The 10 Best Museums in Kota Kinabalu

Imagine stepping into a world where history, culture, and art collide to tell the story of a vibrant city nestled on the edge of Borneo’s lush landscapes. That’s exactly what you’ll experience when you explore the museums in Kota Kinabalu. This coastal city, often just a gateway to the natural wonders of Sabah for many travelers, holds hidden gems that offer a deep dive into the region’s rich heritage.

One such treasure is the Sabah State Museum, a must-visit for anyone keen to understand the tapestry of cultures that make up this part of Malaysia. But hold on, there’s more! Let’s embark on a journey through the top 10 museums that are the heart and soul of Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah State Museum

As you wander through the grand halls of the Sabah State Museum, you’ll be transported through time. From the indigenous roots of the Kadazandusun people to the impact of World War Ii, every exhibit tells a story. Don’t miss the Heritage Village outside, where you can explore traditional houses on stilts.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

Okay, it’s not your typical museum, but the Mari Mari Cultural Village is an immersive experience that brings history to life. Here, you’ll witness the daily routines of Sabah’s diverse ethnic groups and even get to participate in age-old customs. It’s like stepping into a living, breathing museum!

KK City Waterfront Esplanade

Stroll along the KK City Waterfront Esplanade and you’ll stumble upon the Kota Kinabalu City Gallery. It’s a small spot, but it packs a punch with its artistic displays and historical photos. Plus, the view of the sunset from here? Absolutely stunning!

Warisan Square

Shopping and history? You got it! Warisan Square is not just a shopping haven; it’s also home to the Borneo Artifacts Gallery. Here, you’ll find a collection of traditional handicrafts and antiques that tell the story of Borneo’s trading past.

Signal Hill Observatory Platform

For a panoramic view of Kota Kinabalu, head to the Signal Hill Observatory Platform. While not a museum in the traditional sense, the historical significance and the breathtaking vistas make it a cultural landmark worth visiting.

Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum

Ever seen a miniature museum? Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum is unique for its tiny, handcrafted figurines dressed in traditional costumes. It’s a quirky and delightful way to learn about the local customs and attire.

North Borneo Railway

All aboard the North Borneo Railway! This vintage steam train is a moving museum that takes you back to the colonial era. The journey itself is an exhibit, showcasing the lush landscapes and historical landmarks along the way.

Art lovers, rejoice! The Sabah Art Gallery is a sanctuary for contemporary art, with a focus on works by Sabah artists. The building’s unique architecture, resembling a giant basket, is a work of art in itself.

University Malaysia Sabah Museum

Located within the University Malaysia Sabah campus, this museum is a hidden gem. It’s a center for educational exhibits, ranging from marine life to indigenous art. It’s a quiet spot for contemplation and learning.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Last but not least, the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park offers an underwater museum experience. Dive into the crystal-clear waters and you’ll discover an aquatic world teeming with biodiversity. It’s a living exhibit of Sabah’s marine life.


  • What are the opening hours for the Sabah State Museum?

    It’s open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except on public holidays. Always check ahead, as times can change.

  • Is there an entrance fee for the museums?

    Some museums have a small fee, while others are free. It’s best to check their official websites or call ahead for the latest information.

  • Are the museums in Kota Kinabalu suitable for children?

    Absolutely! Many of these museums offer interactive exhibits and activities that are perfect for young explorers.


In conclusion, Kota Kinabalu’s museums are a testament to the city’s cultural richness and historical depth. From the comprehensive Sabah State Museum to the unique Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum, each offers a window into the soul of Sabah. Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, or just curious about local cultures, these museums provide insightful and engaging experiences. So, next time you’re in Kota Kinabalu, make sure to carve out time for these cultural havens. They’re not just stops on a tourist trail; they’re the keepers of stories waiting to be discovered.

Remember, these museums are more than just places to pass the time; they’re where the heartbeats of Borneo’s past resonate with the present. So, dive in, explore, and let the rich tapestry of Kota Kinabalu’s history envelop you. Who knows? You might just leave with a deeper appreciation for this corner of the world.

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