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City of Medan
Kota Medan
Central business district
Great Mosque of Medan
Sun Plaza
Maimun Palace
Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni
North Sumatra's governor office
Medan railway station
Official seal of Medan
Parijs van Sumatra (Dutch)[1][2]
Bekerja sama dan sama-sama bekerja
(Working together and everybody work)
Location within North Sumatra
Location within North Sumatra
Interactive map of Medan
Medan is located in Sumatra
Location in Sumatra and Indonesia
Medan is located in Indonesia
Medan (Indonesia)
Coordinates: 3°35?N 98°40?E / 3.583°N 98.667°E / 3.583; 98.667Coordinates: 3°35?N 98°40?E / 3.583°N 98.667°E / 3.583; 98.667
Country Indonesia
Province North Sumatra
Founded1 July 1590
 o MayorAkhyar Nasution (Acting)
 o Vice MayorAkhyar Nasution
 o Chairman of City's Council of RepresentativesHasyim Huang Kien Lim (PDI-P)
 o Vice Chairmen of City's Council of RepresentativesIhwan Ritonga (Gerindra), Rajuddin Sagala (Prosperous Justice Party) and HT Bahrumsyah (National Mandate Party)
 o City265.1 km2 (102.4 sq mi)
 o Urban
478 km2 (185 sq mi)
 o Metro
3,146.6 km2 (1,214.9 sq mi)
2.5-37.5 m (8-123 ft)
(2019 estimated)
 o City2,279,790 (4th)
 o Density8,599/km2 (22,270/sq mi)
 o Urban3,632,000 (4th)
 o Urban density7,598/km2 (19,680/sq mi)
 o Metro4,601,565 (5th)
 o Metro density1,462/km2 (3,790/sq mi)
Demographics [5]
 o Malay
 o ReligionIslam 61.21%
Protestantism 18.46%
Catholicism 11.53%
Buddhism 8.02%
Hinduism 0.34%
Confucianism 0.41%
Others 0.03%
Time zoneUTC+7 (IWST)
Area code(+62) 61
Vehicle registrationBK
Nominal GDP[5]2019
 - TotalRp 241.5 trillion (4th)
$ 17.1 billion
$ 56.1 billion (PPP)
 - Per capitaRp 105,908 thousand (13th)
$ 7,490
$ 24,620 (PPP)
 - GrowthIncrease 6.0%
HDI (2019)0.809 (21st) - Very High

Medan (Indonesian pronunciation: [me'dan] ; English: ) is the capital and largest city of the Indonesian province of North Sumatra. A regional hub and financial centre of Sumatra, it is regarded as one of the four main central cities of Indonesia, alongside Jakarta, Surabaya, and Makassar.[6][7] Medan has a population of over 2.2 million within its city limits,[8] and over 3.4 million in its built-up urban area, making it the fourth largest urban area in Indonesia.[9] The Medan metropolitan area--which includes neighbouring Binjai, Deli Serdang Regency, and a part of Karo Regency--is the largest metropolitan area outside of Java, with 4,220,439 residents at the 2010 Census.[10] Medan is a multicultural metropolis and a busy trading city bordered by the Strait of Malacca. A gateway to the western part of Indonesia, Medan is supported by the Port of Belawan and Kualanamu International Airport, both of which are connected to the city centre via toll roads and railways.

The city was founded by Guru Patimpus, a Karonese man who named a swampy land in confluence of Deli River and Babura river as Kampung Medan Putri. It later became a part of the Deli Sultanate which was established in 1632. With the help from the 9th Sultanate Sultan Ma'mun Al Rasyid Perkasa Alam, and also the well-known Chinese businessmen Tjong Yong Hian and Tjong A Fie, the rapid development of the economy transformed Medan into a big trading center with the nickname het land dollar, meaning "the land of the money." The Deli Railway was established for shipping rubber, tea, timber, palm oil, and sugar industries from the city to the Port of Belawan. Medan was the capital of the State of East Sumatra, before it became the provincial capital of North Sumatra. Medan was dubbed Parijs van Sumatra due to the city's resemblance to Paris.


According to the diary of a Portuguese merchant in the early 16th century, the name of Medan was derived from Tamil word Maidhan, also known as Maidham (Tamil: ?), that means Ground, adopted from Malay language. One of the Karo-Indonesia dictionaries written by Darwin Prinst SH published in 2002 stated that Medan could also be defined as "recover" or "be better".


In ancient times, the city of Medan was known as Kampung Medan (Medan Village). It was a piece of swampy land with an area of approximately 4000 ha. Some of the rivers crossing the city of Medan drain into the Straits of Malacca. These rivers are Sei Deli, Sei Babura, Sei Sikambing, Sei Denai, Sei Putih, Sei Percut and Muara Belawan.

Aru Kingdom

The area in and around Medan city, Deli and Langkat Regency was the location of ancient Kingdom of Aru (Haru). The kingdom was established by the Karo people and flourished between 13th to 16th century.[11] Several archaeological sites around Medan are connected to the Kingdom of Aru, including Kota Rentang in Hamparan Perak area, Deli Serdang Regency,[12] the Kota Cina archaeological site in Medan Marelan,[13] and Benteng Putri Hijau, a fort ruin in Deli Tua, Namorambe, Deli Serdang Regency.[14]

Founding of Medan

Medan started as a village called Kampung Medan (Medan Village). Kampung Medan was founded by Guru Patimpus Sembiring Pelawi, a Karonese man who came from the Karo Land. Before he became a Muslim, he was a Pemena follower. Following the history of "trombo" and Hamparan Perak (XII Kuta), Guru Patimpus studied Islam from Datuk Kota Bangun. At the time, Guru Patimpus and his people wanted to meet Datuk. Not only did they want to meet him, they also wanted to compete with him for "power." Whenever Guru Patimpus went to Kota Bangun, he always passes Pulo Brayan. In Pulo Brayan, Guru Patimpus fell in love with the Princess of Pulo Brayan. Eventually, he married the princess and had two sons, Kolok and Kecik. The married couple then turned the forest area in confluence between Deli River and Babura River into a small village, naming it Kampung Medan (lit. Medan Village). The day has been marked as the date of Medan's anniversary, 1 July 1590.[]

In his days, Guru Patimpus is known to be a forward-thinking person. This was proved by sending their children to study and read the Qur'an to Datuk Kota Bangun and then sent them to Aceh to deepen their knowledge on Islam.

In early days, the natives called the area as the Land of Deli (Indonesian: Tanah Deli), it starts from Ular River to the Wampu River in Langkat while the Deli Sultanate in power at the time of his territory does not cover the area between the two rivers.

Statement confirming that the Kampung Medan is a description H. Muhammad Said quoting through the book Deli: In Woord en Beeld written by N. ten Cate. The statement said that early Kampung Medan was a fortress which was composed of two layers of roundabout-shaped walls at a confluence between two rivers namely Deli and Babura rivers. The Administrateur house is located across the river from the Kampung Medan. The location of Kampung Medan is in the modern-day location of the Wisma Benteng building now and the Administrateur house is in present-day PTP IX Deli Tobacco building.

Deli Sultanate

Sultan Ma'mun Al Rashid Perkasa Alamyah
Portrait of Sultan Ma'mun. In his era, The Deli Sultanate for the first time opened a cooperation with the Dutch company, Deli Maatschappij to help develop the city.
Tjong A Fie
Tjong A Fie, a kapitan and was the richest businessman at that time who was known as a contributor for the early development in Medan.

In the 16th century there was a kingdom called Aru, with its center located where Deli Tua is now (south of Medan). In 1612, the Acehnese Sultan Iskandar Muda defeated Aru. The Acehnese appointed Hisyamsudin (later he changed his name to "Tuanku Gocah Pahlawan"), titled as Laksamana Kuda Bintan as their representative in this kingdom of East Sumatra. In 1632 Aceh established the Deli Sultanate (Jawi ) and Gocah Pahlawan became the first king. Gocah Pahlawan opens a new land in Sungai Lalang and Percut. As the Mayor and Deputy of Sultan of Aceh as well as by utilizing the large size of Aceh Empire, Gocah Pahlawan managed to expand his territory, thereby covering Percut Sei Tuan and Medan Deli district now. He also founded the villages of Gunung Barus, Sampali, Kota Bangun, Pulo Brayan, Kota Jawa, Kota Rengas and Sigara-gara. He died in 1669 and was followed by his son "Tuangku Panglima Perunggit" who moved the center of the kingdom to Labuhan Deli, which then proclaimed the independence of Deli Sultanate from Aceh Sultanate in 1669, with its capital in Medan Labuhan, approximately 15 km from the city center now.

During the reign of the third king, "Tuanku Panglima Padrap" (ruled 1698-1728), the kingdom was moved to Pulo Brayan due to floods. The fourth king, "Tuanku Panglima Pasutan" (ruled between 1728-1761) organized the kingdom in four tribes, each led by a Datuk (a Malay title for high ranking persons). During the time of the fifth king, "Tuanku Panglima Gandar Wahib" (ruled 1761-1805) the Datuks increased their power.

Sultan Amaluddin, the sixth sultan leaving the Great Mosque on his crowning day, in February 1925.

The sixth ruler was "Sultan Amaluddin Mengedar Alam" (ruled 1805-1850). During his years the Siak Sultanate became a stronger influence in Deli than the Acehnese Sultanate, and the ruler was given the title: Sultan. The seventh ruler was "Sultan Osman Perkasa Alam" (ruled 1850 to 1858), during his leadership the Deli Sultanate became autonomous.

The eighth ruler, "Sultan Mahmud Al Rasyid Perkasa Alam" (ruled 1858-1873) started the relationship with the Dutch, a relationship that became rather intimate. The next ruler was "Sultan Ma'mun Al Rashid Perkasa Alamyah", who ruled from 1873 to 1924 when the tobacco trade expanded. He moved the kingdom to Medan and finished the construction of the Maimun Palace in 1888. He also built the grand mosque of Al Ma'shun which is commonly known as Great Mosque of Medan now in 1907, he became known as the builder of early Medan in cooperation with the Dutch and "Tjong Yong Hian" and Tjong A Fie, two Chinese businessmen brothers and also Kapitans who built a large plantation business in Deli. They all brought Medan-Deli as new development area including business centers such as banks, offices, plantation areas, housing, railroad and a port. The tenth "Sultan Amaluddin Al Sani Perkasa Alamsyah" (ruled 1924-1945) expanded harbors, with commerce increased during his period. At the declaration of Indonesian Independence, the Sultan recognized the sovereignty of the republic and was in return given an important function as administrator of Deli-Malay traditions and culture.

The Sultanate of Deli still exists until this day, even though the administrative powers has been replaced with elected Mayors. The current sultan is "Sultan Mahmud Lamanjiji Perkasa Alam", the 14th sultan, (ruled since 2005). At age eight, he became the youngest Sultan of Deli ever crowned.

Dutch East Indies era

An aerial view of Port of Belawan, 1920s.
Coolies working in the seedbeds on a tobacco plantation in Medan, circa 1900s

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 meant strongly intensified traffic between Europe and the Far East. The Dutch started the shipping company Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland that quickly expanded to 43 steamships in 1877. The English, however, had already 3,000 ships in those days. A journey from Europe to Indonesia took approximately 40 days. Genoa, Italy became the new transit harbor for passenger ships after the opening of the Gotthard Tunnel in Switzerland. The journey was reduced to 23 days and 20 hours to Batavia (Jakarta). The ships also became bigger and more comfortable.

This resulted in an increase in cruise ships carrying predominantly white Europeans coming to Dutch East Indies as tourists for a tour of the region, including Medan as the largest tobacco plantation in Dutch East Indies at that time. To accommodate the tourists, it was deemed necessary to have European-class hotels. Therefore, in 1898, a Dutch businessman named Aeint Herman de Boer built Hotel de Boer in the northwest of the Esplanade (now Lapangan Merdeka Medan).

Exports were very dependent on British shipping in 1890 when Sabang became a bunker harbor. Belawan got its harbor in 1923. The shipping company Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) was established for the purpose of shipping valuable Deli Company tobacco, which was shipped to Batavia. This cargo was almost as valuable and stringent rules regulated its handling. It was strictly forbidden to stow anything on top of the tobacco and coolies were not even to walk on it when they worked in the hatches.[]

Cleaning of roads in Medan was, until 1912, done by prisoners. After that free coolies got the job. In 1917 the authorities started to use horse-drawn carts, equipped with brooms for the cleaning. In 1928 the horse-drawn carts were replaced by motorized vehicles. The first newspaper was the Deli Courant, established in 1885 although it was not a daily publication. In 1898, Joseph Hallermann, a German, established the daily De Sumatra Post, which survived until 1939.

There were planters in Medan from many countries: England, the Netherlands, USA, France, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland. Many of them became very rich and led affluent lifestyles. Medan became known as the Paris of Sumatra (lit. Parijs van Sumatra (Dutch)). Up till today, the area in downtown where the old airport is located is called Polonia, a name given by a Polish aristocrat who once owned a plantation here. One area of Medan is still called Helvetia (the old name of Switzerland). This name was given by a plantation owner from Switzerland.

Tobacco plantations

Painting of Jacob Nienhuys, the founder of tobacco producer Deli Company (Deli Maatschappij) during Dutch East Indies era.

Medan did not develop rapidly until the 1860s, when the Dutch authorities began to release new land for tobacco plantations. Jacob Nienhuys, Van der Falk, and Elliot, who were Dutch tobacco merchants, pioneered the opening of the tobacco plantation in Deli. Nienhuys' previous tobacco business in Java moved to Deli after an invitation by an Arab from Surabaya named Said Abdullah Bilsagih, brother in law of the Deli Sultan Mahmud Perkasa Alam. Initially Nienhuys cultivated tobacco on 4,000 hectares of land in Tanjong Spassi, near Labuhan, owned by the Sultan of Deli. On March 1864, Nienhuys sent samples of his crop of tobacco to Rotterdam, Netherlands to test its quality. Apparently, the tobacco leaves were considered high quality for cigar materials. Hence Deli's name rose as a producer of the best cigar wrappers for Europeans.

Coat of arms of Medan during colonial era, showing tobacco plant as the charge.

The tobacco treaty was signed by the Sultan of Deli and the Dutch in 1865. After two years, Nienhuys along with Jannsen, P.W. Clemen, and Cremer founded the company De Deli Maatschappij abbreviated Deli Mij in Labuhan. In 1869, Nienhuys moved the head office of Deli Mij to Kampung Medan. The new office was built on the confluence of Deli and Babura river, precisely at the office of PTPN II (ex PTPN IX) now. With the transfer of the office, Medan quickly became the center of government activity and trade, as well as area with the most dominant development in western Indonesia. The rapid development of the economy transformed Deli into a major trading center nicknamed het land dollar aka the land of the money. Then, they opened up new plantations in the Martubung and Sunggal areas in 1869, as well in Sungai Beras and Klumpang in 1875, bringing the total to 22 plantation companies in the year 1874. Given the activities of the tobacco trade was already very broad and growing, Kampung Medan became increasingly crowded and then developed with a name that is known as the Medan-Deli.

The development of Medan-Deli as a trading center was followed by it becoming a center of government. In 1879, Capital Assistant of Deli Resident moved from Labuhan to Medan. On 1 March 1887, the capital of the Resident of East Sumatra also moved from Bengkalis to Medan Deli Sultanate Palace which was originally located in Kampung Bahari (Labuhan) and Pulo Brayan also moved with the completion of Maimoon Palace on 18 May 1891, and thus the Capital of Deli officially moved to Medan.

Growth of Medan-Deli

Medan taken from the air, cicra 1928-1940
An aerial view of Medan, 1920. It can be seen from the photo: the railway station, the Esplanade (now Merdeka Walk), City Hall, the Javasche Bank (now Bank Indonesia), post office, Hotel de Boer and office of the Deli Maatschappij

In 1915, the Residency of East Sumatra enhanced its status to Gubernermen. In 1918 the city of Medan officially became Gemeente (Municipal) with Mayor Baron Daniël Mackay. Based on the "Acte van Schenking" (Grant Deed) No. 97 Notary J.M. de-Hondt Junior, dated 30 November 1918, the Sultan of Deli handed over the land of Medan-Deli to the Gemeente, thus officially becoming the region under the direct rule of the Dutch East Indies. In the early days of this township, Medan still consists of four villages, namely Kampung Kesawan, Kampung Sungai Rengas, Kampung Petisah Hulu and Kampung Petisah Hilir.

In 1918 there were 43,826 residents of Medan, made up of 409 Europeans, 35,009 Native Indonesians, 8,269 Chinese and 139 East foreign such as Indians.

Since then the Medan developed more rapidly. Various facilities are built. Some of these include the Office of Experiment Stations named AVROS in Kampung Baru (1919), now RISPA, the railway of Pangkalan Brandan - Besitang (1919), Tirtanadi Water Tower (1908), American Consulate (1919), Teacher school on Jl. H.M. Yamin now (1923), Mingguan Soematra (1924), Pool Association Medan (1924), Central Market (Grote Markt/Toa Pa Sat or ), St. Elizabeth Hospital, Eye Hospital and Kebun Bunga Sports field (1929).

Since the beginning, Medan has been positioned at the center of trade. Being chosen as the Deli capital, Medan also developed into a center of government. Until now, excluding one of the areas of the city, also serves as the capital of North Sumatra province.[clarification needed]

Japanese occupation and post independence era

British East Indian troops land in East Sumatra to help the Dutch for end the Japanese occupation in Medan.
A biscuit factory in Medan in the late 1950s.

In 1942, the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies, arriving in Sumatra by February. Sumatra was placed under the command of the 25th Army, based in Singapore.[15] Following the surrender of Japan in 1945, Sumatra came under the authority of the South East Asia Command headed by British Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. On 17 August, Sukarno proclaimed Indonesia independence in Jakarta, and appointed Muhammad Hasan as governor of Sumatra. However, news of the proclamation was only announced by Hasan in Medan on 30 September. After allied troops landed in October, clashes with armed Republicans led to the Battle of Medan.[16][17]

In December 1947, the Dutch established the State of East Sumatra with Medan as its capital in the area they controlled following the Operation Product against the republicans. This became part of the United States of Indonesia, but was dissolved into the unitary republic of Indonesia in 1950.[18]

The city development remained stagnant until the 1970s, when big developments, especially palm oil and rubber plantation company headquarters, making Medan the busiest city outside Java. The big migration program brought a lot of Javanese and the Batak people began to settle in the city as many people from Java and rural part of the province sought jobs.

Becak or local version of pedicabs on the street in front of the Maimun Palace, taken around 1970s

In 1998, 4 to 8 May 1998 riots occurred in Medan due to 1997 Asian financial crisis. They began when demonstrations around many campuses for nearly two months between students clashing with security officials that resulted in the death of a student. The next day, the mobs became bigger, targeting and attacking the business and trading sector that lead into a racial riot, with many shops and vehicles burned and looted at several roads around the city which is majority owned by Chinese residents. As a result, a curfew was imposed for more than two weeks until peace returned.[]


Medan is in the northeastern part of Sumatra island, in North Sumatra province. Medan itself is a semi-enclave within Deli Serdang Regency, as Medan is bordered by Deli Serdang in south, east, and west, while Medan borders with Strait of Malacca in the north.

Medan lies on the banks of the Deli River and Babura River which feed into a naturally sheltered harbor and then into the Straits of Malacca. It has helped the city grow in significance as a trading port.[19] Its elevation varies between 2.5 and 37.5 metres (8 ft 2 in and 123 ft 0 in) above sea level. Medan is close to the Barisan Mountains which is located in the southern part of the city and close to volcanoes such as Sibayak Mountain and Sinabung Mountain (located as far as 50 to 70 kilometres (31 to 43 miles) from the city).


Under the Köppen climate classification, Medan features a tropical rainforest climate (Af) with no real dry season.[20] Medan does have noticeably wetter and drier months, with its driest month (January) on average seeing about one third of the precipitation of its wettest month (October). Temperatures in the city average approximately 27 °C (81 °F) throughout the course of the year. Annual precipitation in the Medan is around 2,200 millimetres (87 inches).

Climate data for Medan (Polonia), elevation: 27 m or 89 ft, 1977-1994
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 35
Average high °C (°F) 31.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 25.5
Average low °C (°F) 22.2
Record low °C (°F) 18.3
Average rainfall mm (inches) 92
Average rainy days 14 19 13 18 22 15 13 17 24 22 20 19 216
Mean monthly sunshine hours 129.6 141.0 153.1 131.2 134.8 157.9 153.9 143.9 123.1 116.3 104.8 98.1 1,587.7
Source 1: World Meteorological Organization[21] and Worldwide Bioclimatic Classification System (daily mean and record temperature)[22]
Source 2: WeatherOnline (sun, 2010-2019)[23]

Located in the central part of Deli Serdang Regency, Medan is surrounded by satellite cities and towns such as Binjai, Lubuk Pakam, Tanjung Morawa, Tembung, Percut Sei Tuan, and Labuhan Deli which help the city become a new urban area in Indonesia which known as 'Mebidang' (Medan, Binjai, Deli Serdang).


The old and former Medan City Hall building


Medan was governed by Mayor Dr. H. Abdillah Ak, MBA in 2005-2010. However, Abdillah and his vice mayor were caught by Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission officials in 2008. Syamsul Arifin, the Governor of North Sumatra Province, then appointed Affifudin Lubis to become the acting mayor. In 2009, Affifudin Lubis resigned from his position and the Governor then appointed Rahudman Harahap as a replacement. Because Rahudman wanted to be a candidate in the 2010 mayor election, he too resigned from the office. Left with no choice, Syamsul Arifin himself became the acting mayor. In the 2010 mayor election, Rahudman Harahap won the election. However, Rahudman was then arrested due to corruption which resulted in his deputy Dzulmi Eldin officially becoming the acting mayor.[24] In February 2016, Dzulmi won the election and became the mayor for five years (2016-2021).[25]

Administrative divisions

District divisions of Medan.

Medan is divided into 21 districts (Indonesian: kecamatan), tabulated below with their areas and populations at the 2010 Census:[26][27][28][29]

Name Area
in km2
Census 2010[29]
Medan Amplas 11.29 113,143
Medan Area 4.26 96,544
Medan Barat 6.14 70,771
Medan Baru 5.49 39,516
Medan Deli 20.78 166,793
Medan Denai 11.07 141,395
Medan Helvetia 13.21 144,257
Medan Johor 15.92 123,851
Medan Kota 5.85 72,580
Medan Kota Belawan 29.44 95,506
Medan Labuhan 36.32 111,173
Medan Maimun 3.06 39,581
Medan Marelan 28.68 140,414
Medan Perjuangan 4.60 93,328
Medan Petisah 5.26 61,749
Medan Polonia 8.74 52,794
Medan Selayang 16.25 98,317
Medan Sunggal 13.34 112,744
Medan Tembung 8.18 133,579
Medan Timur 8.91 108,633
Medan Tuntungan 26.41 80,942
Totals 264.98 2,097,610

The city is centralised around Medan Petisah, Medan Baru, Medan Polonia, Medan Maimun, Medan Kota, and Medan Barat (West Medan) which act as the city centers. Medan Labuhan is one of the largest districts by area (other than Medan Belawan and Medan Marelan) and lies on the northern part of the city. Medan Tuntungan serves as the gateway to Karo Regency, Medan Helvetia to Binjai City and Langkat, and Medan Amplas to Tebing Tinggi and Pematang Siantar.

The 21 districts are sub-divided into 151 neighborhoods or villages (kelurahan).


The city is Indonesia's fifth most populous after Jakarta, Surabaya, Bekasi and Bandung, as well as Indonesia's largest city outside Java island. The population within the city's borders has risen from 568,000 in 1968[30] fourfold to 2.1 million in 2010. Much more of the population lies outside its city limits, especially in Deli Serdang Regency. The official Metropolitan area (Wilayah Metropolitan Medan) was inhabited by 4,144,583 people in 2010, but had risen to 4,504,619 in 2015.

Administrative division Area (km²) Population (2010 Census) Population (2015 Est) Population density (/km²) Ref
Medan (City) 265.10 2,109,330 2,210,624 8,339 [31]
Binjai (City) 90.24 246,010 264,687 2,933 [31]
Deli Serdang Regency 2,384.62 1,789,243 2,029,308 851 [31]
Greater Medan 2,739.96 4,144,583 4,504,619 1,644 [31]

Ethnicities and languages

Batak (including Mandailing and Karo people) and Javanese are the major ethnic groups in Medan, along with Chinese, Minangkabau and Malay populations and smaller groups of Acehnese, Indians, Nias, and Sundanese people. Medan also has foreign residents from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Middle East and other Asian countries.[32]

Ethnicities of Medan - 2015 Census[32]
Ethnic group Percentage
An Indian, local Malay, and Batak seller in Kesawan Chinatown area, taken around the 1940s.

The city has diverse communities, reflected by its history. The Bataks are one of the major ethnic groups in Medan; with there being three Batak subethnicities residing in the city including the Toba, Karo and Mandailing Bataks. The Karo people are the natives in Medan. Meanwhile, the Toba people were employed by the Dutch as workers in oil palm plantations. Lastly, the Mandailing people came in masses after the independence era to find better jobs. The Bataks reside throughout the city, while the Karo people reside around southern areas such as Padang Bulan, Medan Johor and Tuntungan. Toba Batak people reside in Marindal and Amplas; a large number also live in nearby city-centers such as the Medan Perjuangan district, while the Mandailing people mostly reside in Medan Tembung.

In addition, there is a large ethnic Javanese community, largely made up of the descendants of people transported from Java in the last 19th century to be employed as contract workers at various plantations in North Sumatra. They are usually known as Pujakesuma (Indonesian: Putra Jawa Kelahiran Sumatera, English: Sumatra-born Javanese). Their presence in Medan can be marked from various Javanese toponymies in Medan, such as Tanjungsari, Sarirejo, Sidodadi, Sidorejo, etc. (mostly in East Medan and Medan Tembung area). The Malays are also natives of Medan, already living in outskirt areas such as Belawan and Labuhan since the Aru era as fishermen. They came to the city after Deli Sultanate new palace was established in the 18th century. Over time, the Malays spread throughout the city with the biggest concentration of people living in Medan Maimun, Kota Matsum, Labuhan and Belawan.

A highly visible component of city population is the large number of Chinese whom migrated from southern China to Deli in the 16th century with mass migration occurring in the last 19th and early 20th century for those seeking employment as planters and coolies. Now, Medan is home of the largest Chinese community on Sumatra island; they are active in business and trading activities which contribute greatly to the city economy. Unlike the Java-born Chinese, most Chinese people in Medan can speak fluent Hokkien, a dialect originating from Fujian, a province in southern part of China, they also has its own variation of Hokkien which is known as Medan Hokkien and has the same similarity with Penang which is mixed with local language like Malay, and Indonesia. Many of them are also able to speak Mandarin, Teochew and also Cantonese which depends on the language of their ancestors. The Chinese reside throughout the city, but the majority live around the city centre. The city also hosts a sizable community of Indian Indonesian, mostly are Tamil descendants, commonly known as Madrasis or Tamilan. A well-known Tamil neighbourhood is Kampung Madras, which is located in the city center and is heralded as one of the busiest parts of the city. Other Indian ethnic are also presence like Punjabi and also Bengalis.

Minangkabaus is also known as the merchants, peddlers, and artisans, in addition to white collar workers such as doctors, lawyers, and journalists. The Minang people came to Medan in the mid-19th century. In 1960s to 1980s, the number of Minangkabau people migrating to Medan surged, and formed 8.6% of the population in the city. The Minangkabaus living around Medan Denai and Medan Maimun area.[33]Acehnese are other minority ethnicities in Medan. A significant number of Aceh people mostly came after the conflict that happened in Aceh in the late 1970s when they sought sanctuary. Today, they are known working as merchants such as grocery store operators and can be found in Mie Aceh restaurants around Setia Budi and Ring Road/Sunggal areas.


Religion of Medan - 2010 Census[34]
religion percent
Other/no response/Not asked

The majority of Medan's inhabitants are Muslim, comprising approximately two thirds. There is a significant Christian minority, with denominations including the Batak Christian Protestant Church. Around 9 percent are Buddhists, and there are smaller numbers of Hindus and followers of Confucianism.


The Bank Indonesia building in Medan. The tall building behind is the Grand Aston hotel.

Medan is one of the largest metropolitan cities in Indonesia and become the center of growth in the province of North Sumatra. The city is an important commercial and economic hub of Indonesia. Locals, as well as many foreigners have set up their business to take advantage of its dynamism and boost its economy. Medan's economy was mainly based on tobacco, rubber, tea, palm and coffee culture and production, but growing manufacturing sector such as automotive, production of machinery, tiles, paper and pulp, etc., also currently contribute to the city's economy.

Medan is one of the most industrious city in Sumatra, consisting of many small, medium and large-scale enterprises. Because of its location and its proximity to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, it functions strategically as the main gateway for trading of goods and financial services on domestic, regional and international levels in the western region of Indonesia. Many international companies maintain offices in the city, namely Asian Agri, London Sumatra, Musim Mas, Philips Lighting, Toba Pulp Lestari, Marriott, ABB Group and DBS Bank, etc.

Medan is one of Indonesia's most promising property markets outside Java, and several high-value developments have transformed its property market - and skyline. Many of the country's big property developers are building condominiums, hotels, office towers and shopping malls in the city. Lamudi, a worldwide real estate portal, recognized Medan as one among six cities in Asia to feature and preserve several colonial architectural sites, while accompanying its growth as a metropolitan city.[35] Medan is also known as the "City of Million Shophouses", as the majority of the population work in the trade sector, opening shops nearing their houses. In recent years, the city has undergone rapid development, which made the residential property prices in Medan trend upward. According to Bank Indonesia (BI), Medan's residential property price index rose from 205.24 in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 212.17 in the fourth quarter of 2014, and to 214.41 in the first quarter of 2015.[36]


Medan is inhabited by many different ethnic groups. Malay people are the natives of the Medan area, and have deep roots in Medan. They began ruling there during the Deli Sultanate until now. The empire has many lands and property of heritage in Medan, such a palace, a mosque, and park. The Dutch and Chinese bringing a big contributor to the city development, include during Dutch East Indies era, many historical buildings are made by Dutch and Peranakan architecture along Jalan Kesawan and Pemuda. The arrival of Minangkabaus, Bataks, Javanese and Indian people bringing more colours to the culture of Medan, especially cuisine.


The North Sumatra Museum is located approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) to the south from the center of the city, which is in Jalan HM. Joni 15 Medan. The Minister of Education and Culture, Dr. Daoed Joesoef opened the museum in April 1982. It is mainly centered around North Sumatran ethnic groups and artifacts.

The Bukit Barisan Museum is a military museum opened by Brigade General Leo Lopulisa on 21 June 1971. The museum is located at 8 Jalan H. Zainul Arifin. It houses several historic weapons include weapons that were used in the struggle for independence and the revolt in North Sumatra during 1958. Motives/ painting of the revolt against the Netherlands were presented.[37]

The Rahmat International Wildlife Museum & Gallery, or the Rahmat Gallery, opened in 1999 and is considered the city's preeminent taxidermy collection. It is located on Jalan Letjen S. Parman No.309.[38]


Soto Medan.
Several Bika Ambon.
A dish of Teng-Teng, served in a china plate.

Because of its multiculturality, Medan has a wide variety of cuisines ranging from local, western, east and southern Asian, and middle eastern cuisine. The city also hosts a lot of cafes, restaurants, food centers and street vendors with varying price points.

Nelayan is one of the most famous restaurant in Medan, serving halal-Chinese seafood and dim sum. Garuda is the most popular Minangkabau and Malay restaurant in Medan which serves nasi padang and gulai. Cahaya Baru is an Indian restaurant located on Kampung Madras with chapati and tandoori as its most recommended food. The most visited Batak restaurant are OnDo Batak grill and Tesalonika known best for their babi panggang (grilled pork) and Saksang.

This city is known as "the culinary heaven of Indonesia," as Medan is prominent for its street hawkers which offers a great variety of cheap local delicacies. Medan has several well-known culinary spots such as Jalan Selat Panjang and Jalan Semarang for Chinese food, Jalan Pagaruyung for Indian and Malay food and Jalan Padang Bulan for Batak food.

Merdeka Walk is the first tensile structure (alfresco outdoor concept) in Indonesia, filled with a variety of cafés and restaurants. Durian is a popular fruit in Indonesia and nowhere more so than in Medan. This thorny fruit, with its distinctive taste and smell, is available all over the city. Ucok Durian along Jalan Iskandar Muda is the most known durian seller in the city.

Soto Medan is a savoury stew made with various meats (including innards) that are fried beforehand, and coconut milk. It is usually served with rice and a piece of potato croquette (perkedel).

Bika Ambon is a famous local dessert. Made from ingredients such as tapioca flour, eggs, sugar, yeast and coconut milk, Bika Ambon are generally sold in pandan flavour, although other flavors such as banana, durian, cheese, and chocolate are also available.

Babi Panggang Karo, often abbreviated as BPK, is grilled pork with its blood curd being used as a dipping sauces. It is usually served with plain rice and sambal andaliman, a spicy condiment made from local Sichuan peppers. The Chinese equivalent of grilled pork are called as Cha Sio ()

Tau Kua He Ci (?), also known as Lap Choi (), is local Chinese version of Rojak (often pronounced ru-jak), but made with fried prawn, vegetables and tofu with chlli sauce. Its other name also called as[clarification needed].

Teng-Teng () is a candy made with peanuts.

Dried fruits and many unique cuisines can be found in Pasar Rame, which operates every day from morning to the afternoon, located just beside Thamrin Plaza.[39]

Bolu Meranti is the most famous homemade Swiss roll in Medan, which are frequently bought by local tourists as a souvenir. The Medanese dried anchovies also is one of a "must" souvenirs from Medan, could be bought from Pusat Pasar (Central Market).


Tirtanadi Water Tower, one of the main icon of Medan, built in 1908


The peranakan Tjong A Fie Mansion

There are many old buildings in Medan that still retain their Dutch architecture. These include the old City Hall, the Medan Post Office, Inna Dharma Deli Hotel, Titi Gantung (a bridge over the railway), The London Sumatra building, the Tjong A Fie Mansion, AVROS, Warenhuis, and The Tirtanadi Water Tower, mostly located around the old town Kesawan.

There are several historic places such as Maimoon Palace built in years 1887-1891, where the Sultan of Deli still lives (the Sultan no longer holds any official power), The Great Mosque of Medan built in 1906 in the Moroccan style by the Dutch architect A.J. Dingemans,.[40] both location of Maimoon Palace and The Great Mosque are close. The Mosque located on Jalan Sisingamangaraja and The Palace located on Jalan Brigjen Katamso.

Gunung Timur Temple or locally known as Tông-Yuk-Kuàng in Hokkien, is a city's oldest Taoism temple, located on Jalan Hang Tuah. Medan has a Buddhist temple named as Maha Vihara Maitreya, and there is also a Buddhist centre nearby named as Maha Karuna Buddhist Centre (MKBC) this temple complex known as one of the biggest non-historical Buddhist temple in Indonesia, both situated around Cemara Asri housing complex. Medan Cathedral is the oldest church in the city, was built by the Dutch and Indian community nearby, and the church was named as Indische Kerk back then, located on the old town along Jalan Pemuda. Sri Mariamman Temple is the first Hindu temple in Medan built around 1881 by The Tamil peoples in the city, located on Jalan Zainul Arifin, The City's Little India or more known as Kampung Madras, the temple has unique south Indian architecture with hundred Hindu deity statues around the building.

Since 2005, a Catholic church named Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni was built with an Indo-Mogul style, devoted to Mary; the particular Saint knows its origin with an apparition in the 17th century in Tamil Nadu, India. The temple has two stories and a small tower of seven storeys, it is situated on Jalan Sakura III, besides outer ring road on Jalan TB Simatupang.[]

Shopping centre

Sun Plaza front view.
Medan Mall, considered as one of the oldest shopping malls in Medan.

Medan is one of the major shopping centres of Indonesia, along with Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya.

Medan also has several modern shopping malls:

  • Cambridge City Square
  • Centre Point
  • Deli Park Mall
  • Lippo Plaza Mall
  • Manhattan Times Square
  • Medan Focal Point
  • Ringroad City Walks
  • Sun Plaza

Theme parks

There are some theme parks in the city or outside city, most of them are water parks.

  • HillPark GreenHill City[41] - the latest theme park an hour from Medan on the way to Berastagi.
  • Pantai Cermin Themepark - the first and only water theme park in North Sumatra, located in Cermin Beach, Serdang Bedagai. The theme park is organized by a Malaysian Investor and the Local Government.
  • Wonder Water World - latest water park in Medan, located on Central Business District Polonia.
  • Hairos Water Park - another water park near the city, located on Jalan Djamin Ginting Km.14, Deli Serdang.


Medan is connected by road, air, rail and sea.


The new Kualanamu International Airport (KNO) was opened to the public on 25 July 2013. The new airport is the second largest airport after Soekarno-Hatta International Airport with a 224,298 m2 (2,414,324 sq ft) passengers terminal and will eventually have a capacity of 50 million passengers (2030). It is the first airport in Indonesia which has direct rail links to the city. The airport is the hub for Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, Lion Air, Susi Air and Wings Air.[42] The new airport is a replacement for the Polonia Airport. Unlike the old Polonia Airport which was located in the heart of the city, this new airport is approximately 39 km (24 mi) from downtown. The airport has direct domestic flights to many major cities in Sumatra and Java. There are also some international flights to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, etc. An airport train known as Kualanamu Airport Rail Link Services connects the airport to city center. The train runs from Medan Main Station beside the Merdeka Square at Jalan Balai Kota from 4:00 a.m. to 08:00 p.m, and from the airport from 5:25 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. It is the fastest way to reach the airport from the city, taking 30 minutes. Alternate modes of transport from the airport into the city may take longer (30 to 47 minutes).


The Port of Belawan (Pelabuhan Belawan) is the main seaport in Medan. Located in the northeast coast of Sumatra, Belawan is situated 12 miles (19 kilometres) north of Medan city and serves as a port, which is the terminus of a railway that crosses the channel south of the island by bridge.[43]

The port was initially built in 1890 to provide a location where tobacco could be transferred directly between rail lines from the interior and deep-draft ships. The harbor expanded in 1907 with the construction of a new section intended for Chinese and indigenous traders, reserving the existing port for European shipping. In the early twentieth century the port's business expanded, with the growth of major rubber and palm oil plantations in northern Sumatra. In the 1920s several major berthing facilities were built. In 1938, the port was the largest port in the Dutch East Indies, in terms of cargo value. Cargo volumes dropped substantially after Indonesian independence, and did not reach pre-independence levels again until the mid-1960s. A major restructuring in 1985 saw the construction of a container terminal; it almost immediately captured about one-fifth of Indonesia's containerized exports. Major products exported include rubber, palm oil, tea, and coffee.[44]

There are two port terminals, one for passenger and ferry services to Penang and Langkawi and some Indonesian cities such as Batam, Jakarta and Surabaya. Another terminal known as Belawan International Container Terminal (BICT), used for export and importing services. BICT is one of the largest shipping industry port in Indonesia.

Road and highway

The Amplas toll plaza.

Medan is connected by the Trans-Sumatran Highway, the main road across Sumatra, and the Belawan-Medan-Tanjung Morawa Toll Road, also known as the Belmera Toll Road, the one and only available toll road in Medan, connecting Belawan, Medan and Tanjung Morawa. Currently there are additional toll roads under construction which will connect the city to the airport, Binjai, and Tebing Tinggi.


A commuter train in Medan.

Railway lines connect Medan to Binjai and Tanjungpura to the northwest, to port of Belawan to the north, to Tebing Tinggi and Pematang Siantar to the southeast, and also Rantau Prapat among other cities. The largest train station in Medan is Medan Station. There are also smaller stations in Medan, such as Medan Pasar, Pulu Brayan, Titi Papan, and Labuhan, and Belawan. Titi Papan and Pulu Brayan only serve as the stop for freight trains carrying oil palm and petroleum. There are also have express train connecting to another North Sumatra cities such as Tebing Tinggi, Pematang Siantar, Tanjungbalai, and Rantau Prapat. An elevated railway is already constructed and is now on operations over several rail lines around Medan to avoid level crossings and reduce traffic congestion.[45]

The trains from the Medan Station are:

The Kualanamu Airport Railink Services train is an airport express train connecting from Medan Station (City Railway Station - CRS) to Kualanamu International Airport Station (Airport Railink Station - ARS), operated 18 hours (from 5 am to 11 pm) with 30-minute distances. An elevated railway is already constructed and is now on operations to make this airport rail service 15-minute distances. The CRS provides with a city check-in services for selected airlines.

A motorized rickshaw in Medan.

Public transport

One of the endangered features of Medan are the motorized rickshaws known as a becak motor (bentor) or becak mesin, although bicycle rickshaws are also available. Becaks are found almost everywhere. Unlike the Javanese rickshaws, the driver sits on the right side of the vehicle, and can take its passenger anywhere in the city. The fare to ride a becak is relatively cheap and is usually negotiated beforehand. Ride sharing services Gojek and Grab are available and widely used for public transportation.

There are also more public transport like taxis, but minibuses known as sudako or angkutan kota (angkot) are used more often by the locals. Angkots can be found easily in medium-to-high congested roads. Angkots follow their own route numbers, usually printed or painted on the vehicle itself. The routes are not explicitly listed or written, but are usually spread in a word-of-mouth basis by the locals.

TransMebidang is a new bus rapid transit system in North Sumatra, Indonesia that has two active corridors.

Corridor # Origin-Destination
1 Medan - Binjai
2 Medan - Lubuk Pakam

The Medan Light Rail Transit light metro system is planned to begin construction in 2020.


Medan serves several radio and TV channels, and is also home to newspapers in local and foreign languages such as Indonesian, English, Chinese, Batak, Malay and others.

Television channels

Medan has 17 national television stations: there are state-owned, private and local channels.


RRI is the only state-owned radio in Medan, and is provided in both Indonesian and English. Several local languages are also served on the radio, such as: Kardopa Radio (in Batak language), CityRadio FM and A-Radio FM (in Chinese language) and Symphony FM (in Malay language). Medan also has several popular radio channels like Prambors FM, MNC Trijaya FM, I-Radio, KISS FM, VISI FM, Delta Fm and others.


Several national and local newspapers are available in the city, with Harian Mimbar Umum as the oldest one. Other popular newspapers include Harian Waspada, Analisa, Kompas, Jurnal Medan, Berita Sore, Harian Global, Harian Medan Bisnis, Posmetro Medan, Suara Indonesia Baru, and Tribun Medan. There are also some Mandarin language newspaper such as Harian Indonesia (), Guo Ji Ri Bao (?) and Shangbao (?). English newspapers like The Jakarta Post are also distributed in the city.

Aplaus Magazine is one of the magazines from the city, published monthly and focuses on food, travel, inspiration. The magazine is the pioneer of a local magazine that specializes in the discussion of urban lifestyle. First published in 2005, Aplaus Magazine is managed by Analisa Daily, a newspaper with a circulation of 65,000 copies in North Sumatra.


Football is one of the most popular sports in Medan, with five local clubs: Persatuan Sepakbola Medan dan Sekitarnya (known as PSMS Medan), Medan Jaya, Medan Chiefs, Bintang PSMS and Medan United; and a basketball club named Angsapura Sania. Another locally popular sport is wushu, with significant growth in recent years as one of the favorite sports in Medan. It has its training center in Jalan Plaju in heart of town. Medan has recently seen much success in Wushu nationally and internationally.

Medan has a multi-purpose stadium named Teladan Stadium. This stadium is used mostly for football matches, and serves as a home stadium for PSMS Medan.


St. Elisabeth Hospital.

Medan has more than 30 registered hospitals. Three of them are public and the rest are private:

  • Pirngadi General Hospital
  • Adam Malik General Hospital
  • Haji General Hospital
  • St. Elisabeth Hospital
  • Martha Friska Hospital
  • Columbia Asia Hospital
  • Permata Bunda Hospital
  • Murni Teguh Hospital
  • Advent Hospital
  • Siloam-Dhirga Surya Hospital
  • Imelda Hospital
  • Vina Estetica Hospital
  • Stella Maris Hospital
  • Putri Hijau Military Hospital
  • Mitra Sejati General Hospital
  • Bunda Thamrin Hospital
  • Royal Prima Hospital
  • Methodist Hospital
  • Sumatra Eye Center


The State University of Medan, a postgraduate campus.

As the largest city outside of Java island, Medan provides more than 827 registered elementary schools, 337 middle Schools and 288 high schools, including state-owned, private, religious, and international schools. Some notable schools are:

Medan also has 72 registered universities, academies, polytechnics, and colleges such as:

Medan was previously the site of the Medan Japanese International School or Medan Japanese School (, Indonesian: Sekolah Internasional Jepang, Medan), an overseas school for Japanese children.[46] It was affiliated with the Japanese Consulate General in Medan, and occupied a 481.88-square-metre (5,186.9 sq ft) building on a 1,880-square-metre (20,200 sq ft) property.[46] It originated as a supplementary school in the consulate's library that opened in April 1972 (Showa 49). A committee to establish a new day school was created in 1978 (Showa 54), and in January 1979 (Showa 55) the school remodeled an existing building for this purpose. The school opened in April 1979.[47] It closed in March 1998.[48]

Twin towns - sister cities

Medan has sister relationships with these cities:[49]


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External links

  • Media related to Medan at Wikimedia Commons

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Music Scenes