Oude Stad – ‘Old Town’ – Dutch Semarang

The old Dutch part of Semarang is often referred to as the Oude Stad. Built close to the port and with access for small ships and barges up the Semarang River, the colonial buildings of the ‘Old Town’ stand sadly neglected, except for those that have been able to survive as coffee shops, restaurants, exhibition space and office buildings.
The city government has repaved some of the old streets and put in period street lighting, but without a commercial use for many of the buildings they are slowly decaying.

Old Town Semarang

Old Dutch warehouses and commercial buildings along the Semarang River, as you can see some restoration is taking place and hopefully all the temporary buildings will be cleared away. I have seen period photos with boats tied up here.


The Domed Church or Gereja Immanuel was built in 1753, unfortunately I could not get inside. Here it is seen from the charming little town square, note the period streetlights.

Old Town

An example of one building that has been maintained, compared to its neighbours.


A street scene

Semarang Sports Photo

A street scene

Old Town 2

A building undergoing restoration.

Ikan Bakar Cianjur

Restaurant Ikan Bakar Cianjur. A beautifully restored interior and definitely the place to eat when you are in the ‘Old Town’.


The Hotel Jansen was apparently ‘the’ hotel of the period.



This building may be beyond any hope of restoration.


And finally — on a bright note!



About ianburnet

Author of the book, Spice Islands. Which tells the History, Romance and Adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years. Author of the book, East Indies.Which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas. Author of the book 'Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia'. Author of the book 'Where Australia Collides with Asia' Author of the book 'The Tasman Map'. Author of the book 'Eastern Voyages'.
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8 Responses to Oude Stad – ‘Old Town’ – Dutch Semarang

  1. Toni pollard says:

    Lovely to see Oulde Semarang. Have been there but not to this old part with its elegant if crumbling colonial buildings. I love trying to spot Dutch period houses when passing through streets in Yogya, say, or older suburbs of Jakarta. Hopefully the Indoneisan owners will keep up with the restoration of their past. Thanks for sharing your fascinating discoveries, Ian.

  2. Colin Goh says:

    Thanks for sharing these photos. There is so much that can be saved in Semarang.

  3. Sia Arnason says:

    Ian – thanks for sharing these pictures of a beloved city. We lived in Semarang from 1951 through 1957 and went to school in the “Heuvel School” I still have wonderful memories of going to toko Oen for and ice cream and the Klenteng, the Chinese section of town to eat the best Chinese food ever. Our father worked in one of those old colonial buildings and his office was completely paneled in Japara woodcarvings, as was our house in Old Tjandi. The pictures are sad but also still indicative of what the old town must have been in its glory years. Thanks for sharing them. Sia

  4. Ingrid says:

    Sia Arnason I have my mothers photo album with lots of pictures of her in Semarang where she lived from1946 – 1952 & I think she went to the Heuvel school too. Her name is Sonja Witsenburg,would you remember the Witsenburg family?
    Thankyou Ian for your great blog – it helps me to connect to where my mother grew up!

  5. Sia Arnason says:

    Hello Ingrid. Your Mother and I did not overlap, I think. We arrived in Semarang in the spring of 1952 and in August, 1952 I left for Holland to go to boarding school there. I only spent that short period at the Heuvel School. I do hear from former schoolmates about Heuvel School reunions. If you are interested I can send you an email address for further contacts. Regards, Sia

    • Ingrid says:

      Hello Sia, thank you for your reply.It sounds like you just missed my mother & her family who immigrated to Australia in 1952 (not sure of the month) Regarding the school reunion, I will have to say no, as my mother has advanced Dementia now & is in a Nursing Home & she doesn’t even know who I am 😦
      It was nice to hear from you. Regards Ingrid

  6. Graeme Steel says:

    A most interesting article on Semerang. Thank you. I particularly enjoy the then and now photos.

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