Yogyakarta is one of the most famous cities in Java and one of the most interesting. Known in Indonesia as the cultural capital of the country, it is also a university town known for attracting artists and intellectuals who flock here to enjoy the art scene and café culture. The city is also famous in Indonesia because it is technically a sultanate, and the royal family has been a frequent visitor to the city since the 1700s. As such, many of Yogyakarta’s attractions are associated with royalty, but, true to its learned roots, you’ll also find a plethora of museums here, as well as workshops and handicraft shops.
Yogyakarta is also known for its famous setting, as it is located at the foot of Mount Merapi, close to Java’s iconic attractions such as Borobudur and Prambanan temples. Many people combine a trip to Yogyakarta with visiting these sights, but if you only have time to visit the main parts of the city, you can still enjoy a variety of restaurants, cafes, monuments and shopping.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Yogyakarta:
1. Relax at Indrayanti Beach
Many tourists to Yogyakarta do not realize that it is actually close to the Indian Ocean, in fact the southern side of the city runs along the coastline and consists of Indrayanti Beach.
The golden sand here is clean and inviting, and you’ll also find an array of small Indonesian cafes and stalls along the coastline where you can enjoy some simple noodles along with a cold drink and coconut.
2. Visit the Sonobu Douyou Museum
Yogyakarta is a city full of museums, and one of the best is the Sono-Budoyo Museum, which houses a collection of Javanese art.
If you want to learn more about the art of the region, you can visit the museum and visit the galleries dedicated to Indonesian puppets, masks, weapons and textiles.
The museum faces a courtyard covered in Hindu architecture and you’ll find a wealth of ornate carvings and statues.
One of the museum’s highlights is the puppet show, which is also held here.
3. Explore Kraton
Kraton Kasultanan Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat is probably the most famous attraction in Yogyakarta, it’s just another name for the Royal Palace.
The Sultan and his family still live here, although you can visit the Kraton Museum, where you can learn more about the royal family and gain insight into traditional Javanese art and culture.
If possible, try to time your visit so that you arrive in the area around 9am, as there are daily cultural performances.
4. Rafting on the Progo River
If you want to get out and about in Yogyakarta, take a trip to the beautiful Progo River, rent a kayak and raft along the rapids.
This is a somewhat unusual place in Yogyakarta as it allows you to get out of the city without getting too far from the main event.
The biggest highlight of rafting along the rapids is the chance to see lush flora and fauna from a vantage point on the water while getting your adrenaline pumping.
If you reach the Progo River, you can also visit the neighboring Elo River at the same time.
5. Try some Gudeg
Yogyakarta is known for its famous cuisine, the most famous of which is Goude.
This basically consists of jackfruit, which is cooked with coconut milk to make a kind of curry.
It is served with rice and not to be missed if you are in town, some of the most famous places include Bale Raos, Ibu Ageng and Gudeg Pawon on Janturan Street.
If you want to try more of Yogyakarta’s typical cuisine, you can also take a food tour, which has grown in popularity in recent years, with several companies to choose from.
6. Visit the animals at Gembira Loka Zoo
If you want to see some flora and fauna in Yogyakarta, then a visit to Gembira Loka Zoo is a good option.
The zoo is located in the southeastern part of the city, and here you will find a large number of reptiles and birds, with an obvious emphasis on native Indonesian species.
The atmosphere of the zoo is calm and peaceful, you can walk around, enjoy the tropical scenery and visit the different animal enclosures.
7. Attend workshops
Yogyakarta is known as the arts and crafts capital of Indonesia, and if you want to experience it for yourself, the best way to do it is to sign up for a craft workshop.
Some of these options include a leather workshop, where you’ll learn how to make things like wallets out of leather, or you can learn Indonesia’s most famous textile technique, called “batik”. This involves using wax to create patterns on the fabric before dyeing it in various colors, and you can also buy colored batik sheets throughout the city.
The best place to sign up for a batik class is near Kraton or the Royal Palace.
8. Explore Vedimbo Beach
Wediombo Beach means wide sand and it will tell you everything you need to know when visiting here.
Soft golden sand stretches for miles along the coastline, and locals flock to enjoy the pleasures of the sea, including fishing.
The waters of this part of Yogyakarta are teeming with a variety of different species, although one of the species native to the region is the Panjo fish.
The beach is at the bottom of rolling hills and one of the best things to do here is to climb the cliffs and enjoy the beautiful views over the water.
9. Walking among the Bailing Forest trees
Beringin Trees is one of the most famous attractions in Yogyakarta, the area is shrouded in local myths and legends.
The site, as the name suggests, consists of two large trees, and legend has it that if you can walk between them with your eyes closed, your wishes for the future will come true.
It sounds easy, although it’s surprising how many people can’t walk in a straight line.
People usually rent blindfolds from local sellers to make sure you don’t cheat and that you can try them multiple times.
Believe the story or not, it’s a lot of fun walking through the woods, one of the quirkiest places in the city.
10. Walk along Jalan Malioboro
Jalan Malioboro is the most famous street in Yogyakarta, so you can’t miss a trip here when visiting the city.
This street is usually visited at the same time as Beringharjo Market and along Jalan Malioboro you will find items for sale such as clothes, batik fabrics, jewellery, sandals and traditional Javanese handicrafts.
If you want to explore the market then you need to be here between 9am and 5pm, but if you just want to admire the city’s most famous artery and its sights and sounds then try to be in the street after dark It really came alive.
If you get hungry, you can also buy a range of delicious street food along the way.
11. Explore the Affandi Museum
Affandi (like many Javanese with only one name) is one of the most famous artists in Indonesian history.
When visiting Yogyakarta, art lovers should definitely visit the Affandi Museum, which was actually once the artist’s former home and studio.
The museum is located to the east of the town centre and houses a variety of Affandi paintings as well as some haunting self-portraits.
Since this used to be his private residence, you can also find his various personal belongings, including his car, a colorful 1967 Galant.
12. Check out the local coffee shop
Unlike many other cities in Indonesia, Yogyakarta has a strong coffee culture and you’ll find quirky coffee shops and restaurants all over the city.
One of the main areas of the city where you will find various cafes is Jalan Prawirotaman, most of which serve food, including local and international snacks as well as heavier meals.
Indonesia is famous for its coffee, and you’ll find a range of blends that will give you a taste of the best beans in the country.
13. Explore Taman Sarees
No trip to Yogyakarta is complete without a visit to Taman Sari, often referred to as the Taman Sari Water Castle, in addition to the famous Kraton or Royal Palace.
Located to the southwest of the Royal Palace, the castle was grand for its time, consisting of swimming pools, streams and royal buildings for the sultan and his family to enjoy.
Now in disrepair, most of the Water Palace is gently crumbling, although this adds to the experience, and you can spend an afternoon strolling through the elegant ruins dating back to the 1700s.
You can also find an unmissable section of underground tunnels that you can take a guided tour for a small fee or go alone.
14. Visit the Urencenthalu Museum
Arguably one of the best museums in Yogyakarta is the Ullen Sentalu Museum, a great place to learn about Javanese culture.
The museum is the perfect place to see what the city looked like in the past, and you’ll find photos of Yogyakarta, as well as ancient batik, period paintings, and even antique manuscripts and letters.
You can visit the museum with a guide or go alone and enjoy this journey through the history of Yogyakarta.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Lowest price guaranteed.