Top 10 Things To Do In Banda Aceh

Banda Aceh is one of the lesser visited provinces in Indonesia, although those who make the trip will be rewarded with interesting sights and things to do. Banda Aceh is easily accessible as you can fly in directly to the main airport here or you can travel to Medan in North Sumatra and then move on from there.

The province was devastated by a tsunami in 2004 but has been rebuilt so that only a few reminders can still be found. This is also the only place in Indonesia to have Shariah law but visitors will find it remarkably laid back, at least on the surface, and while you should dress conservatively you will not be expected to cover up as the locals do.

Here are our top picks of what to do in Banda Aceh:

Mesjid (Masjid) Raya Baiturrahman

Mesjid Raya is the main mosque in Banda Aceh and was built in the 19th century by the Dutch. This mosque is an absolute must visit. The mosque is decorated with gorgeous domes and beautiful traditional Muslim Islamic motifs. It is very picturesque and is the favourite of many photographers at day or night. At night, it lits up beautifully with the strategic lightings. Note that if you visit you will have to dress conservatively and women will have to wear a headscarf.

Jalan Mohammad Jam
Opening hours: 7-11 am and 1.30-4 pm.

Admission is free although donations are encouraged.

Masjid Mosque Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Aceh great mosque. Photo by Vidi Agiorno

Tsunami Museum

The Tsunami Museum is one of the top attractions in Aceh and is designed as a powerful tribute to those who lost their lives when the waters raged into the province. Around 170,000 people are said to have died in the floods and the Tsunami Museum is filled with waterfalls that mimic some of the experience. You will also find videos and news reports of the tragedy and this is an exceptionally moving visit if you want to learn more about this difficult period of Aceh’s history.

Jalan Sultan Iskandar Muda, Banda Aceh.
Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 9-12 pm and 2-4.30 pm.
Friday 9-11.30 am and 2.30-4.30 pm.
Closed on Mondays.

Tsunami Museum, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Tsunami Museum. Photo by Dinokl, via Wikimedia Commons

PLTD Apung

Another reminder of the devastating tsunami can be found on a visit to PLTD Apung which is a large ship that would have once sailed in the waters around Aceh. When the tsunami hit it was carried inland and has been left there as a monument to those who lost their lives. You can actually climb aboard the ship and walk around and one of the best reasons to do this is to look out across Banda Aceh and take in the scenery.

Jalan Harapan, Banda Aceh.

Monday – Sunday 9 am – 12 pm and 2 – 5.30 pm.
Fridays 2 – 5 pm.

PLTD Apung ship, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

PLTD Apung ship. Photo by Andy Doyle from Dublin, Republic of Ireland, via Wikimedia Commons

Warung Kopi Solong

If you make it to Aceh then you absolutely mustn’t miss the chance to visit Warung Kopi Solong which is something of an institution in Banda Aceh. The region is known for its delicious coffee and this place has been serving up some of Aceh’s finest brews since 1974. If you are looking for a souvenir of your trip then you can also buy bags of the delicious and earthy grounds beans.

Jalan Teuku Iskandar
Opening hours: 9 am – 7 pm

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Museum Negeri Banda Aceh

The Aceh Museum is well worth exploring if you want to learn more about the culture of this part of Indonesia. Inside you will find some collections with photographs and memorabilia like farming equipment, textiles, swords, and other traditional curios. The signature piece here, however, is a stuffed baby buffalo with two heads.

Jalan Sultan Alauddin Mahmudsyah
Opening hours: Tues – Sun 8 am – 12 pm and 2 -4.30 pm.
Fridays 8.30 -11.30 am and 2.30 – 4 pm.
Closed on Mondays.
Admission: IDR 10,000.

Museum, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Museum Banda Aceh. Photo by Si Gam, via Wikimedia Commons

Rumah Aceh

Rumah Aceh is actually part of Museum Negeri Banda Aceh and sits in the grounds of the museum. Rumah Aceh features a house on stilts which shows you how people would have lived in the days of old. This is actually the most interesting attraction at the museum so make sure not to miss it.

Jalan Sultan Alauddin Mahmudsyah
Opening hours: Tues – Sun 8 – 12 pm and 2 – 4.30 pm. Fridays 8.30 am – 11.30 am and 2.30 pm – 4 pm. Closed on Mondays.

Admission: IDR 5,000.

Rumah Aceh Tenggara, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Rumah Aceh Tenggara. Photo by Rilies via Wikimedia Commons

Kherkhof Cemetery and Museum

Another moving sight in Aceh is Kherkhof which is a large cemetery with Dutch and Indonesian graves. The soldiers interred here died while fighting against the Acehs and there are inscriptions of the names of those who died at the entrance of the cemetery. The area was destroyed in the tsunami and the grave stones ripped up by the waters but these have now been replaced with wooden crosses.

Jalan Teuku Umar
Opening hours: 8 am – 6 pm.

Kherkof Cemetery and Museum, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Kherkof Cemetery and Museum. Photo by Rachmat04 via Wikimedia Commons

Gunongan

Gunongan is a pretty little attraction although you may not know what you are looking for at first. This is actually a monument built by Sultan Iskandar Muda for his wife as a reminder of her hometown of Pahang in Malaysia. It would have been used as a bathing place for the princess although now anyone can visit.

Jalan Teuku Umar
Opening hours 8 am – 6 pm.

Gunongan monument, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Gunongan monument Banda Aceh. Photo by Si Gam, via Wikimedia Commons

Pasar Malam Rek

Pasar Malam Rek is definitely worth a look if you are in the area as this is the most famous of all the night markets in Banda Aceh. As darkness falls, the stalls start up, and you will find delicious treats such as freshly grilled satay, fried rice, and toothsome noodles.

Intersection of Jalan Ahmad Yani and Jalan Khairil Anwar.
Opening hours: 5 – 10 pm.

Pulau Weh

For many people, the main reason to come to Aceh is to visit Pulau Weh which is an island that can easily be reached from Banda Aceh. Pulau Weh is something of a hidden gem in the region and you can expect azure seas and some excellent snorkelling opportunities. This is one of the top tourist spots in Aceh both for foreign and domestic tourists although you are unlikely to find crowds whenever you choose to visit.

Pulau Weh, Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Pulau Weh Islands. Photo by Vanina W.

Boasting so many things to do and attractions, Banda Aceh is truly a delightful surprise of Sumatra. From here on there are many places to visit such as Medan, Lake Toba, Berastagi and Pulau Weh Island. So if you are ever in Sumatra, remember to add on this interesting city to your trip list.

Related articles:
Diving Pulau Weh Island
Top 10 Must Visit Places in Sumatra

Aisyah Llewellyn

Author: Aisyah Llewellyn

Aisyah Llewellyn lives in Sumatra in beautiful Indonesia and writes widely about food and travel in Southeast Asia. Fluent in Indonesian, she also runs food tours educating travellers about Indonesian food and ingredients. She has travelled all over Indonesia but fell in love with North Sumatra when she first visited over 10 years ago. You can follow her on Twitter @BRITgrlINDOfood

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