Denpasar is Bali's major urban center, and it has many familiar city problems, including pollution, traffic jams and ugly strips of shops. Many tourists prefer to bypass it altogether. However, it does boast some attractions, including regular dance performances. From mid-June until mid-July, the Bali Art Centre hosts a Balinese arts festival that draws the best performers from all over the island.

Denpasar has some of the island's best museums. The Bali Provincial State Museum, located on Denpasar's main square, has paintings, carvings and a diorama of a Balinese wedding. This square is where the Denpasar aristocracy came to a horrific end in 1906, when virtually all of the Denpasar royal house rushed into Dutch gun volleys—preferring to commit suicide rather than surrender. This type of suicide is called a puputan—hence the square's name, Puputan Square.

Denpasar is a good place for shopping, both in its air-conditioned shopping malls and the traditional market. It's particularly known for its cloth market and cloth shops. The main pasar, called Pasar Badung, is by the Badung River, which runs through the west side of the city, and the cloth shops (run largely by Indian and Arab merchants) are nearby in Pasar Kumbasari. You might also want to visit the city's night markets—they offer a wonderful range of food, including babi guling (roast pig). If you're shopping for tourist knickknacks, be sure to bargain hard, as the opening prices are often woefully inflated.

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