Surabaya is a bustling metropolitan that's full of life and activities. Traffic jams are commonplace, and some even consider it not so far behind the infamous capital city of Jakarta in terms of traffic. Compared to the tranquil setting of East Java, Surabaya is a very lively place to visit.
Looking beyond the typical big city situation, you will find that Surabaya has its own hidden points of interest that might just be worth your while. Its historic Arab quarter is fascinating: a labyrinth of intertwining lanes leading to a historic mosque that's a place of pilgrimage. Surabaya also has one of Indonesia's biggest Chinatowns and a roster of impressive, though disintegrating, Dutch buildings.
For most foreign visitors, the city is merely a place to change planes, trains or buses. For locals, however, Surabaya is closely linked to the birth of the Indonesian nation, as it was here that the battle for independence began. To them, Surabaya is Kota Pahlawan (City of Heroes), and statues commemorating independence are scattered all over the city.
Sights & Activities
In addition to the elaborate Arab quarter and impressively sprawling Chinatown, Surabaya has a number of interesting historical areas. The House of Sampoerna is undoubtedly the city's best-presented attraction in the form of factory and museum. Home to one of Indonesia's biggest cigarette manufacturers, the museum is a shrine to the Sampoerna empire that holds an incredible collection of cigarette lighters, holders and cases from Europe, Ming dynasty china and a vintage Heidelberg printing press.
Surabaya is a city with loads of history, and even though much of Surabaya's historical centre is literally falling to pieces, the old city area with its crumbling Dutch architecture, strong Chinese influences and Arab quarter, makes for a very charming sight reminiscent of the days of yore. A good place to start exploring the old city is Jembatan Merah, the so-called Red Bridge that saw fierce fighting during Indonesia's battle for independence. The entire length of Jembatan Merah road, running south of the bus terminal along the canal, is a grungy replica of Amsterdam. Although unfortunately not well taken care off, there are plenty of examples of Dutch architecture to be seen along the road.
Why not make your visit a worthwhile culinary journey? With all the life and activity, Surabaya is teeming with unique and delicious eateries from local delicacies to international signatures. An example would be Soto Ambengan Pak Sadi Asli, which is set in the original location of a chain of soto ayam (chicken soup) eateries with several branches across Surabaya. If you prefer international fare, visit Casa Fontana, one of the best Italian eateries in town, serving up grilled meats, seafood, pasta and pizza in an intimate surrounding of candlelit gingham tablecloths and dapper setting.