As independent-minded as ever, the archipelago's “city of heroes” is home to a host of attractions and culinary delights that can’t be found elsewhere
Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya has the feel of a major metropolis minus the endless traffic tie-ups. The city played a major role in the 1945-50 Indonesian National Revolution – one of the fiercest battles of this war of independence took place here – thus earning Surabaya the title of Indonesia’s “city of heroes”.
Economic development over the past several years has seen the addition of a number of large-scale shopping centres but food and culture remain the city’s marquee attractions. There’s plenty to do in the city centre, whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, a relentless shopper or an intrepid foodie. Colonial-style buildings are everywhere, from the House of Sampoerna Museum – built in 1862 – to the iconic Majapahit Hotel. The hotel was where Indonesian nationalists protesting colonial rule in 1945 famously tore the blue strip off the Dutch flag, turning it into an Indonesian one. Surabaya is also home to some of South-East Asia’s biggest malls. The best time to shop is in May and June, when the annual sale extravaganza takes place. Food-wise, travellers can sample Surabaya’s many native cuisines everywhere from streetside stalls to high-end restaurants.
Things to do
Visit Sunan Ampel Mosque, Indonesia’s third-oldest mosque and a pilgrimage site for Muslims. Then check out Monumen Kapal Selam (Submarine Monument), home to a 76.6m by 6.3m undersea craft. Looking to take a breather and post your holiday photos online? Visit Taman Kota Bungkul, a city park with free Wi-Fi.
Over and above
Stretching a staggering 5.438km, the Suramadu Bridge connects Surabaya to the island of Madura and is Indonesia’s longest. Madura itself makes for a great day trip, where you can take in the sights around the town square and sample the island’s famous Sinjay duck.
In 1932, tobacco tycoon Liem Seeng Tee, founder of Sampoerna, turned a Dutch-built building in the centre of Surabaya into the company’s first production facility. These days, the building is home to a museum called House of Sampoerna that traces the history of Indonesia’s leading cigarette maker. Arrive in the early morning to see a demonstration of the traditional method of cigarette rolling and join the free Surabaya Heritage Track tour, which is offered three times a day.
Too hot to handle
If you can handle spices, try Jancuk fried rice (“Jancuk” is a Javanese curse word) at the Surabaya Plaza Hotel restaurant. Or try the special rujak cingur at Surabaya Plaza on Jalan Ahmad Jaiz. And don’t miss the chance to cleanse your palate by stopping in for a treat at the legendary Zangrandi ice cream on Jalan Pemuda.
Formerly known as Hotel Oranje and Hotel Yamato, Majapahit Hotel was the site of Indonesia’s most historic events. On 19 September 1945, not long after Indonesia declared its independence, Indonesian troops ripped off the blue lower portion of the Dutch flag that was flying atop the hotel, thus giving it the appearance of the red-and-white Indonesian flag.
Travel time 30-45 minutes
Taxi About IDR70,000
Bus IDR15,000 and journey takes about 45 minutes
Private car hire with driver costs IDR250,000-300,000Back to top
When to go
Surabaya is a lot warmer than Jakarta so if you burn easily be sure to slap on some sunscreen to protect yourself from the scorching sun. Like most cities in Indonesia, the city is sunny year round and is typically humid. During the wet season from October to March, it tends to rain for a few hours on any given day.
In late April, the Surabaya Culture Parade marks the anniversary of the city’s founding. It features an array of performances and costumed processions and often runs well into May, with the first parade starting at the Tugu Pahlawan monument. Other major events in and around the city include the Kite Festival in Layang Layang, fishing boat celebrations and food festivals in Pakuwon.Back to top
Metered taxis can be flagged down just about anywhere. Be wary of drivers who offer a fixed price as this is not a common practice. You can also book a taxi by phone. Local bajaj (motorised rickshaw) and becak (bicycle rickshaw) are also a convenient way to get around but be sure to settle on your fare ahead of time.Back to top