The ‘City of Heroes’ offers fascinating attractions and unique culinary delights

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 Southeast Asia’s largest 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.

Back to top

Things to do

  • In sights

    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. Explore the narrow streets of Surabaya’s Chinatown, with picturesquely crumbling buildings shophouses and hand-drawn carts.

  • Over and above

    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.

  • Smoke signals

    In 1932, tobacco tycoon Liem Seeng Tee, Sampoerna's founder, 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 opens in new window that traces the history of Indonesia’s leading cigarette maker. Arrive early to see a demonstration of the traditional method of cigarette rolling and join the free Surabaya Heritage Track tour.

  • 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.

  • True colours

    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, pro-nationalist Indonesian youth ripped off the blue lower portion of the Dutch flag that was flying atop the hotel, thus creating the red-and-white Indonesian flag.

Back to top

Airport information

Juanda International Airport opens in new window (SUB)

Distance to city centre 19km

Taxi You can buy taxi coupons in the arrivals hall. The trip into Surabaya city will take 35-45 minutes and cost around IDR 160,000.

Bus Buses leave from the airport to Purabaya bus station around every 15 minutes. The journey takes about 45 minutes and costs IDR 20,000; from Purabaya you’ll need to catch another bus into the city centre.

Back 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

Getting around

Metered taxis can be flagged down just about anywhere – stick with Blue Bird opens in new window taxis, the most reliable. Be wary of drivers who offer a fixed price as this is not a common practice. 

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