Best new address: St. Regis Kuala Lumpur
Opened just months ago and housed in a lavish new 48-storey skyscraper, every surface at the St. Regis sparkles, from the mirrored exterior to the lobby’s Swarovski chandeliers. And then there’s the gold-leaf ceiling murals and the glitzy rooftop infinity pool. The rooms are more refined, with mini-bars in leather trunks, rambling marble bathrooms and butlers who will unpack your suitcase, iron your clothes and deliver complimentary hot drinks and snacks on demand. There are five fabulous bars and restaurants. It’s Crystal, however, the glamorous rooftop lounge, that steals the show with its high-tech, multi-media wall and high-octane city centre views.
Rooms: Doubles from £480, room only.
Best for nightlife: Hotel Maya
A soaring atrium, elevated walkways and vast walls of glass give the Maya an aesthetic edge over other four-stars. Rooms are crisp, clean and comfortable, with everything you need, including access to the guest-only Sky Lounge where complimentary drinks and snacks are served every evening. There are indoor swimming and hydrotherapy pools opening up to Kuala Lumpur’s ever morphing skyline; a terrific little spa and a clutch of casual restaurants. The kicker, though, is the location, close to KL’s newest clubbing district, Electric Boulevard, home to some of the best nightlife found anywhere in the city.
Rooms: Doubles from £63, room only.
Best for celeb-spotting: Mandarin Oriental
This glamorous city-centre hotel is alive with famous faces when the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix comes to town — you might spot Benedict Cumberbatch over breakfast in the executive lounge or rub shoulders with Lewis Hamilton in the Sultan Bar. Facilities are excellent — think swish rooftop pool with views of the Petronas Towers, leafy outdoor bar, tennis courts, state-of-the-art golf simulators and a dreamy new spa. The service is superb, rooms are typically walnut woods, creamy walls and peachy marble, and it all comes at a fraction of the cost of staying at a Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong or London.
Rooms: Doubles from £104, B&B.
Best for foodies: Anggun Hotel
Set in a former Chinese shop-house on a leafy street around the corner from the city’s best-loved foodie neighbourhood, Jalan Alor, the Anggun offers a delicious slice of old KL. To say the rooms are petite would be polite. They are quite lovely, though, with natural stone tubs, glazed sinks, shuttered windows and art works. The rooftop terrace offers a delightful spot for breakfast. For your other meals look no further than the end of the street, where you’ll find rows of stalls selling aromatic black beef balls, chilli-topped chicken rice and steaming bowls of hokkien mee (goopy noodles drenched in soy sauce) at about £2 a pop.
Rooms: Doubles from £45, B&B.
Best for budget: Rainforest Bed and Breakfast
For all its many luxury properties, there are budget options too, and this B&B, hidden under a thick veil of tropical foliage in buzzy Bukit Bintang, ticks all the boxes. Guests are greeted with courteous staff and wafts of frankincense, while rooms are simple but atmospheric, with teak beds, tiled floors and spacious, spotlessly clean, white marble bathrooms. If you’re after more than a tea-and-toast brekkie, head for a traditional nasi lemak (coconut milk rice) from the street stalls on Jalan Alor.
Rooms: Doubles from £22, B&B.
Best for grandeur: Ritz Carlton
Opened in 1997, the Ritz Carlton still sets the bar for luxury in Kuala Lumpur with its impeccable and renowned 24-hour butler service. Rooms are elegant and cosy. A choice of five restaurants includes the Cobalt Room, with its showpiece food station, the Cantonese Li Yen. Its Spa Village features Asia’s ‘only sensory-sound bathroom’.
Rooms: Deluxe from £117; room only.
Best for honeymooners: Villa Samadhi
Boutiques are still a rarity in KL but this 21-room hideaway is a sweet spot. The thatched roof, lanterns and tropical foliage carry a sense of the Balinese. Some rooms have outdoor hot tubs, others direct access to the swimming pool and all are extremely spacious with calm, minimalist, dark-wood interiors. Birdsong accompanies a divine a la carte breakfast, while in the evening the candle-lit terraces and soft glow of the swimming pool are wonderfully romantic.
Rooms: Doubles from £129, B&B.
Best for staying in: Grand Hyatt
You could spend hours whizzing up and down in the Hyatt’s ear-popping elevators from gym to spa to palm-laced pool where saltwater swimming comes with views of the Petronas Towers. The extravagant breakfast is an all-morning affair, and by the time it’s over, you might as well wait out sunset when the sky-high Thirty8 cocktail bar hots up. Plush bedrooms are equally fun, particularly the cubicle bathrooms. Transparent walls mean you can bear all and enjoy the city views, or flick a switch to magically turn the glass opaque.
Rooms: Doubles from £125.
Best for views: Traders
Cesar Pelli’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers turned 20 in March and there’s no better place from which to gawp at them than Traders Hotel, sitting right opposite. Traders’ recently refurbished rooms — in creams, mossy greens and pale woods — are capped by a 25-metre swimming pool on the 33rd floor, alongside the Sky Bar, one of the city’s most popular night-time hangouts — be sure to book a table at least a day ahead. Also on the doorstep is Kuala Lumpur’s biggest shopping mall, the Suria KLCC and the lush City Park, as well of stacks of bars and restaurants. First-timers couldn’t be better placed to take the city in.
Rooms: Doubles from £73, room only.
Best for history: The Majestic Hotel
A heritage hotel straight out of the golden age of travel, the Majestic is all neo-classical columns and art deco detailing with white-gloved doormen to boot. Inside, the building has been split into two; there are tiled floors, Persian rugs, white wood panelling, Chinese lamps and swirling wooden fans in the original 1930s building, and swathes of black marble, giant Gatsby-esque chandeliers and a lively buffet restaurant in the new 12-storey tower wing. It’s located in one of the city’s most fascinating neighbourhoods, opposite the marvellous old Malayan Railway Station, a Moorish-inspired beauty.
Rooms: Doubles from £120, B&B.
Published in the Malaysia 2016 guide, distributed with the December 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)