As one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, Merdeka Square is no ordinary hotspot in the bustling metropolis. This charming city square serves as a proud reminder of Malaysia's long march to freedom and sovereignty and stands as a testament to the independent spirit of Malaysia. Whether you're planning a visit to KL or are simply curious about this historical point of interest, here are some key facts to know about Malaysia's Independence Square.
At a Glance
Occupying pride of place across the street from the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Independence Square or Merdeka Square, as it is popularly known, is a historical monument in the Malaysian capital. As one of the most popular tourist highlights in Kuala Lumpur, the venue was once called the Selangor Club Padang and served as a cricketing ground for the Royal Selangor Club. As the hallowed grounds on which the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the Malaysian flag on that historic day in 1957, the locale is now the venue of choice for national celebrations large and small.
The rich legacy of the plot of land that later became Merdeka Square is necessary to understand the complex history of the country's colonial era. When the state capital was shifted to Kuala Lumpur from Klang in 1880, the area in which Merdeka Square now stands was a swamp that was cleared and drained to serve as a police training ground. Located in the western fringes of Klang River, this piece of land was later purchased by a British resident named Frank Swettenham and called the Parade Ground. A decade later, Ernest Birch, an avid cricket fan and Acting British Resident took over the ownership and converted the space into a cricket ground. The Selangor Club clubhouse soon followed in 1890.
A Moment in History
Located in front of several government offices, The Pedang, as it was once called, was reclaimed by City Hall and the Selangor Club was moved to Bukit Kiara. And so it happened that on August 30, 1957, the British Flag, which flew from this ground, was lowered for the last time and the Malay flag rose in its place. Witnessed by countless locals, the next morning saw the Malay Independence Ceremony take place in what was then called Merdeka Stadium. In 1989, 'Dataran Merdeka' was renamed to "Independence Square". During the 2007 Independence Day celebrations, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi famously yelled "Merdeka" to mark 50 years of sovereign rule.
Key Buildings and Other Features
Merdeka Square is famously home to the world's tallest flagpole, which measures at an impressive 95 metres. Occupying the southern edge of Independence Square, there is a black marble plaque at the location of the original flagpole on which the Malaysian flag was first hoisted. The Cop's Fountain is located nearby and was added in 1897 as a memorial tribute to a police inspector named Steve Harper. The Plaza Dataran Merdeka, once called Plaza Putra, is also found close to the fountain along with a car park. Other noteworthy structures in the vicinity include the Abdul Samad Building where the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture of Malaysia headquarters are found. The Royal Selangor Club is just across the road from the square while the former building of the National History Museum is situated to the south. The Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, with its Spectacular City Model Show, is just next to the National History Museum structure.
Activities and Celebrations
Merdeka Square comes alive during the annual Independence Day celebrations when the official Independence Day Parade also takes place at the venue. Having served as the starting location for the first season of The Amazing Race Asia, the venue is also frequently used for rallies, protests and other political gatherings.
Those who are based at Citadines Connect Georgetown Penang or any other city hotel in Penang can visit the square on a day trip as it is just a hop and a skip away from the Masjid Jamek LRT Station.