Melaka River was once dubbed the ‘Venice of the East’ by European seafarers as it was a prominent port of entry for traders from Europe and Asia during the late 16th century. Spanning a total distance of 10km, it is also believed to be where Malacca was founded by Sumatran Prince Parameswara, who built his palace along the east side of the riverbank (at the foot of St. Paul’s Hill) in the 1400s.
Today, it is a popular tourist attraction primarily because of the 45-minute River Cruise, which offers tranquil views of colonial buildings, antiquated shophouses, local settlements and ancient bridges as well as modern decorations and local art displays within Malacca. Read on to discover some of Melaka River’s unique sightseeing opportunities.
River Of Bridges
The Melaka River winds its way from Dutch Square and goes past Tan Boon Seng Bridge. During the Portuguese invasion of Malacca, they seized this bridge and cut off communications between the two sides of the river, effectively dividing Malacca into two and leading to Malacca’s defeat.
There are a few other bridges along the Melaka River worth mentioning. Besides the Tan Boon Seng Bridge, there is the ‘Ghost Bridge of Malacca’ (a pedestrian bridge which links Kampung Pantai to Kampung Jawa) and the Old Market Bridge (which links Kampung Hulu to Jalan Kee Ann and the old Central Market). It used to be a picturesque scene of fishing boats berthed along the riverbanks here, but it is now mostly rows of Chinese restaurants. Fun fact: one of these restaurants was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster Entrapment, starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.
Chan Boon Cheng Bridge
Also on the Melaka River is the historical Chan Boon Cheng Bridge. It used to be a concrete structure until major renovations in 1963 led to its current steel façade. In the early 20th century, it linked the old quarter of Chinatown (then known as Kampung Pantai) on the west side of the riverbank to the new quarter of Chinatown (via Jalan Bunga Raya) on the east side.
The bridge is also known for its gruesome past. During the Japanese occupation, Japanese soldiers placed the severed heads of their victims at the foot of the bridge as a not-so-gentle reminder for locals to toe the line.
After passing several more bridges, the Melaka River leads up to Kampung Morten: an old Malay settlement classified as a national heritage site. It is a typical Malay village, but is widely-recognised as a living museum with well-preserved traditional Malay architecture and a conservative olden-days lifestyle. A 17th century Portuguese cathedral called Church of Rosary is also located in Kampung Morten, though not much of the structure stood the test of time after Dutch colonials occupied Malacca in 1641.
Street Art at Melaka River
You will find massive and bold-coloured street art by the Melaka River, most of which are along Jalan Kampung Hulu, right outside Jonker Street. Also known as the Melaka River Street Art Project, it was a collaboration between local painters and graffiti artists, producing eye-catching designs with the city’s shophouses and guesthouses as their canvas.
Commemorating the city’s unique identity, heritage, and iconic landmarks, these mural paintings range from orangutans and wild stallions to local fruits and noodles. Although you can easily spot them during a boat cruise along Melaka River, we highly recommend exploring these street artworks on foot as you may find a number hidden spots that make for great snapshots.
- Location: Malacca town