Denpasar is a bustling, multi-cultural city and although it can seem a little intimidating the first time you visit, just do not believe those travel guides which say it has nothing to offer.
Denpasar is bristling with temples, palaces and museums and its occupants are outstandingly friendly. You will be off the beaten tourist track here, so bring lots of time for a chat with the locals and a decent map of town. You can see many of the main sights comfortably on foot.
This is also a notable shopping city with options to please even the most jaded of world shoppers.
Where's the airport?
Denpasar is the seat of government in Bali and is therefore home to the provincial governor's office as well as the administration of the Regency of Badung.
Tourist Information Office
Jalan Surapati 6, Denpasar. ☎ +62 361 234569. 8AM-4PM. A source of information for current events in the city and for picking up a free map.
Denpasar is centrally located and easily reached by car or taxi from the main tourist regions of south Bali. A trip from Kuta, Legian and Seminyak will take 20 to 30 minutes depending on traffic. Sanur is just 15 minutes to the east and Ubud about 30 minutes to the north. [2012: Due to traffic, allow 1.5-2 hr to reach the airport from Ubud.] Tabanan is about 40 minutes to the northwest.
A pre-paid taxi from the airport will cost between Rp 70,000-100,000, depending on exactly where in Denpasar you are heading to.
The main bus terminal of Denpasar is Ubung, which is also a bemo terminal.
Most buses to and from Java depart from here.
- To and from Surabaya, Java: expect to pay Rp 120,000 by eksekutif night bus, including the ferry trip between Banyuwangi and Gilimanuk, mineral water and a meal. Buses arrive in the Bungurasih bus terminal in Surabaya. Depart everyday 7PM, duration 10 hr.
- Other services operate to and from most big cities in Java, including Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung and Semarang.
The bemo centre of Bali is here. Inconveniently, bemo terminals are scattered all around town, and transfers between them can be time and money consuming. The major ones are:
- Batubulan, 6 km northeast, for points central and east: (Besakih, Candidasa, Kintamani, Klungkung, Padangbai, Ubud).
Always ask a local for the normal price before getting in or expect to be charged a price up to ten times what it should be.
Don't forget that a bemo departs when it wants (usually when it is "full enough"), which can sometimes require a lengthy wait, except in the early morning, where they are rather frequent. In any case, you won't find any bemo after 4PM.
There is no train station in Denpasar, since there are actually no trains in Bali. But a travel agency in the Ubung bus terminal has an agreement with Kerata Api, the Indonesian train company.
You can buy so-called "train tickets" to and from Surabaya, including a bus (air-conditioned) to Banyuwangi, and the ferry between Gilimanuk and Ketapang, and then a train from Banyuwangi to Surabaya. Price: Rp 154,000 (weekend), Rp 139,000 (weekday) in bisnis (no air-con in the train), or Rp 169,000 in eksekutif (with air-con). Those prices include a commission to the travel agency. There are two services in each direction, each day:
- 22:30 from Surabaya arrival 05:25 in Banyuwangi, arrival approx noon in Denpasar.
- 09:15 from Surabaya arrival 16:04 in Banyuwangi, arrival approx 22:30 in Denpasar.
- 16:00 from Denpasar, train departing 10:25 from Banyuwangi, arrival 05:09 in Surabaya.
- 05:00 from Denpasar, train departing 09:00 from Banyuwangi, arrival 16:00 in Surabaya.
Denpasar can be a bit steamy and the traffic pollution a worry, but the centre of this city does lend itself to getting around on foot and walking is recommended.
Taxis are widely available for hailing. If you have a group of people, you may want to negotiate a bemo (small van) for a set rate to your destination. Remember that pricing is negotiable. Indonesians are great people, however, they won't think twice about overcharging you if they can.
Bemo routes in Denpasar are extremely complicated. In addition to the three terminals described in the section above which operate longer distance bemos, there are three more which handle the local routes (as do the long distance terminals!) - Gunung Agung, Sanglah and Kereneng. Unless you are very patient and somewhat adventurous, bemo transport within Denpasar is best left to the locals to figure out. As a rule of thumb though most routes in the city seem to come through Kereneng Terminal on Jalan Kamboja at some stage.
To go from one bemo terminal to another within the city, the fixed price is Rp 7,000 although non-Indonesians may be asked to pay much more. A taxi can work out cheaper, is certainly faster and is indescribably more comfortable.
As elsewhere in Bali, motorbikes can be rented, although it is more normal for a visitor to arrive with a bike rather than rent one here.
When visiting any of the temples in Denpasar, remember to bring a sarong and sash with you. These temples receive relatively few foreign visitors and are unlikely to have temple dress available for hire or loan.
- Alun-Alun Puputan (Puputan Square), Jl Gajah Mada/Jl Suprati. The huge four-faced, eight-armed Catur Mukha statue is situated here at the centre point of the city. Representing the Lord Brahma and it serves as a guardian of each cardinal point. The square is a key point of orientation for the whole city. If you get lost, find your way back here and all will be clear.
- Bali Museum (Museum Negeri Propinsi Bali), Jl Mayor Wisnu (eastern side of the Alun-Alun Puputan), ☎ . Sa-Th 08:00-15:30, F 08:00-11:00. A much under-patronised place by visitors which offers an informative introduction to all things Balinese, both historical and modern-day. Originally opened in 1910, the building was brought down in the 1917 earthquake and languished until 1932 when resident German artist Walter Spies sparked a major revival. The grounds and architecture are quite charming, and the museum is housed in four separate pavilions. The main pavilion has a great collection including ancient stone, bronze and wooden artifact. The southern pavilion houses many textiles, the northern pavilion concentrates on the history of Balinese performance art, and the central pavilion is devoted to Balinese Hinduism and ritual. If this place was in Kuta or Nusa Dua it would be swamped with tourists. Rp 11,000.
- Lapangan Puputan Margarana (Puputan Park), Jl Raya Puputan. This rather grandiose park is home to the huge Bajra Sandhi monument (literally Balinese Peoples Struggle). The design of the grey stone monument symbolises the date of Indonesian independence, August 17th 1945. There are eight entrances, 17 corners and the height is 45 m. The monument is most significant though for its commemoration of the various puputans (suicidal fight to the death) of the Balinese in the struggle against the Dutch in the early 20th century. At the northern edge of the park you will find the governor's office and other government buildings.
- Palace of Satria and the Royal Temples, Jl Veteren (about 300 metres north of Alun-Alun Puputan). 08:00-16:00 daily. The palace and temple of the royal family of Denpasar which is beautifully kept. It is open to all residents of Denpasar for worship. Some wonderfully ornate carvings, even by Balinese standards. Donation.
- Pura Agung Jagatnata (Jagatnata Temple) (Adjacent to the northern boundary of the Bali Museum). A state temple which was built in 1953. Dedicated to the supreme being Sanghyang Widi Wasa, this temple is open to all worshipers without any restriction as it is a government building and not a village temple. There are large ceremonies here twice a month at full moon and dark moon. Ask at the tourist office for a detailed schedule.
- Pura Maospahit (Maospahit Temple), Jl Sutomo. An ancient temple with a long and glorious history thought to originate in the 14th century. This is a temple typical of the peak of the Majapahit period being constructed largely from red brick. Sadly, much of it was destroyed in the early 20th century earthquake but there are some original remnants including the guardian statues in the inner courtyard. This is a charming temple and one which is seldom visited by tourists, and so there's every chance you will have it to yourself.
- Sidik Jari Museum, Jl Hayam Wuruk 175, ☎ . 09:00-17:00 daily. Small, private fine art museum established and owned by I Gusti Ngurah Gede Pemecutan and which exhibits his own work as well as that of other artists. Also has facilities for public dance and other performances.
- Taman Wedhi Budaya Cultural Centre, Jl Nusa Indah,. 08:00-15:30 daily. A museum that covers the history and essence of Balinese art. The classical schools are well represented by both paintings and sculpture and there is a large section featuring contemporary Balinese art. Gamelan orchestra performances are also held. Rp 3,000.
It is very much worth finding information from the official tourism office about scheduled cultural events in Denpasar. These are many and varied and include, dance, puppet theatre and art exhibitions.
Otherwise, apart from the numerous sights and excellent shopping, there are not really any specific activities to recommend in Denpasar.
Contrary to what you might read in many guide books, the best shopping in Bali is in Denpasar.
- Badung Central Market, Jl Gajah Mada is best visited in the early morning. The ground level is devoted to fresh foodstuffs, dried food and spices are on the second level and handicrafts can be found on the top level.
- Duta Silk, fabulous silk emporium located at Block 1, Komplex Duta Permai (next to Matahari Department store) on Jalan Dewi Sartika.
- Gold, competitive jewellery prices abound in Jl Hasanuddin and Jl Sulawesi.
- The myriad of small stores selling fabrics and local works in Jl Gajah Mada and Jl Thamrin will keep happy even the most jaded of world shoppers.
- There are several shopping malls in Denpasar, the most notable being Ramayana on Jl Diponegoro, Matahari Duta Plaza on Jl Dewi Sartika and Robinsons opposite Matahari. These malls have a huge range of stores selling everything from clothing to arts and crafts as well as more everyday shops such as pharmacies.
Denpasar is a melting pot of different cultures from all over Indonesia. There are few places where the results of the government trans-migration policy are more evident than here. For that reason it is a wonderful place to eat with restaurants specialising in different regional and ethnic Indonesian cuisines. Sometimes this can all seem a bit inaccessible and hard to find for visitors, so do not be shy to ask your driver or at your hotel.
- Atoom Bara, Jl Gajah Mada 106-108, ☎ . Chinese restaurant specialising in seafood. It appears unimpressive but the food is fantastic.
- Ayam Goreng Nyonya Suharti, Jl Gatot Subroto 109, Ubung, ☎ . Famous fried chicken cooked with an old family recipe from Java. A bit out of the way but definitely worth the effort in getting there.
- Ayam Taliwang, Jl Teuku Umar, ☎ . A restaurant noted for the Lombok speciality of Ayam Taliwang (grilled or fried young chicken). Spicy and delicious.
- Bali Bakery, Jl Hayam Wuruk 181, Tanjung Bungkak, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 8AM to 9.30PM. Long established bakery and bistro/cafe. Very good quality bread, pastries and cakes produced fresh every day. Large lunch and dinner menu which includes local favourites and some well chosen international dishes.
- Cianjur, Jl Cok Agung Tresna, Renon, ☎ . Named after a town in West Java, its dishes are influenced by Sundanese cuisine. A little out of the city centre in the suburb of Renon. The grilled and sour-sweet Ikan Gurame is especially recommended.
- Kak Man, Jl Teuku Umar 135, ☎ . This place is an absolute institution. Truly excellent Balinese food including bebek betutu (smoked duck).
- Kereneng Night Market (Pasar Malam Kereneng), Jl Hayam Wuruk/Jl Kamboja. This market starts up at sunset eveyday and is open until dawn. All manner of Indonesian food served from dozens of stalls. It is rough and ready, but the food is excellent and 100% authentic.
- Warung Nasi Bali, Jl Hayam Wuruk 69A, ☎ . Excellent local food at very good prices. Highly recommended for a real tate of Indonesia in a very authentic environment.
- Warung Wardani, Jl Yudistira 2, ☎ . Excellent Indonesian cuisine. Look no further than the Nasi Campur (rice with various spicy side dishes) which is what everyone comes here to eat.
The foodcourts on the upper levels of Denpasar's department stores all serve surprisingly good food at excellent value prices. Try Ramayana, Matahari and Tiara Dewata department stores.
- Ramayana (Jalan Diponegoro, Matahari Duta Plaza). Ramayana on Jalan Diponegoro, Matahari Duta Plaza on Jalan Dewi Sartika and Robinsons opposite Matahari. These malls have a huge range of stores selling everything from clothing to arts and crafts as well as more everyday shops such as pharmacies.
- Bali Bakery, Jl Hayam Wuruk 181, Tanjung Bungkak. Long established bakery and bistro/cafe. Very good quality bread, pastries and cakes produced fresh every day. Large lunch and dinner menu which includes local favourites and some well chosen international dishes.
- Kereneng Night Market (Pasar Malam Kereneng), Jl Hayam Wuruk/Jl Kamboja. This market starts up at sunset eveyday and is open until dawn. All manner of Indonesian food served from dozens of stalls. It is rough and ready, but the food is excellent and authentic.
- Warung Nasi Bali, Jl Hayam Wuruk 69A. Excellent local food at very good prices. Highly recommended for a real tate of Indonesia in a very authentic environment.
- Bhineka Jaya Kopi Bali, Jl Gajah Madah 80, ☎ . An absolute must for coffee lovers. Indonesia produces some of the best coffee in the world and here you can order your favourite brew as well as buy the beans. Products include coffee from Central Java, Toraja from Sulawesi, Mandailing from Sumatra and of course the very best of Bali coffee. The outlet of the famous Butterfly Globe brand.
There are many small budget hotels in Denpasar which are primarily aimed at domestic business travellers as few foreign tourists stay in the city here. These are reasonably priced and comfortable enough. Within a 500 m walk of the Alul-Alun Puputan there are many options which will nearly always have availability. Shop around.
- Adi Yasa Hotel, Jl Nakula 23, ☎ . Charming, authentic, family-run, budget hotel. It's no frills, has cold water, but the proprietors are very friendly and accommodating. Close to many tourist sites and very inexpensive, authentic restaurants. Private bathrooms and Internet connection in every room. Considered to be one of the oldest hotels in Denpasar and one of the best-kept secrets for the budget traveller. from Rp 80,000.
- Aston Denpasar Hotel and Conference Centre, Jl Gatot Subroto Barat No 283, ☎ . 3/4 star hotel from the Aston chain. Probably the best standard hotel in Denpasar but very much aimed at the conference and business travel market. from about Rp 800,000.
- Genesis Hotel and Spa, Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai 888, ☎ . 4 star hotel & spa with 5 suites and 71 rooms, including 9 sets of interconnecting rooms for families. Easy access to the main Jl Ngurah Rai bypass. Rates start at US$ 85.
- Inna Bali Inn (Natour Bali Hotel), Jl Veteren, ☎ . Mid-market hotel owned by the government and designed principally for hosting conferences. Good city location though. Has an interesting colonial past and a few nice historical touches remain. Rp 400,000.
- Merta Sari Hotel, Jl Hasanudin 24 (2 minutes walk south from the Alun-Alun Puputan), ☎ 62 361 222428. Simple clean hotel.
- Nakula Familiar Inn, Jl Nakula 4, ☎ . Huge, modern rooms, WiFi, each with a balcony and choice of fan or A/C, and a welcoming family-style. From Rp 130,000 single, Rp 150,000 double.
- Taman Suci Hotel, Jl Imam Bonjol 45, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 45 room hotel in a strategic city position. Popular with domestic travellers. From Rp 325,000.
- Tirta Lestari Hotel, Jl Nangka 62 (1 km north of the city centre), ☎ . Simple clean hotel which will appeal to travellers on a budget. From Rp 120,000.
Virtually all of Bali can be accessed easily from Denpasar.
- After spending time in the crowded city, head 45 minutes north to Ubud for clean air and spiritual refreshment.
- The golden beaches of Sanur are just 15 minutes drive east.