Yogyakarta: An Insider’s Guide To Food, Dress And Where To Stay

Come prepared to enjoy this amazing and unique Indonesian city.


Our last destination in Indonesia on our 17 day trip was our four night stay at the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta on Java. This was going to be our first city experience on our Indonesian trip and I was really looking forward to it.  We spent the first two weeks exploring jungle, wildlife and remote villages all over Indonesia. Many of our adventures were truly breathtaking. If you are interested in reading more about them, I have included a list of our experiences at the end of this article.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
Hanging around our The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta

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Prior to booking, I had heard that Yogyakarta was a vibrant city filled with many universities and students. In addition, it was a cultural and artistic centre with several art schools, galleries and shows.  I was very curious to find out how this would translate in a conservative muslim country.

Happily, Yogyakarta did not disappoint. The city was clean and had great energy. Like many Asian cities, moped and motorcycle traffic was crazy. However, people were kind and went out of their way to be helpful. I particularly liked the fashion sense. Young women were out and about everywhere. Most wore skinny jeans and long sleeve tops (notwithstanding the heat!) and then, wore brightly covered headscarves.


Yogyakarta attractions

We took a food tour in Yogyakarta (which I will discuss below) and our guide was female. She wore western clothes and her head was uncovered. This was our first female guide in all of our Indonesian travels. She had a relaxed easy going vibe that was common in most of the young women that we saw in Yogyakarta.  She told us that the majority of young women in Yogyakarta cover their head because they want to and it is fashionable, not because they are forced to do so.

Overall, I really enjoyed Yogyakarta. It had a fascinating blend of religion, traditional culture, interesting history, and modernity. I would have loved to have stayed and explored for much longer.


Travel To The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta

We had to travel from Pangkalan Bun on Borneo to Yogyakarta, after spending four days trekking for orangutans (Trekking For Orangutans In Indonesia), and this was not easy. We opted to fly to Semarang, a quick 1 1/2 hour flight and then, be driven the 3 hours from Semarang to Yogyakarta.  There is an airport near the city of Yogyakarta but no direct flight from Pangkalan Bun. Once I calculated the flight times, layovers and connections, I decided that I would prefer the 3 hour drive. Besides, I love road trips. I think that you really get a feel for an area when you drive through not only the beautiful scenic spots but also the functional/industrial areas.


Road trip to Yogyakarta

The drive was interesting. We saw mountains and volcanos surrounded by lush jungle and rice paddy fields. However, we also saw many single story storefronts, industrial shops and restaurants along the road. They were much more sophisticated than anything that we saw on Flores, the islands around Komodo National Park or Borneo, but still very basic compared to North America. Nonetheless, it was clear that the local economy was busy and industry was growing.


The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta

I thought the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta was absolutely beautiful and in a fantastic location.

It is set in a 1918 Colonial building. The style and furnishings were all consistent with that timeframe and blended Asian and European decor effortlessly. The public areas also combined indoor and outdoor living with gorgeous fountains, plants and decor.


Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The main floor hallway at the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta
The outdoor courtyard in the centre of the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The pool at the Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta


Location of The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta

The location of The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta was amazing. We stepped outside the front door and walked around 15 minutes to find ourselves at the start of the Malioboro shopping district. All day and late into the night, locals set up stalls along the sidewalk selling their arts and crafts. We visited this area a couple of times and was one of my favourite Yogyakarta attractions. I loved the hustle and bustle of the street. Interestingly, we were only a handful of tourists in the area. The majority of people browsing and hanging out in this area were locals.


Malioboro Street is walking distance from Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta
Shopping on Malioboro Street near the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta


Yogyakarta attractions

We also enjoyed shopping at Malioboro Mall another 10 minutes walk along Malioboro street. This mall is multi-level and air conditioned (thank goodness!!). On the main floor, several kiosks were set up and vendors sold clothing made out of batik, a traditional Javanese technique to colour and print cloth. The rest of the mall had very reasonably priced North American style shops. We spent a few hours shopping there and had a lot of fun.


Food at The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta

Every morning, we enjoyed an enormous complimentary buffet breakfast offered outside in the centre of the hotel. The food catered to many different palates and traditional breakfast choices from around the world.  Every night, they also set out a different type of buffet dinner which looked spectacular and was available for purchase.

I found the staff at the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta to be wonderfully pleasant and excellent at what they did.


Accommodation At The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta

For accommodation at The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta or elsewhere in Yogyakarta, I would recommend searching below in and using the amazing interactive map to find the best prices.


Second Day at The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta

Food Tour –  A Yogyakarta Attraction

On our second day at the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta, we took a half day food tour with Via Via Travel. We were determined to find all the delicious food that Yogyakarta had to offer!

I love taking food tours. In addition to eating lots of yummy food, food tours often take you to different parts of a city that may not be in areas normally visited by tourists. You also are introduced to traditional foods or exciting trends to which you might remain oblivious if you simply wandered the streets on your own.

Originally, this tour was by motorcycle. We were each supposed to climb on the back of a motorcycle driven by a local to each of the locations . However, on our drive from Semarang to Yogyakarta, my oldest daughter and I saw the aftermath of a motorcycle accident where the driver of the motorcycle lay on the ground beheaded. Yup, you read that right. After that, no one in our family was going anywhere near a motorcycle. Instead, Via Via organized a car and driver for us, in addition to our guide.

The food tour was excellent. We went to five different locations and tried many traditional Indonesian foods. There were a couple of items that we really enjoyed eating but for the most part, we loved seeing the different parts of the city. Also, as I said before, our guide was young and female and it was really cool to talk to her about her life and the current trends in Yogyakarta.


Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

First stop on food tour – Yogyakarta attractions

Our first stop was to the Bakpia Bathok 25 Factory where they made bakpia, a traditional baked good. We toured the factory and watched dozens of workers make them under pretty precarious safety standards. Open flames were everywhere and enormous cauldrons of boiling liquid were carried by workers barefoot or in flip flops. Our tour took us into every part of this factory and also included hopping around these open flames and boiling cauldrons of liquids – a little nerve racking but fascinating!


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The kitchen where the bakpia is made.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
Barefoot and carrying boiling water!


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The green bean paste filling being prepared.


Bakpia are filled with many different savoury and sweet fillings. The most popular one in Yogyakarta is a green bean paste. At the end of the tour, we got to try every flavour and we took on the challenge happily. We tried most of them and loved the chocolate and pineapple filled ones. Luckily, we got to take home a few complimentary boxes.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
Different flavours of bakpia in take away boxes.


Second stop on food tours – Yogyakarta attractions

Next, we drove to an Indonesia restaurant tucked away in a local neighbourhood and tried a couple of traditional dishes. One was Lotek, an Indonesian salad with raw and lightly cooked vegetables, a hard boiled egg and peanut sauce. Our guide told us that this is a regular daily meal. I loved the peanut sauce.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The kitchen where our traditional food was made.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia


Third stop on food tour – Yogyakarta attractions

From there, we went to a large stand filled with Indonesian candy, sweets, and baked goodies. We stood in front of this stand for about 30 minutes simply smiled, pointed and eated to our heart’s content. Some of the treats were yummy while others were a little odd for our North American palates. However, the kids had a blast here.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
Some of the candy choices.


Fourth stop on food tour – Yogyakarta attractions

At our fourth stop, we tried a plate of different cooked/grilled meats. At this point, we were already quite full and couldn’t eat much. In addition, unless you are a ravenous carnivore, the food wasn’t the most appetizing looking.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The meat selection on our food tour.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
Our plate of meat on the food tour.


Last stop on food tour – Yogyakarta attractions

This was by far the coolest destination on our tour. We ended up at the Sultan’s square just before dusk and it was already filling up with Indonesian families playing, eating and walking around. There was a carnival atmosphere to this place. Funky cars decorated with lights lined up around the square ready to take people on a ride. Vendors sold balloons and bubble makers.


Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The Sultan’s Square just before dusk.


In the centre of the square were two enormous ancient trees. Our guide paid for blindfolds for the kids, and then, we sat back and watched to see whether any of them could walk 75 yards or 70 metres in a relatively straight line in between the two trees. Two were successful and one was not. It was hilarious to watch.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The two ancient trees that the kids had to walk through blindfolded in order to win the game.


Phoenix hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
Juliet and Harrison blindfolded for the game.


There were many food stands all around the square and an area on the grass with little plastic foot stools meant to be tables. Here we sat on the ground and tried a ginger drink which  was warm and sweet. We also got to choose several different “toppings” to add to it. Although our stomachs were about to burst, we all enjoyed this traditional beverage. It was a wonderful way to end a phenomenal food tour.


Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta Indonesia
The stand where we got our ginger drink.


Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta
Relaxing and having our drink in the Sultan’s Square


Food In Indonesia

I loved our food tour. I liked exploring different areas of Yogyakarta that we would not have normally discovered on our own. In addition, we enjoyed eating lots of Indonesian dishes and treats, meeting locals and hearing about Indonesian traditions.

However overall, we ended up being disappointed with the food in Yogyakarta. We ate out a couple of times at restaurants recommended by the hotel, but also had many meals at the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta. We did not expect much from the more isolated places in Indonesia that we visited prior to arriving in Yogyakarta. However, we did have high hopes that we would find a foodie culture in Yogyakarta. If it existed, we were very unlucky and never stumbled upon it during our time there.


Traditional Indonesian food

Overall, Indonesian food is very healthy. Most traditional food includes lots of vegetables. Fish and chicken are also a part of a typical Indonesian diet but that depends on location (and cost, if you are a local). We had fish when we stayed near Komodo National Park and hiked with wild Komodo dragons; and in Borneo when we trekked into the jungle in search of orangutans where our accommodation was within steps of the river. However, chicken was only offered a couple of times and mostly when we were more landlocked, like when we hiked Kelimutu Volcano on Flores.

Generally, what was lacking was flavour and spices. In Indonesia, we never went hungry and always had a nutritious meal. But during our 17 days there, we rarely had anything exciting or mouthwatering.


Yogyakarta Attractions

If you are interested in a food tour or other attractions or excursions in and around Yogyakarta, I would recommend exploring the Get Your Guide site with the link below.




I loved our introduction to Yogyakarta. The drive there was fascinating. The Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta was truly beautiful with a wonderful staff.  The city had a terrific vibe and I loved the blend of traditional and modern life that we found there.

Although the food in Indonesia generally, and in Yogyakarta was a bit disappointing, I appreciated the effort the Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta made in supplying beautiful buffets.

Finally, I would absolutely recommend the food tour offered by Via Via Travel.  I loved trying the traditional Indonesian foods, touring Yogyakarta, and having an opportunity to connect with locals, including our young female guide.


If you are interested in reading more about our adventures during our three week trip to Indonesia, here is a list of all the articles that I have written:

Padar Island, Pink Beaches and Komodo Dragons: An Epic Experience;

Kelimutu: An Epic Guide To A Breathtaking Indonesia Volcano;

Exploring the Untouched Beauty of Kelimutu Indonesia;

The Unbelievable Wonders of Komodo National Park In Indonesia;

A Stunning Borneo Ecotour With Teens;

Trekking For Orangutans In Indonesia; 

Indonesia: The Magic of Lightning Bugs In the Rainforest

A Mind Blowing 17 Day Indonesian Adventure With Teens


Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

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We loved our four day stay in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. It is a very cool city with a vibrant art scene. We stayed at the beautiful Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta, explored the city on an awesome food tour and loved the fashion scene. #travel #familytravel #Asia #Indonesia #Yogyakarta |bakpia, blindfold, fashion, food tour, game, Indonesia, kids, lotek, Malioboro, Phoenix Hotel Yogyakarta, Sultan Square, teen, Via Via Travel |



  • Great food blog to visit once again my stomach is churning. Hotel definitely looks beautiful! Thanks!

    Great that the articles can be easily downloaded too!

  • I love Indonesian food and I am sorry to hear that you were disappointed with the food in Yogyakarta. Phoenix hotel looks like a great choice, nevertheless! And the food tour by Via Via Travel looks great, just my kind of thing to do! Thanks for the recommendation.

    • I would love to have some terrific Indonesian food one day. I’m sure it exists and I was just very unlucky while in Indonesia!

  • I’ve never been to Indonesia yet, so definitely haven’t been to Yogyakarta! I’m sorry to hear the food wasn’t great, but that food tour looks like it gave you the opportunity to try some local favourites. Interesting about the fashion… they must be very used to the heat to wear long sleeves!

    • The food tour was wonderful and interesting! It was so hot. I was barely able to cope in a light sundress much less jeans and long sleeve tops.

  • I am intrigued by the pictures of the hotel. You stayed in a really nice place. It is interesting to see you have been on a food tour. You get to know a lot about a culture through their plates. Nice to see, really. But the fourth stop will be really really unappetizing to me as I am not a meat eater. I would like the first and third stops. Hope you enjoyed the ginger drink as well.

    • Yes, the meat stop was pretty unappetizing for all of us, even though we are not vegetarians. But, the rest of the stops were yummy!

  • The hotel looks lovely and traditional. It is a shame about the food- you would think there would be lots of flavour and exotic items. I love a food tour- you learn so much right?

    • Especially since Thailand has some of the best food around and it doesn’t seem all that far away. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go back and keep looking for yummy food.

    • The rooms were very similar to the rest of the hotel. Very large with beautiful traditional furniture. It was a wonderful place to stay.

  • I didn’t make it to Yogyakarta when I was in Indonesia. The hotel looks like a great choice, and I like the colonial look too. Shame about the food there, at least it was healthy!

  • long-sleeve shirts plus head scarves? not sure how I can manage with the humidity and warmth in Asian cities! Anyways on a different note, I think I would spend most of my time in the sweets stall haha.

    • Don’t forget skinny jeans too! We were overwhelmed with the heat so it was amazing to see. My kids loved the sweets stall as well!

  • Long sleeve shirts plus veil? I am not sure how to deal with humidity and warmth in Asian cities! Anyway, on a different note, I think I’ll spend most of my time at the candy booth haha.

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