In many ways, Melaka (spelled 'Malacca' by the English) is perhaps the true heart of Malaysia. The sultanate became an important trading center between east and west in the fifteenth century, and it was here that Malaysian independence was first proclaimed.
The charming old town is just a couple hours' drive from Kuala Lumpur, and it's mostly visited on day-trips from the capital. But there is a lot to see for those that are really interested, and you can easily spend a few nights here to really take in all that Melaka has to offer.
The weather in Melaka is relatively constant all the year round, so there isn't a particularly good or bad time to go. The city is a popular domestic destination, so avoiding weekends and holidays is the best way to avoid the big crowds.
Although the city does have an airport, there are few, if any, scheduled flights. About the only way to reach Melaka is by road, from Kuala Lumpur or elsewhere. You can get a taxi to take you to Melaka from the airport in KL, or arrange a car and driver from any hotel in the city. It's worth noting that inter-city buses in Malaysia are cheap, quick and comfortable.
You could easily spend three full days seeing everything in Melaka, espeically if you want to take in all of the 20-plus museums the city has on offer. For most, though, a three-night stay giving you two full days should be enough to see everything.
Most of the accommodation on offer in Melaka are decidedly tourist class. Still, there are a few POSH options that stand out. Top of the list is theMajestic Malacca, built around a restored 1920s mansion. Although on the river, it is a ways from all the sights. Within the old Chinatown area, there are a number of old shop-houses converted to small hotels. The best of these is probably the Puri Hotel, which will put you right within walking distance of almost all the sights. In the same area but not available through any independent booking site is the Courtyard @ Heeren.
If you stay in or near the central heritage area, then you'll be able to reach all of the major sights on foot. There are taxis readily available around town to take you to any of the farther-flung areas.
The city and its sights can be divided into two areas, divided by the river: Centered around St Paul's Hill on the southeast side of the river are the remnants of the old colonial powers. The Portuguese, Dutch and English all left their marks on the place. Many of the old edifices are now home to the city's more than 20 museums . On the other side of the river is Chinatown , the commercial center of the old city. There are a couple of museums here as well that are particularly interesting. One is the Cheng Ho Museum , dedicated to the fifteenth century Chinese admiral. The other is the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum , a restored classic nineteenth century shop-house. But the real attraction to Chinatown is the old buildings themselves, many of them beautifully restored, and some housing antique shops selling old items recovered from other restorations.