Penang is a fascinating coming together of two worlds, modernity and a legacy of traditions. The juncture of Asia’s great kingdoms with colonial charm of Europe, Penang is a city one must experience. The “Pearl of the Orient” has myriad of enchantments. The diverse cultures, colorful heritage, sights and sounds, creates a wonderful holiday.
Check out the list of the top things to do in Penang.
- George Town
- Penang Hill
- Blue Mansion
- Penang National Park
- Slice Garden
- Sen’s Penang Base
- Peranakan Mansion
- Kek Lok Si
- Nazlina’s Spice Station
- Reclining Buddha statues
- Penang State Museum & Art Gallery
- Penang Music Festival
- Batu Ferringhi
- Stir Fy Food
1. Explore the Streets of George Town
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town in Penang is a wonderful introduction to Malaysia fascinations and definitely counts as one of the top things to do in Penang. George Town’s landscape is dotted by storefronts, upscale shopping complexes, renovated Chinese manors, raucous pubs and artsy boutiques.
The city dominates the Malaysian tourist scene and is a favorite among Penang’s tourist attractions. The gastronomy here is a miscellany of tantalizing delights ranging from Indian curry to Chinese noodles. The street art glory is unrivalled and must be experienced first-hand.
Witness the colorful history as every nook and corner has a tale to tell. Go for a guided tour organized by Penang Heritage Trust.
2. Walk to the Penang Hill
Penang Hill is snuggled at an 821 m above George Town. Spot some of the grandest colonial mansions, and other panoramic views of the island. Being at a height from the island it enjoys cool and refreshing air.
Visitors can take a short 30-minute cable car ride from the funicular station in Air Itam. There is also an option to trek up the hill via the Botanic Gardens. The three-hour hike through the rainforest is absolutely thrilling. Nothing beats a visit at the sunrise hour. All throughout the day is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Penang.
3. Marvel at the Blue Mansion
The Blue Mansion was built in the 1880s and salvaged from ruin in the 1990s. The magnificent 38-room, 220-window is designed with blends of Eastern and Western designs. The architecture of louver windows, art nouveau stained glass and beautiful floor tiles demands to be explored.
The rare eclectic architectural style was preferred by the wealthy Straits Chinese. This remains one of the last surviving structures. The distinctive blue hue of the mansion is the result of an indigo-based lime wash.
Get a glimpse of the beautiful mansion as well as an insight into traditional Chinese architecture. The hour-long guided tours are included in the admission fee.
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4. Explore the Penang National Park
Penang National park is the newest addition in the national park of the country. The smallest in Malaysia, at just 2300 hectares, it is one of the must visit attractions in Penang. It has interesting and challenging trails through jungles, as well as some of the island’s finest and quietest beaches.
Eco-attractions include the pristine Pantai Kerachut beach and Meromictic Lake. They provide the perfect spot for picnics and fishing, swimming and trekking. Boat rides can also be arranged or those who want to visit the nearby islands. Do not miss to visit the old lighthouse built in 1883 and still operational till date.
5. Tropical Slice Garden
The Tropical Slice Garden is an oasis of tropical, fragrant verdure in Penang City. It is home to about 500 species of flora, with a prominence on edible herbs and spices.
Visitors can explore the grounds on their own savoring in the sights, smells and verdant greenery. There are four daily guided tours at 9 am, 11.30 am, 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm, where you can learn about the tropical varieties. Enroll in the cooking courses or explore the in-house shop where you can purchase some souvenirs. The restaurant here is worth a visit.
6. Dr. Sun Yat Sen’s Penang Base
Penang has an interesting history. From the days of Chinese revolution, an important relic remains in the form of Dr Sun Yat Sen’s home. The leader of the 1911 Chinese revolution, was responsible for China as the first Republic in Asia.
Dr Sun Yat Sen lived in George Town and his house was the central meeting place for his political party. Today the home has been converted into a museum. Even if you’re not interested in history, it is worth a visit. Marvel at the magnificently restored antique shop house.
7. Pinang Peranakan Mansion
This attraction ranks among the top things to do in Penang. The 19th century, grandiose, mint-green Pinang Pernakan Mansion is among the most exquisite restored residences in George Town. A tour reveals that every door, wall and archway is carved and often painted in gold leaf.
Grandiose wood furniture with elaborate mother-of-pearl inlay furnish the grand rooms. There are displays of charming antiques; and bright-colored paintings and fascinating black and white photos of the family in regal Chinese dress grace the walls.
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8. Visit Kek Lok Si
Penang is the abode of the ‘Temple of Supreme Bliss’, Kek Lok Si. The largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, it one of the most- visited sites drawing tourists from all over the world. Built in 1890 by an immigrant Chinese Buddhist, it is a foundation of the Malay-Chinese community.
The architecture is said to be a merger of three styles, Burmese at the top, Chinese at the bottom and Thai in between. A grand 36.5m-high bronze statue of Kuan Yin, goddess of mercy presides over the temple. To get to the statute, take the cable car. Explore the maze of souvenir stalls. The turtle pond and murky fish ponds are beautiful places to relax.
9. Learn the Art of Cooking at Nazlina’s Spice Station
Penang’s gastronomy is mouthwatering. One of the amazing things to do in Penang includes learning the art of cooking, Nazlina’s Spice station is a popular place where tourists are taught to create some of the most delicious tastes of Penang.
Enroll in a course of cooking. There are options of one-day to one week. A course begins with a visit to a morning market to purchase fresh produce. Next you relish a local breakfast, followed by coaching in three or four dishes. Afternoon lessons are vegan/vegetarian.
10. Marvel at one of Asia’s largest reclining Buddha statues
Penang houses one of Asia’s largest reclining Buddhist statues. The Wat Chayamangkalaram is a Siamese temple in George Town houses a 180 feet long reclining Buddha swathed in gold. It is a phenomenal sight to behold. Do not miss to visit the enchantment. Drenched in spirituality, you will be left in awe of the sight.
11. Wonder at the exquisite specimens housed in Penang State Museum & Art Gallery
The Penang State Museum & Art Gallery is a place to definitely not miss in the city. History lovers, tourist and visitors with varied interests can enjoy here. There are exhibitions all year around plus their permanent exhibition and they organize art forums and workshops too.
Their permanent exhibit includes Nyonya and aboriginal pieces and Malaysian traditional musical instrument. Wonder at the exquisite specimens.
12. Enjoy Vivacious Melodies of the world at Penang Music Festival
The Penang World Music Festival is two nights of vivacious global music. It is a starter to Penang’s eventful calendar held every year in March. Do not miss to attend the event. In close-to-nature backdrop at the century-old Penang Botanic Gardens, get prepared for a treat to your ears.
Enjoy the rhythms of varied music genres like folk, Balkan, gypsy, reggae, tribal and ethno jazz. The wide-ranging international line-up of musicians will entertain enthusiasts at the Penang Botanic Gardens. Additional delights are an arts and crafts bazaar, food stalls and a kids-world for the little ones.
13. Batu Ferringhi
Penang has been alluring visitors since centuries with the marvelous attraction of Batu Ferringhi. It is the second most popular destination after Georgetown in Penang. The long stretch of soft, white sandy beach is a slice of Malaysian paradise. Honeymoon couples, families and anyone seeking a relaxed time should spend time here.
Snuggled along a road named Jalan Batu Feringghi, there are also a host of accommodation and dining options. The night market is quite legendary. The waters are popular spots for a range of water sports. Try out activities such as parasailing and windsurfing. Savor the wonderful view of a golden sunset.
14. Savor the island’s favorite stir-fry, char koay teow
Penangites love to eat. As the saying goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do, in Penang you cannot stop yourself from trying out the delicious fares. Penang street food encompasses Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines. The island’s favorite stir-fry, char koay teow is simply legendary. Eat by the roadside stalls and coffee. This is an experience second to none.
15. Shop till you drop
Even if shopping is not your thing, Penang shall interest you with their deals. The batik print clothes, handicrafts, antique artifacts, pottery, paintings are some of the most exciting bargains. For the local delights, check Lorong Kulit, Rope Walk flea markets, Campbell Street, and Little India.
These traditional shopping areas are a maze of enjoyment. Also explore the modern shopping malls like Gurney Plaza and Queensbay. The shoppers’ paradise is worth your while. Bargaining is a skill here. You skills will get you some amazing deals.
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