City Nights: Jakarta

Julius Kensan works at the heart of his city as Editor-in-Chief of lifestyle publication MANUAL and Creative Officer of the Zou agency.

“There’s a sense of orderly chaos during nightfall in Jakarta, be it indoors or outdoors.

The roads are usually jam-packed with cars and motorcycles, people braving the traffic to get home even if it takes them hours.

And there’s no one way to enjoy Jakarta during nightime.

Speakeasies, cocktail bars, eateries, and fine-dining restaurants have blossomed throughout the city.”


Post-pandemic, there has been a revival in the nightlife scene. 

“Office workers juggling business talks and leisure in the private room of a restaurant; college kids convening over street food by the roadside; the sports community winding down through group workouts; and the affluents enjoying drinks from a hotel bar, gazing at the traffic jam below forming slow-moving streams of rubies and topazes.”

In recent years, there has been a focus on crafted cocktails and local craft beer. 

“Even luxury hotels and restaurants regularly hold bar takeovers by mixologists from overseas. The Cocktail Club (No. 19 on Asia’s Top 50 Bars 2023) is constantly packed with people looking to wind down and socialise over cocktails. Cobe (previously named Coffeeberian) is a beer house that specialises in crafted beer from local breweries. Jakartans tend to keep to their own cliques, but here, it feels effortless to strike up conversations with strangers.”

The nightlife scene is one of the best ways to understand Jakarta. 

“Before the pandemic, a night out typically involved partying and heavy drinking. Back then, people regarded cocktails as a waste of money because it’s not good to get drunk fast. These days, more creative players are interpreting and expanding nuances of cocktails and craft beer, such as incorporating spices and indigenous ingredients, signifying how we are taking more pride in our own roots and cultures.”

In general, Indonesians are social creatures. 

“People enjoy being out and about. But that doesn’t mean Jakarta is a city that never sleeps. It’s rare to find establishments that open 24 hours.”

It’s a huge ecosystem where the classy, cool and dodgy co-exist together...

“…and you’ll find different tribes in each of these places. Don’t be surprised to find ride-hailing drivers chilling in warung (roadside stalls) downing special concoctions of coffee (with ingredients meant to increase virility) next to a club or expensive bar. If you come with an open mind, Jakarta’s nightlife is a unique ecosystem bursting with choices, tribes and offbeat characters.”

If I can describe Jakarta in three words, it’s ‘Never the same’. 

“Nightlife in Jakarta is dynamic and ever changing. You’ll find different types of nightlife depending on the regions of Jakarta you’re in, that range from laidback, hedonistic to the uber cool. Plus, people are always open to trying out new things.”

To delve into more city life read City Limits, our series of pieces exploring the urban experience here.