Medan is the capital city of North Sumatra and the largest city on the island of Sumatra. With a population of around 2 million people, Medan is also the third largest city in all of Indonesia, right after Jakarta and Surabaya.
Its current population and status is surprising when you take into consideration Medan’s history, which dates back to 1590. In 1823, nearly two centuries ago, a British government official reported Medan to be a ‘small village of around 200 inhabitants.’ But soon the Dutch took over and the tobacco plantations they started flourished the village, expanding it to well above 80,000 inhabitants until it was made capital of North Sumatra in 1886.
Much like the rest of Indonesia, Medan has a fantastic diversity of ethnicities and cultures: Chinese, Javanese, Toba-Batak, Minangkabau, Mandailing Batak, Karo Batak, Southern Indians, Northern Indians, and many more ethnic minorities. Most of the ethnic groups exist have comparably-sized populations, so Medan has no single ethnic group forming a majority.
Medan is not really known as a tourist destination. As the biggest city in Sumatra with an international airport, Medan serves more as a convenient stepping stone to more popular destinations in Sumatra, such as Lake Toba or Bukit Lawang.
The city itself is an interesting melange of a few different cultures and religions coexisting on a seemingly small area. Amongst the many Christian churches of the native Bataks and Indonesian Chinese, stand widespread on the archipelago mosques, Buddhist temples, and, unique in this part of the world, completely Indonesian, and not Hindu-Bali as you might suppose, style Hindu temples.
With time Medan grew and the former suburban airport found itself almost in the centre of the city. Without surprise it was the beginning of the end for the Sumatran Polonia. In the summer of 2013 the last planes appeared on the landing strip of the airport. A bigger Kualanamu airport was opened and the historical Polonia was taken into governing by the Indonesian Air Force Garrison.
How to Get to Medan
Medan is the easiest city in Sumatra to get to – which is precisely why it’s the most popular jump-off point to reach other destinations on the island. Both Medan’s Polonia International Airport and its Belawan Sea Port are visa-free and visa-on-arrival points.
The Polonia International Airport is located a short 15 minutes from the city and it has plenty of both international and domestic flights flying to and from it.
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