Things to do at The Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur
The Zhongshan Building is an understated building tucked away on the corner of Jalan Rotan in Kampung Attap. But upon closer observation, you’ll find locals and tourists alike streaming in and out of it for the treasure trove of indie bookstores, cosy cafes, and quirky artisanal stores hidden within the 4 floors of this artsy hub in KL.
The Zhongshan Building
Image credit: @amberechin
If your curiosity has been piqued, here’s all you need to know about this building before you drop by:
Shop for local-inspired goods
KL has plenty of vibrant shopping hubs to weed out cheap food and thrift for goods – including Chinatown, Central Market, and Bukit Bintang. But for a more local shopping experience, these cosy stores in The Zhongshan Building carries unique goods from local brands, as well as rare finds for those who love a good thrift.
Image credit: @rommel_atmadja
Naiise is here to satiate our revived interest in all things old-school. They host a long list of quirky goods, such as homeware and trendy fashion pieces, that are locally made and with creative, nostalgic designs to boot.
One of the many brands that you’ll find here is Home Too Much. Familiar local Nyonya kuihs and kopitiam classics can be found printed on its series of tote bags (RM29 each), keychains (from RM32 each), prints (from RM39 each), and T-shirts (from RM49 each).
Tote bags with pictures and illustrations of menu items from mamaks and local breakfast staples
Image credit: @hometoomuch
The store also carries seriously adorable bolsters, cushions, keychains, and small pouches from Nom Nom Plush. Look out for their Kuih Lapis Keychain (RM32) and Otak Otak Pencil Case (RM44) to show your love for your favourite local snacks.
Quirky coin pouches from Nom Nom Plush
Image credit: @naiise.my
For those into old-school lepak ideas, you’ll find card games made proudly by locals while you’re here too. Options such as Lepak Game (RM109) and Kaki Lima Card Game (RM168) will confirm add some fun to your future gatherings.
Opening hours: Tue – Thur 10.30AM-7PM | Fri 10.30-10PM | Sat – Sun 9.30AM-7PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 019-465 8284
80G. Anatomy Co.
Image credit: @fidella
If you’re a frequent visitor of bookstores and local craft shops such as Kinokuniya and Stickerrific, you’ve probably seen Anatomy.co’s collection of sleek notebooks, planners, and sketchbooks (from RM129 each).
At their store in The Zhongshan Building, you’ll get to see their notebooks made from scratch. From printing your name on the cover to choosing its colour and filling it with gridded or plain paper, you’ll get to fully customise your dream notebook here.
Craftsman at Anatomy.co putting together a customised notebook
Image credit: @anatomy_co
After you run out of pages, you can head back here to fill up your notebook with refill pages (from RM60). These refillable pages – available in stores and online as well – are easily replaceable, as there’s a pocket in your customised cover for you to slip in these new pages with minimal fuss.
Image credit: @anatomy_co
You can also opt to get a leather phone case (RM168) or pocket wallet (RM148) here, in colours such as olive green and pink. These are also customisable by adding your name to the leather back.
The store also recently released a nostalgic line of 555 Notebooks (RM30/3 notebooks), or Buku Tiga Lima, in pastel tones that you can also customise with your name on the front.
Image credit: @anatomy_co
Shop alternatively at Anatomy.co online here.
Opening hours: Tue – Sun 11AM-6PM (Closed on Mondays)
82B. Tandang Records Store
Image credit: @zakyraa
Vinyl record or cassette collectors will want to check out Tandang Records Store. They carry rare 12” and 7” LP vinyls – new (from RM68) and used (from RM30) – as well as cassettes and CDs, old band T-shirts, electronics, and tech accessories.
Image credit: @threpac
You’ll want to take your time to browse through their records here, with selections of experimental to metal sounds from local and international bands. There are indie bands and in-house produced albums from artists such as Killeur Calculateur too, as well as indie artists from the West and neighbouring countries of Singapore and Indonesia.
Those looking to build a serious hobby of collecting vinyls can also opt to buy a record player (RM1,325) here to enjoy these old records.
Opening hours: Tues – Fri 1PM-9PM | Sat 12PM-9.30PM | Sun 12PM-8PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 016-333 0475
Snack on artisanal tea, coffee, and sandwiches
With all the exploring you can do here, you’re bound to feel a little peckish at some point in time. For a little pick-me-up, you can drop by one of these cosy bakeries, and tea and coffee houses in the building:
80G. Kok Far Tea Shop
Image credit: @yvonnesoo
Located inside Anatomy.co, Kok Far Tea Shop is a Japanese-inspired teahouse that serves up warm cups of tea brewed with tea leaves imported from Japan. Their minimalist set-up even has wooden fixtures and slated roofs to complete its teahouse-inspired decor.
Settle down at this peaceful spot with a cup of their signature Snow Kok Far with Jelly, Hojicha Latte, or Rich Milk Tea + Tapioca (RM15 each) – all popular beverages with its regular customers.
Image credit: @fluffybear.eats
Opening hours: Tues – Sun 12PM-7PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 016-331 3063
82G. Tommy le Baker
This cosy bakery specialises in sourdough bread, so you know you’ll be in for a treat with its series of sandwiches. Try their signature fresh bakes, including Oven-braised Chicken Sandwich (RM18.50) for stringy cheese pulls, and Smoked Salmon Baked (RM16.80) with fresh cuts of salmon, while lounging in its alfresco dining area right in the centre of the building.
Grab a cup of Flat White Coffee (RM10) or Iced Latte (RM10) to complete your meal.
You can also opt to bring home a rustic Dark Rye Sourdough Bread, per KG (RM35), 200gm (RM7.80) or 500gm (RM19.50), if you can’t get enough of their sandwiches while here.
Opening hours: Tue – Fri 10.30AM-7PM | Sat – Sun 9.30AM-6PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 012-207 1588
80A. Piu Piu Piu
Image credit: @thokohmakan
Another Japanese space on this list, Piu Piu Piu is The Zhongshan Building’s resident coffee shop that is reminiscent of standing coffee bars in Tokyo. The twist here is that you’ll find quirky figurines and posters scattered around, and coffee equipment hung on its walls like hardware tools.
The hallway outside this coffee stand has benches for you to rest your feet while you get your caffeine fix. Selected brews include White Coffee (RM9) or Black Coffee (RM8), which gets made with Aim Coffees’ coffee beans.
Image credit: @rey.winter.stuff
Matcha lovers can opt for NikoNeko Matcha Latte (RM14) or Matcha-Nade (RM16), a Matcha-infused lemonade. You can also order flourless home-baked cakes, such as its Cempedak Cheesecake (RM16) and Burnt Cheesecake (RM14), to go with your drinks.
Image credit: @elswong
Opening hours: Tue – Sat 11AM-7PM | Sun 11.30AM-6PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 010-406 3695
Thrift for books at independent bookstores
Bookworms never miss out on new spots to get books, so they’ll want to hit up The Zhongshan Building’s 3 independent bookstores all within walking distance of each other. They carry English and Malay books to browse and buy – and even cosy spaces to plop down at to check out your new finds.
80B. Tintabudi Bookstore
Image credit: @tintabudi
Tintabudi Bookstore is a cosy, curated bookstore that carries collectable, secondhand, and new books. There are English titles focusing on history, Malaysiana, philosophy, literary fiction, and art to browse from – great for those who want to explore genres beyond their current reading topics.
Some titles you can find here include famous American art critic John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (RM49.50) and local writer Dina Zaman’s King of the Sea (RM36).
Image credit: @tintabudi
They are also a publishing house, which means that they carry books from up-and-coming writers too. Making reading accessible for all, they’ve also translated Hafiz Hamzah’s Blooms of Ire (RM69) from Malay to English, and Carl Sandburg’s biography of Abraham Lincoln (RM45) the other way around.
Image credit: @hearmac
Opening hours: Tue – Sun 11AM-7PM (Closed Mondays)
Telephone: 012-231 1472
84B. Balai Buku Raya
Image credit: @aishahchong
Stepping into Balai Buku Raya feels more like stepping into someone’s living room than a bookstore. Antiques are scattered among secondhand and new books in Malay, and there’s even a couch for you to sit at to flip through books you’ve picked up before you purchase them.
Image credit: @readlahwei
The store specialises in Malay literature, with vintage history, politics, and art finds from local and fellow Southeast Asian writers. But there are English books speckled between the folds here, with titles from authors such as Jules Verne and Henry David Thoreau.
There’s also usually a box of old finds from RM7 each at its space for those who love thrifting for affordable books.
Opening hours: Tue – Wed 2PM-8PM | Thu – Sat 11AM-8PM | Sun 12PM-8PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 017-224 8952
84C. Rumah Attap Library & Collective
Image credit: @about.alex_
Those with a soft spot for libraries and who love being surrounded by books will want to check out Rumah Attap Library Collective. It’s a quiet, peaceful sanctuary filled with over 4,500 English, Chinese, and Malay titles.
Their book list boasts topics from the arts and literature, to Southeast Asian studies, which you can browse freely as long as you’re in the store. There are also fiction titles from authors such as Charles Dickens and Amy Tan to weed out.
Image credit: @iahmat
There’s a communal table, as well as several chairs and couches, for you to sit at and get some reading done too.
Image credit: @alecianeo
If you do want to check out a book here, sign up for its library membership, which is also a great way to reduce and reuse and explore new titles. Yearly membership costs RM100, with students, OKU, and senior citizens being entitled to a 50% discount.
Opening hours: Sat – Sun 11AM-7PM (Closed on Mondays to Fridays)
Indulge in some cultural and artistic activities
The Zhongshan Building is not called an art hub for nothing. The 4-storey building is also home to art gallery The Back Room and music space fono – perfect for those looking to expand their art and music knowledge respectively.
80A. The Back Room
Image credit: @ashleygan_
For a spot to experience interactive art, check out The Back Room KL. This art space hosts art exhibitions, which are often interactive in nature, from Asian and Western artists, as well as workshops and talks from like-minded individuals.
The exhibits change every month, so you’ll be in for a surprise with every visit here. Past exhibitions include James Yeet’s Memories, which allowed visitors to venture into a hill of sand and pick up sea urchins placed on it, as well as Books And Prints, a colourful exploration of its namesake that lets you flip through books on the topic.
Image credit: @wong_xiangyi
Their current exhibition, Fish In Pure Water, is a collection of abstract works from local artist, Liew Kwai Fei. It runs until 12th July, so you’ll want to drop by if you’re looking to show your support for local talents.
Opening hours: Tue – Fri 12PM-7PM | Sat 11AM-7PM | Sun 11AM-6PM (Closed on Mondays)
Image credit: @fono.kl
If you’re looking to broaden your music horizons, drop by fono, an event space that hosts intimate music gigs, listening parties, and film screenings. The independent music hub hosts a variety of up-and-coming artists and DJs hailing from Malaysia and abroad, and lets you sample unique music genres, from Jamaican reggae to Malay funk, and Arabic disco to Thai malam.
fono has held listening parties much like listening bars known as “kissatens” in Japan. With a unique mix of tea-and-coffee drinking culture with extensive music playlists played over the bar, you can expect to chill out in this cosy, intimate space too.
The music space has also had open jam sessions for musicians looking to well, jam, together with like-minded individuals.
Image credit: @po_hung
In line with its reputation of being a hub for passionate audiophiles, fono has hosted film-screening events for music documentaries B-movie: Lust & Sound In West Berlin and If I Think of Germany at Night. The former is an exploration of Berlin’s post-punk music scene and the latter follows the lives of several DJs and music producers known in the techno music scene.
Gigs and events are either free or have a cover charge from RM10. You’ll need to make an appointment to drop by this music hideout. You can find a list of who fono’s going to be hosting on their Instagram page here, or visit their account on Eventbrite to see a list of past events.
Note: With COVID-19 still a cause for concern, fono has put their events on pause for now. But you can follow their Instagram account for more updates as to when they’ll reopen.
Other things to check out at The Zhongshan Building
History buffs can make an appointment with history experts at Malaysian Design Archive and The Ricecooker Archive to check out their collection of history documents on graphic design and rock n’ roll in Malaysia respectively.
Image adapted from: Malaysia Design Archive & @gilangpropag
For shopping enthusiasts, Atelier Fitton offers appointment-based tailoring services for its line of luxurious menswear out of a space that looks like the set of Kingsman. Bogus Merchandise also offers appointment-based services for silkscreen printing on T-shirts, tote bags, posters, and stickers, where you’ll get to see how it’s all done up close at this artsy workshop.
Set up an appointment with them at their respective emails here:
Guide to The Zhongshan Building
The things to see and do in KL seem almost limitless. The Zhongshan Building is a testament to that alone, with over 10 shops housed in a discreet white building in KL. It has everything for everyone, and has become a hideout that appeals to both locals and tourists alike.
If you’re looking to uncover more gems in the city, check out these articles:
- Pints & Putts for mini-golfing
- Hauntu – immersive haunted house
- Fun things to do in KL to de-stress
- Affordable bubble tea in KL
- Korean food in KL
- Spicy food in KL
Note: Opening hours during the MCO might differ.