Everything you Need to Know about Solo
Solo has been an important centre of Javanese culture and tradition since its founding as the heart of the Mataram kingdom in 1745. Though more conservative and lesser travelled than nearby Yogyakarta, Solo -- also known as Surakarta -- has an interesting range of things to see including the 18th century Puri Mangkunegaran palace, temples, museums, cultural dance shows and musical performances. Now a major textile centre, Solo is the place to pick up some of Indonesia's best batik fabrics and other local crafts.
Solo is also a fantastic launching point for exploring the countryside of Central Java, a lush, mountainous region with a rich and varied agricultural landscape. Many points throughout the city offer superb views of the active volcano, Mount Merapi. The breathtaking Borobudur and Prambanan temples can be easily visited on a day trip, and good road and rail links offer easy access to Yogyakarta, Semarang and other cities on Java.Read More
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Solo's rich history as the centre of an ancient kingdom is still on display in some of its famed architectural sites. The Kraton Surakarta is the palace for Solo's first king Pakubuwono II, who established his court here in 1745. Nearly destroyed in a fire in 1985, the palace has been restored and some features including the stunning Panggung Songgo Buwono tower have retained their original glory. Solo's second major palace Puri Mangkunegaran, founded by Pakubuwono II's decendants in 1757, features a blend of Javanese and European design, with a beautiful ceiling adorned with colourful zodiac figures. Its museum has an excellent collection of royal artefacts including ornate masks, jewellery and dance costumes.
Mesjid Agung grand mosque, built in 1794, is one of Solo's most revered places of worship with a classical Javanese design. The modern Hindu temple Sahasra Adhi Pura has on display miniature models of some 50 important religious structures from around the world and is also a centre for Kunalini yoga. Some museums worth visiting are Danar Hadi, with impressive batik displays, the Radya Pustaka Museum for viewing traditional performance items such as gamelan instruments and puppets, and Dullah museum and art gallery featuring the works of the acclaimed painter Dullah.
Solo Restaurants & Dining
Solo's dining scene is inseparable from its lively street life, where many of the city's most tasty dishes are served up fresh from food stalls and casual open-air restaurants. Solo's most popular street-food meals include nasi gudeg (spicy chicken with jackfruit and rice), nasi liwet (rice with coconut milk, papaya and garlic), basko solo (meatballs) and timlo solo (beef and vegetable noodle soup).
Great spots to find a large selection of local fare include the food courts at Solo Grand Mall or Galabo, both on Jalan Slamet Riyadi. Along the same street is Adem Ayem, a place popular for its reasonably priced fried or gudeg-style chicken dishes. For Western fare try O Solo Mio Italian restaurant with wood-fired pizzas and pastas. Not for the faint-hearted, Mas Mul restaurant on Jalan Veteran features an unusual menu item: snake. Choose one from a tank containing a selection of the live writhing creatures and ask for it to be prepared as a satay snack or stir-fry.
Solo nightlife is very low key, with just a few clubs and bars to visit in the evening hours.
One of the most popular, especially with young locals, is New Legenda club on Jalan Suryo Pranoto, with techno DJ music offering a mix of global tunes and local dangdut Indonesian pop music. Intro bar at Solo Grand Mall on Jalan Slamet Riyadi features live music on weekends.
Those seeking a more exciting clubbing scene will need to travel to Yogyakarta, Jakarta or Bali.
In Solo, events that take place at night are mostly of cultural or religious significance, with the most famous being the Garebeg Ceremony (also called Sekaten Ceremony). In this week-long festival, which falls between May and July each year, the main activities including a lively parade and gamelan percussion instrument performances start at midnight. Solo's Kirab Pusaka festival, which takes place annually between March and May, has colourful evening processions. Also known as the Heirloom Procession, this has been a yearly event in Solo for nearly 400 years. A more frequent glimpse into local traditions is offered at the Taman Budaya Surakarta cultural centre, which has nightly wayang kulit puppet theatre shows.
As a major textile centre, Solo is a dream for those who love to buy colourful clothing and fabrics. A number of batik and ikat (hand-woven dyed) fabrics have designs unique to Solo, and are available in the city's many shops and markets. Some of the best finds are at the three-storey Klewer Textile Market near Kraton Surakarta palace. All around the palace are street vendors and shops selling souvenirs, gems, gold and jewellery. Worth stopping by, if just to see local craftsmen at work, is Balai Agung on Jalan Kyai Gede Sala, where traditional kulit puppets and gamelan sets are manufactured and sold. An eclectic mix of antiques and curios may be found at the Triwindu Antiques Market near Mangkunegaran palace.
Solo's largest market is the hectic Pasar Gede on Jalan Urip Sumoharjo, featuring a bewildering array of fruit and vegetables. There are some modern shopping centres in Solo selling a wide range of goods and groceries including Singosaren Plaza on Jalan Gatot Subroto, plus Solo Grand Mall and Megaland, both on Jalan Slamet Riyadi.
With such an impressive mountain range around the city, no trip to Solo is complete without doing some hiking. Guided tours may be arranged to visit the Tawangmangu mountain resort, or to hike up the holy Mount Lawu, which is dotted with several Hindu temples. The most spectacular of the temples up here are Candi Sukuh, which dates back to the 15th century, and the larger Candi Cetho, built in a style similar to Balinese temples. Visit Mount Merapi for an exciting up-close look at an active volcano.
A pleasant, unhurried view of the city may be enjoyed on a bicycle tour, which includes visits to local manufacturing centres of batik, handicrafts and snack foods. As a centre for traditional meditation, Solo is an ideal place to gain insight on the mind-calming technique. A number of meditation centres are located around the city, schedules and information for which may be found at the Solo tourist office on Jalan Slamet Riyadi. The Sriwedari Amusement Park offers some thrills and entertainment for the family with its rides and regular cultural performances. Kids will also enjoy camel rides and checking out the monkeys, tigers and other exotic animals at the Jurug Zoo.
Solo is located in Central Java, some 60 kilometres east of Yogyakarta. The city is well connected to other cities in Indonesia with extensive bus, train and air links.
Solo's Adi Sumarmo airport welcomes frequent flights in from Jakarta on local air carriers, as well as from two international destinations: daily flights on AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and thrice-weekly flights to and from Singapore on Silk Air.
By bus, there are several daily economy bus trips arriving to Solo's Tirtonadi bus terminal, about three kilometres away from the city centre. Here, there is economy (mostly non-air-conditioned) bus service linking Solo to Yogyakarta, Semarang and Prambanan in Central Java, as well as East Java destinations including Surabaya and Malang. Nearby is the Gilingan minibus terminal offering express service on air-conditioned mini-buses to and from the same destinations.
Solo is on the main train line that connects Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya, with frequent daily express and business-class trips arriving and departing from Solo's Balapan train station. Economy-class service to Surabaya and Jakarta may be arranged at Jebres train station, but this slow trip is only recommended if you have a lot of time to spare.