More formally known as Surakarta, it is just in the middle of the island of Java. It is one of the two major centres of Javanese culture (the other one being Yogyakarta). The Surakarta Municipality has a population of about 570,000 (Census 2010), but the government of Indonesia officially defines a broader region as Surakarta's extended metropolitan zone with the acronym Subosukawonosraten as the city of Surakarta plus 6 surrounding regencies – namely Sukoharjo, Klaten, Boyolali, Sragen, Wonogiri and Karanganyar. In this area about 6,000,000 people live (Census 2010).
The expat community in Solo is very small compared with nearby cities such as Yogyakarta and Semarang. One estimate is about 250 westerners and a substantial larger number of Asian expats - Japanese, Koreans, Indians and Chinese being the most prominent. Most of those working are employed in furniture or textile businesses. There are also a number of retirees living mainly in the countryside and some foreign students studying Javanese culture, language, gamelan, etc. A high proportion of the expats living in Solo have been residents for a long time. It seems to be a place that once visited is hard to leave.
Some Website links of interest:
On Facebook : Kota Solo / Event Solo / Agenda Solo
Solo together with Yogyakarta are the two main centres of Javanese culture and tradition. Thanks to ISI - Institut Seni Indonesia, Solo’s well-known art school and Taman Budaya Surakarta, the local art centre, there is a very rich cultural life in Solo. Mainly for dance, traditional and contemporary, Solo is leading in Indonesia.
Carnivals - Thanks to the personal mission of Solo's former mayor Jokowi, who rebranded and promoted Solo as "The Spirit of Java", a Javanese culture and heritage centre, batik capital, and tourist-friendly city, there are regular special themed, very colourful carnivals along Jl. Slamet Riyadi; like the Batik Carnival and Wayang Orang Carnival.
Art performances can be seen at Taman Budaya Surakarta Jl. Ir Sutami 75, Kentingan and Teater Besar ISI Surakarta, Jl. Ki Hajar Dewantoro, Kentingan. Unfortunately their PR is not that professional, so sometimes it is difficult to know when performances are taking place – best is to drop in from time to time and see the posters at the black board in front of the theatre at Taman Budaya.
Museum Danar Hadi show casts an exquisite private collection of 10 000 plus Batik pieces, antiques and modern. A must see for the enthusiast of the traditional art of hand made batik, Jl. Slamet Riyadi 261.
Traditional Art Performances – on the 26th of every month at 8:00 PM at SMKI Surakarta – High school for Performing Arts, Jl. Sangihe, Kepatihan Wetan.
Traditional Dance - Every Wednesday morning from 9:30 until about mid-day the dancers of Soeryo Soemirat, the classical Javanese dance school that is part of the Mangkunegaran palace, rehearse Javanese court dances in the Pendopo accompanied by the meditative sounds of the royal gamelan orchestra. The palace is on Jl. Ronggowarsito. It has three entrances, one from the west, east and south. The Pendopo is in the central courtyard; you cannot miss it. Watching the dance rehearsals is free and open to anyone. If you are interested in a guided tour of the palace; there are English, German, Dutch and Japanese speaking guides available who will show you around for a small fee.
Festivals - Every two years is the Solo International Ethnic Music Festival and alternating the Solo International Performance Art Festival, both are 3 to 4 days long art events featuring local and international programs. Information and schedules about all these events can be obtained at the Solo Tourist Office at Jl. Slamet Riyadi next to Bank BCA's main branch. There you can also get all kind of brochures and city maps.
Wayang Kulit – once a month, on malam Jumat Kliwon according to the traditional Javanese calendar, there is a Wayang Kulit performance at the Pendopo of Taman Budaya Surakarta. It starts at 9:00 PM and goes on until around 4:00 AM the next morning. Note: malam Jumat Kliwon means that the event is on the evening before, as traditionally the day already starts at 6:00 PM in the evening!
Wayang Orang – is the traditional theatre showing scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana using human actors instead of shadow puppets. There are performances on Monday to Saturday at 8:00 PM at Sriwidari Park along Jl. Slamet Riyadi.
Beaches – Being stuck in the middle of the island, it’s a bit of a hike to the beaches. Nearest are the 3 triplets Baron, Kukup and Krakal, about 2,5 hours driving to the south. You can camp out on the floor of a friendly warung at Krakal for some seaside fun but there are also a couple of simple guesthouses. A very nice option is the house of Daryl, located on top of a small hill, which he rents out (villatirtasarikukupyogyakarta.com).
Further east, about 3,5 hours from Solo, is the horseshoe shaped bay of Pacitan, with small beachside bungalows which lately have gone more upmarket. A much better option is to head a little bit more to the west from Pacitan to breath taking picturesque Watu Karang beach where you also can find simple accommodation or reside in the comfort of the new opened Desa Lima San (www.desalimasan.com)
A very nice outing, though a bit difficult to reach so its only worth if you go for a minimum of 4 days is the beautiful island group on the north cost of Java, the Karimunjawa Islands.
Bowling – There is a good 10-pin bowling rink in Jl. Cokroaminoto in Jebres.
Fitness – There are well appointed fitness clubs/gyms at all of the more upscale hotels such as Novotel, Royal Surakarta Heritage and Alila Solo.
Solo Fitness has opened on Jl. Raya Solo Baru, but it has limited opening hours.
RPM Body-Fitness inside Stadion Manahan (www.rpmbodyfitness.com)
Body & Mind Fitness on Jl. RM Said 156, have well-equipped gyms in addition to all kind of classes like Aerobic, Martial Art, Yoga, Latin, Zumba etc.
Football – Solo is football mad and has a national league team called Persis. When they play in the Manahan Stadium the town erupts in red shirts, drum bands and enthusiastic youth driving through town with the exhaust removed from their motorbikes and flags waving.
Geocaching – A worldwide phenomenon; this is a fun and exciting kind of treasure hunt with the help of a GPS receiver; every smartphone with GPS can be used for it. So far at least 3 caches have been hidden in Solo and surroundings. It’s absolutely free and everybody registered on www.geocaching.com can take part.
Golf – The Adi Sumarmo golf course alongside the Solo airport is 9 holes and very cheap. There also is a driving range on Jl. Adisucipto on the way to the airport from Solo. Yogyakarta is not far away and there are a beautiful 18-hole course on the slopes of the famous Mount Merapi volcano as well as another near Yogyakarta airport and a 9-hole course at the Hyatt Hotel.
Go-Kart Circuit – there is a Go Kart circuit at the ground floor level of Hartono Pusat Grosir (across the street from The Park Mall) It can be quite fun especially if you go with a group of friends.
Horse Riding – is available in most of the mountain tourist spots. The ponies are small, but quite strong. Tawangmangu has rides from a quick turn round the block to a 5 hours trip to Gua Maria cave. You can even arrange a trip to the summit of Mount Lawu. A little further afield horses are available in the market towns of Kopeng on the slopes of Mount Merbabu and Bandungan on Mount Unguran. Havana Horses in Salatiga (www.havanahorses.co.id) is run by a mixed couple and has full-sized riding horses.
Indoor Tennis – GOR Solo Baru has courts, as does the GOR behind Sriwedari in Jl. Penumping Kidul.
Manahan Stadium – This, the largest stadium in Solo, is a very popular spot for sports, especially Sunday mornings.
Massages – A very good Japanese acupressure massage you can get a Nakamura. There are several outlets, at Solo Grand Mall, across from Pasar Legi, at Goro Assalam and at Plasa Solo Baru.
NEST Family Reflexiology & Spa at Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan 35 in Laweyan has a nice environment and competitive prices. Most of the big hotels also have nice Spa Departments attached.
Movies – There are several shiny and modern cinemas around town. Empire XXI Multiplex and Grand21 Multiplex have outlets in Solo Grand Mall, Solo Paragon, The Park and Solo Square. The latest movies are shown not long behind their Jakarta release.
Solo Car Free Day – is every Sunday from 6:00 to 9:00 AM when Jl. Slamet Riyadi and the street in front of Manahan Stadium are closed for all cars and motorbikes and becomes a giant open air sports ground. There are several aerobic groups you can join for free and it has become a major social event with hundreds of people showing up and having fun. It is also the time when everybody takes out their bicycles to get around.
Solo Hash House Harriers – the local chapter has been increasingly active over the past time, organising a hash ever second Saturday. When and where is announced in the free W&M's Solo e-Newsletter and on the Solo Expats Association Face Book page.
Swimming – There are good pools at most of the big hotels.
The Sunan Hotel has a half-Olympic, a paddlers and a middle-sized pool but charges 150 000 IDR entry fee for non guests.
The Lor Inn Hotel has a very nice pool area in the middle of a tropical garden, although the facilities are a little bit aged. The Paragon Hotel and Apartments has a middle sized pool with a nice view over town. Novotel has two pools, a quieter one on the side facing the street and a one more exposed one next to the restaurant.
Newest addition in town is the shiny Alila Hotel with an enormous outside pool with view all over the city. Signing up for a gym membership grants you access to the pool and the pool day pass is 200 000 IDR / day including either a meal or 2 drinks.
In Solo Baru the Pandawa Water Amusement park has finally been opened after quite a long building period and makes a good outing for people with kids.
Timezone – For those with small kids, a desire to ride motorbike simulators and a lot of money to burn; head to Timezone located in Solo Grand Mall or Solo Paragon.
Walking – There are very nice walks in the 3 mountains surrounding Solo. Merapi and Merbabu to the west have various trails to their summits. Mount Lawu to the east has summit trails as well as the popular Candi Sukuh to Tawangmangu hike (about 2-3 hours) and the hike from Candi Cetho to Candi Sukuh (4-5 hours). Cool pine forests, spectacular views and tiny mountain villages will be the rewards for your efforts.
White Water Rafting – best to enjoy in the wet season or you will do a lot of paddling. 1½-hour driving from Solo two businesses are based in Mendut near Borobudur temple. They are both very professional with experienced raft captains, proper helmets and life jackets etc. The four separate voyages are of varying degrees of screamingness; the easier ones are good for kids (citraelo.com)
Life in Solo changed several years ago with the opening of Solo Grand Mall, Solo Square (both located on Jl. Slamet Riyadi; the main street in Solo) and Hartono Mall in Solo Baru. The latest additions to a modern shopping experience are the recently opened Paragon Mall integrated with the Paragon Apartment and Hotel Building and the brand new The Park Lifestyle Mall (next to the Hartono Mall). Nowadays Hypermart, LotteMart, Super Indo and Carrefour supermarkets can be found all over town. Although their selections and stocks vary greatly (do not expect stocks -especially of imported goods- to be replenished on a regular basis) you can get most foodstuffs needed for a good meal; including imported meats, beers (not in all Solo Baru locations), cheese and fresh organic vegetables; all Hypermarts have a special pork section for those hunkering for pork bacon under their eggs or pork sausages and sliced meats.
Go-Jek : order&delivery mobile application for a lot of products and services. https://www.go-jek.com
Solo Grand Mall is by most standards not so grand but it is a mall and as such has become the focal point and favourite haunt of every Solonese teenager. It is anchored by a Hypermart supermarket in the basement a Matahari department store and numerous fast food stores such as KFC, Texas Chicken and Pizza Hut. Upstairs on the third floor is a reasonable food court and the smaller fourth floor houses the Grand21 cinema complex and a large billiard hall. There is also a Breadtalk bakery on the ground floor with good cakes and reasonable bread.
Solo Square is another popular mall, a bit more upmarket then Solo Grand Mall. There is also a Hypermart supermarket and some of the best Chinese food in town according to some of the expert expats.
Solo Paragon Mall hosts a 2-floor Carrefour with a food and a non-food section, an ACE Hardware store next to Informa (an Ikea-kind of interior decoration store; good stuff but pricey), the first official Apple Store in Solo, Starbucks, several restaurants and several more upmarket clothing stores. Not to mention the huge Centro department store where many fashion and cosmetic brands have their shop-in-shop.
Latest addition to the Solo Mall landscape is the very upscale The Park in Solo Baru with a big Lotte Mart, a Metro department store and plenty of luxury chain shops. It also has a large outdoor terrace surrounded by (expensive and their prices are ++tax/service charge) restaurants. The older Hartono Lifestyle Mall next door has a large Hypermart outlet, a huge 2-floor ACE Hardware store and many affordably priced shops and restaurants.
Pasar Triwindu in Jl. Diponegoro, newly renovated and relocated by Solo mayor Joko Widodo is famous for its “antiques” – bronzes, old batiks, glass jars, ceramics. Occasionally there really are some old things. It is open from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, 7 days a week and is a great way to spend a few hours. You are expected to bargain. On Saturday nights there is a night market just in front of Pasar Triwindu featuring mainly batik clothes and handmade decoration items.
Pasar Klewer one of the biggest batik markets in Indonesia and therefore by extension the world unfortunately burned down in 2015. While the reconstruction at the same location is in process, the market can be found at its temporary location on the Alun Alun in front of the Kraton. Also a good place to shop for Batik is the PGS (Pusat Grosir Solo) at the end of Jl. Slamet Riyadi.
Gramedia Bookstore on Jl. Slamet Riyadi is by far the best source of books and office supplies. They often hold art exhibitions and performances in the foyer of the old entrance building. There is a second outlet at Solo Square.
Muara Art Market, Jl. Lumban Tobing, (close to Pasar Legi) Artist managed Comunnity projects with art shops, coffee and concerts. Still in soft opening. There is also an outlet selling beer. https://www.instagram.com/muara.market
Household Goods and Furniture: Quite complete and good priced local household goods can be found at Toko Putra Manis, Jl. RE Martadinata , across Pasar Gede. A little bit more to the east across the street is a quite interesting porcelain outlet shop where you can find nice plates, cups, bowls etc. Other big household stores are in Jl. Dr. Radjiman between Jl. Gatot Subroto and Jl. Paku Wojo (near Matahari Singosaren).
Western standard imported household goods can be found at INFORMA, which has outlets at Solo Paragon and at Hartono Mall. Informa also has modern, western style furniture. For local wooden furniture the best is to ask around for tips in the expat community as many of the members are active in furniture production or may know some direct sources.
As there is a lot of textile production going on in and around Solo, there are quite a few interesting fashion outlets. As textiles sold there where mostly intended for export, you have the chance to find bigger sizes and well known brands.
Blossom Family Outlet
Jl. Bhayangkara, Laweyan, Solo
Tel. 0271 - 713551
ESSE Sportswear Outlet
Kh. Samanhudi 132, Solo
Tel. 0271 - 738820
Bateeq Factory Outlet
Jl. Dr. Rajiman 470 Laweyan, Solo
Phone : 0271-739999
La Moda (next to La Moda del Gelato)
Jl. MT Haryono No. 8 Solo.
Eses Factory Outlet
Jl. Cendrawasih Blok H No. 12, Solo Baru
New Eses Men Fashion Store
Jl. Ir. Soekarno, Langenharjo, Solo Baru, Tel. 0271 622 700
Solo Stock Factory Outlet (SSFO)
Hartono Mall, Ground Floor, Solo Baru
Club Sehat Solo, J. Adi Sucipot 65C (next to Fave Hotel) has a good selection of dry fruits, all kind of cerials (including Qia, Qinoa etc) lentils, Muesli, many different nuts and other extremely healthy things you hardly will find elsewhere in Solo.
Coconuts Shop, Jl. Yos Sudarso No.361, has a wide choice of imported foodstuffs, mainly Japanese and Korean dry goods but also chocolates. Contact Ibu Jenny at 0271-664288 or 087836001010.
Keju Indrakila supplies locally made, competitively priced fresh cheese. They have several kinds of chees, including feta, mozzarella, mountain cheese and camembert, called Boyobert. Contact Novi at 081329265213 for order and delivery.
Sun Rise Meat Shop and Supplier, Jl. Melati No 5A (behind RS Kasih Ibu) has an interesting selection of imported meats and sausages.
Super Indo supermarket, the newest shopping addition in town features some imported food items (like Muesli), organic vegetables and herbs and is nice and interesting for grocery shopping. Jl. Adi Sucipto No.98 and Jl. Ronggowarsito No.23.
MeatShop&Grocery , Jl. Kebangkitan Nasional No 45, Tel. 0271 7462768, rnbgrill-meatshop.com, Very nice grocery with a wide range of high quality western food products. The restaurant is also serving very good meat.
Locally made bacon, ham, South African biltong (dried beef fillet) smoked chicken wings and Ginger beer you can get from Tamen Ijo Catering, Jl. Nusa Indah II Gang Asri No. 55, Perumanas Palur. Contact Ibu Nanik 0271-825248 or 081329513423 for an appointment and directions.
Fresh baked bread, bread rolls and yummy cakes are produced upon order by Yani Zanden, you can contact her at 083866507624.
Monsieur Michel grows organic vegetable, salads and herbs on the slope of Gunung Lawu. Mr. Michael has introduced a lovely delivery service: Kartini Super Service where you can order fresh greens from Michel about once in a fortnight and Michael will transport them down to Solo.
The best way to get regular cheese and greenery deliveries is to join the WhatsApp “Cheese, Vegetable & Cake” group. If interested, please contact Charlotte 08122656821.
Solo is famous for its food and for the fact that you can enjoy it 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. There is a wide range of Indonesian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Western food. As in the last couple of years the number of restaurant opened has absolutely mushroomed, it is now nearly impossible to give a complete list. Go to www.tripadvisor.com for a fairly substantial overview of restaurants in Solo.
McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut are found around town and also every mall has, besides restaurants, a food court. Not to mention the 1000's of warungs (small simple restaurants) and small stalls along the sides of the streets; favourite places for locals and backpackers to grab a quick and cheap meal.
All the upscale Hotels like for example Alila Solo, Royal Surakarta Heritage, Novotel Solo have good restaurants with western and Indonesian food on their regular menus and often Buffet on the weekends. Best check their respective websites for further information.
Below you find a short list mainly focusing on places where you have a good chance to bump into members of the local Expats community (eg. the famous watering holes….) and Restaurants, which are somehow special (and maybe hard to find):
Manir’s Family Kitchen, on Jl. Kantil 4 (not far from Solo Paragon but a little hard to find as it located inside a kampoeng) has Indian food, cold beer, a computer hot spot and sports TV. Tel: 0271-710287
Parfour Restaurant & Grill on Jl. Kebangkitan Nasional 31 (behind the Sriwedari Park area right next door to Sports Station). Home style cooking popular in the southern United States. Authentic barbequed burgers, steaks, pork chops, ribs and homemade pizzas. A great place to get a cold beer and a hot meal. Open 16:00 – until late, Mondays closed.
Solo Mio, Jl. Sutowijoyo No.9, Penumping, Laweyan, Tel. 0271 – 727264
Incontro, in front of Alila Hotel, Jl. Slamet Riyadi No. 562
Conejo Mexican Fusion, Jl. Rongowarsito 151D,
Middle Eastern Food:
Marakez Cafe & Resto, Jl. Untung Suropati 76, Pasar Kliwon, Tel. 0271 648711
Javanese / Indonesian Food:
Omah Sinten, Jl. Diponegoro, 34-54, Tel. 0271 641160, www.omahsinten.net/
La Taverna, Jalan Siwalan No.55, https://www.facebook.com/latavernasolo/
Home Café and Resto, Jl. Sugiyopranoto 56, Tel 0271 642556, www.homecaferesto.com
Saffron Resto & Meatshop, Jl. Ronggowarsito No 38, Tel. 0271 648454. also sells home made sausages.
RnB MeatShop&Grocery , Jl. Kebangkitan Nasional No 45, Tel. 0271 7462768, rnbgrill-meatshop.com.
Kayu Manis, Jl Slamet Riyadi No. 158-162 (near Pasar Triwindu)
Mogen, Jl. Letjend. S. Parman 48, (close to pasar Legi)
La Moda del Gelato, Jl. Mt. Haryono No. 8 (not far from Manahan)
Sunny's Gelato, Jalan Doktor Setiabudi No.82, Gilingan, Banjarsari.
Kafe Bola - Located behind PGS at the end of Slamet Riyadi. Has live bands and DJ events with a small area for dancing, dark lighting, beer and spirits. It mostly has a local crowd and is a nice spot for listening to good music if you do not like big crowds, Ruko Beteng Blok C/12-17, Jl. Mayor Sunaryo, www.kafebolasolo.com/home/
The Music Room or locally known as Mushro at the Sunan Hotel. It is a small non-ventilated room so it can be a bit smoky at times. There are different themed events Monday to Saturday starting 10 PM until late . The crowd is mainly local and the bands mostly play pop and Indonesian music, DJ stuff (house music), drinks are on the expensive side.
The Bar at the Novotel has great service and a mixed local and "bule" crowd. The staff is great here, very helpful, there is a good sound system and an extensive menu for good food and drinks. Drinks are a little expensive. The bands usually play pop but sometimes also Indonesian songs and classic rock.
Sriwedari Parc - located on Slamet Riyadi nearly straight across from AMPM with a large open air
stage in the "Amusement Park". Hosts bands ranging from rock, pop, classic rock to dangdut. Local crowd but a lot of space and breathing area.
The Beer Garden, jl Adisucipto (next to Amazon Spa) – very large covered outdoor bar with live music, frequented by local college students.
HOB at the Park Mall – (Solo Baru) Nice selection of beers and cider, live music on certain nights and casual dining
KTV and Club at the Best Western Premiere Solo Baru – new KTV joint with a small bar club area and private KTV rooms of various sizes. Sexy hostesses abound.
Agra at Alila Solo - Solo’s highest restaurant & bar located on the 29th floor of the Alila Solo hotel – serves eclectic tapas with live music/DJ on certain nights. Hip, urban atmosphere, perfect for happy hour or late night fun. Large panoramic terrace overlooking the city and private rooms.
AMPM has now several locations in town: one along Jl. Slamet Riyadi, another one on Jl. Honggowongso No.27. For late-nighters; opens 24 hours and have beer, food and also live music from 9:00pm until 12:30am daily with a good mix of expats and locals. Mainly a young crowd at the moment (2014).
Diamond - on Slamet Riyadi just west of Solo Grand Mall on the north-side of the street. This is a Chinese restaurant/hotel open 24 hours a day; serves dim sum, juices, beer, tea, Chinese food, wine and features 2 flat screen TV's where you can watch late night football or movies. The cafe is clean and has good service.
Royal Surakarta Heritage Hotel and Aston Solo Hotel both have a nice pool bar with al fresco seating, a selection of beers, spirits and wine and a good choice of finger food and snacks. Good places to start the evening.
BROTHERHOPS beer corner, Jl.menteri supeno no.3A, Manahan area. Large range of beer, steak & italian food, outdoor garden,live music everyday.
Solo is relatively cheap for housing. Options are extremely varied, and expats are scattered widely over the city. Most expats rent while a few of the more established residents with local spouses having bought or built their own houses. Renting is comparatively much, much cheaper. Solo Baru (a satellite town of Surakarta; officially in Sukoharjo Regency) to the south has a lot of one and two storied modern places for rent – usually in the US$2,000-4,000 range. Fajar Indah, is another favorite living area for expats. Nice medium size local houses run at about US$1000-2000 per annum. Rental is usually paid in full and in advance for the whole rental period but with government owned properties and some private owners you can discuss payments in terms (like per year). When you have to renovate a lot (most likely) make sure to sign long-term contracts.
Good places to start and also get an overview regarding prices and offers is: www.rumah123.com and olx.co.id
If you need to stay for an extended period but don’t want to commit to rent a house there is always the possibility to move into a “Kost”, a kind of boarding house. They have daily, weekly and monthly rates, the longer you stay, the cheaper it gets. Good kost are:
Boga Bogi, Jl. Siwalan 175 Jajar Solo Tel: 0271 - 710131, bogabogi.wordpress.com/kos-boga-bogi/
Garden Residence, Jalan Siwalan No 92, Kerten, Solo, gardenresidencesolo.blogspot.co.id/
Pineapple Mansion, Jl. Nanas 5 No. 6, Tel. 0271 - 9228888
Medical facilities are quite good, with Dr Oen Hospital, one in Solo Baru and a second one at Kandang Sapi being the most popular. They have an emergency room open 24/7, and also a polyclinic with general and specialist doctors.
There is a very good orthopaedic hospital Rumah Sakit Ortopedi Prof. Dr. Soeharso near Universitas Muhammadiyah.