What is there to do in Ubud, you ask?
I get this question a lot. So, I am sharing my current local hangouts here. Keep the following notes in mind while reading this list.
- These are places I’ve been to more than twice i.e., hangouts.
- These places can be reached in 15 minutes or so by foot from the Ubud Palace area (Ubud Centre). Most articles I’ve read about what to do in Ubud tell you about places that are 30 minutes to 2 hours away by car.
- * means a must-see or must-do. If you’re in Ubud for only a day, do these.
Ubud is like my mood–constantly changing. Check back often for updates, photos, & descriptions.
Campuhan Ridge Walk* (straight out of Dr. Seuss)
If Bali had a concept of a protected nature area for public use, Campuhan Ridge would be its poster child. The locals and expats keep it nice and clean. Please help keep it that way. We regularly take our dogs for walks here. I hold photos shoots here.
In the main area, a lonely palm tree surrounded by lush tall grass, perched on a high ridge overlooking the Wos rivers is right out of a Dr. Seuss story. If you go in the afternoon, you will understand why Campuhan Ridge is also known as (aka) bukit cium (kissing hill).
The feature photo for this post (farmer harvesting grass) is of the Campuhan Ridge walk before it was a “thing”.
Pasar Ubud* (Ubud Market – you can see Bali as is time stood still here before 7am)
I can’t think of a better place to experience Balinese culture than the pasar (traditional market). But, you must get to the market early especially for Pasar Ubud. At Pasar Ubud, I’ve seen vendors in full-force as early as 4 am in the morning. By 7 am, the traditional market sellers are getting ready to “pulang” (go home). By 8 am, all the fruit, spices, kue (Balinese pastry), & banten (Balinese temple offerings) vanish giving way to a sea of oleh oleh (tourist souvenirs).
After 10 am, Pasar Ubud has a complete different vibe. It’s worth it to experience both the early morning and mid-day moods of Ubud’s traditional market. Be sure you have your bargaining skills with you when you go.
Pura Taman Saraswati (wedding photographers paradise)
Behind the only Starbucks in Ubud is a magical oasis of serenity and Balinese architecture. A path flanked by lotus ponds leads you to an impressive example of an ornate kori agung gate. The kori agung gate, is a portal wide enough for only one person that leads to the inner sanctum of a pura. These gates have steps and a towering tiered roof. Pura means temple. Taman means park. And Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge and art.
Needless to say, this epic scenery is a perfect backdrop for wedding portraits, romantic dinners, and traditional dance performances.
Monkey Forest (hide your shiny stuff)
The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is an epic trifecta because it’s a:
- Lush jungle sanctuary for about 700 Macaca fascicularis or Balinese long-tailed macaque monkeys.
- Balinese spiritual hub for the local Padangtegal village hosting three temples: Pura Dalem (Shiva), Pura Prajapati (cremation), and a water purification temple (name unknown).
- Major tourist attraction recently upgraded with massive fee-based parking area and impressive super tall roofed ultra modern (for Bali standards) welcome centre.
If you want to get up-close and personal with Balinese wildlife, this is a must-do. But, hide your shiny stuff and don’t hide food on you or in your bag. These playful monkeys have a magnetic attraction to bling (if they see it) and can sniff out food on you if you have it. Feel free to feed the monkeys bananas. But, please treat them with kindness and respect as all animals should be treated.
Note: Facts here are cross-referenced with the official Monkey Forest website.
Lempad of Bali House (Bali’s late legendary sculpture and painter)
I Gusti Nyouman Lempad was a genius Balinese painter and sculptor in the 1930s commissioned by the lord of Ubud to build the local temples and palace. Lempad was also a key artist in the famous Pita Maha collective that was sponsored by the king of Gianyar, Cokorda Agung Sukawati. The Pita Maha was formed in Ubud by the esteemed western artists Rudolf Bonnet and Walter Spies.
I imagine that hundreds of tourists pass by Lempad’s unassuming house every day during the high seasons without giving the house a second glance.
- Vickers, Adrian, Balinese Art: Painting and Drawing of Bali 1800-2010 (Singapore, Tuttle Publishing, 2012), p. 121.
Patung Arjuna (Arjuna or Indra Statue)
Majestically sitting only one km to the east of Ubud Towne Centre is Patung Arjuna. Just a few years (2010ish) back this crossroads of Ubud, Andong (North), Peliatan (South), and Pjeng (East) was barely visited by tourists. Even today, only a minority of the throngs of visitors will walk just a few minutes more to catch a glimpse of one of the largest statues in Bali.
Yoga Barn* (the one and only)
Where there was darkness now there is light. The Yoga Barn was born in 2004 from humble beginnings. It started as a community space in response to the 2002 Bali bombings. The Yoga Barn provides world-class yoga and holistic services. It is arguably the most famous and influential yoga studio in Bali.
There is something for just about everyone at the Yoga Barn. There are impressive six studios with the largest studio, perhaps in all Bali, accommodating up to 80 practitioners. Check-out my full review on Balipedia.com (crossing fingers the site is still up ;-)).
Flaunting a Yoga schedule of 40 classes (at the time of writing), Radiantly Alive is Ubud’s second largest studio in terms of space, devotees, and offerings. Established relatively recently in 2012, it has become a world-renowned yoga hot-spot. With good reason. Radiantly Alive doesn’t have to pretend, preach, or defend the goodness of yoga. This Shala genuinely delivers quality and meaningful yoga mainly due to Radiantly Alive’s unassuming founder, Daniel Aaron. Scope-out my full review on Balipedia.com (crossing fingers the site is still up ;-)).
ARMA (Walter Spies)
Walter Spies was a German born artist who moved to Bali in 1927. He is credited with co-founding the Pita Maha artists collective in Ubud. The ARMA Museum in Ubud is home to a sizeable collection of Spies’ paintings. ARMA hosts numerous workshops and cultural performances. The grounds is also a showcase of Balinese architecture.
Neka (Arie Smit)
The Neka Art Museum is home to works from one of my favourite local painters, the late Arie Smit. Originally from The Netherlands and a former POW survivor, Arie is credited with founding the Young Artists Movement of Penestanan. Smit influenced young Balinese artists to capture every day Bali and to experiment with colour and with more expressive forms reminiscent of 19th century Impressionism.
The Neka also houses an impressive and large collection of keris or traditional Indonesian dagger.
The museum is just up the road from the Campuhan area of Ubud and across the street from the infamous Naughty Nuri’s of Anthony Bourdain fame.
Sika (local contemporary)
Pasar Ubud* (to practice your bargaining skills go here after 9am)
Jalan Gootama (also spelled Goutama)
Definitely my favourite street to take a leisurely stroll. Jl Gootama is a great alley way for window shopping and grabbing a bite to eat. Here, one can find Ubud’s only movie theatre, Ashtanga yoga, and trendy acai bowls. Food ranges from sushi, Thai, Italian, & French cuisines to an auspicious campur (mix) of warungs (Indonesian food stalls).
Jl Gootama runs parallel and sits between Jl Monkey Forest and Jl Hanonman. The street, named after Siddhārtha Gautama (the Buddha), is hard to miss because the entrance is flanked by two siting Buddha statues. It’s a shame motor vehicles are allowed on this narrow street. But, dodging dogs/roosters/motor bikes/tour buses are all part of the fun of Ubud.
Threads of Life
Excellent Indonesian Minang Padang cuisine. Very reasonable prices (low for tourists – okay for locals). Bonus: they recently put in a dedicated vegetarian section with red rice option–crazy good.
Red rice, tempe gorengan, tahu dengan sambal hijau, and es jeruk (no sugar no straw) is my usual. Conveniently located next to Bali Buda and Ganesha Books on Jl Raya Ubud. The main post office and plenty of ATM machines are literally around the corner.
They recently added a parking area/driveway up front to compensate for the new massive parking restrictions in Ubud Centre. Don’t forget to say “selamat malam” and “terima kasih sedikit” to the lunch-time cashier.
Mamma Mia (Pizza)
Delicious, healthy breakfast options, spacious stylish interior design, and Revolver Espresso–do I need to say more? Watercress Ubud is on Jalan Monkey Forest.
Kafe (original home of the Yoga Barn)
Confiture de Bali
Halal Ubud Burger (veggie burger available! yes!)
Seniman Coffee Studio* (innovative, unique, cool, and delicious)
In operations since 2011, Seniman broke the mold. There was nothing like Seniman in Ubud (probably all of Bali) before they arrived. Even now, with the boutique coffee scene explosion, there is no place in Bali that can match Seniman’s exceptional coffee, ambience, and creativity.
- On site roasting.
- Boutique retail shop.
- Promotion of upcycled products.
- Courteous, attentive, knowledgeable, and well-trained team.
- Complimentary valet parking (important now that there are new parking restrictions in Ubud).
Downtown Ubud (Cafe)
Kahiyang Coffee (kahiyang means harmony)
The Onion Collective