In its heyday in the 16th century, Batavia was known as “The Queen of the East” and “the Jewel of Asia”. Its Sunda Kelapa harbour was abuzz with merchant vessels from Europe, China, India and from throughout the Indonesian archipelago. They would load and sail away with precious nutmegs, pepper, tea, coffee, ceramics, cloths and other exotic products of the time. The warehouses were stacked with spices, tin and copper. The successful trade in Batavia filled the coffers of the Netherlands' Treasury.
Later the city expanded to the west bank of the Ciliwung river where the Dutch built a fortress, a city wall and canals, outside of which sat Chinatown and the homes of the indigenous people.
This entire area, covering 1.3 square kilometres, is today called the Old Batavia and is the present-day part of North and West Jakarta.
Today many of the original buildings are still intact. The government has designated the Old Batavia as a conservation area and plans are afoot to revive the neighbourhood as a tourist destination.
Additionally, the Sunda Kelapa Harbour is an inter-island harbour where one can mostly find Bugis phinisi schooners at anchor. Nearly all the old warehouses are now converted into a Maritime Museum. This museum houses models of old Dutch ships and the many types of boats used in the archipelago.
The Café Batavia has been restored and now offers authentic Dutch cuisine, pastries and coffee. It boasts a relaxing retro atmosphere with high ceilings, large windows, ceiling fans and wooden beams.
Old Batavia is easily reached by taxi or car via the toll road to Tanjung Priok harbour or the old road via Gunung Sahari past Mangga Dua. However, the latter is usually congested. Once at the Fatahillah Square there are old-fashioned bikes for hire in order to cycle around the area and explore it's many attractions on two wheels.
There are many means of transport in Jakarta to choose from. It is recommended to use the ‘Blue Bird’ taxi or ‘Express Taxi’ for ease and convenience.
There are a variety of hotels in Jakarta available for visitors: from five-star to one-star properties and budget hostels, too.
Beware of pickpockets, therefore please do mind your personal belongings.