It is easy to spend a day exploring the capital of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan. Especially if you are wanting to do something while in transit. Some of the highlights include the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. As well as a boat trip through the Kampong Ayer (water village).
The first stop on my press trip was Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei. I was excited to explore this diverse destination and experience the culture. As well as learn about the heritage and people.
I was also keen to see what this very wealthy but small Muslim country had to offer tourists in the way of attractions.
⇒ Head over to my Asian destinations page to discover things to do in this part of the world.
1. Things you can do in Bandar Seri Begawan
Bandar Seri Begawan is the capital of Brunei, a small city on the island of Borneo. This tiny country has a lot to offer, including opulent mosques, rare Proboscis Monkeys, and the world’s largest floating village, Kampong Ayer.
Despite its size, there are plenty of things to do in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei for a day to keep busy.
2. Start your day at Kianggeh Market
Address: Jln Sungai Kianggeh, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8111, Brunei
Start your day off by visiting Kianggeh Market, a popular open market in Bandar Seri Begawan. Located on the banks of the Kianggeh River, this market sells local produce, seafood, meat & local dishes.
Everything was very well organised and the food stalls were colourful. There was a wide selection and everyone was super nice and friendly. This is also a great spot if you want to support local businesses and buy local products.
⇒ If you love night markets in Asia, how about this read on Best Night Markets to Visit in Taiwan?
3. Visiting the Grand Mosques of Brunei
There are two national mosques in Bandar Seri Begawan worth a visit when in the capital city. Even if you don’t go inside, they are very grand to see, especially the real gold domes. Which is a great photo opportunity from outside.
3.1 Rules before entering a Mosques for non-Muslims
These are places of worship for the Muslim community and are major historical sites. Please be aware of the following rules before entering a Mosques, as a non-Muslim:
- Before entering the Mosques, women are provided with black robes.
- Men will also be required to wear black robes if their legs are not covered.
- Shoes will need to be removed before entering.
- Taking pictures inside the Mosque is not permitted.
- Check timings, as you cannot enter the mosque during prayer time if you are a non-Muslim.
4. Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah Mosque
Address; Simpang 127, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah mosque is one of the main attractions to see in Brunei and the first time I saw it I thought WOW!. Built-in 1992 to celebrate the 25th year of the current sultan’s reign, Brunei’s largest mosque is hard to miss.
Surrounded by well groomed and maintained landscaped gardens and various fountains, the mosque is a fantastic example of Islamic architecture. There is just so much attention to detail.
Nothing has been missed to signify that the Sultan is the dynasty’s 29th ruler. From the 29 domes made from 24-carat gold to the 29 ornate minarets and inside the 29 crystal chandeliers.
Jame asr Hassani Bolkiah mosque is also great to add to your to do list at night when it is all lit up.
5. Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Address; Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8711, Brunei
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque should be next up on your list of things to do in Brunei. Named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, the mosque sits at the very heart of Bandar Seri Begawan city. It looks impressive, located in its own lagoon along the Brunei River. Surrounded by lush greenery and floral gardens, its gold dome shines in bright daylight.
Built in 1958, it’s a fine example of modern Islamic architecture. The lake and ship nearby make it feel like you just stepped back in time or into a fairy tale. It is also a great spot for taking pictures outside with the Brunei river in the background.
6. Perpuspaan Main Gate 1968
After you have finished visiting Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, head over to Perpuspaan Main Gate. Built to commemorate the coronation of the current Sultan in 1968.
This is only a short walk away and you only need around 5-10 minutes here. However, just like the Mosque, it is grand to see and a great photo opportunity.
7. Spend half a day on Kampong Ayer – Water Village
Visit the largest water settlement in Southeast Asia, Kampong Ayer and experience the culture in a unique way. It should only take a couple of hours and is a great way to spend part of your day in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Kampong Ayer meaning Water Village in Malay is located on Brunei River just across from the city centre It is super easy to get a water taxi or book a take a guided tour from the Royal Wharf.
A century ago, half of Brunei’s population lived here, and even today many Bruneians still prefer the lifestyle of the water village to residency on dry land. The water village even has its own schools, mosques, police station, and fire brigade built on stilts.
7.1 Experiencing the Kampong Ayer
When we were exploring Kampong Ayer in our taxi boat, it was fascinating to see the extensive network of wooden walkways. As well as footbridges, and boardwalks to get about when locals were not using their boats.
I was a little taken aback by the rubbish that could be seen at low tide floating in the water.
7.2 Catch a water taxi to Kampong Ayer
If you are not doing a tour but want to visit and experience this heritage site, then I suggest taking one of the many water taxis in front of the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. Though you can just stand somewhere a water taxi can dock and flag one down (the fare is B$1).
8. Kampong Ayer Cultural & Tourism Gallery
Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Gallery is a great addition while exploring the water village. Opened in 2009, here you can learn about the history, customs, and crafts of the Kampong Ayer people.
Afterwards, head up the glass-enclosed viewing tower and take in the panoramic views over the water village.
9. The Royal Regalia Building (Kings Museum)
Address: Jln Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8611, Brunei
You must check out The Royal Regalia Building also known as the King’s Museum. The exhibits inside the museum are so impressive and grand. It is worth adding to the top of your list of things to see in Bandar Seri Begawan’s Brunei.
Built to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah’s accession to the throne. It showcases various exhibits of the Brunei monarchy and the incredible gifts given to the Sultan over the years.
It is also the only place in the city that I know that you can buy crude oil, as a souvenir!
9.1 What you will see in the Royal Regalia Building
There are some great exhibits to see inside, like the life-sized replica of the Sultan’s jubilee parade float. It is a made-to-scale model with scores of uniformed mannequins. all-encompassing it to represent his honour guard. In another room, different countries’ military honours and decorations exemplify the Sultan’s apparent military prowess.
While the museum is free, you can only take pictures in the main area when you walk into the building. Like the Mosques, you will need to remove your shoes before entering. You will also need to leave your bag and phone at the lockers they provide.
10. Visit Teng Yun Temple
Just up the road from Royal Regalia Building is the Teng Yun Temple. Built-in the 1960s it is the oldest Chinese temple and the only one in Brunei.
This vibrant colourful temple pops out between the traditional buildings in Bandar Seri Begawan. It is a great spot to stop for pictures.
⇒ If you love Temples? How about this read on visiting Temples in Tainan Taiwan.
11. Go Proboscis Monkey spotting
One activity that is great for everyone especially families is proboscis monkey spotting. You can take a mangrove cruise along the Brunei River through the natural mangroves in search of the rare Proboscis Monkeys. These can only be found on Borneo Island.
I have been lucky enough to see Proboscis monkeys in the wild. They look funny with their big noses and fascinating to watch them interact with each other. They were a highlight for me to see.
The best way to see the Proboscis monkeys is to book a Mangrove river boat ride
Make sure that have the right camera for taking pictures of all the amazing wildlife
12. Hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan
There is not a big selection of hotels in Brunei with most of them being located in Bandar Seri Begawan. So it makes sense to stay in the capital while exploring the city.
The good thing though is that most of the hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan are within walking distance of most of the sites. As well as a short drive away from the Brunei international airport.
Check availability of on booking for hotels in Bandar Seri Begawan
12.1 The Empire Hotel & Country Club
I stayed at the luxury hotel resort The Empire Hotel & Country Club and all I can say is WOW. It is like no other place I have stayed in before and had an overall feeling of refinement. From the lavish decoration of the main building, to all the amazing furnishings of the interiors and rooms.
It also had its own private beach, impeccably maintained outdoor spaces, and stunning swimming pools. Even though this hotel was located just out outside of Bandar Seri Begawan, it is the most luxurious hotel in the whole of Brunei.
12.2 Hotel suggestions in central Bandar Seri Begawan
The Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam centrally located and less than 5 minutes walk to Royal Regalia Museum. The hotel offers a shuttle to and from the airport.
The Brunei Hotel Strategically located in the city centre with most of the places of interest within 5-10 minutes walk. Like the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and Royal Wharf where you can catch a water taxi to Kampong Ayer.
13. Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei transit airport
The closest international airport to the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan is Brunei International Airport. As the city is not very big, it is only 9klms (around 20mins) to the city centre via cab.
Royal Brunei Airlines tends to have affordable tickets for destinations all around the world. However, nearly all flights need to go via Brunei, especially from Europe. Meaning Brunei international airport is a popular transit spot.
Depending on your nationality, you will need to obtain a visa. Which you can do upon arrival in customs for a small fee in Brunei dollars. Not to worry if you don’t have Brunei dollars as there is a currency exchange next to customs.
14. Consuming alcohol during the day in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei
As an Islamic country, alcohol is forbidden to be sold anywhere in Brunei, even in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan.
Foreigners can bring in alcohol but it must be declared at customs. The limit is either 1 litre of spirits or 2 bottles of wine. If you do take alcohol into the country, it can only be consumed in your hotel room.
Just be aware that Brunei Air does not serve alcohol on its planes.
15. Things to know before spending a day in Bandar Seri Begawan
- No photos in most of the buildings
- This is a Muslim country, so please be aware of what you are wearing when you are not in your hotel.
- Take a reusable water bottle, with you to keep hydrated. As it gets quite humid and warm during the day.
- Most attractions are not likely to be opened during any holy months or major festive seasons.
- Carry a scarf with you in case you visit any religious areas like the mosques.
- You will be doing a lot of walking, so wear comfortable shoes
16. Is Bandar Seri Begawan worth spending a day in?
Seeing the sites in Bandar Seri Begawan was a great way to spend the day while in Brunei. It’s definitely worth thinking about doing especially if you are looking for something to do while in transit. You can even book a Brunei transit guided tour that picks you up from the airport.
It is also a good spot to take the family especially if you want to participate in outdoor activities. Like taking a Sunset River Safari to look for Proboscis Monkeys or even diving.
As a Muslim country, they do have stricter rules than some other countries in the area, like no selling of alcohol. But don’t let this deter you from going there. Even just for a few days to explore and experience the culture. Next time I would stay longer and head out to places like Ulu Temborong National park.
17. Take a guided day tour in Bandar Seri Begawan
If you want to spend the day in Brunei but don’t want to do it on your own or are unsure how to get around. Then take a half or full day guided tour that covers Bandar Seri Begawan’s top sites. There are a number of options covering Brunei’s unique culture, museums, and mosques. As well as outdoor activities like a mangrove cruise to spot wildlife.
Here are a number of options you can book in Brunei that can be done in a day.
Full day to Kampong Ayer & Mangrove – Boat Tour
Half Day City including Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque – Walking & Bus Tour
Brunei Transit half day tour – If you only have a few hours, this tour picks you up from the airport.
18. Activities you can do, if you are staying longer than a day
I think one day is enough time to see Bandar Seri Begawan’s main landmark sites. However, if you want to get out of the capital and see other things in Brunei then you will need an extra few days. Here are some activities you can do if you are staying longer in Brunei;
18.1 Go diving in Brunei for a few days
In recent years Brunei’s diving industry has grown rapidly due to its beautiful seabeds and underwater sea life. Check out one of the many diving tours on offer in Brunei.
You can do a day, 2 days, or even 3 days diving in Brunei.
18.2 Spend a day Ulu Temborong
Spend a day exploring Brunei’s first national park, Ulu Temborong. Here you can walk amongst the trees on the canopy walk or take a water tube down the Temburong River. This is a great add-on if you staying 2 days in Brunei and love the outdoors and nature.
Book a full day guided tour to Ulu Temborong national park before you go to Brunei.
18.3 Do a Brunei Eco Adventure
How about doing a 3 day eco adventure guided tour, exploring caves, trekking in the mountains, and tubing. One of the highlights is seeing the stunning Mulu Formation and the Gunung Buda limestone massif. Which is part of the Melinau Limestone Formation, estimated about 4,000-5,000 m thick and 40-90 million years old.
This can only be accessed via 4wd with a guide.
19. Other places in Asia to discover
Are you using Asia as your base while in Brunei? How about these other articles on Asia for travel inspiration.
- Hints and tips for tackling Everest Base Camp – Himalayas Nepal
- Hiking routes of Niigata & Nagano – Japan
- What to see and do on Green Island – Taiwan
- Best things to do in Bohol – The Philippines
Thank you for reading this article on how to spend a day in Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei. The capital city is definitely a fascinating place to visit and experience. Feel free to visit the Brunei Tourism Site for additional information.
Have you been to Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei before? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below.
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Disclaimer: Even though I was invited by ASEAN to see Bandar Seri Begawan Brunei for a day. All views are my own and based on my own experience in this interesting country.