Manado City Tour — Explore the Capital of North Sulawesi

Manado City Tour

Our tour through Manado City takes you past all kinds of intriguing sites in North Sulawesi’s capital.
Manado is home to around 450,000 people, and is one of Sulawesi’s bigger cities, second in size to the capital Makassar in the south of the large island.

Preparing for the Manado City Tour

The tour is a great way to get a sense of the local life. The best way to do so is a mix of walking as well as using public transport. This is why you need decent shoes.
Bring Rp300,000 (around €17) for a souvenir and/or lunch. Also, prepare to be greeted by complete strangers who will excitedly talk to you!

Manado & Religion

Known as the City of 1001 Churches, North Sulawesi and Manado comprise of primarily Protestant Christians, with a mix of Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and other denominations. Over the course of the years, Manado gained a bit of a reputation as an exemple for peaceful coexistence, something many other nations can aspire to.

Starting the Tour

From the resort, our driver will take us by car to the satellite town of Tuminting, only a few kilometers from Manado proper. In fact, you can already notice how much busier the traffic becomes at this point.

The Mikrolet, Manado's main public transport, and our ride on the City Tour.
Mikro buses waiting for passengers

Our driver drops us off, and we hail a Mikrolet, or Mikro. These little blue buses are Manado’s premier mode of public transport, with single ride costing Rp6,000 per person. Gingerly they wobble their way to and from the city, often emblazoned with colorful custom paint or sticker work. In addition, music will play from their sound systems to attract customers, which is exactly what our bus of choice is doing.

Loud music music notwithstanding, we’re all having a laugh as our driver turns up the bass even more!

Touring Manado City riding a Mikrolet
Inside a Mikrolet

Ban Hing Kiong Temple

Finally, we reach the city center. We get off the mikro, pay our fare and visit our first stop: the impressive Buddhist temple called Ban Hing Kiong.

The beautiful Ban Hing Kiong Temple in Manado.
Ban Hing Kiong, Manado’s impressive Buddhist temple

Besides being one of the oldest temples in Manado City, it’s also one of four Buddhist temples within a single square kilometer. This is quite remarkable for a predominantly Christian area of Indonesia.
Its lavish entrance takes us to a space of meditation and prayer, with the smell of incense in the air. As is customary, we take off our shoes (even if the property caretakers tell us it’s ok to leave them on!).

A cannon from the colonial Dutch period.
A cannon from the colonial Dutch period.

We go upstairs to the top floor, and we’re rewarded with a nice view of the busy street below. On this floor a few artifacts from the colonial time are on display: three cannons from the 18th century overlook the street. One of them even has “VOC” (the Dutch East India Company) inscribed on it.

Jalan Roda

Jalan Roda, Manado's busy little hawker center.
The entrance to Jalan Roda

Next, we go by foot through the old city center. Our next destination is Jalan Roda: a covered street that was made into a hawker center. Jalan Roda means “Wheel Street”, acquiring its name from the many food carts that you find here.

Food carts waiting to be deployed later at the evening.
Colorful food carts at Jalan Roda.

It is now around 10:00 in the morning, and it’s getting warm as a result. We sit down at a little cafe and order a refreshing ice coffee.
It’s very busy here, so this is certainly the perfect place for some people-watching. Subsequently, the people are watching us of course. Some folks will try to strike up a conversation, asking you where you’re from, for instance.

Ice coffee at Manado's Jalan Roda.
Refreshing ice coffee, best enjoyed sitting on a plastic stool!

There is a lot of activity. For example: men play chess or dominoes, people are eating lunch and exchanging gossip. Meanwhile, live music is playing, although sometimes people can be found singing karaoke.

Inside Jalan Roda, Manado's hawker center.
Jalan Roda in full swing.

Presiden & Pasar 45

We’re enjoying the moment, and we finish our refreshments to get ready for the next leg of our tour.

We leave Jalan Roda behind and move further into the old city. The old center is called Pasar 45 (’45 Market). However we will be taking a slight detour through the Presiden building.

The Presiden Building was actually one of Manado’s earliest malls before it fell into disrepair. Now it is home to a bustling little textile market with family-owned sweatshops.

Here, people sew garments for all kinds of professions, such as for civil servants, teachers and uniforms for school kids. This place is always full of atmosphere. The lighting and the colors of the different fabrics make for some rather great photo ops!

The textile market in Manado's Presiden Building.
Sewing clothes in the Presiden Building.

Seamstresses go about their business making tailor-fit suits on old sewing machines. Indeed, some of these could have come straight from your grandmothers day!

Colorful threads at Manado's textile market in the Presiden Building

Next, we walk past all kind of shops in Pasar 45. Many people take delight in seeing you, greeting you with open smiles. The positive energy is palpable. This is the first time where you’re really noticing how friendly people are in Manado. And I can assure you that you’re 100% safe in Manado: you don’t need to fear pick pockets or people trying to scam you.

The city tour is great for hunting for bargains at Pasar 45, Manado.

Sentrum Church & World War 2 Monument

We continue through winding streets over questionable pavement, proceeding to Manado’s oldest church called Sentrum.

Manado's oldest church: Sentrum.

This protestant church has been an institution for centuries. Its current building stems from 1990, which makes it the oldest church in the area.
The caretaker is always friendly and gladly opens the doors. We go inside and it’s immediately apparent how everything has a nineties vibe to it.

The inside of Sentrum, Manado's oldest Protestant church building.

Hand-crafted confessional benches line the hall. On the main podium the old church bell from 1933 is sitting lonely and broken in a corner.

A church bell that was cast in 1933.

The inscription mentions its Dutch origin, one of the Manado’s last remnants of its colonial history.

We go back outside, and next to the church we find a towering abstract monument built in early brutalist style. Erected in 1947, it honors the victims of the war in the Pacific, where Japanese forces completely took over enormous areas of land in South East Asia. As a more sobering part of the tour, we reflect on the senselessness and creulty of war.

Manado's World War II Monument that commemorates the Pacific War.
Remembering World War II.

Where to next?

It’s 12:00, and we finish the formal part of the tour. We’re free to go wherever we choose to. We can do some shopping at the Megamall or Manado Town Square, or maybe visit a souvenir shop, for instance. In addition, we could go for a stroll along the waterfront.

Shopping in one of Manado's malls: Manado Town Square.
Manado Town Square – the town’s biggest mall

It’s also time to think about lunch. So either we can go back to the resort, or we sit down at one of Manado’s many restaurants for a nice meal. Of course we choose the last option!

Finally, content with a delicious lunch, we call an online taxi that brings us back to the resort.

Are You Ready to Explore Manado with Us?

The Manado City Tour and others are waiting for you! Just get in touch with our team and we will happily arrange an amazing trip in Indonesia’s hidden secret: North Sulawesi!

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Arjen Bokhoven

I'm a PADI Advanced Open Water diver, I do guest relations and resort management at Thalassa Dive Resorts Indonesia. Whether I'm diving the walls of Bunaken to spot schools of fish & turtles, or explore the sandy flats of Lembeh with its fascinating underwater creatures- I love all of it.

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