11 must-do things in Penang

Going to Malaysia was just a dream not long ago, and now your departure is imminent? Check out our top 11 must-do’s in Penang!

A small island on the west coast of Malaysia, Penang is the island part of the state of the same name, north of the Malay Peninsula. The island is separated from the Asian mainland by two bridges spanning the Penang Strait. Little known to travellers to Asia, Penang lives in the shadow of Bangkok, the islands of the Gulf of Thailand, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Yet the island is becoming increasingly well known and has many charms to offer its guests: there’s no shortage of things to do. A visit to Penang is a must for anyone visiting Malaysia. With a population of 750,000, Penang’s population density is quite high, and urban development is concentrated on the island’s eastern coast.

Not sure what to do in Penang? We’ve put together a list of must-sees and must-dos when visiting Penang.

Also read on the Penang guide :

1. The historic center of George Town

According to some, George Town lacks interest. However, its historical heritage is well worth a visit. The historic center, with its monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Historic and cultural heritage, but also culinary: Penang is known as the gastronomic capital of Malaysia. The buildings of the old town offer a unique blend of colonial and Chinese-style architecture. It’s also a lively part of Penang to visit.

2. George Town graffiti

Downtown George Town is a highly artistic area, famous for its street art and graffiti, making Penang an open-air « gallery city ». The municipality has called on local artists to decorate its walls.

As a result, countless works of art and frescoes can be contemplated in the streets, right on the façades: enough to enjoy admiring the walls and hunting for graffiti in every alley!

3. Gurney Drive

Gurney Drive, Penang

Photo credit: Flickr – KeWynn Lee

Located on Penang City’s waterfront, Gurney Drive is a very popular promenade, much frequented by locals. The avenue is also George Town’s second business center, where tall buildings have sprung up right on the beach. There are many shops and street restaurants where you can enjoy local dishes at a reasonable price, as well as numerous hotels for accommodation.

4. Sun Yat-Sen Museum

Sun Yat-Sen Museum, Penang

Photo credit: Flickr – shankar s.

The Sun Yat-sen Penang Museum, located in the old town of George Town, is dedicated to Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), the famous Chinese revolutionary who founded the Republic of China in 1912 and is considered « the founding father of modern China ». The man himself stayed here, and this is the house where he devised numerous strategies to topple the Qing dynasty, starting in 1910.

5. Cheong Fatt Tze’s mansion

Located on Leith Street in George Town, Cheong Fatt Tze’s mansion is emblematic of the city and a must-see for anyone visiting Penang: its indigo blue colors will leave no one indifferent, and it’s sometimes called the « blue mansion ».

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is now a luxury hotel in Penang. You can visit it without staying there, by paying for a guided tour. A place steeped in history, it has also been the location for many films, such as the feature Indochine.

Book your room at Cheong Fatt Tze Manor

6. Wat Chaiyamangkalaram

Temple Wat Chayamangkalaram, Penang

Photo credit: Flickr – shankar s.

A famous Buddhist temple located in George Town, not far from Gurney Drive, Wat Chaiyamangkalaram is home to one of the world’s longest reclining Buddha statues, as well as numerous statues of mythical creatures. The building was constructed in 1845 on a plot of land granted by Queen Victoria to a Siamese community. The Buddha statue measures 33 meters in length, making it the third longest in the world.

7. Queen Victoria’s Clock Tower

The Clock Tower – also known as the Jubilee Clock Tower – was built in honor of Queen Victoria in 1897, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of her reign (1837-1901). The Moorish-style tower, located at the junction of Light Street and Beach Street, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.

8. Penang Botanical Gardens

Jardins botaniques de Penang

Photo credit: Flickr – John Abel

Penang has many green spaces, including botanical gardens. Also known as the  » Waterfall Gardens« , they are located on Jalan Air Terjun, west of George Town. Wind your way through an equatorial jungle of paths and staircases to reach the botanical gardens, founded in 1884, where you can contemplate numerous plant species and inhale their many scents.

9. Kek Lok Si temple

Temple Kek Lok Si, Penang

Photo credit: Flickr – Yidian Cheow

Located on a hillside on the road leading to the Ayer Itam water body southwest of George Town, the Kek Lok Si temple is a must-see if you don’t know what to do in Penang.

Known to locals as the « Temple of Supreme Happiness », the building is considered the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Taoist monks use it as a place of retreat and meditation. Seven storeys high, the pagoda offers a breathtaking view of Penang as it rises to its pinnacle. Built between 1890 and 1905, the best time to visit the temple is Chinese New Year.

10. Penang National Park

What to do in Penang once you’ve seen all the temples? Penang National Park, in the west of the island, might be a good idea.

The park extends over 1,213 hectares between sea and land, and is home to numerous plant and animal species. The area is a protected nature reserve where geological, archaeological, historical and ethnological research is carried out. In addition, Monkey Beach offers the chance to take a dip after your hike.

11. Climb Penang Hill

Vue de Penang Hill

Photo credit: Flickr – stratman²

Penang Hill is a mountain resort located 6 kilometers west of George Town, in the center of the island. What can you do in Penang if you love nature? Take the PenangHill funicular up to an altitude of 900 metres and enjoy a superb view of the city and the tropical jungle.

How to get to Penang

To get to Penang, there are several options depending on your point of departure. We’ve listed some typical examples for you:

  • The plane

Penang International Airport is located in the southeast of the island, at Bayan Lepas (14 kilometers from George Town). The low-cost airlines AirAsia and Firefly offer cheap flights to Penang. From France, there are no direct flights to Penang: with an average of two stopovers, you can expect a 20-hour flight. Whatever your departure city, don’t hesitate to take a look at the website of our partner Ulysse, a specialist comparator of flights at the best prices.

  • The boat

A ferry provides access to Penang from the Langkawi archipelago in less than 3 hours. With 14 crossings a week, the ferries are frequent and provide a safe and reliable means of access to Penang.

Book your ferry trip from Langwaki

  • The bus

This is a popular option, especially if you’re travelling from the capital, Kuala Lumpur: there are several buses from here to Penang.

Where to stay in Penang

As is often the case in Southeast Asia, Penang offers a wide range of inex pensive accommodation options: hotels, resorts and youth hostels, guesthouses and homestays. Accommodation is available in George Town, Penang, Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang, the towns closest to Penang’s must-see activities.

If you opt for a hotel, visit this hotel comparator, which will be able to offer you the best deals to suit your criteria. For more authentic accommodation, why not turn to the rental platform Airbnb ? Specializing in local accommodation, the site offers a wide choice of vacation homes and other apartments in Penang.

Map of hotels and accommodation – Penang,my