Ubud is known as the cultural heart of Bali. There are so many things to see and do in this beautiful part of the Island of the Gods. Here’s our Gypsy Guide for 10 things to do around the city center.
1. The Royal Palace (Puri Saren)
Located in the center of the city, the Royal Palace is a great place to start your visit. Admire the stone carvings around the angkul-angkul traditional gate as well as the guardian statues. The entrance of the palace is free and open to the public. Unfortunately the inside is not accessible to visitors. Be sure you don’t wander into an area you aren’t supposed to be in.
There are also nightly dance performances here accompanied by a gamelan orchestra.
2. Ubud Market
Located just opposite the palace, this is a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts while practicing your bargaining skills. Remember the first price is not always the last price! You can even hear some funny lines to take home with you. When Sasha’s family was visiting, we were shopping for the ubiquitous Balinese penis-shaped bottle opener (no, really). We came across some small penis-shaped key chains and the man we were bargaining with said “Like Balinese – small but spicy!”
Apparently they are for good luck and men used to wear them around their necks to ward off evil spirits.
3. Monkey Forest
This is undoubtedly the most popular place to visit in Bali. I mean, where else can you see so many monkeys in their natural habitat?! Be forewarned though – if you have any food at all, it will most definitely be taken by a monkey. Sasha witnessed a little girl walk in with a fresh ice cream cone. She didn’t even get one lick before a monkey stole it. These monkeys are Crab Eating Macaques and can be pretty aggressive if they feel threatened. People have been bitten here before so just be calm and don’t provoke them.
4. Art Museums
There’s no shortage of beautiful art museums for your viewing pleasure in Ubud. It’s the center for arts in Bali, after all. The Blanco Renaissance museum features erotic art of the female form and also has an exotic bird viewing area outside.
**We’ve heard rumors of these birds being mistreated. While we can’t confirm these rumors, it’s worth noting.
Other art museums around Ubud include:
- Museum Rudana
- Neka Art Museum
- ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art) – This museum also hosts many music festivals.
- Museum Puri Lukisan
5. Campuhan Ridge Walk
Looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main road? Head up the Campuhan Ridge Walk. You’ll find peace and quiet in the serenity of the rice fields. There are some small art galleries at the top of the hill as well as a restaurant, Karsa, where you can sit in a little hut over water and enjoy a fresh coconut or a Bintang. They also have a spa if you’re in the market for a massage.
The path begins beside Pura Gunung Lebah. From the main road (Jl. Raya Ubud) turn into the Ibah hotel. Just before the hotel gate go down the hill to the left. Then walk down the stairs to the right at the beginning of the bridge. If you cross the bridge you’ve gone too far.
6. Dinner and a Show
Ubud is home to some of Bali’s best restaurants including Bridge, Lotus Cafe, Terazo and Mosaic. There are also cultural performances every night of the week, mostly centered on traditional Balinese dances. Nine of Bali’s traditional dances gained UNESCO status last year, so they’re certainly worth the very reasonable price of admission. Make a night of it and choose a delicious restaurant followed by one of these unique dances you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
7. A Day at the Spa
Ubud has so many spas, it can be difficult to choose. We personally prefer the Bali Botanical Day Spa. They’re popular though, so make sure to book at least a day in advance. Many different treatments are available as well as packages that include a wine tasting or romantic dinner for two at the popular Bridges Cafe.
Other popular spas in Ubud include (in no particular order):
- Taksu Spa
- Karsa Spa (top of the Ridge Walk)
- Jaens Spa Ubud
- Putri Bali Spa
Ubud is probably the second most popular place for practicing yoga behind Goa, India. Many yogis and yoginis flock here from all over the world to get their teacher training or just practice with some of the best instructors. There are so many studios to choose from. The most famous is Yoga Barn. They play host to an annual yoga and music festival, the Bali Spirit Festival where they bring in the best instructors from all over the world as well as international music acts. Get their membership card for a little break on the price or just pay for individual classes.
Other yoga studios as well as retreats and Ashrams in Bali are outlined in this post from Never Ending Voyage.
I know we’ve already mentioned seeing a show at night, but this one that stands out about the rest. Most shows are accompanied by a traditional gamelan orchestra, but the unique kecak performance features upwards of 50-100 men chanting. Featured in the movie Baraka, this performance is a Gypsies’ do not miss.
The performance is nightly but takes place at different locations. Be sure and check the schedule before heading out.
10. A Night Out
Ubud isn’t the place for nightlife. If you’re looking for wild parties and nightclubs, head to one of the beach towns in south Bali. That being said, there are some places around town to grab a beverage and enjoy some live music. Bar Luna is our personal favorite as they generally have live music on weekends and movie or trivia nights during the week. Other places include The Shisha Lounge and Cafe Havana.