Bali's capital city, DENPASAR (formerly known as Badung, and still sometimes referred to as such), is dogged by the roaring motorbikes and major traffic congestion common to much of south Bali, but remains a pleasantly small-town city at heart, dominated by family compounds grouped into traditional banjar (village association) districts, with just a few major shopping streets crisscrossing the centre. It feels nowhere near as hectic as Kuta but, as there's no nightlife (and no beach), few tourists spend long here.
Puputan Square marks the heart of the downtown area. It commemorates the ritual fight to the death (puputan) on September 20, 1906 when the raja of Badung and hundreds of his subjects – all dressed in holy white – stabbed themselves to death rather than submit to the Dutch invaders. Overlooking the square's eastern edge on Jalan Mayor Wisnu, the Bali Museum (Mon–Thurs & Sun 7.30am–3pm, Fri 7.30am–1pm; Rp750; on the turquoise Kereneng–Ubung bemo route) is Denpasar's most significant attraction, prettily located in a series of traditional courtyards. The Main Building, at the back of the entrance courtyard, houses items from Bali's prehistory and, upstairs, a fine exhibition of traditional household utensils. The compact First Pavilion displays Balinese textiles, the Second Pavilion, which resembles an eighteenth-century Karangasem-style palace, contains religious paraphernalia, and the Third Pavilion exhibits theatrical masks and puppets. Just over the north wall of the Bali Museum stands the modern state temple of Pura Agung Jagatnata, set in a fragrant garden of pomegranate, hibiscus and frangipani trees.
The biggest and best of Denpasar's markets is the warren of stalls that form Pasar Badung, set slightly back off Jalan Gajah Mada, beside Sungai Badung. Trading takes place here 24 hours a day: most clothes, batik and ceremonial gear are on the eastern edge of the market, visible from Jalan Sulawesi (Jalan Sulawesi itself is the core of Denpasar's rag trade). You may get landed with one of the market's official guides, who hang out around the entrances. Across on the west bank of the narrow river, also a few metres south off Jalan Gajah Mada, the four-storey Pasar Kumbasari is dedicated to handicrafts, souvenirs and clothes, many of them much cheaper than in the shops of Kuta and Ubud.