Ten things to do in Penang

Rickshaw passing the Hainan Temple

Penang is a turtle-shaped island off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and is connected to the mainland by the 13 kilometer long Penang Bridge. For centuries, Penang played a strategic role in trading relations between the East and West. In addition to the local Sultans, the Arabs, Chinese, British and Dutch all vied for influence over Penang. This long and colourful history has left its mark on the island in many ways; from the colonial mansions and intriguing temples of Georgetown to the island’s unique cuisine which is truly world-famous. In addition to its rich historical and cultural heritage, Penang also boasts mile after mile of sandy, casuarina-fringed beaches, a mountainous hinterland, some of Malaysia’s most stunning resorts and a vibrant shopping scene.

Here are my 10 tips for things to do in Penang:

1. Stroll around the UNESCO World Heritage core of Georgetown. The most prominent landmark (and must-see) is the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. However, the neighbourhoods surrounding Jalan Penang (Penang Road) and Lebuh Chulia (Chulia Street) are packed with gorgeous colonial and Chinese heritage buildings as well as wonderfully atmospheric temples and narrow streets.

Check out the Penang Peranakan Mansion, Little India along Lebuh Pasar (Market Street), Khoo Kongsi Clan House, Kuan Yin Temple (Penang’s oldest temple), Teochew Temple, Hainan Temple, Kapitan Keling Mosque, Sri Mariamman Temple and the beautifully restored heritage shophouses of the Straits Collection on Stewart Lane. Another gorgeous stretch of heritage villas can be found along Lorong Bangkok (Bangkok Lane) in the nearby neighbourhood of Pulau Tikus.

A Georgetown street

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Penang City Hall

Kuan Yin Temple

Bangkok Lane

Little India

2. Jump into a becak for a true Penang experience. Hop on a rickshaw anywhere within the historic core of Georgetown for a unique and fun tour.

Penang becak

3. Indulge in Penang’s famous culinary scene. Penang’s many culinary highlights attract visitors from all over the world. It’s not surprising as there’s just so much to discover, from my absolute favourites Penang Char Kuey Teow and Penang Laksa , to Nasi Kandar, Mee Rebus, Hokkien Mee, oyster omelettes and spicy southern Indian curries. Penang is a true culinary gem! Most visitors head to Penang’s famous Gurney Drive (a beautiful seafront boulevard with many restaurants, cafés and hotels) to kick off their culinary adventure. For a quick introduction to some of the best dishes that Penang has to offer, I recommend a visit to the New World Park food court. I can also recommend the Sin Hwa coffeshop near the intersection of Burma and Cantonment Roads for deliciously authentic Char Kuey Teow and Penang Laksa.

Penang Char Kuey Teow

Penang Laksa

4. Visit the Penang Butterfly Farm. Established in 1986, the Penang Butterfly Farm is one of the world’s largest and is currently home to more than 4,000 Malaysian butterflies of 120 species. Wandering around the aviary with hundreds of colourful butterflies fluttering around is simply an enchanting experience.

5. Go horse-riding along Batu Ferringhi beach at sunset. Home to numerous hotels and inns, the Batu Ferringhi beach is one of Penang’s most popular beaches. It’s also a great spot to view a spectacular Penang sunset. My tip: go horse-riding along the beach as the sun dips its head below the horizon. Watch as the colours of the sea and sky change from warm pastel hues to a deep crimson red.

Horse-riding along Batu Ferringhi beach at sunset

6. Climb to the top of the Temple of Supreme Bliss. Better known as Kek Lok Si, this is the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia and stands tall on the hills of Ayer Hitam. This elaborate complex consists of a series of monasteries, prayer halls and beautifully landscaped gardens. The main attractions of the complex include the Pagoda of Rama VI, the Liberation Pond and the towering statue of the Goddess Kuan Yin.

7. Stand eye-to-eye with vipers at the Snake Temple. Perhaps the only one of its kind in the world, the Snake Temple is a Buddhist temple with a population of resident pit vipers (the poisonous variety). It is believed that the snakes made the temple their sanctuary as development in the surrounding hills destroyed their habitat. The wardens say that the constant smoke from burning incense renders the snakes harmless, making them a great photo opportunity!

8. Enjoy the views from the top of Penang Hill. At an elevation of 800+ meters, Penang Hill (or ‘Bukit Bendera’) is a popular retreat for the locals who come up here to enjoy the cooler climate and the stunning views of Georgetown. There are several ways to ascend the hill: a funicular railway (by far the most popular method), a jeep track and hiking trails. The original funicular railway (which dates from the early 1900’s) has recently made way for brand new trains from Switzerland.

9. Immerse yourself in Penang’s colonial past with a visit to one of the beautifully-restored heritage buildings. The most famous venue for an afternoon high tea, complete with piping hot scones, is the Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel. You can also drop by the hotel’s pub for a pint – famous people who’ve been here include Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling and Charlie Chaplin! A short walk up the road is The Mansion, another stunning heritage building. There’s a lovely restaurant as well as a lounge and bar in the gardens with beautiful views of Penang harbour. Just outside Georgetown and surrounded by gorgeous, ancient-looking trees, is Suffolk House, the former residence of Sir Francis Light, the founder of the British settlement in Penang in the 18th century. You can have a meal at the restaurant or take a tour of the stately mansion.

The Mansion

Inside The Mansion

The E&O Hotel

Suffolk House

10. Take a ride on Malaysia’s oldest ferry service to Butterworth and back for gorgeous views of Georgetown. This ferry service has been operating since 1920. Its importance diminished somewhat when the Penang Bridge opened in 1985. However, the ferries are deemed a national treasure and remain popular with the locals.

One more tip: if you’re looking for some really good breads or pastries (baguettes, paninis, croissants, etc…), I can absolutely recommend the Rainforest Bakery at 300, Chulia Street. Absolutely delish! :-)

Rainforest Bakery Penang

Search for hotels in Penang.

Read other articles in the Velvet Escape “Ten” series:

m4s0n501

Tags:

Connect

Follow Velvet Escape on:

30 Responses to “Ten things to do in Penang”

  1. Keith Jenkins 03/03/2014 11:43 am
    #

    Hi Victoria,
    Awesome! Glad I could be of help! :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  2. Victoria 03/03/2014 2:45 am
    #

    I am planning my trip from singapore working my way up to thailand. The places you’ve recommended to go to made me change my mind to spend more time in Penang.
    thank you for sharing your experineces and knowledge

  3. Keith Jenkins 29/10/2013 11:47 am
    #

    Thank you Constance! :-)

  4. Constance 29/10/2013 3:01 am
    #

    Great list of things to do and see in Penang!! I particularly love the mixture of architecture and the food looks absolutely amazing!

  5. Anuradha 04/07/2012 3:46 am
    #

    Very informative post. Thanks! Traveling to the Georgetown Art and music festival this weekend for a good five days. Will check out everything recommended! Can’t wait!

  6. velvet 19/05/2012 1:16 pm
    #

    Awesome! Have a great time in Penang! :-)

  7. Simon P 16/05/2012 5:09 pm
    #

    Just arrived in Penang this evening and have already scoped out the bakery you recommend! I look forward to working my way through most of the items in this list – seriously can’t wait to start trying all the delicious food!

  8. velvet 13/05/2012 4:03 pm
    #

    Hi Nandini,
    Yes, there are, especially in Little India. In any case, there are always vegetarian options available in Malaysia. Simply ask.
    Hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  9. Nandini 13/05/2012 9:17 am
    #

    Hi Keith,
    it is all amazing,eagar to visit penang, are there some vegetarian (no fish,no egg even)food joints here?
    thanks!

  10. Penang Property 14/03/2012 7:08 am
    #

    Nice summary. Bet no one will left out food on the to-do-list when talking about visiting the heritage Penang. city :)

  11. Anthony 19/09/2011 2:25 am
    #

    Very informative post! Thanks for the insight into Penang! Your suggestions are a great starting point.

  12. Ashley 21/04/2011 9:37 am
    #

    Thank you for all the great info on Penang! We are there right now and can’t wait to explore around and dig into some laksa!

  13. Shelby 10/02/2011 8:55 am
    #

    I went to Penang for the first time ever last year. We did Fort Corn Wallice, The was Museum, and the Toy Museum. I went with my family. We also went to the snake museum.. I am pretrofied of snakes but our driver told us they were all behind glass, I sooned learned they werent. I took once step into the entrance and bolted the other way balling my eyes out. All the locals thought it was funny. We went to Komtar and Queensbay Mall. I highly recomend Komtar. We also walked around Georgetown, went to the Butterfly Farm and Toy Museum (I have never seen so many toys in my life). I went horse riding along the beach in Batu Ferringhi which was great fun. Is there anything new that My family and I are can do as we are going to Penang and KL in April?

  14. velvet 02/11/2010 11:36 pm
    #

    Haha, they’re actually pretty harmless. Thanks for your comment Jonny!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  15. Jonny Whitlam 02/11/2010 11:34 pm
    #

    Those vipers look so scary, I bet there are so many people like me that would go there and not last 2 minutes without running out the door. Great comprehensive post!

  16. Cam 19/10/2010 12:58 am
    #

    We used to live in Penang. Georgetown is such a cool city, we didn’t expect to see so much history and colonial influences in the architecture. The food is FANTASTIC! Probably the best in SE Asia

  17. David @ Malaysia Asia 06/10/2010 12:09 pm
    #

    I love Penang, just so much to see by foot! Did all the 10 things you suggested and more :)

    David

  18. Lilian 28/09/2010 5:06 pm
    #

    Thanks for featuring Penang. I love Penang too especially its food. Many tourist tend to head to Thailand or Singapore. Malaysia is like the poorer brother /sister…but I have always believed that Malaysia makes for a really good visit! And it’s not just because I’m Malaysian =)

  19. velvet 08/09/2010 2:32 pm
    #

    Hi Laura,
    Penang is about a 5-hour drive from KL, past lovely places like Cameron Highlands, Pangkor Laut island, Ipoh and Kuala Kangsar. Alternatively, you can fly; it’s a 30-min flight. If you’re an architecture/history junkie, I highly recommend Georgetown. You’ll love it!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  20. Ant Stone 08/09/2010 5:41 am
    #

    Well timed post, Keith — I’m headed to Malaysia next week to spend a few weeks. I’ve visited Penang already, but this post has made me consider a return visit. Looking forward to checking out some of these, and your KL recommends.

  21. Laura 08/09/2010 5:19 am
    #

    As an architecture junkie, Georgetown looks like a great place to walk around! I’ll be in Malaysia for a week in October. How far is Penang from KL?

  22. velvet 07/09/2010 3:30 pm
    #

    Thanks for your lovely comment Christine! The other post must’ve been about Kuala Lumpur. :-)

    Hugs,
    Keith

  23. GRRRL TRAVELER 07/09/2010 3:17 pm
    #

    Thanks for this article, Keith. I remember stumbling upon one of your “10 things to Do in…” (some SEA city) about a year ago before I moved to Asia! I still have a vague visual impression of the article bc the pics were stunning & I thot your list would be a nice rough guide to take. Malaysia is now one of the countries on my bucket list, so thanks for saving some of the Lonely Planet reads!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Luxury Travel Blogs You Must Read This April | Luxury Travel Blog From The Luxury Editor - 21/04/2014

    […] website for a number of years now, and it was thanks to the website, that we ended up visiting Penang in Malaysia last year on ourt […]

  2. Strolling around Penang’s Georgetown « La Vie en China? - 12/07/2012

    [...] Jiang Teochew Ancestral Temple, and an unexpected treasure: The Rainforest Bakery.  I had seen a recommendation for this bakery on @velvetescape‘s blog when I was doing research on Penang and then promptly forgotten all [...]

  3. Ten islands to visit in Malaysia | Velvet Escape - 17/01/2012

    [...] array of sightseeing options, the food and a wonderful variety of stunning hotels. Read more about things to do in Penang. Search for hotels in [...]

  4. Scenes from Little India in Georgetown, Penang | The Happy Explorer - 26/10/2011

    [...] Read the accompanying post: “Ten Things To Do in Penang“. [...]

  5. Enchanting spots: Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang, Malaysia | Velvet Escape travel blog - 26/05/2011

    [...] at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. It truly is an enchanting spot worth exploring! Check out other Things to Do in Penang. Search for hotels in [...]

  6. Chicken rice in Penang | The Happy Explorer - 03/05/2011

    [...] Read the accompanying post: ‘Ten Things To Do in Penang‘. [...]

  7. The Rainforest Bakery in Georgetown, Malaysia | velvet escape's blog - 06/04/2011

    [...] Read the accompanying post: “Ten Things To Do in Penang“. [...]

Leave a Reply

css.php