Banten, also known as Banten Lama (Old Banten) is a town in the province of Banten, in the Western Java region of Indonesia. Banten used to be the capital of the powerful Banten sultanate, that had control over trade in parts of Western Java and Sumatra in the 16th to 18th century.
Being a great trading centre in Southeast Asia, especially of pepper, the sultanate of Banten was powerful and prosperous starting in the 16th century, which led to the construction of impressive buildings in its capital town of Banten. However, the capital of the colonial power, the Dutch East Indies, was located just 60 km east in Batavia (currently the city of Jakarta). This led to intense conflicts, and eventually led to the end of the sultanate in the early 19th century, when it was absorbed in the Dutch East Indies. Nowadays, the town of Banten is officially an administrative village under the authority of the larger city of Serang. Banten's port is no more than a local fishing port, with the ports of Merak to the west and Jakarta to the east being much more important.
Banten is about 7 km north of the city of Serang. The Jalan Raya Banten road leads directly from the city centre of Serang to Banten. To get to Banten from Jakarta, you can take the Jakarta-Merak toll road and get off at the Serang Timur (East Serang) exit. From there, it is about a 10 km drive to Banten.
Banten is served by 1 Karangantu railway station. There are several daily trains from Serang and Rangkasbitung (terminus of commuter line from central Jakarta), and several in the other direction to Cilegon and Merak (ferry port to Sumatra).
There is also an angkot (minibus) route from the city of Serang to Banten. To ask for directions, mention specifically Banten Lama (Old Banten).
Most of the sights in Banten, as well as the railway station, are within walking distance of each other. Another option is to hire an ojek (motorcycle taxi). The neighborhood is poor and in parts resembles a shanty town.
- 1 Surosowan sultan palace (Keraton Surosowan), Jl. Masjid Agung Banten (600m west of the railway station). Located in the once-prosperous kingdom of Banten, this royal palace was designed by a Muslim Dutchman Hendrick Lucas Cardeel and completed during the reign of the first sultan. Surrounded by a high brick wall, it served as a glorious residence from 1526 to 1808 and was equipped with an aqueduct connected to a reservoir. A major excavation in 1984 divulged the greatness of this exuberant palace. Foundations of some pavilions, a bathing area in the south wing, and two filtration tanks are some of the structures awaiting the keen explorer. Admission is free.
- 2 Great Mosque of Banten (Masjid Agung Banten), Jl. Banten Lama. 16th century mosque, one of the few surviving buildings of the old Banten town. The minaret tower was built in 1632.
- 3 Old Banten Archaeological Museum (Museum Situs Kepurbakalaan Banten Lama), Jl. Masjid Agung Banten (just east of the Grand Mosque). Tue-Sun 9:00-16:00. Museum on the history of the town and the sultanate of Bandung, as well as Southeast Asian ceramics.
- 4 Vihara Avalokitesvara, Jalan Bio Banten. Buddhist monastery, and one of the oldest Chinese temples in Indonesia.
- 5 Fort Speelwijk (Benteng Speelwijk), Jl. Vihara, Kampung Pamarican (opposite the Chinese temple). Dutch fort built in 1682. The square-shaped fort is in good shape. Outside of the fort there is a Dutch cemetery. Free admission.
There are various warungs (local eateries and streetfood stalls) in the town of Banten, serving seafood and other local dishes.