Things to do in Penang

Must-see Penang sights

Penang has a plethora of attractions. George Town is the island’s main attraction and a Unesco World Heritage Site. With rich colonial and historic roots, its narrow streets and busy thoroughfares add to the adventure.

  1. Explore George Town
  2. Continue your tour of George Town
  3. Explore the Penang Museum and Art Gallery
  4. Enjoy a fancy drink or two
  5. Enter the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
  6. Enjoy the outdoors at the Penang National Park

There’s much more to Penang than just George Town. Take a breath of fresh air at the Penang National Park or enjoy the impressive collection on hold at the Penang Museum and Art Gallery - there’s plenty to like about this fascinating Malaysian state.

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Rough Guides

1. Explore George Town

One of the best things to do in Penang is to simply wander around George Town. One of the joys of touring George Town’s historic section is the opportunity to cover many of the sites in this compact area by foot, and the best place to begin your tour is the main ferry terminal at Weld Quay. Along the foreshore there are the Clan Jetties, a hamlet of houses on stilts, joined by wooden walkways over the water and inhabited by 2,000 boatmen and fishing families, each group belonging to a different Chinese clan.

Best for: The perfect introduction to Penang

While you’re there: There are many ways to discover this historic city but do wear a hat and sunblock and drink plenty of water.

2. Continue your tour of George Town

At the other end of Pengkalan Weld is the Jam Besar (Clock Tower), presented to the town in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Across the road is Fort Cornwallis (named after Charles Cornwallis, Governor General of India), which marks the spot where Captain Francis Light arrived on 17 July 1786. The greenery of the park and gardens surround the fortifications, which were originally made of wood and rebuilt in 1810. Light’s statue stands inside the entrance of the fort.

Best for: Unique attractions

While you’re there: In the area you can also find St George’s Anglican Church. It is the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia.

3. Explore the Penang Museum and Art Gallery

The please check link on Lebuh Farquhar is housed in what was the Penang Free School (1816), the first English-language school in Southeast Asia. There is a fine collection of historical memorabilia, old paintings, etchings and a 19th-century Chinese bridal chamber. Exploring the museum is one the most interesting things to do in Penang if you’re looking for a fine mix of history and art.

Best for: Creative types

While you’re there: The Pinang Peranakan Museum holds a wide collection of jewellery, costumes and antique furniture of the Chinese Peranakan.

4. Enjoy a fancy drink or two

One of the great monuments from George Town’s colonial days is the Eastern & Oriental Hotel at 10 Lebuh Farquhar. Even if you are not staying in one of the hotel’s grand old rooms - where Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham both stayed - have a drink in the venerable Farquhar’s Bar, overlooking the harbour, which is always lined with vessels from around the world. The E & O is actually a fusion of two separate hotels: the Eastern, facing the Esplanade, and the Oriental, facing the sea. It was the brainchild of Martin and Tigran Sharkie, Armenian brothers who also created the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. If you’re looking for Penang holiday packages, we’ve got you sorted.

Best for: Luxury drinking

While you’re there: The Hidden Bar is one of the top hidden bars in the city - what else?

5. Enter the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion on Lebuh Leith built around 1860 by Thio Thaw Siat, a Chinese businessman, is considered one of the best examples of 19th-century Chinese architecture in Penang. Restored to its former glory, this 38-room, five-courtyard house gained Unesco recognition in 2000 and is now a boutique hotel. Tours are conducted three times a day for a small fee.

Best for: Architecture

While you’re there: Visit the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple on Lebuh Queen. It was built in 1883 and is the oldest Hindu temple in Penang.

6. Enjoy the outdoors at the Penang National Park

What to do in Penang if you’re looking for a breath of fresh air? A good option is to trek through the Penang National Park. The forest reserve covers some 20 sq km (8 sq miles) of the island’s northwest corner. With only camping available as accommodation and vehicles denied access, the reward comes in possible sightings of wildlife like wild pigs, leopard cats, slow loris, flying lemurs, leaf monkeys, macaques and black squirrels. The landscape is dotted with granite outcrops.

Best for: The great outdoors

While you’re there: If you’re looking for more wildlife, make sure to visit the Penang Botanic Gardens - it’s 30 hectares!

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