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Things to do in Penang

Things to do in  Penang

Welcome to Penang

Penang Island, once known as the Pearl of the Orient, is one of Malaysia's most densely populated urban centers. George Town, its bustling capital, showcases the island's long history as trading port and former British colony, as well as the multicultural influence of its tightly knit immigrant communities. Proud of their glittering, modern skyline, Penang Islanders also treasure their heritage: Colonial relics, faded Chinese shophouses, and Buddhist temples line the cobblestone streets of George Town's central UNESCO World Heritage zone. To capture Penang’s diversity, a guided tour is highly recommended. Absorb sweeping panoramas from atop Penang Hill; visit Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple; and relax on the white sands of Batu Ferringhi beach. Stroll through historic Fort Cornwallis and the riotously colorful streets of Little India and Chinatown, and visit the fascinating Penang Museum. A tasting tour of the island's famous food stalls is a must: try the creamy, spicy coconut laksa (noodle soup), prawn fritters, and slow-cooked pork. Nature lovers can explore Monkey Beach and the uninhabited islands of Penang National Park on a day trip, or snorkel and swim in the azure waters of Pulau Payar Marine Park. From Penang Island, many travelers head to Langkawi by boat, or back to the mainland to tour the rolling green hills of the Cameron Highlands. If you have some in Seburang Perai, the peninsular half of Penang State, visit Penang Bird Park, the largest and oldest aviary in Malaysia.

Top 15 attractions in Penang

Khoo Kongsi (Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi Clan House & Museum)

Hidden in a maze of alleyways in Georgetown sits Khoo Kongsi (Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi Clan House & Museum), one of Malaysia’s most important clan houses. The legacy of the house dates back more than 650 years to the Khoo Kongsi clan from west China and manifests itself in intricate carvings, murals, and timberwork.More

Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple, which translates from Hokkien as the the Temple of Serene Bliss, stands majestically on the slopes of Air Itam, a hill on Penang Island. The largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, Kek Lok Si attracts thousands of visitors with its 7-story white-and-gold pagoda, golden statues, and an elevated setting that provides panoramic views.More

Penang Hill Funicular Railway

A colonial-era hill station, Penang Hill sits behind George Town, about 2,733 feet (833 meters) above sea level. Visit in style on the Penang Hill Funicular Railway, a cliff-side railway dating back to 1924. The trains and tracks are modern, and the sheer ascents through the jungle and over bridges make for a spectacular journey.More

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

The acid-green Pinang Peranakan Mansion offers insight into the culture of the Peranakans (Babas, a community from the China Straits. Inside, more than 1,000 items showcase the affluence of a typical Baba household, while cosmopolitan decor combines traditional Chinese-carved wood panels with English and Scottish features.More

Chayamangkalaram Buddhist Temple (Wat Chayamangkalaram)

Characterized by glittering stupas and fearsome green dragons, the Thai Buddhist Chayamangkalaram Buddhist Temple (Wat Chayamangkalaram) is one of the most ornate in Penang. The temple’s extravagant exterior alludes to the giant reclining Buddha statue inside, whose position signifies peace and freedom from the material world. Opposite the Thai temple sits a Burmese temple of similar grandeur.More

Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera Pulau Pinang)

Reigning supreme from the center of Penang Island, Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera Pulau Pinang) offers travelers much more than panoramic views. Ride up in a century-old funicular, or take a hike, keeping an eye out for grey macaques and elusive dusky leaf monkeys. At the top, you’ll find a Hindu temple, an owl museum, and even an earthquake and typhoon pavilion.More

Little India

Little India is the heart of multicultural Penang’s ethnic Indian community. It’s where you can find South Indian-style temples, food, market stalls, and other stores that are quite distinct from those elsewhere. Penang’s Little India doesn’t cover a very large area, but it’s within the UNESCO Penang Heritage Zone of George Town.More

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (Blue Mansion)

Known by locals as the Blue Mansion, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts visitors with its architectural fusion of European and Chinese styles. Featured in the Oscar-winning movieIndochine, the mansion, an important part of George Town’s heritage, is now part hotel, part museum. Indigo blue walls and decadent ornamentation make for stunning photographs.More

Fort Cornwallis

An essential stop for history buffs, Fort Cornwallis is an 18th-century fortress that played a significant role in the history of Penang. The structure, one of the largest standing forts in Malaysia, was built to defend Penang against pirate attacks and is still, to this day, guarded by vigilant cannons.More

Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm

When Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm opened in 1986 as the Penang Butterfly Farm, it was the first facility of its kind anywhere in the tropics. This living museum showcases more than 15,000 rare, endangered, and indigenous butterflies and dragonflies representing some 120 species alongside 200 species of plants. A multistory indoor discovery center known as the Cocoon lets visitors explore the world of invertebrates through a series of hands-on exhibits and activities. Entopia doubles as a research and conservation center for butterflies, insects, and their habitats.More


Set atop a hill in George Town, the 68-story Komtar skyscraper towers above Penang and houses a range of dining and entertainment options. From the Rainbow Skywalk, a glass bridge suspended 816 feet (249 meters) above the city, to aquariums, amusement rides, and 200 animatronic dinosaurs, there’s plenty to see and do here.More

Snake Temple (Hock Hing Keong)

Variously known as Hock Hin Keong, Cheng Hoon Giam, or Fu Xing Gong, depending which Chinese dialect you favor, Penang’s Snake Temple does exactly what it says on the tin. Dedicated to Chor Soo Kong, a Chinese healer turned god, this 19th-century temple boasts fruit trees decked with vipers and snakes in the prayer hall.More

Penang Botanical Gardens (Taman Botani Penang)

Set in a former quarry below Penang Hill, the 71-acre (29-hectare) Penang Botanic Gardens (Taman Botani Pulau Pinang) blend jungle with formal gardens to magical effect. Founded in 1884, and sometimes known as the Waterfall Gardens for the stream that tumbles through them, they’re crisscrossed with walking trails.More

Penang Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian)

An intoxicating blend of street art, clan houses, temples, and stores makes Penang Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian one of the most popular streets in George Town’s UNESCO World Heritage zone. Love Me Like Your Fortune Cat and Ernest Zacharevic’s Little Children on a Bicycle are two of Penang’s most Instagrammed artworks.More

Penang Bridge (Jambatan Pulau Pinang)

Opened in 1985 following 15 years of planning, Penang Bridge (Jambatan Pulau Pinang) connects George Town in Penang with Seberang Prai on the Malaysian mainland. At 8.4 miles (13.5 kilometers), the cable-stayed toll bridge is the second longest in the country and the fifth longest in Southeast Asia.More
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Colonial Sites in Penang

Colonial Sites in Penang

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All about Penang

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People Also Ask

What is Penang known for?

George Town, Penang island’s vibrant capital, holds UNESCO World Heritage status for its historic, multicultural architecture, a feast of temples, clan houses, colonial-era mansions, and candy-colored shophouses. It’s also a center for Peranakan culture, a fusion of Chinese and Malaysian traditions, and multicultural food, while its street art is Instagram famous.

How can I spend 3 days in Penang?

Three days in Penang gives you time to get a good taste of historic George Town—a trishaw ride is a must. You can also see more of the island: beaches, fruit farms, spice gardens, butterfly farms, botanical gardens, rain forest reserves, and the Penang War Museum all await outside the city limits.

What shouldn't I miss in Penang?

George Town is Penang’s cultural highlight, not to mention Malaysia’s food capital. Alongside historic treats such as Blue Mansion, the Khoo Kongsi clan house, and the Chew Jetty, enjoy museums, cafés, and markets. Sampling Peranakan (Nyonya) food is a must, as is a tasting tour of Little India.

What is there to do in Penang for free?

There is plenty to do in Penang for free. Swim off Pantai Pasir Panjang or Monkey Beach, or hike in Penang National Park. In George Town, photograph street art or shophouses, admire the stilt houses on Chew Jetty, or explore religious buildings like the Goddess of Mercy Temple (Kuan Yin Teng).

What activities do people do in Penang?

Walking, eating, sightseeing, and photography are favorite activities in Penang. A ride in a trishaw 3-wheeler is a must, while food tours and cooking classes are popular. Alternatively, fill up your Insta at the Upside Down Museum, the 3D Trick Art Museum, or The TOP Penang, atop the towering Komtar building.

What do locals do in Penang?

Locals in Penang love to eat, often at hawker courts, and shop, often at traditional night markets. George Town has a thriving nightlife scene, including hidden bars, karaoke joints (KTV), and the Soundmaker Studio rock venue. Some locals enjoy hiking in the island’s parks and rain forest reserves and visiting the beach.


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