Royal Selangor Visitor's Centre
Interactive pewter exhibit in Kuala Lumpur
An interactive exhibit of pewter manufacturing, the Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre is a 40,000sqft attraction housing a series of galleries, a factory and retail store. Recognised as one of the country’s premier tourist attractions, the place receives between 800 and 1,200 guests daily. Living up to its royal title, the air-conditioned, glass-sided building is gorgeous (think water fountains, warm lighting and polished wooden floors) and well-managed, with free guided tours in several languages (English, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese) provided.
One sunny weekday afternoon the Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre beckons and we make a road trip of it, travelling more than 45 minutes outside of the city to visit the gallery and factory. For those concerned about the distance, worry not because the centre provides a free shuttle service to and from several KL hotels, making it super easy to visit.
A pliable metal alloy composed of copper and tin, pewter is much favoured for the manufacturing of ‘silverware’ (such as teapots, photo frames and even jewellery) due to its low melting point of 230° centigrade. Easily shaped by hand and machine tools, this bright material is certainly catchy to look at, with Kuala Lumpur being home to Royal Selangor, one of the world’s largest pewter manufacturers. Set up in 1885 by a pewter smith from China, today the Royal Selangor brand has stores in most major KL malls, plus a visitor’s centre (the Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre) in Setapak Jaya, the first in Asia and one of only three in the world.
In the gallery section of the Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre you can find showcases displaying aspects of pewter craftsmanship, from the science and history of it, to its unique qualities and fantastic applications. Meanwhile, the factory (with over 250 skilled craftsmen hard at work) showcases the metalworking process, while the retail store houses the final product – ranging from pewter merchandise to silver and gold jewellery.
We love the fact that the Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre has a really hands-on approach – there are sections where you can see, hear and touch pewter products and even one area where you can try ‘working’ the metal. For example, while visiting the factory we are given a task to ‘knock’ circular patterns onto a pewter mug! It sounds easy, but let’s just say it was anything but – no wonder the craftsmen at Royal Selangor train for many years before they are cleared to work!
One of our favourite exhibits is the Chamber of Chimes, a space dedicated to demonstrating the difference between the resonant sound of cast pewter and that of similar metallic and organic materials. We had lots of silly fun going back and forth among the chimes.
Some of the highlights at the Royal Selangor Pewter Centre include the world’s largest tankard (6ft 6 in, 3,432lbs), awarded by the Guinness Book of Records in 1987. We are also impressed with the 9.1m (over two-storey high) replica of the PETRONAS Twin Towers, made from 7,062 Royal Selangor pewter tankards.
Entry to Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre is free but if you are looking to get some hands-on experience with pewter making, we suggest a pit stop at the School of Hard Knocks or The Foundry. You will have to pay to take part in the workshops but you will get to take your creations home with you, plus a certificate for taking part.
At the School of Hard Knocks, the project is standardised as you will be making a pewter bowl with your name engraved on the inside, using the same tools that were used over 100 years ago. The process takes over an hour and the workshop is a great place for groups and even kids!
Meanwhile, The Foundry is for those with a little more creative spirit – what you make in this tiny room is really up to you. They have casts for pendants and key chains but let your imagination run away from you and create quirky pewter products you won’t find anywhere else – we made dog tags, stamped with our name, rank (job title) and serial numbers (date). One thing is for certain – it was a super fun and memorable outing to the Royal Selangor Visitor’s Centre!
Lastly, don’t forget to take a stroll through the retail store on the ground floor – even if you are not in shopping mode, it is worth it, just to see some of the intricate and gorgeous pewter pieces.
Royal Selangor Visitor's Centre
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Address: No. 4 Jalan Usahawan 6, 53300 Setapak Jaya, Kuala Lumpur
- Tel: +603 4145 6233