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.
Contrary to popular belief, Denpasar, the capital and administrative center of Bali, is an interesting little city and certainly worth a few days of exploration. There is no denying that it is a chaotic and traffic filled city, however, battle past the mayhem and discover a place of peaceful gardens, traditional markets, fine street cuisine and impromptu dance performances. At the heart of the city is Puputan Square and Satria Palace, bounded by a handful of intertwining shopping streets, perfect for picking up bargain Balinese curios. Head north of the centre and discover many time honoured districts, where traditional life and rituals prevail.
Perhaps the most favourable aspect of Denpasar is its location on the island. Less than 10 minutes from the east coast town of Sanur and 15 minutes from the party town of Kuta, the city serves as a great base from where to explore the fascinating beach life on Bali. Further more, buses and minibuses (bemos) are readily available to ferry locals and tourists to and from the destinations.
Being the transport hub of Bali, connections are frequently available for destinations on the island and other major cities in Indonesia. Buses, including a short ferry ride across the BaliStrait, head for Java, Jakarta, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. Airlines from destinations across Australia and Europe land at the Ngurah Rai International, 15km south of the city. Denpasar centre is easily manageable on foot, although it may be worth renting a car or motorbike to get to the northern suburbs and beach towns.
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. Tabanan is about 40 minutes to the northwest.
A pre-paid taxi from the airport will cost between Rp 70,000 and 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 hours.
- Other bindings 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).
- Tegal, to the west, for southern Bali: (Kuta, Legian,Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Uluwatu).
- Ubung, to the north, for points north and west: (Gilimanuk, Negara, Singaraja, Tabanan).
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 last for several hours, 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 a/c in the train), or Rp 169,000 in eksekutif (a/c). Those prices include a small commission of the travel agency. There are two services in each direction, each day:
- 10:30PM from Surabaya arrival 5:25AM in Banyuwangi, arrival approx noon in Denpasar.
- 9:15AM from Surabaya arrival 4:04PM in Banyuwangi, arrival approx 10:30PM in Denpasar.
- 4PM from Denpasar, train departing 10:25PM from Banyuwangi, arrival 5AM in Surabaya.
- 5AM from Denpasar, train departing 9AM from Banyuwangi, arrival 4PM 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, as would happen anywhere else.
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.
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 metre walk of the Alul-Alun Puputan there are many options which will nearly always have availability. Shop around.
The modern and trendy property is ideally situated in the heart of Denpasar City, offering cozy room accommodations fitted for both business and leisure travelers. Built with an eco-friendly mindset, POP! Hotel Denpasar Teuku Umar strongly promotes a smart way of living. Room starts from $29. Book Now!
The unusual layout of this small hotel is its greatest attraction. All 10 rooms at this 3.5-star hotel are tailored to satisfy guests’ needs. Every room in the hotel offers guests internet access – wireless, in room safe, hair dryer, desk. Room starts from $48. Book Now!
Each of the 13 rooms at this 4-star hotel have all the comforts and conveniences of home. There are shower, bathrobes, air conditioning, complimentary bottled water in each of the hotel’s well-equipped rooms. Room starts from $107. Book Now!
Located amidst the city of Denpasar, this brand new hotel is ideal for both tourists and business travelers. It offers stylish accommodation featuring featuring fun, fresh and friendly rooms. Room starts from $31. Book Now!
This charming property has long been a favorite in Bali for both business and leisure travelers, rooms are all designed with guests’ comfort in mind. Each room includes air conditioning, desk, television. Room starts from $28, breakfast included! Book Now!
There are many interesting places you can visit in Denpasar, but since the temples in Denpasar are not visited quite often by the tourists so there is no temple dress available to be hired there, it is advisable for you to bring a sarong and sash with you. Here are some interesting places you can visit in Denpasar.
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 patronised by tourists. Every chance you will have it to yourself.
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 anicent stone, bronze and wooden artifact. The southern pavilion houses many textiles, the northern pavilion concetrates on the history of Baliense 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. Bali Museum is at the center of Denpasar city, exactly on Mayor Wisnu Street, entrancde is Rp 3,000.
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 precisely 45 metres. 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 nortern edge of the park you will find the governor’s office and other government buildings. Located at JL Raya Puputan.
Balinese People’s Struggle Monument
The People’s Struggle Monument’s shape looks like a bell with spacious lawn surrounding the monument. The main building itself also consist of three parts those are : Nistaning Utama Mandala (first floor), Madyaning Utama Mandala (the floor), and Utamaning utama mandala (the third floor). In the first floor you can find Information booth, Staff Room, Exhibition Room, Library, Souvenir Shop, Meeting Room, and Toilet. The exhibition room exhibits interesting artifacts range from documentary to documentary letters about the history of Bali. The second floor houses 33 dioramas of Balinese history. Diorama no 1 until 15 tell about Balinese in pre-history and Balinese Kingdom and diorama no 16 until 33 tell about Balinese people struggle against the Dutch. The topmost floor gives you a bird-eye view of Denpasar City.Balinese People’s Struggle Monument is located at Jl Raya Puputan.
This is one of some palaces opened to visitors located on Jalan Thamrin 2, Denpasar, one of the tourist-packages offered in Denpasar city-tour program. It is about 200 meters from Puputan Badung Park to the West and close to the two traditional markets: Pasar Badung and Pasar Kumbasari. The traditional Balinese-architectured palace was built around 17 th century and nowadays managed by the last King of Denpasar : Ida Cokorda Pemecutan. The palace is also completed with accommodation for those who want to stay and enjoy the royal atmosphere.
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. This Hindu Temple located in the center of Denpasar town. It is precisely located in Major Wisnu street eastside field of Puputan Badung. It is located adjacent to the northern boundary of the Bali Museum.
Taman Wedhi Budaya Cultural Center
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 here. Located at Jl Nusa Indah,. 8AM-3:30PM daily.Rp 3,000.
Sidik Jari Museum
Sidik Jari Museum is a private fine art museum established and owned by I Gusti Ngurah Gede Pemecutan. It keeps the work of its owner, and its also keeps work of other artists. The uniqueness of the work here is that the paintings are done through the use of the tips of the fingers in applying different colours or paints in order to represent the artist’s imagination. Located at Jl Hayam Wuruk 175, ☎ +62 361 23511. Opens 9AM-5PM daily.
Entertainment & Nightlife in Denpasar
Being a major metropolis of South Bali, Denpasar offers many nightlife and entertainment options. Denpasar Nightlife is varied, ranging from the usual mix of late-night pubbing/clubbing options, to other activities that are unique to Denpasar. Denpasar is not known for its nightlife, largely due to the colourful events taking place at nearby Kuta. However, there are plenty of places to eat and grab a Bintang. Check out Warung Bendega for exquisite seafood, served in an open air restaurant to the sounds of Balinese pop. Also worth trying is the Pasar Malam Kereneng, with over 50 local stalls serving up bargain plates of noodles, soup rice dishes and cold beers. For live some live local music head to Ozigo Country.
Clubbing in Denpasar
The most sought-after club is the Bali Peanuts Club. It is located on the road heading towards Kuta. The regulars include the prominent businessmen and bureaucrats of the city. While some sections can be accessed through special invitations only, the disco floor is open to the public. Visitors can spend some time at the billiard tables, too. Goa 2001 is another very happening club of Seminyak. Its bar is rated among the best in Bali, and has often been featured in magazine reviews. The facilities here include a European-style coffee bar and a huge, Bali-style sushi bar. Other options include visiting the Tuban Discotheque, which plays loud party music. A typical disco bar, the Tuban attracts the youngest crowd of Denpasar. Another favorite is the Hard Rock Café, near Kuta, that remains open until 2 a.m. on every day of the week.
Denpasar Nighttime Dancing
Nighttime entertainment options include dancing at the Padma Club or at the decks of the Citra Discotech. These two places also offer cheap alcoholic beverages and hearty suppers. A recommended option for addressing late-night hunger is visiting the Hulu Café. It is located close to the Padma and arranges for special cabaret shows on weekends. The most popular of shows include the Hulu Idol, which features Indonesia’s native entertainment divas. Visitors planning to visit the Hulu on weekends should seek prior booking. A nice place to grab a cheap bite there includes the Babi Guling.
Shopping in Denpasar
Your journey wouldn’t be complete without shopping for some souvenirs to take home. Great places to go shopping are the Badung Central Market, Komplex Duta Permai, Matahari Duta Plaza and the multitude of small crafts stores located all around the city center.Denpasar is a great place to shop for Balinese handicrafts, fabrics wood and stone carvings and prices are likely to be lower than those at the beachside resorts. Both the Badung Market and Kumbasari Market might be worth a look for fabrics and other souvenir desires. For something slightly alternative check out Pasar Burung, a market full of caged birds, rabbits and monkeys. These animals are for sale, so perhaps not the best place for animal lovers.
Denpasar Night Markets
These night markets aren’t necessarily a cheaper version of the more authentic shops. Unlike other night markets that insist upon displaying lots of discounted goods, Denpasar night markets emphasize unique, native Indonesian offerings. This includes an array of food stalls that sprout up along the streets as soon as the sun sets. The most popular night markets here include the market along the outer edge of Kumbasari and the one behind the Kereneng Terminal.
These markets offer the rarest of authentic Balinese and Javanese cuisine—including dishes that aren’t even found in specialty restaurants. A perfect nighttime schedule would be to visit one of these markets, have a meal, and then head towards the nearby Wisata Cineplex. This is the local late-night theatre. Another option is the Galeria Cinema, which has blockbuster nights featuring the latest hits from Hollywood.
What & Where to buy
Badung Central Market on Jalan 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 is a fabulous silk emporium located at Block 1, Komplex Duta Permai (next to Matahari Department store) on Jalan Dewi Sartika.
Gold stores with globally competitive jewellry prices abound in Jalan Hasanuddin and Jalan Sulawesi.
The myriad of small stores selling fabrics and local works in Jalan Gajah Mada and Jalan Thamrin will keep happy even the most jaded of world shoppers.
There are several shopping malls in Denpasar, the most notable being 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.
There are several good restaurants in Denpasar. You might want to try out some of the local favorite dishes like satay, noodle soup, babi and murtabak. You can find all of these and more at the Kereneng night market. There are also restaurants that offer authentic Indonesian and Balinese cuisines such as Cianjur, Kak Man and Warung Wardani.
The cheapest option for food is without any doubt having your meal at one of the markets. Besides the fact that it is cheap, it’s authentic and tasty and accompanied by the nice huste and bustle of market-life. You can find stalls with a wider choice of food at the malls. And because Bali knows its visitors, for those who want to eat their native cuisine…fair chance that you’ll come across you’re favourite dish. Especially in touristy areas such as Kuta, you’ll find more restaurants serving continental and chinese food than authentic restaurants that serve local dishes. (And don’t be suprised when your sate doesn’t come with peanut sauce, all you Dutch people).
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.
>>Next page: Tanah Lot