Dutch merchant mansions along the grand canal
Kali Besar literally means the big canal, a piece of superb water engineering by the Dutch. When they built Batavia city, they dredged the small Ciliwung stream and turned it into a navigable waterway, so the many sampans could offload goods from the tall ships in the Sunda Kelapa harbour.
A forgotten canal
In the 19th century, the harbour was relocated, and Jakarta’s wealthy businessmen moved to the newly planned Weltevreden a leafy suburb with wide boulevards and white plastered art deco villas. The canal was still a place of trade, but no one lived there anymore.
With the Kota Tua revival movement also the Kali Besar river has been cleaned up. The work of architect Budi Lim who in 2002 received a UNESCO award for the revitalisation of the National Archives. He was inspired by the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul where the riverbanks are now full of life and play. We like the concrete balconies where you can sit and relax after a long day of exploring Kota Tua.