Atkinson Clock Tower
Signal Hill Road, Kota Kinabalu
The most distinctive landmark in Kota Kinabalu is the Atkinson Clock Tower on Signal Hill Road. This early 1900s tower was built in honour of the city's first District Officer, FG Atkinson, by his mother, Mary Atkinson, after he died from malaria. The lofty tower measures in at 16 metres / 52 feet high and sits up on a hill, where it has a clock face on the sides that face the city.
Open: Saturday to Thursday – 9 am to 5 pm; admission: free.
Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, Kota Kinabalu
Located just out of town amid a striking lagoon, and even more impressive than the State Mosque, is the City Mosque. Built at the turn of the new millennium and situated within the Kampung Likas area, some 4 km (2.5 mi) to the north of the city centre, the City Mosque has four minarets and a large dome, and boasts views out to the South China Sea. This landmark is noticeably larger than the State Mosque and can hold as many as 12,000 worshippers at any one time. Tourists can visit outside prayer times.
Open: Saturday to Thursday – 8 am to 5 pm; admission: free.
City Centre, Kota Kinabalu
The best bet for taking in the smarter parts of the city is to wander along the KK Esplanade. This lengthy promenade flanks the waterfront and looks onto a number of the city's famous landmarks and attractions, including the Wisma Merdeka mall and the Hyatt Regency hotel. Many locals choose to hang out on the KK Esplanade, particularly at the end of the day, when the sunset views are quite special. There are plenty of benches scattered along this stretch, as well as a wooden platform with views of the nearby islands and a shiny stone statue of a leaping dolphin.
Open: daily – 24 hours; admission: free.
Sabah Foundation Building
Likas Bay, Kota Kinabalu
Also commonly referred to as the Menara Tun Mustapha, the Sabah Foundation Building was built in the mid-1970s and is without question the most impressive modern structure in Kota Kinabalu, appearing almost like a giant shiny lipstick. It is situated a few kilometres to the north and features some 30 storeys of glass. Things to check out inside include an auditorium, mini-theatres, a gymnasium and a kindergarten. You can also steal views or dine at the 18th-floor revolving restaurant, while there is also a research library and changing exhibitions in the foyer.
Open: daily – 10 am to 2 am; admission: free.
Sacred Heart Cathedral
14B Jalan Menteri, Kota Kinabalu
Located close to the Museum of Islamic Civilisation and just off the Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Sacred Heart Cathedral replaced the old Pro Cathedral, which stood on this spot and dated back to 1953, being built after the earlier church was destroyed during WWII. Due to structural problems, it was decided to demolish the Pro Cathedral and leading architects of the time combined forces to create this striking modern place of worship. The foundations were laid in 1979 and work was completed at the end of 1981, with the cathedral being able to accommodate 1,200 parishioners on its ground floor and a further 250 upstairs on the balcony. Interesting features include a concrete bell tower measuring 40 m (130 ft), a cross-shaped baptismal pool and an onsite book shop. A large car park fronts the building, with plenty of spaces for visitors to use.
Open: daily; admission: free.
Signal Hill Observatory
Signal Hill Road, Kota Kinabalu
Offering the best free views over the city and harbour is this structure on nearby Signal Hill. The observatory is to be found within a pretty area, a short distance to the north-east of the waterfront, and features open-air observation pavilions - the ideal place from which to view KK sunsets. You can walk up to the site from the city in about 20 minutes, or alternatively take a taxi.
Open: daily – 8 am to midnight; admission: free.
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kota Kinabalu
The Sabah State Mosque is one of beautiful domes and motifs, and is a haven of peace just outside the main bustle of the city centre. It lies to the south, close to the Kampung Air stilt village, and displays modern Islamic architecture which looks at its most stunning when the sun is setting, especially when viewed from behind the pond that flanks it. Tourists can visit the State Mosque (adhering to the strict dress code and removing their shoes before entering), but it is best to avoid Fridays, as this is prayer day when it frequently gets super-busy.
Open: daily – 8 am to 11 am, 2 pm to 4:30 pm; admission: free.