Top things to do in Penang

Top things to do in Penang

Boasting varied cuisine, a diversity of cultures and mesmerising beaches, Penang has the best Malaysia has to offer. Situated about 8km from mainland Malaysia, Penang is a multifaceted turtle shaped island where historic buildings, temples and mosques stand alongside modern developments in the city. Meanwhile, the coast is home to both luxury resorts and sleepy fishing villages.

One of the three British Straits Settlements - along with Singapore and Malacca - Penang has an interesting heritage and is the only area in Malaysia where ethnic Chinese are the majority. Penang is also home to some of the most important monuments in the region.


The capital of Penang is a network of chaotic streets and an important tourist territory. Although Georgetown is a modern city with glitzy skyscrapers and shopping malls, the capital of Penang is also home to colonial buildings, churches and mosques, and many of its sites predate the Second World War. Due to its historical and cultural significance, the core of Georgetown was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

As Penang was a very important trading port once, today Georgetown is a melting pot of cultures - such as Chinese, Malay and Indian - and religions from right across Southeast Asia. Georgetown is also considered the starting point of the Baba-Nyonya culture of Malacca and Penang.

The Blue Mansion is the most photographed building in George Town. Built in the 1880s, this 38-room, 220-window mansion boasts a distinctive blue-hued exterior that once reflected Georgetown's identity and is the result of an indigo-based limewash.

Commissioned by the Cheong Fatt Tze - known as the ‘Rockefeller of the East' - for his seventh wife, the Blue Mansion mixes Eastern and Western designs with louvred windows, art nouveau stained glass and aesthetic floor tiles. This building stands as a testament to the eclectic architectural style preferred by wealthy Straits Chinese.

After visiting this fantastic China House complex, head to Kopi C for excellent Western-style coffee and some of the best cakes and ice creams in Southeast Asia.

Tropical Spice Garden

As you meander through this landscaped oasis, you'll have a chance to see more than 500 species of tropical flora spread across 500 acres. With the help of an audio guide you'll have the chance to learn about local spices and medicinal plants while you wander among lily ponds and terraced gardens.

Batu Ferringhi

This is Penang's main beach resort, where tourists and locals alike flock to enjoy the white sandy beaches and relaxed dining scene.

Cheah Kongsi

Dating back to 1810, this temple was built by an ancestral clan, the oldest Straits Chinese clan association in Penang. Set in the block beside Khoo Kongsi, Cheah Kongsi resembles the grand temples and palaces usually seen in China. Apart from being registered as headquarters of several clans, this building has also served as a temple and assembly hall.

China House

China House, a block-wide amalgamation of shophouses, is a must-see when you visit22 Georgetown. With a variety of dining, drinking and shopping options, in China House you won't get bored.

Khoo Kongsi

One of the five clan houses that still stand today in Georgetown, the Khoo Kongsi clan house takes after a mini clan village. One of the most impressive of Georgetown, the Khoo Kongsi features tall thin columns that support a gently sloping, red tiled roof, topped with carvings of dragons, phoenixes, mythical animals and scenes from popular Chinese legends. The roof ridges are decorated with ceramic sculptures of immortals, carp, dragons, and carp becoming dragons. The interior is an ostentatious display of impressive murals that depict birthdays, weddings and the 36 celestial guardians.

Penang National Park

Nature lovers are also in for a treat in Penang with 2300 hectares of national park. There you can engage in a variety of activities, such as jungle walks, fishing and sunbathing on golden sandy beaches.

Take a 15-minute stroll west to Sungai tukun where you can swim the pools. If you follow the trail along the coast for about 10 minutes, you come across a supply jetty as well as Tanjung Aling, a pleasant beach where you can unwind and stop to rest. If you keep walking for another 45 minutes, you'll come across Tekul Duyung, also known as Monkey Beach.

Another half an hour will take before you reach Muka Head, the isolated rocky promontory at the extreme northwester corner of the island. On the peak of the head lies an off-limits lighthouse that has been standing ever since it was built in 1883. From here, you'll get mesmerising views of the surrounding islands.