Penang is an island located on the northwest coast of Malaysia, renowned for its captivating tourist attractions and rich heritage. With its idyllic beaches, lush tropical landscapes, and a fusion of traditional and modern architecture, Penang offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and historical charm. The island is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site, Georgetown, which boasts well-preserved colonial buildings, colourful street art, and bustling markets.
Visitors can explore the lively streets, savour diverse culinary delights, and immerse themselves in the captivating mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures that define Penang’s unique identity. Whether experiencing enchanting festivals, visiting the ornate temples, or indulging in tantalising street food, Penang ensures an unforgettable and culturally enriching experience for every traveller.
What to do in Penang
Historical Attractions in Penang
Historical attractions in Penang include Fort Cornwallis, Khoo Kongsi, Penang Peranakan Mansion, Clan Jetties, and the famous Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (The Blue Mansion). It offers visitors a glimpse into the city’s fascinating past. Each carries a unique story, contributing to Penang’s diverse culture.
Fort Cornwallis stands as a significant historical attraction in Penang, offering visitors a rich glimpse into Malaysia’s colonial past. This star-shaped fort, named after the then Governor-General of Bengal, Charles Cornwallis, was built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century.
To enhance your visit, consider these suggestions:
- Take a guided tour: The fort’s history is fascinating, and a guided tour will help you understand the significance of various structures and artefacts.
- Visit the on-site museum: Here, you’ll find historical exhibits including old photographs, maps and artillery.
- Attend the light and sound show: This evening spectacle brings the fort’s history alive in a dramatic and entertaining way. This is one visit you won’t forget.
The Khoo Kongsi is a remarkable historical landmark in Penang, and it showcases the grandeur and intricacy of Chinese architecture and heritage. This clan house of the Khoo family dates back to the 17th century and is a testament to the community’s rich history and cultural traditions. It stands as a symbol of unity, strength and prosperity.
Here’s a quick overview:
|Location||Cannon Square, George Town|
|Architectural Style||Traditional Chinese|
|Highlights||Elaborate carvings and richly ornamented beams|
|Opening Hours||9:00 AM – 6:00 PM|
Visiting Khoo Kongsi provides a unique insight into the Chinese community’s past, making it an unmissable stop on any Penang itinerary.
Penang Peranakan Mansion
Penang Peranakan Mansion offers an experience with a unique blend of cultures, reflected in the mansion’s architecture, furniture, and artefacts, all meticulously restored and preserved.
- Stunning Architecture: The mansion’s stunning design offers a glimpse into the grandeur of the Peranakan culture. The intricate woodwork, ornate tiles, and gilded decorations are a sight to behold.
- Antique Collection: The mansion houses an extensive collection of antiques and heirlooms, showcasing the opulence of the Peranakan lifestyle.
- Cultural Insight: Guided tours offer in-depth knowledge about the Peranakans, a significant community in Penang’s rich history.
Visiting the Penang Peranakan Mansion is an unforgettable journey into the past.
Clan Jetties offer a unique insight into Penang’s past and present. Each jetty represents a different Chinese clan, and these settlements on stilts have been preserved over the centuries. They speak volumes about the multicultural heritage of Penang.
Among the Clan Jetties, Chew Jetty stands out as the most tourist-friendly. It is lined with wooden houses, souvenir shops, and local eateries. Visitors can explore the intricate architectural designs of the residences and gain a deeper understanding of the Chinese immigrant community’s lifestyle.
The jetties bestow an ethereal beauty during the sunset, making them a paradise for photographers. The combination of cultural exploration and scenic beauty makes a visit to the Clan Jetties a must-visit attraction in Penang.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (The Blue Mansion)
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, also known as The Blue Mansion is a stunning architectural marvel.
This award-winning heritage site is a testament to the grandeur of 19th-century Chinese architecture coupled with contemporary comfort.
The mansion boasts 38 rooms, 7 staircases, and 5 courtyards. Its distinctive blue hue, achieved through the use of natural dye, adds to its allure.
Guided tours are available in multiple languages, providing fascinating insights into the mansion’s history, restoration process, and the life of its original owner, Cheong Fatt Tze.
The mansion also houses a boutique hotel and a restaurant, immersing visitors in its historic charm while enjoying modern amenities. Don’t miss the chance to experience this historical attraction in Penang.
Natural attractions in Penang include the panoramic views atop Penang Hill to the tranquil setting of the Tropical Spice Garden.
The pristine Batu Ferringhi Beach, the diverse species at Penang Butterfly Farm, and the untouched wilderness of Penang National Park further enrich this Malaysian gem’s offering for eco-tourism.
Climbing up to the top of Penang Hill, you will be met with breathtaking panoramic views and a wealth of natural beauty. This hill station, standing at 833 meters above sea level, provides a cooling respite from the tropical heat below.
Here are three highlights that visitors should not miss:
- The Penang Hill Funicular Railway: This is one of the steepest tunnel tracks in the world, and provides an exhilarating ride to the summit.
- The Habitat: This eco-park is home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna, offering visitors an opportunity to walk on a canopy walkway amidst the treetops.
- The Skywalk: This is a new attraction offering 360-degree views of the island and beyond, an unforgettable experience for any traveler.
Batu Ferringhi Beach
Batu Ferringhi Beach stands as one of Penang’s most stunning natural attractions, and its sandy shores and clear waters invite countless tourists each year. Known for its vibrant nightlife, the beach is lined with various restaurants and night markets.
The following table provides further details about the beach:
|Water Sports||Visitors can partake in various water activities such as jet-skiing and parasailing.|
|Night Market||Known as ‘Pasar Malam’, offers a variety of items, from food to souvenirs.|
|Restaurants||A wide selection of eateries offers local and international cuisine.|
Batu Ferringhi Beach is a must-visit destination in Penang, offering a blend of natural beauty, fun activities, and cultural experiences.
Tropical Spice Garden
Tropical Spice Garden in Penang offers visitors a unique insight into the world of spices, Malaysian flora, and fauna. It spans over eight acres of secondary jungle. This lush and tranquil environment is home to over 500 species of flora and fauna, with a particular emphasis on the myriad of spices Malaysia is famous for.
Here’s how you can make the most of your visit:
- Guided Tours: Expert guides offer informative tours highlighting the garden’s diverse collection of tropical plants and their uses.
- Cooking Classes: Learn how to use local spices in traditional Malaysian dishes at the garden’s cooking school.
- Gift Shop: Purchase unique, spice-related products as a memento or gift from your visit.
Penang Butterfly Farm
Penang Butterfly Farm is located in Teluk Bahang. It boasts an abundance of colourful butterflies and other insects and also features a live insect and reptile exhibition. This sanctuary allows visitors to experience nature’s beauty firsthand, fostering a deep appreciation for these delicate creatures. It’s a place where learning merges with fun, as various interactive exhibits aim to educate while entertaining.
|Butterfly Display||Showcasing thousands of vibrant butterflies||Wonder|
|Insect Exhibition||Live insects and reptiles on display||Fascination|
|Interactive Exhibits||Learn while having fun with interactive displays||Excitement|
|Nature Trails||Walk through serene trails adorned with lush flora||Peace|
The farm offers an escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, providing a peaceful retreat teeming with life and color. Visitors leave with newfound knowledge and a deeper respect for the natural world.
Penang National Park
Penang National Park is a treasure trove of biodiversity and a must-visit spot for nature enthusiasts, offering pristine beaches and lush rainforest trails. It covers an area of over 2,562 hectares. The park’s rich ecosystem harbours various species of flora and fauna, making it an ideal destination for eco-tourists and wildlife lovers.
To make the most of your visit, consider the following suggestions:
- Hiking: Conquer the park’s various hiking trails, each offering a different level of challenge and unique sceneries.
- Bird-Watching: With over 190 species of birds recorded, the park is a bird-watcher’s paradise.
- Beach Relaxation: After your adventurous pursuits, unwind at the park’s beautiful beaches like Monkey Beach and Pantai Kerachut.
Culinary Adventure: Must-Try Foods in Penang
Penang is renowned as a food paradise, offering delicacies worth exploring. From Penang Laksa to the savory Char Kway Teow and the rich Nasi Kandar, each dish has its own unique appeal. Not to forget the local durian tasting experience and the hawker centers which are the heart of Penang’s street food culture.
Penang Laksa is a spicy noodle soup originating from Penang, that epitomizes the harmonious blend of flavours that characterises Malaysian cuisine.
Ingredients: The dish incorporates rice noodles in a rich, spicy fish broth, infused with tamarind, chillies, and lemongrass. Garnishments include cucumber, onion, pineapple, and mint leaves.
Taste Profile: Penang Laksa is a delightful mix of sweet, sour, and spicy flavours, ensuring an explosion of taste with every bite.
Where to eat: To truly experience Penang Laksa, visit the hawker stalls lining the streets of George Town, where it is freshly prepared and served hot.
This experience is sure to leave you craving more of Malaysia’s diverse culinary offerings.
Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow is ‘stir-fried rice cake strips’, that are delicious with a complex blend of flavours, combining flat rice noodles stir-fried in a hot wok with prawns, cockles, bean sprouts, chives, eggs, and often Chinese sausage.
This dish is made distinctive by the smoky aroma of the wok’s high heat, known as ‘wok hei’ or ‘breath of the wok’. Each vendor adds their unique touch, making every encounter with Char Kway Teow a new gastronomic adventure. A trip to Penang would undoubtedly be complete with sampling this iconic street food.
Nasi Kandar is a meal of steamed rice served with various curries and side dishes. It has been developed by Indian-Muslim traders known as ‘kandar’.
Here are three tips to enhance your Nasi Kandar experience:
- Mix the Curries: Don’t hesitate to mix different curries on your rice. It’s called ‘banjir’ (flood) and enhances the taste.
- Try the Side Dishes: From fried chicken to fish roe, the side dishes add another layer of flavor and texture.
- Eat with Your Hands: For an authentic experience, ditch the utensils and use your right hand to eat.
Durian is a must-try delicacy that presents an intriguing contrast of creamy sweetness and intense bitterness. It is infamous for its pungent odor.
The following table provides an overview of the three most popular durian varieties that are worth tasting:
|Musang King||Known for its creamy texture and sweet flavor.|
|D24||Offers a rich, custard-like taste with a slight bitterness.|
|Red Prawn||It has a sticky and sweet taste, loved for its unique texture.|
Penang is famous for its vibrant hawker centres. These hawker centres are home to various dishes influenced by the Malay, Chinese, and Indian communities that live on the island.
To fully enjoy the culinary adventure in Penang’s hawker centers, consider the following:
- Char Kway Teow: A delicious stir-fried noodle dish that is a must-try for any food lover.
- Assam Laksa: A sour, fish-based soup served with rice noodles. It’s a unique and tangy treat.
- Rojak: A traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish, it’s a refreshing counterpoint to the other rich, flavorful dishes.
Art & Culture: The Creative Pulse of Penang
Penang’s creative spirit can be experienced through diverse avenues such as Penang Street Art, the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, and the Hin Bus Depot. Each location offers a unique perspective into the heart of Penang’s artistic expression and cultural heritage.
Penang Street Art
The vibrant street art of Penang serves as the creative pulse of the city, providing a captivating blend of culture and expression that is deeply woven into the local fabric. This unique art form infuses life into the city’s old, historic streets, transforming them into a living, breathing museum that can be appreciated by all.
The Murals of George Town: These iconic works have become synonymous with Penang, drawing visitors from all over the world.
Interactive Street Art: These pieces offer a fun, engaging experience, allowing visitors to become a part of the art itself.
Wire Rod Sculptures: These fascinating installations provide both a visual treat and a history lesson, telling the story of Penang’s rich past.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion
Immersing oneself in the rich cultural heritage of Penang is incomplete without a visit to the grand Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a testament to the region’s vibrant art and culture scene.
The mansion, an exquisite representation of the Peranakan community’s opulence, showcases over 1,000 antiques and collectibles, offering a glimpse into their lavish lifestyle. The intricate carvings, colourful tiles, and ornate woodwork are astounding, providing an immersive experience into the past.
The mansion’s architecture is a blend of East and West, reflecting Penang’s multicultural history. Furthermore, the mansion has been used as a filming location for numerous films and dramas, further cementing its reputation as a cultural icon.
A visit to this mansion is an enriching journey into Penang’s artistic and historical pulse.
Hin Bus Depot
Since its transformation in 2014, the Hin Bus Depot has emerged as a dynamic hub of contemporary art and culture in Penang. This unique space, formerly a bus depot, now hosts various art exhibitions, performances, and workshops that reflect Penang’s vibrant creative pulse.
Art Exhibitions: The Depot’s main gallery showcases a rotating line-up of local and international artists. Each exhibition opens a window into the diverse, ever-evolving world of contemporary art.
Performances: From live music to theatre and dance, the Hin Bus Depot offers a platform for artistic expression beyond the visual arts.
Workshops: For those interested in tapping into their creativity, the Depot hosts regular workshops in crafts, painting, sculpture, and more.
Dive into the creative pulse of Penang at the Hin Bus Depot.
Shopping & Markets: Treasures of Penang
Penang offers a vibrant shopping scene that ranges from bustling night markets to high-end shopping malls. With places like Batu Ferringhi Night Market, Gurney Drive, Komtar, Little India, and Chowrasta Market, visitors are spoilt for choice. Each of these markets presents unique treasures of Penang, offering a shopping experience that is as diverse as the city itself.
Batu Ferringhi Night Market
In the heart of the city, one finds the Batu Ferringhi Night Market, a bustling hub that showcases the treasures of Penang. This market is a microcosm of the city’s rich culture, offering a variety of items that reflect the unique blend of Malay, Chinese, and Indian influences that define Penang.
Food: The market teems with food stalls selling local delicacies such as Penang Laksa, Char Kway Teow, and Rojak.
Handicrafts: Artisans offer a range of local crafts, including intricately designed batik fabrics and handwoven baskets.
Antiques: For those interested in history, antiques and vintage items, from old coins to traditional jewelry, are abundant.
Visiting the Batu Ferringhi Night Market is a must for anyone who wants to experience Penang’s vibrant culture and history.
Gurney Drive presents a shopping and market experience that perfectly encapsulates the diverse treasures of Penang. It is located along the bustling coastline of George Town. This lively promenade, lined with modern shopping complexes and traditional open-air markets, is a paradise for shopaholics and food enthusiasts.
From local artifacts to international brands and a smorgasbord of Penang’s famous street food, Gurney Drive offers a unique shopping experience that merges the old and new.
|Shopping Complex||What to Expect||Operating Hours|
|Gurney Plaza||An upscale shopping mall with a mix of international and local brands||10 AM – 10 PM|
|Gurney Paragon||A blend of luxury brands and local boutiques||10 AM – 10 PM|
|Gurney Drive Hawker Centre||A foodie’s paradise with a variety of local delicacies||Open 24 hours|
Komtar is the tallest building in Penang – this area serves as a prominent hub for the pursuit of shopping bliss and exploration of the cultural richness of this island. Komtar offers a diverse blend of retail, dining and entertainment options catering to locals and tourists.
- Retail Therapy: Komtar houses a multitude of international and local brands, offering a wide range of products from fashion to electronics. A perfect destination for shopaholics.
- Food Paradise: The food court offers a plethora of local delicacies, immersing visitors in Penang’s rich culinary culture.
- Entertainment: Komtar is not just about shopping and food, it also offers a range of entertainment options including a cinema and a thrilling skywalk.
The street market of Little India offers travellers a unique shopping experience, encapsulating the rich treasures of Penang. Wander beneath the colourful arches, and you’ll find a thriving market teeming with authentic Indian goods, from vibrant textiles and intricate jewellery to exotic spices and traditional snacks.
The bazaars, filled with the sound of Bollywood music and the scent of incense, provide a sensory feast that is quintessentially Indian. Street vendors selling fresh coconuts and Indian sweets add to the lively atmosphere. Be sure to explore the numerous saree shops and Indian artifact stores to find unique souvenirs.
Little India is not just a market, but an immersive cultural experience, making it a must-visit during your trip to Penang.
Chowrasta Market is one of Penang’s oldest markets offers both a unique shopping experience and a glimpse into the local way of life. A vibrant hub of activity, the market is a treasure trove of fresh produce, traditional Malaysian snacks, and an array of second-hand books.
Explore the bustling ground floor, where you can find a variety of tropical fruits, vegetables, and spices. Take advantage of the ‘Jeruk’ stalls selling various types of local pickles, a speciality of Penang.
Make your way up to the first floor, where a vast collection of pre-loved books await, providing the perfect opportunity to delve into local literature and history.
A visit to Chowrasta Market is a must for an authentic Penang experience.
In conclusion, Penang offers a lot of exciting activities and attractions for any type of traveler. From its street art scene to its street food, Penang promises a memorable and enriching experience. However, while exploring Penang, it’s worth considering extending your trip to other cities in Malaysia such as Kuala Lumpur and Melaka.
Kuala Lumpur, the bustling capital city, showcases a unique blend of modernity and tradition. Here, you can marvel at iconic landmarks like the Petronas Twin Towers, indulge in shopping at world-class malls, and immerse yourself in the vibrant street markets of Chinatown.
Melaka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers the architectural wonders of the Stadthuys and A Famosa fort. Stroll along Jonker Street, with charming antique shops and vibrant night markets. Melaka’s quaint charm and historical significance make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts.
By incorporating visits to Kuala Lumpur and Melaka into your trip, you can experience Malaysia’s diverse beauty and cultural richness.