The perfect blend of history and nature
Surabaya serves as the gateway to east Java, in all its tectonic glory. It’s Indonesia’s second-largest city, packed full of unique historical sights, some of Indonesia’s most significant mosques and a fantastic food scene. It’s also a great jumping-off point for visiting some of the country’s most stunning volcanic landscapes.
The city’s diversity is easy to see in the mix of neighbourhoods, from the bustling, medina-like streets that surround the Mesjid Ampel mosque to the vibrant chaos of one of Indonesia’s largest Chinatowns. Surabaya’s Dutch colonial architecture hints at the city’s significance in Indonesian independence, and there are plenty of historical sights to see.
Take off a few hours in any direction from Surabaya and you’ll be treated to the best of east Java. Join the trek to watch the sun set over the smoking cone of Mt Bromo, or drive over Indonesia’s longest bridge to find some white, sandy beaches to relax on.
Things to do: Surabaya
Watch the sun rise over an active volcano
Just a few hours from Surabaya you’ll find Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, an alien landscape that’s home to several stunning volcanoes. Take in a truly epic sunrise from one of the popular viewpoints surrounding the caldera, then make your way across the Sea of Sand to the bottom of Mount Bromo for a hike up to the smoking crater.
Tour a cigarette factory
A cigarette factory isn’t the most obvious tourist attraction, but the House of Sampoerna is one of Surabaya’s most beloved sights. This colonial Dutch building in the city centre was originally an orphanage, but started producing tobacco and traditional clove cigarettes in the 1930s. Today, it houses a fascinating museum that traces the history of Indonesia’s leading cigarette maker.
Drive across Indonesia's longest bridge
Spanning an incredible 5.4km, the Suramadu Bridge connects Surabaya to the colourful island of Madura. Spend a day or two exploring the island’s gorgeous beaches and striking limestone formations, as well as some of the welcoming towns along the way. Make sure you try the local specialty, Sinjay duck, before heading back to the mainland.
Climb inside a submarine
One of Surabaya’s more unusual sights is a 76.6m-long Soviet Russian submarine that served in the Indonesian Navy in the 1960s. It was decommissioned in 1990 and brought to the banks of the Kalimas River, and opened to the public as a very unique museum. Take a wander around inside and get a feel for undersea life – from the crew quarters to the torpedo launchers!
Treat yourself at Majapahit Hotel
The colonial opulence of Majapahit Hotel makes it a real icon of the city – and a great spot for high tea! It also has great historical significance – in 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.
Juanda International Airport (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 Rp120,000.
Bus Buses leave from the airport to Purabaya bus station around every 15 minutes. The journey takes about 45 minutes and costs IDR Rp25,000. From Purabaya you’ll need to catch another bus into the city centre.Back to top
When to go
Be prepared with the sunscreen – it’s hot year-round in Surabaya. The dry season lasts from April to September, where it’s sunny and humid most of the time. During the wet season, from October to March, it tends to rain for a few hours on any given day. If you’re travelling inland to see the volcanoes, bring a jacket because it can get cold at these elevations, particularly at sunrise.
The Surabaya Culture Parade, held in the dry season, marks the anniversary of the city’s founding with an array of performances and costumed processions. Other major events in and around the city include the Kite Festival in Layang Layang, and fishing boat celebrations and food festivals in Pakuwon.Back to top
Metered taxis can be flagged down just about anywhere – stick with Blue Bird 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
4 of the most stunning sights near Surabaya
While the hype over the active volcano’s scenery is real, Indonesia’s second-largest city is a gateway to so many other stunning sights in East Java.