This is one of my favourite places in Malaysia. My family used to spend our Christmases here- it was tradition! Georgetown, Penang used to be a massive trading hub, but now, it’s famous for its British Colonial roots, mosques, and temples. It’s also a major foodie city. If you want an overview of Penang, here’s a great one! Here’s how to spend a weekend in Penang.
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Flying has always been my preferred method of getting to Penang (as it’s cheap & convenient from Singapore!), but you can also take a bus from Kuala Lumpar. You can also take a train to Penang Butterworth, and then a ferry over to Georgetown, that’s a bit more complicated. I highly recommend flying, as it’s typically quite an affordable and efficient option.
If you’re coming from the Cameron Highlands, as many travellers do, there are buses that take around four hours. Bus travel is cheap and easy in Malaysia, so this isn’t a bad option.
Where to Stay in Penang (Georgetown Penang Hotels)
I highly recommend staying in Georgetown. It’s a world heritage site and my absolute favourite part of the island.
In George town, the main backpacker street (aka hostels!) is Chulia Street. It’s a great fun area with delicious cafes around! Prices are generally pretty reasonable around this area.
If you’re on a midrange budget, there are some really wonderful places to stay.
Armenian Suite is a heritage building and right in the thick of the heart of Georgetown. It’s near loads of murals and is super lively.
Chulia Heritage Hotel is another good option. It’s a really nice, clean, modern hotel in a heritage house. It’s a beautiful blend of old and new, and it’s next to the backpacker area (great cafes and lots of fun!).
If you’re looking for luxury, there are some great options in Penang.
Seven Terraces is highly rated. It’s super clean, there’s amazing Peranakan furniture in spacious rooms, and the service is incredible. Like many other hotels in Penang, it’s a heritage hotel.
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel (The E&O) is iconic. It’s owned by the same brothers that own the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The interior brings back some old-world luxury and is absolutely gorgeous.
What to Eat in Penang
Penang is such a foodie capital. You can’t go wrong!
Go to a Hawker food centre and try all of the local dishes! My favourites are the stir-fried greens, char kway teow (yummy noodles!), laksa, and lor bak (pork wrapped in bean curd skin). You can really order anything and get a lovely dish. Street food is also guide popular here (and everywhere else in south east asia) and it’s typically safe to eat. I’ve never had a problem!
You MUST must must go to ChinaHouse. They have the BEST cakes and meals. This was always our favourite Christmas meal.
Mugshot Cafe is a favourite of ours. On one side of the cafe, they have amazing espressos and pastries; on the other, the most incredible homemade yoghurt. I like it topped with passionfruit. It’s super rich and creamy.
Kebaya Dining Room is at 7 Terraces Hotel. You have to book far in advance, as it’s one of the highest rated restaurants in Penang.
If you’re looking for really yummy food, Ren I Tang is your place to go! It has all kinds of amazing food, but the dessert is the best part!
What to Do in Penang:
Eat amazing pastries!
Though this is technically something to eat, going to this place, smelling the baked goods, and watching the chaos in this bakery is an experience. You HAVE to go to Ming Xiang Tai for sweets and pork buns. They’re ABSOLUTELY amazing and cheap. It’s a must!
Kek Lok Si Temple
If you’re interested in seeing some beautiful architecture and culture, definitely go to the incredible temple! It truly is stunning and worth a few hours.
You can’t go to Penang and miss the jetties! These jetties are owned by seven different clans, though now there are only six jetties left. They’re over a century old and some of the last Chinese settlements on Penang. For those of you who don’t know what a jetty is, it’s basically an overwater area (similar to a dock), where people live. It’s pretty spectacular. I definitely recommend walking down some.
Wander through the old town.
My favourite way to do this is to walk through the markets and cafe hopping! Beyond Georgetown’s old town, the new town has shopping malls and movie theatres if you need a break from sightseeing.
This fort is really lovely to walk around! It’s an interesting part of Penang History and worth a visit. While it’s not that large, it’s an amazing insight into old Penang.
Go Street Art Hunting
Penang’s street art is amaaazingggg. The street art is seriously such a draw to many tourists, and for good reason! There are some interactive pieces, wired pieces that are attached to walls, and loads of amazing murals.
Batu Ferringhi Beach
Batu Ferringhi Beach is a popular place to go and it’s a beautiful beach. There’s also a night market here that’s worth a visit.
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