Looking for a stress-free weekend but don’t wish to travel miles just to get to your destination? Johor Bahru is a quick weekend getaway solution for most Singaporeans! Simply cross the causeway and you will find there are plenty of things you can do. Over our many trips to Johor Bahru (more than 10), we have compiled this JB travel guide that shows you the top things to do in JB in each area, plus hotel recommendations. Check it out now!
This article was updated on 3 December 2019.
Table of contents:
|JB Area / Things to Do||Distance from JB customs||What’s there to do?|
|1||City Square Mall||Right opposite JB Sentral||Movies, food, shopping|
|2||Jalan Dhoby||10 min walk||Cafes, local food, traditional bakery, night Pasar Malam|
|3||KSL City Mall||10 min drive||Shopping, durian, local foods, massage|
|4||Mid Valley Southkey||15 min drive||Shopping Mall|
|5||Paradigm Mall||20 min drive||Shopping Mall|
|6||Permas Jaya||20 – 30 min||Golfing, food|
|7||Mount Austin||30 min||Waterpark, go-kart, cafe-hopping|
|8||Bukit Indah / Puteri Harbour||20 – 30 min from Tuas Checkpoint||Legoland, Hello Kitty Town, shopping mall|
|9||Tebrau City||30 min||IKEA, furniture, and lighting|
|10||Danga Bay||10 min||Waterfront shopping|
|11||Johor Premium Outlet||40 min||Branded outlet shopping|
|12||Desaru||1 – 1.5 hours||Sunshine and beach|
Top 11 Things to Do in Johor Bahru
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1. City Square Mall / Komtar JBCC
Binge on cheap movies, food & stock up on personal supplies
Once you enter JB through immigration at JB Sentral, cross the overhead bridge to City Square Mall and Komtar JBCC mall. Komtar JBCC is the newer mall, but I do still prefer to roam around at City Square Mall. There is a movie theatre (watch a movie less than S$5!), karaoke, a games arcade, and laser tag. I make sure to always get my BBQ sticks from Kimdo BBQ, Gong Cha, Eureka popcorn and Lavender cakes. Before I head back, I always stock up on my personal supplies at Watsons and Guardian. You can throw in a quick shoulder or foot massage too.
Recommended place to stay
As one of the top hotels in Johor Bahru, DoubleTree by Hilton provides you one of the best staycations you can imagine. Apart from their luxurious rooms and fine dining options, the staff here show warm hospitality to their guests. You can enjoy working out at the 24-hour gym, hang out by the pool, soak it up in the jacuzzi or simply relax in their steam room. There is no weekend that could get better than this! Read our full review of DoubleTree by Hilton.
2. Jalan Dhoby
Go cafe hopping and take Instagrammable shots
Brunch and coffee – nothing beats starting a morning with these. Lately, JB has become the home of many hipsters and stylish cafes. In fact, in the vicinity of City Square Mall lies Jalan Dhoby (15 – 20-minute walk, a cafe-hopping mecca. After cafe hopping, you can head to the nearby Pasar Malam Bazar Karat that opens from 7 pm onwards.
Here are some of the popular cafes to visit in Jalan Dhoby:
- The Replacement Lodge & Kitchen
- Bev C Cafe
- Flowers in the Window
- Chiwallla & Co. Container Cafe
- SHOUT has one of the best JB cafe guides here
Great local food to eat:
Recommended place to stay
Located directly opposite Komtar JBCC and City Square Mall, Amari Hotel is one of the most popular places to stay in Johor Bahru thanks to its convenience. We have stayed at this hotel during one of our trips. Their rooms are stylishly furnished and clean. Amari Hotel is rated 8.9 from 3,599 reviews on booking.com.
Another alternative hotel to stay at would be The Puteri Pacific Johor Bahru. It is also very closely located to City Square but offers cheaper rates. The rooms are not as modern as DoubleTree or Amari, but is still clean and comfortable.
3. KSL City Mall
KSL City Mall is one of the most well-known malls in JB. Located in the city center and is about a 5-minute drive from the checkpoint. You will find almost everything you need at this mall, from food stalls, bakeries, hair salons, spa, KTV, theatre, and plenty of claw machines. Every time I come to KSL, I have my lunch at Soon Soon Heng Bak Kut Teh. You will find plenty of durian stalls around this area and in front of the mall during the durian season. There are also plenty of good food places near KSL City Mall – find them here. At night, you can have lok lok at 发哥渌渌 which is right outside the mall.
Recommended places to stay
Holiday Villa is designed to provide you with comfortable accommodation, good service, and convenience. The hotel also has a rooftop bar (SKY 26), an infinity pool, and a gym. Within the same building, you will find some restaurants and drink stalls within Holiday Villa itself. For those in need of a massage, you can visit the Thai Odyssey outlet there. Do also visit Wishful Summer, a cosy juice bar that sells freshly pressed juices and milkshakes topped with beautiful flowers located in the basement. Holiday Villa is rated 8.1 from 1,372 reviews on Booking.com.
A slightly cheaper alternative would be KSL Hotel & Resort which is directly connected to the huge KSL shopping mall. The rooms are relatively simple but clean. Rated 7.8 from 9,687 reviews on Booking.com.
4. Mid Valley Southkey
Mid Valley Southkey is JB’s newest and biggest integrated mall. You can spend an entire day at this swanky new mall shopping and eating. There is a SOGO departmental store here that Singapore once had back in the 1990s. You can get beautiful homeware here, or at Harvey Norman too. There is a MUJI, and a massive DAISO here too. To get to Mid Valley Mall, you can take shuttle service from JB Sentral that departs every 30 minutes for just RM1, or Grab for about RM 8 – 10.
5. Paradigm Mall
Before Mid Valley came along, Paradigm Mall used to be the mall we visited after the many visits to City Square and KSL mall. Paradigm Mall is pretty massive and still remains popular. There is a 20,000sq ft ice skating rink, a modern movie theatre, and an indoor climbing gym. Located in the Skudai district, Paradigm Mall is a 20-minute drive from the JB checkpoint and a 10-minute drive from the JB city center.
Recommended place to stay
The Leverage Business Hotel is closely located to Paradigm Mall. This 3-star hotel offers you simple rooms at a good price.
6. Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel at Permas Jaya
Renaissance Johor Bahru by Marriot is also a popular hotel for an upscale staycation. This elegant hotel features quality services and good service that you can enjoy. During your stay, be sure to dine at Wan Li Chinese Restaurant. Their chefs specialise in authentic Cantonese cuisine, delicious dim sum, and fresh seafood. For those looking to go on a food trail, here are some popular finds in Jalan Permas. It takes only 30 minutes to go to the Johor Premium outlets from here. You can also go golfing at the nearby Permas Jaya Golf Club. Renaissance JB is rated 8.5 by 1,162 reviews. Read our full review of Renaissance Johor Bahru.
7. Mount Austin
A 30-minutes drive will take you to Mount Austin, a food enclave where you can discover more hip cafes and rustic hawker fare. Austin Heights Water & Adventure Park is also here! We visited the 3-in-1 park that features water slides, a go-kart area, and a suspended obstacle course, all of which will have you occupied for the entire day.
Here is the list of cafes to visit in Mount Austin:
- People & Places – This is a melbourne-inspired cafe that Jay Chou visited! Must-tries include their Quesadilla Brekkie and Pan-Fried Salmon With Kimchi Cauliflower Rice.
- JWC The Factory 30
- The Sugar Pantry
- Bloom by Mokmok
- Find more on Eatbook and here
8. Bukit Indah / Puteri Harbour
Have a blast at Legoland
Bukit Indah is located in the Western part of JB and is closer to the Tuas Checkpoint. There is an AEON mall here, a big TESCO supermarket, and a TGV cinema. Many who come here visit JB major theme parks like Legoland, Hello Kitty Town in Puteri Harbour which is the halfway point in between the Tuas Checkpoint and Bukit Indah. Legoland is Malaysia’s first international theme park and is packed with a lot of fun rides and lego structures! I would suggest spending two days there so you can spend a day at the main park and half a day at the water park. It’s not just a place for kids.
Click here for tickets to Legoland Malaysia or Hello Kitty Town >
Recommended places to stay:
Hotel Jen is a sleek, modern hotel decked with a rooftop bar and infinity swimming pool that comes with a picturesque view of the harbour. A short 3-minute walk will take you to Puteri Harbour where you can find plenty of dining options. The hotel has stylish rooms and also themed Hello Kitty rooms for kids. Also try the Mandara Spa Experience in their in-house spa. Read our full review of Hotel Jen Johor Bahru. Hotel Jen JB is rated 8.2 by 790 reviews on Booking.com.
Ramada is by the Wyndham group, dedicated to providing affordable rooms and thoughtful amenities to guests. Ramada Meridin Johor Bahru is located near to Legoland and has an outdoor gym, pool and meditation deck. It is rated 8.3 by 909 reviews on Booking.com.
If you want to stay in Legoland itself, Legoland Malaysia Hotel offers you spacious and themed rooms that will allow you to soak in the theme park atmosphere even after you have left the main park. Dining options include Bricks family restaurant which serves up buffet dining, Di Mattoni for Italian cuisine and Kai Sushi Bar for Japanese cuisine.
9. Tebrau City, for furniture shopping
Since the largest IKEA has opened in Johor Bahru in Tebrau City (A 20 to 30-minute drive from City Square), many have come here to get furniture for their new BTO. IKEA Tebrau currently does not offer delivery services to Singapore, so you will have to drive or rent your own car/van to make bigger purchases. That being said, not everything in IKEA Tebrau is cheaper than Singapore’s IKEA outlet, but you can easily search it up online. There is a big AEON Tebrau City mall next to IKEA and you will find Kaison to be a great spot for homeware and accessories. Toppen Mall is also a new mall that just opened 13 Nov 2019 and connects to IKEA. Nearby Tebrau area is the Taman Molek area where you can find plenty of furniture shops in JB.
10. Danga Bay
Relaxing strolls along the waterfront
Even Johor Bahru has its own premier waterfront! Danga Bay offers you tons of activities with a little more glam to it. You can find higher-end retail outlets and fine dining restaurants. It’s considered to be the best beach, and also the biggest recreation park in Johor Bahru. They have a carnival with a carousel and a Viking ship for you to ride. After a nice stroll along the waterfront, you can chill out at Danga City Mall where you can find leisure and entertainment options. You can also play paintball at Danga City Mall! Find out how to get here.
Recommended place to stay
Tune Hotel is a hotel-chain that focuses on providing clean rooms at an unbeatable price. Whenever we are seeking a budget option, we lookout for Tune Hotel. So far, we have stayed at 5 different Tune Hotels. We stayed once at Tune Hotel Danga Bay and though their rooms are small, they are clean (very important!) and affordable. Their rooms start from $50 per night. Tune Hotel Danga Bay is rated 7.8 by 3254 reviews on Booking.com.
11. Johor Bahru Premium outlet stores
Johor Premium Outlets is where you can get branded goods at a fraction of the prices! There are 150 outlet stores with popular mentions like Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Prada, Gucci, and more. They also have many sporting brands like Adidas, Nike, Timberland. This factory outlet cluster is about a 40-minute drive from JB Sentral. Though it might be a bit out of the way, it can be worth a trip, especially during their year-end sales. Find out how to get here.
12. Unwind at Desaru Beach
Further up in Johor is Desaru, a beach town famous for its pristine beach and views of the South China Sea. We visited Desaru earlier this year and I thoroughly enjoyed the laidback atmosphere and serene surroundings. The beach is quiet and peaceful. The waters were surprisingly clean and it was fun to sit around the shoreline and get bobbed around by the waves.
Though Desaru is not a shopping haven like JB, there is plenty to do here. You can visit the waterpark, go golfing at The Els Club Desaru Coast, visit the Ostrich Farm (it is the biggest ostrich farm in Malaysia!) or the Teluk Sengat Crocodile Farm. Desaru is also well known for its Desaru Fruit Farm that has an ATV track, a petting zoo, and even a paintball course. The fruit farm also has tickets for a Desaru firefly cruise where you can see their beautiful glows while riding along the Bujang river.
If you wish to venture further, you can see the Kota Tinggi waterfalls that are an hour away or the mangroves at the nearby Panti forest. Before you leave Desaru, be sure to savour fresh seafood at the Tanjung Balau Fishing Village or try the lobsters at Sungai Rengit (20-minute drive from Desaru). Desaru is a 1 to 1.5 hours drive from Woodlands checkpoint.
Recommended place to stay
Featuring music-inspired rooms, restaurants, lounges, and other facilities, you can eat, sleep, and chill like A-list celebrities at Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast. There are 365 rooms and suites within the resort, each one equipped with luxurious Sleep Like a RockⓇ bedding, signature Rock SpaⓇ toiletries, and premium amenities like a 55” LED TV and Bose soundbar. True to its name, this hotel also offers unique music amenities through The Sound of Your Stay®.
One of the highlights at Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast is probably their Retune Package. This 3D2N stay includes complimentary daily breakfast, one-time dinner and spa treatments for 2 adults. The 60-min spa treatment in the famous Rock SpaⓇ combines the musical beats and vibrations to infuse energy and vigor into your muscles while you receive a relaxing massage. It definitely makes for a romantic experience.
We hope you enjoyed reading our Johor Bahru Things to Do Guide. If you found it useful, please share it! If you need any help in planning your JB trip, drop us a note and I’m happy to help! Before you leave, don’t miss our wedding guide and honeymoon guide.
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