Denpasar is a bustling city located in Bali, an island which is less than half the size of the greater metropolitan area of Sydney. There are a lot more people living in Bali than Sydney, which means the population is packed in tighter, and nowhere on the island is this more apparent than in the capital city of Denpasar, where there are more cars per capita than Jakarta.
Denpasar has all the traits of a big city – overcrowding, pollution, rush hours and a general feeling of stress and urgency. But like any other major city in the world, Denpasar also exudes its own unique charm, making it easy to fall in love with the daily chaos of Bali’s biggest city. One thing in Denpasar’s favour is that for a city verging on a population of over a million people, it is relatively crime free. Tourists can wander in the parks or markets without having to worry about their safety, with the biggest annoyance being the overbearing market traders or hawkers.
Denpasar is the seat of the government in Bali and is therefore home to the provincial governor’s office, as well as the administration of the Regency of Bandung. If you want to pick up a free map of the city you can contact the Tourist Information Office, which is a great source of information for current events in Denpasar and the rest of Bali. You’ll find the Tourist Information Office on Jalan Surapati 6, Denpasar. +62 361 2345569, and it’s open between 8AM and 4PM.
How to get to Denpasar
A taxi ride into Denpasar will probably take about 30 mins from Kuta and should set you back about 70,000 Rp (approximately $7-$10 AUD). It’s roughly nine kilometres from the airport, so it’s not a long drive. Remember that pricing in Bali is negotiable, so If you have a group of people, you may want to negotiate a bemo (small van) for a set rate to your destination. Indonesians are great people, however, just like anywhere else in the world they won’t think twice about overcharging you if they can, so always negotiate and agree on a price before you accept a ride.
If you want to go for an adventure to see what Denpasar has to offer and you decide to leave your Bali Luxury Villa, read the guide below for all the best things to see and do.
Things to see in Denpasar
Bali museum (museum Nigeria Propinsi Bali), Jl Mayor Wisny (eastern side of the Alun-Alun Puputan), Ph. +62 361 222680. Sa-Th 8AM-3.30PM, F 8AM-11AM A much under-patronized place by visitors, which offers an informative introduction to all things Balinese, both historical and modern. Originally opened in 1910, the Bali Museum building was brought down in the 1917 earthquake and languished until 1932 when resident German artist Walter Spies sparked a major revival.
Lapangan Puputan Margarana (Puputan Park), Jl Raya Puputan. This rather grandiose park is home to the huge Najra Sandhi monument (which literally translates to Balinese People Struggle). The design of the grey stone monument symbolises the date of the Indonesian independence on August 17th 1945. The monument is most significant 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.
Sidik Jari Museum, Jl Hayam Wuruk 175, ph. +62 361 23511. 9Am – 5PM daily. A small, private fine art museum established and owned by I Gusti Ngurah Gede Pemecutan, which exhibits his own work as well as that of other artists. The Sidik Jari Museum also has facilities for public dance and other performances.
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 located on the second level and handicraft can be found on the top floor. This is a genuine 24 hour Asian market where Balinese people wake as early as 2 am to get their product ready in time, carrying baskets on their heads to spend the day peddling their wares. Badung Central has all the genuine sights, sounds and smells you would expect from a proper market. Visit the meat section for some real authenticity.
Jalan Hassanudin is known as Gold Street and teems with busy traders bartering over gold prices. Even if you don’t want to buy gold, it is worth the experience to wander from shop to shop and peruse over the gold products being sold. There are some beautifully crafted pieces of jewellery on offer but remember, barter wisely to negotiate a good price.
The myriad of small stores selling fabrics and local works in Jalan Gajah Mada and Jalan Thamrim will keep even the most jaded of the world shoppers happy. There is a wonderful shopping street named Jalan Sulawesi where most garment producers in Bali buy their fabric stock.
There are also several shopping malls in Denpasar, the most notable being Ramayana on Jalan Diponegoro, Matahari Buta Plaza on Jalan Dewi Sartika and Robinsons opposite to Matahari. These malls have a huge range of stores selling everything from clothing to arts and craft, as well as everyday shops such as pharmacies.
Is it worth staying in Denpasar?
Denpasar is a melting pot of different cultures from all over Indonesia, India and other parts of Asia. There are lots of great restaurants and even a few half decent hotels, although after a hard day shopping in Denpasar, it’s likely you’ll want to head back to your villa where you can jump in a pool and enjoy a glass of wine, or watch the sunset over the beaches.
While Denpasar makes a great destination for a day trip, I’d advise against making this the base of your accommodation, as Denpasar is a city that’s geared more towards locals than it is to holiday-goers. It’s gritty, loud, busy and the streets are full of petrol fumes and car horns, and while this has a unique charm of its own, it’s not exactly what comes to mind when thinking of a holiday to a tropical island.
As Denpasar is so easy to reach from the airport and the main beach towns of the south like Kuta, Sanur, Canggu, Seminyak and Legian, I’d highly recommend you make one of the beach towns your base and then just venture to Denpasar for a day at your leisure.