Georgetown is the main city of Penang Island. It is a popular place with charming beaches and busy streets filled with colonial architecture, street art, and the best food in Malaysia. The local community is very diverse and really highlights how Malaysian culture has evolved to be the country many visitors want to learn about. Penang Island became a well-known trading port in the 1800s which lead to its diverse culture and history today and it’s a simply lovely place to base yourself to visit the island of Penang. But before you head off and explore the rest of the island, here are the best things to do in Georgetown, Penang.
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Where to Stay in Georgetown, Penang
There are a host of places to stay in Georgetown, Penang – here’s our pick of the luxury places to stay in Georgetown, Penang, mid-range places to stay in Georgetown, Penang, and budget accommodation in Georgetown, Penang.
Campbell House, Penang–Georgetown: Campbell House is situated right at the heart of Georgetown Penang. This Georgetown hotel’s rooms are beautifully decorated and include black-out curtains, a flat-screen TV, a ceiling fan, a private bathroom with a walk-in shower, a hairdryer, slippers, a coffee maker, and free WiFi access. The top Georgetown hotel also offers Italian cuisine at Il Bacaro; where their must-try signature dish is Venetian Cicchetti, small plates of food eaten with glasses of wine. Campbell House in Georgetown provides is a glorious and luxurious place to stay in Penang’s main city. See room rates and availability for this top Georgetown hotel here.
Palm Mansion Boutique Suites, Penang–Georgetown: The Palm Mansion Boutique Suites is ideally located right in the center of Georgetown. Each room at this mid-range Georgetown hotel is equipped with a flat-screen tv with satellite channels, an attached private bathroom, and free WiFi. Room service is available here and there’s also a quaint coffee shop. This central Georgetown hotel provides laundry services and also has a small garden. The Palm Mansion Boutique Suites is a lovely place to stay in central Georgetown. Check room rates and available dates here.
Veno Hotel, Penang–Georgetown: The Veno Hotel has an exceptional location right in the center of Penang’s Georgetown. The budget Veno Hotel’s rooms have a flat-screen TV, air-conditioning, iron/ironing board, an in-room safe, and a private bathroom with a hairdryer, toiletries, and towels. There’s free WiFi throughout. Veno Hotel offers an excellent, comfortable budget-friendly hotel. The Veno Hotel is really popular so check room rates and availability here!
A Brief History of Penang and George Town
Penang has had many various names throughout the years. It was first called “Pulau Ka-Satu” which means “The First Island”. The native seafarers gave this name to Penang because it was the biggest island they discovered where they can establish a trading route between Lingga and Kedah. The British vessel first arrived in Penang in 1592, but not until the 1770s when they decided to have a permanent foundation on the island. In 1786, the island is finally in possession of the British. They then rename it “Prince of Wales Island” and the British East India Company settled in George Town, which was named after King George III and designed to be a free trading port. Spices were produced and harvested during colonial times in Penang. The name Penang originated from “Pulau Pinang”, which means “areca nut island”, both the name Penang and Pinang are correct. Today, there are many things to do in Georgetown, Penang from visiting historical sites, food exploration, and taking cool photos of the unique 3D street artworks that the city is full of.
This guide is specifically about things to do in George Town, Penang, if you’re looking to see some of the great things to do on the island of Penang, then head on over here.
The Top Things to do in Georgetown, Penang
When you are in Georgetown, you can travel through the island of Penang and check out old buildings, admire colorful botanical gardens, go on a hike, take unique and fun photos at unconventional museums, and stuff yourself silly with tasty local street food. But let’s start with a little history.
Visit Fort Cornwallis in Georgetown, Penang
Georgetown has many preserved colonial buildings, but Fort Cornwallis is one of the most popular. It is an 18th-century English Fortress where the original buildings are still standing. You’ll see cannons, an armory, and other historical artifacts. You can also hire a local guide to help you explore the area. Fort Cornwallis undergoes regular maintenance to ensure the safety of the visitors and preserve the location. If you choose to take a guided tour of Georgetown (I recommend this one) then you’ll get to see Fort Cornwallis.
In 1786 Captain Francis Light took possession of Penang on behalf of the East India Company, renaming the island to be the Prince of Wales Island. It was at the site of the fort that Light first set foot on Penang.
Named for Charles Cornwallis (he surrendered at the battle of Yorktown to George Washington), building this fort was the first thing that Sir Francis Light did when arriving in Penang. It’s a shadow of its former self and doesn’t warrant the 20 RM entrance fee considering how little of it remains, however it was empty when we visited, just one other couple walking around with their free bottle of water and selfie stick.
Originally built as a nibong palm stockade, it was replaced by a brick structure and moat in 1804-5, after outbreaks of malaria amongst the soldiers the moat was filled up in 1922.
- Address of Fort Cornwallis: Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Fort Cornwallis: 9 AM to 10 PM
- Entry Fees for Fort Cornwallis: RM5 ($1.12)
Visit St. George’s Church in Georgetown, Penang
St. George Church is another building founded during colonial times. This 19th-century building is an Anglican church located right in the heart of Georgetown, about a 7-minute walk from Fort Cornwallis. The Church was built in 1817 and claims to be one of the oldest Anglican Churches in South East Asia. The Church of St. George has a massive green space that you can walk around after visiting the interior of the church.
- Address of St George’s Church: 1, Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Explore the Food of Penang
You can taste all the must-try dishes of Penang without visiting dozens of restaurants and food stalls, which is great fun, but might take some time!. Instead, you can book a food tour. These amazing tours usually last for 4 hours you’ll get to try 10 different dishes and learn about different Malaysian food. You will also have a knowledgeable guide who will explain how different cuisines have fused together and resulted in unique Malaysian food. The tour usually starts during midday, remember not to get too full from breakfast. Go on, do yourself a favor and explore this food scene, because the food of Georgetown and Penang is amazing. Truly. (I wrote about it here).
Explore the Temples of Georgetown
Traveling through Georgetown wouldn’t be complete without visiting its exquisite temples. These temples are proof that Penang has a massive community of locals with different cultural and spiritual backgrounds. The best way to visit all the temples is to join a tour that presents racial harmony in Penang. Mass migration to the island started in 1786 which invites people from many places in the world. This 4-hour tour has a very knowledgeable local guide to help you understand and learn more about Penang and its community. If you prefer to wander around on your own, then here are the must-see temples in Georgetown.
Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si is a Buddhist temple in the Air Itam area, southwest of Georgetown. It’s located on a hilltop and is known for its colorful and magnificent decorations. The temple of Kek Lok Si also showcases many Buddha images all around the complex. This 7-story pagoda is surrounded by 10,00 Buddha statues. On top of the hill, you can enjoy a nice view of the town and the green area.
You can reach the top on foot or take the funicular. Remember to remove your shoes before entering the temple. There is no entrance fee, but a donation will go a long way to keep the temple maintained. If you are here during the Chinese New Year, the amazing lanterns will be lit up making the temple rather lovely.
- Address of Kek Lok Si Temple: Kek Lok Si Temple, Jln Balik Pulau, 11500 Air Itam, Penang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Kek Lok Si Temple: 8:30 Am to 5:30 PM, every day
- Entry Fees for Kek Lok Si Temple: Free, RM6 ($1.35) for adults and RM3 ($0.67) for children to ride the funicular
Kapitan Keling Mosque
Kapitan Keling Mosque is a massive Indian Muslim place of worship in central Georgetown. The mosque was built in the 19th century with impressive mixed architecture. When you visit and enter the Mosque of Kapitan Keling, you must wear appropriate clothes. You can also share the landscaped grounds with the rabbits that roam freely here.
- Address of Kapitan Keling Mosque: 14, Jalan Buckingham, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Kapitan Keling Mosque: 5 AM to 10 PM daily
Sri Mahamariamman Temple
Sri Mahamariamman is a Hindu temple that dates back to the 1800s. It has a tower in the middle guarded by colorful deities. It’s only a 3-minute walk from Kapital Keling Mosque, in the heart of Little India. The temple is a little small but very well-kept.
- Address of Sri Mahamariamman Temple: Queen St, Georgetown, 10450 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Sri Mahamariamman Temple: 8 AM to 12 PM, then from 5 PM to 9 PM every day
Goddess of Mercy Temple
Goddess of Mercy is a Taoist Buddhist temple from 1728. It was built to honor Guanyin, a bodhisattva and Goddess of Mercy. Many locals come here daily to pray and pay respects to their ancestors. Although there are free joss sticks, you can only use them outside. It is one of the first temples built on the island making it a historical site as well.
- Address of Goddess of Mercy Temple: 30, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Goddess of Mercy Temple: 8 AM to 6 PM
Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yin Temple is another Buddhist place of worship. It’s a little different from the other temples as it has open-air shrines with a view of the water. It’s decorated with many colorful lanterns and a wide open space. Hean Boo Thean Temple is situated very near the Clan Jetty.
- Address of Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yin Temple: No. A Reclamation Area, 52, Pengkalan Weld, Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yin Temple: daily from 9 AM to 2 PM, then 4 PM to 6 PM
Explore Khoo Kongsi – the Chinese clan temple
Khoo Kongsi also called Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi by the locals is a Chinese clan temple and museum. It’s a beautiful well-preserved historic architecture that presents the Chea clan’s heritage. The Chea clan migrated to Malaysia from China in the 18th century and built this temple in the 19th century as a refugee home for immigrants from the same ancestral village of the clan.
The building now serves as a temple and a museum that displays murals, historical facts, and stone cravings. You can wander on your own since there is information you can read, however, it’s best to have a tour guide who can tell you more detailed facts.
- Address of Kho Kongsi: 18, Cannon Square, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Kho Kongsi: 9 AM to 5 PM, daily
- Entry Fees for Kho Kongsi: RM10 ($2.24)
Check out Colonial Georgetown
Georgetown is a very significant historical location from the colonial era. The local government has done a fantastic job to keep its heritage sites maintained and standing today. Apart from Fort Cornwallis, State Museum, E&O Hotel, City Hall, and St. George’s Church, there are many other attractions in Georgetown that you can visit as part of your colonial exploration.
You can learn more about all the colonial aspects of Georgetown and Penang on a variety of tours around the city (and island) – but this is a really well-rated tour to take.
This includes Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, the High Court, the Wisma Building, the Georgetown Dispensary, and Suffolk House. I recommend you plan an entire day exploring heritage sites related to the colonial times of Penang. Start at Fort Cornwallis, take a break in E&O Hotel for high tea, and finish off at Suffolk House Restaurant for a beautiful and tasty dinner.
Explore Georgetown History at the Protestant Cemetery
The Protestant Cemetery was built right after the British East India Company established a base in Penang. The founder of Georgetown, Sir Francis Light was buried here among other historic personalities such as Thomas Leonowens – the man who married Anna from “the King and I” movie – real-life fame.- Anna (her real name) taught the children of British officers after his death and then took up the post of Siam royal governess in 1862, three years after her husband’s death in Penang.
You can find the Protestant Cemetery near E&O Hotel and the Blue Mansion.
- Address of Protestant Cemetery: Jln Sultan Ahmad Shah, George Town, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Wander through Georgetown’s Five Foot Ways
Five Foot Ways is an idea Stamford Raffles came up with. The concept was each shop must have a covered walking path that protected pedestrians from rain and sun. The size of these walkways had to be at least five feet from the shop’s main door on the front street.
It was a great idea and was implemented. But in reality, these walkways became an extension of the shop and even a parking spot for motorbikes or bicycles. All the Five Foot Ways are designed with a colonial ceiling arch, a very unique feature of Penang. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding them, especially in older buildings.
Take a Shot of the Fire Station, George Town
Until 1909 the fire brigade here in Penang was also the police force. Here’s the fire station, still in use today.
Relax at Georgetown’s E&O Hotel
E&O Hotel is a shortened version of the name of the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, a magnificent colonial building constructed in 1885. For those who don’t plan on staying here while in Georgetown (although you can check rates here), you can still dine at the hotel’s Palm Court Restaurant located on the Heritage Wing. The E&O Hotel is also an incredible location for high tea and a great place to have a break between visiting attractions in Georgetown. It’s only a 13-minute walk from Fort Cornwallis.
The Eastern and Oriental (E&O) Hotel was built in 1885 by the Sarkie family, they’re also responsible for the building of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. it claimed in 1927 that its seafront was the longest of any hotel in the world. Folks who’ve stayed here that you might recognize include the Sultan of Brunei, Rudyard Kipling, Douglas Fairbanks, Sir Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplin, and Somerset Maughan.
- Address of E&O Hotel: 10, Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Go to the State Museum of Penang and Art Gallery
The Penang State Museum displays cultural, heritage, and art exhibitions regarding the history of Penang and World War II. It is located between Fort Cornwallis and the E&O Hotel, which is a 7-minute walk from both places. The State Museum of Penang and Art Gallery is situated in a spacious 19th-century school building.
The artifacts are on the main ground floor while the art gallery is on the second floor. You should plan to spend an hour to an hour and a half here.
The museum provides an easy (air-conditioned) introduction to Penang and Malaysian museums. It’s cheap for a start, (just 1RM) and gives you a route to follow (most Malay museums are ambiguous on direction), detailed information boards, and some interesting displays. Plus, you can take photos – a bonus after India. This lovely building was originally the Penang Free School, built in 1896 and the displays provide humor too, likening the Chinese foot wrapping to stiletto-heeled shoes…
- Address of State Museum of Penang and Art Gallery: Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of State Museum of Penang and Art Gallery: 9 AM to 5 PM, every day except Fridays and public holidays
- Entry Fees for State Museum of Penang and Art Gallery: RM1 ($0.22) for adults, RM0.50 ($0.11) for children
Take a photo of City Hall
The City Hall of Penang is another beautiful heritage building from the colonial era with neo-Baroque architecture. Today, the City Hall is a government building that houses the Municipal Council, and you’re not, as a tourist, allowed to enter the premises but you are more than welcome to take pictures right at its front gate. You can get here from Fort Cornwallis on foot in just 5-minutes.
- Address of City Hall: Jalan Padang Kota Lama, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Tour the Street Art of Georgetown
The street art of Georgetown is a UNESCO Heritage Site and also on the top of things to do in Georgetown. There are three things Penang is most famous for; food, colonial buildings, and street art. I wrote specifically about where and what to see here. It really is an attraction in itself, and a good deal of exercise getting round to see it all!
Various elements and public spaces are painted featuring different shapes, forms, colors, and stories of life in Penang. Many of these painted walls also have an attached object, making them somewhat 3D art and interactive. The Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic was the first one commissioned to paint locations around Penang in 2012.
The most photographed paintings are Little Children on Bicycle, Boy on a Motorbike, Brother and Sister on Swing, the Big Cat, and I want Pau. There are more than 20 paintings all over Penang for you to discover.
Take the Funicular to Penang Hill – Bukit Bendera
Penang Hill is definitely one of the best things to do in Georgetown, and you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference this small change in altitude makes to the temperature! It might just be 833 meters (2733 feet) above sea level, but it’s delightfully fresh up here! There are two ways to get to the top of the hill. One is to hike and the other is to ride the funicular. Both options offer different experiences. With the funicular ride, you can see dramatic and scenic views as you approach the peak of the hill and, of course, remain cool. A hike gives you some great exercise and lovely views on the way up (and down).
Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera) is the oldest British Hill Station in South East Asia, dating back to the 1700s, it stands at 883 meters above sea level and is a delightful several degrees cooler than down in Georgetown. There’s been a funicular train here since October 1823 (one of the old carriages is on display at the Penang State Museum in George Town) and the track will take you up 1.99 kilometers (the longest in Asia), through a 79-meter tunnel (the steepest in Asia with a pitch of 27.9 degrees.
The best seats for the view are right at the front. En route, you get to pass some of the 52 hill bungalows, most of which are more than 100 years old – with the Governor’s Bungalow having been built in 1789.
You don’t have to take the funicular train to the top, there is a jeep road or a trail to the nearby Botanical Gardens, but it seems rude not to spend the 30 RM (10 RM for MyKad holders) for the return trip. It’s easy to get to the base station on the bus, but we just parked our rental motorbike along with all the rest and took the funicular to the top for the views.
There’s a bar and restaurant at the top but also a food court hidden further back where great Tom Yam Yee was had for a bargain 6 RM before we head down the funicular again, take in white coffee, and head back to Georgetown.
From the top, you get an amazing view of the sea while you enjoy some drinks and snacks from the shops and eateries up here. It’s a very popular location, the best time to come is at lunchtime. Avoid coming at the weekend if you don’t like big crowds. You can also go at night and see Georgetown from the above twinkling with nightlights.
- Address of Cable Car to Penang Hill: 422, Jalan Bukit Bendera, 11500 Bukit Bendera, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Cable Car to Penang Hill: 6:30 AM to 11 PM
- Entry Fees for Cable Car to Penang Hill: RM10 ($2.24) for adults, RM5 ($1.12)for children (4-12), senior citizens, and students
Go to the Penang Botanical Gardens in Georgetown
Penang’s Botanical Gardens is at the foot of Penang Hill with 12 sections of many tropical flowers and spices. It is a fantastic public place to spend an afternoon walking around and learning about different plants and flowers that thrive in Malaysian soil and climate. There is a beautiful landscape and hundreds of botanical exhibits. You will find orchids, cacti, lily pods, cannonball trees, and so much more.
The Penang Botanical Garden is located northwest of Georgetown center, a 20-minute drive. When you arrive at the Botanical Garden of Penang, you can walk on your own or take the tram for a more convenient way to explore the area. There are a lot of wild monkeys within the garden, remember to not give them any food and hold on to your belongings as they can be aggressive.
- Address of Penang Botanical Gardens: Kompleks Pentadbiran,Bangunan Pavilion, Jalan Kebun Bunga, 10350 Georgetown, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Penang Botanical Gardens: 8 AM to 5 PM, closed on Saturday and Sunday
- Entry Fees for Penang Botanical Gardens: Free
Go to the Penang Road Market
Penang Road is closed for vehicles on the last weekend of the month. The street is taken over by stalls, vendors will be selling handicrafts, souvenirs, clothing, fruits, snacks, and street food. Make sure to come and check it out if you happen to be here. Make sure to haggle your way around especially when it comes to souvenirs.
Go to the Green Mansion aka the Penang Peranakan Mansion
Go there first, said the owner of our guest house, the Malabar Inn, go there before you go to the Blue Mansion he said and while not necessarily planning to do what we were told, that’s actually what we did.
The first ouch was the cost of entry. It’s now 20 RM to enter for adults, somewhat more than the Lonely Planet promised us. Ah, said the ticket-selling dude, clearly used to this, but my boss has opened up a few more rooms and you can see the Jewelry Museum as well.
There’s no doubt that this is a stunning building, stuffed full of stunning items of furniture artifacts, but without much context, it was hard to summon much enthusiasm. It was owned by one of the most wealthy Baba-Nonya’s of the 19th century – Chung Keng Quee.
The Green Mansion is also called Pinang Peranakan Mansion in Malay. It’s a 19th-century lavish mansion that is now turned into a museum displaying famous antiques and ornaments. This location is highly recommended to visit with a tour guide to help you understand the significance of the Green Mansion for Penang, but also because of how entertaining they make your visit. There are Mandarin and English-speaking tour guides available.
The mother of pearl inlaid furniture is beautiful, the collections of glassware and porcelain extensive, and the architecture of the house quite exquisite. The museum of jewelry (at the back and to the left) is air-conditioned – we spent quite a bit of time there.
- Address of Green Mansion: 29, Church St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Green Mansion: 9:30 Am to 5 PM, every day
- Entry Fees for Green Mansion: RM20 ($4.49) for adults and RM10 ($2.24) for children
Visit the Blue Mansion aka Cheong Fatt Tze
The Blue Mansion which is also known as Cheong Fatt Tze to the locals is only a 12-minute walk from the Green Mansion. The 19th-century Cheong Fatt Tze now functions as quaint boutique accommodation, event venue, and restaurant. (You can check rates for the rooms at Cheong Fatt Tze here) For visitors who don’t plan to book a room here, you can still pay for a tour that will take you through the story of the Blue Mansion.
Unless you’re eating at the restaurant or staying in one of the 9 boutique hotel rooms here, the only way to visit is to take a tour, which are offered at 11 am, 2 pm, and 330pm for 16.95 RM each including GST.
If you arrive at other times, touts outside will try and take you on a tour of the city or to the nearby Chocolate Museum. The ticket office (on the left-hand side) opens 15 minutes before each tour time. Tickets are 16.90 (including GST) per adult. Photographs ARE allowed. Our tour was with the fantastic Pat, who was humorous, extremely well informed, and very gracious.
Cheong Fatt Tze was a Hakka merchant who left China penniless and built up a fortune throughout East Asia, becoming the “Rockefeller of the East”. He provided money to Sun Yat Sen to promote a Chinese Nationalist movement in 1911. He had wives throughout the continent. He met his love match (for the others were business marriages)here in Penang. The mansion was built for this local wife and was built in the 1880s. It is beautiful. It contains tiles from Stoke on Trent in the UK, and iron staircases from Glasgow and uses the concepts of Feng Shui to maintain a pleasant temperature inside.
The mansion was purchased in a rundown state from Cheong Fatt Tze’s descendants in 1989 and has been completely renovated with all new everything put inside. The tour doesn’t just give you a history of the mansion, but of the man (and woman) behind it, the tour also gives detail on Feng Shui, the history of Penang, and a host of other interesting tidbits. We left much more educated than we arrived.
The mansion starred in a famous French movie “Indochine” with Catherine Deneuve in 1993 – and since then became known as the Blue Mansion. The beautiful indigo blue was popular in colonial times as mixing indigo with lime wash helped absorb moisture and dispel it without causing damage to the structure of the house.
- Address of Blue Mansion: 14, Lebuh Leith, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Visit Little India in Penang
Penang’s Little India is a colorful and vibrant neighborhood in the middle of Georgetown with stores and vendors of Indian products. They sell clothing, food, jewelry, and even furniture. This area is one of the many proofs of how culturally diverse Penang is. If you are craving some Indian food, the area of Little India is the best place to find it.
- Address of Penang Little India: Lebuh Pasar, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Visit the Clan Jetty and the Stilt Villages of Georgetown
The Clan Jetties of Penang are a UNESCO Heritage Site. They are a traditional village where houses are built on stilts over the reclamation water. There are different villages, but they are all right next to each other. There are wooden walkways that will take you right from the main road all the way to the end that overlooks the water. There are restaurants and shops, many are built to attract visitors to the villages.
You can easily get here from pretty much anywhere in Georgetown. The Jetties of Penang are near Terminal Jeti Georgetown or Marina Georgetown Harbor. The Stilt Villages are 8-minute southeast of Little India on foot, towards the water.
- Address of Name of Attraction: Pengkalan Weld, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Visit the Jewish Cemetery in Georgetown
Penang’s Jewish Cemetery is situated west of Georgetown. There are not many Jewish heritage sites in Southeast Asia making this cemetery highlight significant to Penang. This cemetery might be small but it’s well-maintained. The Jewish Cemetery is worth a visit since it’s the resting place of many soldiers who fought during World War II. There is no fee to enter, but a donation is appreciated which is used for maintenance.
- Address of Jewish Cemetery: Jalan Zainal Abidin, 10400 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
The island of Penang is separated from mainland Malaysia by the Straits of Malacca. You can take a quick ferry ride from Georgetown across to Butterworth and admire the town from the top deck of the ferry. The best time to do this is in the afternoon just before the sunset, where you can catch a spectacular sunset view. The Georgetown-Butterworth ferry travels between these two cities every 30-minutes. You can get your ticket at Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal Super Fast Ferry or Pangkalan Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal (Pulau Pinang) in Georgetown.
- Address of Pulau Pinang: Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Pulau Pinang: 5 AM to 11 PM
- Entry Fees for Pulau Pinang: RM1 ($0.22) to RM8 ($1.79)
Visit the Upside Down Museum in Georgetown
A visit to the Upside Down Museum will bring out the child in you (and it’s a fabulous place to get an awesome shot for Instagram). It’s a playful museum featuring rooms that are set to make any photo you take very confusing and fun, if you’re heading to Kuching, then there’s another one there too. It’s in an interactive set-up where you can touch or hold the furniture to make the pictures cool and exciting. The creative staff will help you plan a fun pose and take photos, so don’t worry if you’re traveling solo.
- Address of Upside Down Museum: 45, Lebuh Kimberley, George Town, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Upside Down Museum: 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM
- Entry Fees for Upside Down Museum: RM29 for adult foreign visitors and RM 18 for children, for Malaysian citizens – RM21 ($4.71)for adults and RM10 ($2.24) for children
Visit the Wonderfood Museum of Penang
The Wonderfood Museum is another way to understand Penang’s love for food and art. This museum features ridiculously life-size versions of popular Malay dishes. You will also learn about the history of Malaysian food, the museum creates awareness about food waste as well. You can reserve your visit to Wonderfood here.
Be creative and take cute and funny images with these interactive displays of art. If you are visiting alone, the staff are more than happy to help you take playful photos. Even though these dishes are fake, they look real enough and will definitely make you hungry. Remember to get your ticket in advance and skip the line especially if you plan to come during the weekend.
- Address of Wonderfood Museum: 49, Lebuh Pantai, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Wonderfood Museum: 9 AM to 6 PM
- Entry Fees for Wonderfood Museum: RM25 ($5.61) for adult foreign visitors and RM15 ($3.37) for children and senior citizens,RM15 ($3.37) for local adults, and RM10 ($2.24) for children and senior citizens
Visit the Habitat on Penang Hill
A Habitat is a magnificent place in the middle of Penang Hill. It is a fabulous place to enjoy the sunset and immerse yourself in the natural world right here in the middle of the island. Penang’s the Habitat showcases the excellent rainforest of Penang Hill where wild monkeys and other wild animals are living. While in the Habitat, you can see beautiful fauna and flora. If you come in the morning, it could be misty adding such a thrilling vibe to your experience. You can check what else you can expect to see here.
You can simply walk on your own with or without a tour guide, while you can also take the funicular train that makes the trip a bit more relaxing. In the middle of the Habitat is a very long but magnificent canopy walk in the middle of the jungle. It’s best to buy the ticket online to avoid the long queue at the ticket desk.
- Address of Habitat: Jalan Stesen, Bukit Bendera Air Itam, 11500 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
- Opening Hours of Habitat: 9 AM to 7 AM
- Entry Fees for Habitat: RM60 ($13.46) for adults and RM40 ($8.97) for children and senior citizens
Map of the Best Things to do in George Town, Penang
You can also see this map of George Town things to do here.
Food and Drink in Georgetown, Penang
There are literally dozens of dishes that you have to try while in Georgetown. Malay, Indian, Chinese, and even international cuisines are all over the island. You can check our extensive Penang food guide, but here’s a quick highlight of the best dishes and places to eat in Georgetown.
Eat at a Hawker Center in Georgetown
Hawker centers are an incredible location to try out many street foods of Penang. There are plenty of them scattered all over Penang Island. But if you are looking for one right in the middle of Georgetown, go to the Pregrave Street Hawker Center or Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls. You will find dozens of different dishes, snacks, and drinks to choose from.
I highly recommend you try fried oyster, laksa, Hokkien prawn mee, ckt (char koay teow), and ice kacang. Heck, I recommend you try everything. Browse the food stalls first and compare the prices.
Eat in Little India, Georgetown, Penang
Little India is another location that is a popular place to eat at in Georgetown. If you want to sit down in a restaurant, Sri Ananda Bahwan, Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant, and Sardaarji – Flavours of Punjab are all amazing. While for food stalls, check out Penang Famous Samosa and Nasi Kandar Imigresen.
Drink Cocktails at Beach Blanket Babylon
After you stuff yourself with all this fabulous, but highly affordable food, take a little walk and go to Beach Blanket Babylon. Enjoy a few cocktails and happy hour. If you come a little early, it’s also a nice place to watch the sunset and cool down with a sea breeze, while listening to the waves.
How to Get Around Georgetown, Penang
Traveling within Penang Island is pretty easy. There are various modes of transportation you can choose from. The public buses go everywhere, while there are double-decker buses specifically designed to accommodate the visitors of Georgetown. Grab, the ride-hailing app is also available on the island, and so are traditional taxis. Rental of motorbikes and push bikes are also common. We had a great time renting a motorbike and touring the island, my only comment would be – try not to follow trucks that are loaded with durian….
Where is Georgetown, Penang
Georgetown is the city of Penang Island located in the northeast of the island. Penang Island is on the west coast of the Penang Region in northwest Malaysia, near Kedah and not too far from the border with Thailand along the Strait of Malacca.
When is the best time to travel to Georgetown, Penang
The best time to visit Georgetown, Penang is from November to January when the weather is cool and not too hot. But remember that those months are also the busiest time and peak seasons. If you want to avoid that, February to April is also a great time to come to Georgetown.
How to get to Georgetown, Penang
From Kuala Lumpur, the best way to reach Georgetown is by taking an hour direct flight, the ticket costs are about RM70-RM110 ($15-$25). There are many flights daily between Air Asia and Malaysian Airlines. If you’re staying in Kuala Lumpur, then our guide of what to do in Malaysia’s capital city is here.
If you are coming from Langkawi, you can take a 3-hour ferry ride directly to Georgetown. It will cost about RM60-RM80 ($13.46-$17.95) and the boat leaves at 8:30 AM and 2 PM daily. There is also a direct 40-minute flight for RM44.50-RM70 ($10-$15) between Air Asia and Firefly (Malaysian Airlines).
- Our guide on how to go from Langkawi to Penang is here
- Our guide on how to go from Penang to Cameron Highlands is here
Final Words on The Best Things to do in Georgetown, Penang
Georgetown is a fantastic place to explore especially if it’s your first time in Penang. If you’re interested in colonial architecture, history, and street arts, and don’t shy away from unique food, Georgetown, Penang is just perfect for you. George Town and Penang have been wonderful. Food to get fat for, friendly people, easy places to visit, and oodles of history in what feels like an amazingly well-put-together cultural melting pot that takes the best from each culture – or at least lets you pick and choose.
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