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Colonial Penang

By Viator, June 2014

4 23 Reviews | Add your review

Colonial Georgetown is a topsy-turvy collection of shophouses, trishaws, laneway shops and grand buildings. Portuguese traders from Goa in India first visited here in the 16th century, when Penang was part of the Malay sultanate of Kedah.

The British East India Company took control in 1786, when the island was handed over to colonial Penang’s founder, Captain Francis Light, as the first British possession in Southeast Asia. Georgetown was named for the British King George III. Declared a free port, Penang attracted Chinese traders and joined Britain’s Straits Settlements administered from India.

Inner-city Georgetown is so special, it’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its colonial-era warehouses and go-downs, wharfs and jetties, commercial center and banking precinct are considered unique, comparable only to Malacca. The focus of business was Beach Street, still lined with shophouses and the impressive straits architecture of buildings constructed for long-gone emporiums and trading firms.

One of the most visible remnants of the colonial period is Fort Cornwallis and its rusty cannons pointing out to sea to defend the island. Streets like Light Street and Pitt Street were first mapped in the early colonial days and they still remain today, along with street names with multicultural flavor like Burma Road and Armenian Street.

A cluster of ornate colonial-era municipal buildings lie near the fort, on the other side of the padang playing fields. Look for the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower, and visit the cemetery where the movers and shakers of colonial Penang lie buried, including Captain Light who died of malaria in 1794.

For panoramic views of Georgetown, do as the colonial settlers did and visit the hill station atop Penang Hill, reached by funicular railway.

Tours & Tickets

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Penang Hill Railway Ride and Dinner with Georgetown Views

4.5 star rating: Recommended 2 Reviews

Enjoy the unique experience of dining at colonial Penang Hill with the incredible panoramic night skyline of Georgetown below. After getting there by way of ...  Read more

Location: Penang, Malaysia
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $113.33

Penang City Tour

4 star rating: Recommended 20 Reviews

Penang has perhaps the largest and well preserved colonial-era old town, with excellent examples of Chinese clan houses, colonial homes, public buildings and ...  Read more

Location: Penang, Malaysia
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $33.33

Private Penang City Sightseeing Tour

If you’d like to experience a bit of everything Penang has to offer, this grand tour of the island is for you! A private guide will accompany you by private ...  Read more

Location: Penang, Malaysia
Duration: 6-7 hours (approx.)

From USD $97.60

Private Tour: Penang Hill Night Tour including Dinner at the Bellevue Hotel

To escape the heat of tropical Georgetown, do what many of the early colonial settlers did when the air got a little too thick, head up to the top of the 830 ...  Read more

Location: Penang, Malaysia
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $114.99

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