jl. Dalem KG III No.978 Kotagede, about 9 km away from Phoenix Hotel. Please be aware that if you are driving yourself there using Google Maps, errrrr..... Google Maps took us through very small streets (alleys?!) that required me to show my extraordinary driving skill only Indonesians possess :-)
We have tasted Monggo Chocolate during our previous visit and we think they taste absolutely delicious. Of course you can't compare yet with Switzerland chocolates, but I can say Monggo Chocolate is the best chocolate you can find in Indonesia. They have various different flavour and most of them taste nice. They are also available in supermarkets in Yogyakarta. Monggo Chocolate has an interesting story - it all began when a Belgian man felt the lack of quality chocolate in the world's 3rd largest producer of cocoa. The rest is history...
Visiting Ullen Sentalu Museum, a Javanese culture and art museum located in Kaliurang highland, about 25 km north of Yogyakarta towards Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia. The museum displays relics and artifacts from royal houses and kratons of Java. We enjoyed it but our dear 2.5 years old son can only survived for maybe the first 30 minutes (not bad :-)).
Sightseeing to major landmarks by horse-cart ride or becak ride. We went around passing Tugu (the monument located in the center of the crossroad between the Mangkubumi, Soedirman, A.M. Sangaji and Diponegoro), Malioboro Street (the major shopping street), Fort Vredeburg (a former colonial fortress that is converted into a museum), Gedung Agung (one of 6 presidential palaces of Indonesia), Kraton / The Palace (the official seat of the reigning Sultan of Yogyakarta and his family. It also serves as a center of Javanese culture). We could have watched the Gamelan (traditional musical instrument) performance in Kraton but we missed that, unfortunately. At night time, many people gathered in Alun Alun (known and there were many rickshaw with lights that you can ride to circle Alun Alun.
We spent four nights and all above were what we did when we visited Yogyakarta with our toddler son. We spent our spare time to chill out at the hotel's pool.
Below are the other things you can do in Yogyakarta (which we did when it was just the two of us visiting).
Visiting Prambanan, a 9th-century Hindu temple located about 20 km east of Yogyakarta. It is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Watching Ramayana Dance at Purawisata is another thing you can do. Ramayana epic story is about the struggle of Prince Rama to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. We watched it before we had kid, we booked it through our hotel and the hotel made arrangement. We wanted to do it again when we visited Yogyakarta with our 2.5 years old but we thought it's a bit too late for him.
The other option that is probably better is to watch Ramayana Dance at Prambanan.
If you are into paintings, going to Affandi Museum is a must. Affandi is a very famous Indonesian artist. Another place worth visiting is Taman Sari Water Castle, the site of a former royal garden of the Sultanate of Yogyakarta built in the 18th century.
Where and what to eat in Yogyakarta?
Bale Raos at Jalan Magangan Kulon No.1, located near the Kraton (Palace) and serve favourite meals of Sultans of Yogyakarta (royal family). Nice food! My husband's favourite is Gudeg Manggar. Gudeg is a traditional Javanese cuisine from Yogyakarta and made of young unripe jack fruit stewed for several hours with palm sugar, coconut milk, and some spices. Gudeg Manggar uses coconut flower instead of jack fruit. Definitely a restaurant you must visit when you are in Yogyakarta.
Kesuma Restaurant at Gang Sartono No.858 Mantrijeron is our favourite. It was a very small Javanese wooden house restaurant that had only around eight tables in total. The food is really delicious, the home-cooked type of food - thus it took a bit long to cook. They now has moved to a different location just behind the old one. Reservation is a must.
Paprika Restaurant at the Phoenix Hotel is one of our favourites, too. I ordered Gudeg a few times. The satay was also nice. They also have some western food in the menu, we ordered Beef Burger for our son.
Yogyakarta always give us this warm lovely feeling. Will we come back? Without doubt! There are still many places we have not visited.
- No point to bring stroller. Nowhere you can use the stroller. It's not a stroller friendly city (I may be able to say the same for anywhere else in Indonesia).
- Get a cheaper rate at Phoenix hotel during Accor sales period, usually around May and September (twice a year). You can get 40% off.
- Be careful when you shop along Marlboro Street, a lot of seller put high price so you have to bargain. I am not good at it so I avoid buying from them and just go to the big department store at the end of Marlboro Street, named Mirota. It's fixed price.