Penang – colorful, multicultural, and home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Looking for what to do in Penang? Here is my list of many fun things to do and visit.
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
- The Top At Komtar
- Avatar Secret Garden
- Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm
- The Pinang Peranakan Museum
- Explore Street Art
- Clan Jetties
- Little India
- Masjid Kapitan Keling
- St George Church
- Khoo Kongsi
- Penang Town Hall and City Hall
- Penang Hill
- Tropical Spice Garden
- Kek Lok Si Temple
- Fort Cornwallis
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
The famous Blue Mansion also known as Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion was built in 1888 by capitalist Cheong Fatt Tze.
Born in China in 1849, Cheong Fatt Tze came from a family of teachers and farmers. At 16 years old, he sailed to Batavia (now known as Jakarta), to start trading natural resources and generated his wealth. He also worked with the Dutch government in Batavia and later the British and moved to Georgetown.
When Cheong Fatt Tze arrived in Georgetown, he set up his business at Leith Street, also known as Lotus Flower Lane. A major renovation in 1990 won this heritage hotel UNESCO status. The gorgeous interior of has served as the set for multiple movies including the mahjong scene of the blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians.
The Top At Komtar
The Top at Komtar offers 360-degree view of Penang. At the height of 249 meters above ground, walk out over the glass “Rainbow Walkway” for a true walk on air experience as you step onto a glass walkway that seems to be floating in the air or sit and have a drink at the rooftop, an excellent place to watch the sunset in Penang.
Complete your experience with a visit to the Avenue of Adventures. Featuring 7D Discovery Motion Theater and Jurassic Research Center. Don’t miss the Tech Dome, Penang’s one and only Science Discovery Centre.
For quick entrance, buy your tickets online.
Avatar Secret Garden
Feel like you enter another world at the Avatar Secret Garden. Located in the Tanjung Tokong beach area, this place is small but a must-visit in the evenings. Entrance to the garden is free but there are parking fees collected by third party individuals.
- Opening hours: evening till midnight
- Entrance: Free
Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm
One of the most popular things to do in Penang. Entopia is more than just a butterfly farm. The Natureland is an indoor living garden with a variety of invertebrates and small reptiles living in a re-created habitat. With more than 15,000 free-flying bugs and over 200 species of plants with waterfalls, ponds, caves, and other artistic garden features, it’s one of the largest butterfly farms in Malaysia. You can also visit the Cocoon, a two floor learning center.
- Opening hours: 9am to 6pm.
- Entrance: RM60 per adult and RM40 per child.
The Pinang Peranakan Museum
The museum resembles a typical home of a rich Peranakan (also known as Baba-Nonya) and a fantastic way to learn about the cultural heritage, customs, and traditions of the Baba and Nonya.
The term Peranakan refers to people of mixed Chinese and Malay heritage. Many Peranakans trace their origins to Chinese immigrants settling in British Malaya and married local women. The Peranakans adopted the Malay and British colonial customs which influence the rich cultural heritage of Georgetown, Penang.
At the museum, highlights the fusion of cultures, customs and traditions with floor tiles made by the English, artworks and furniture by the Chinese and iron works by the Scottish. The museum was previously the residence of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee. Today is has been restored as the Pinang Peranakan Museum.
Explore Street Art
The Penang State Government in 2009 held an international competition inviting artist from all over the world to submit ideas on how to brand Georgetown as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sculturework was selected and resulted in fifty-two iron rod sculptures being designed and placed around the city. Each sculpture tells the story of the street you find them.
In 2012, artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to paint murals around the city. Famous street arts – Boy on Motorcycle, Kids on Bicycle, and Reaching Up. This was the start of a whole series of street art now seen throughout the city.
Start wandering at the area around Lebuh Armenian and Lebuh Acheh streets. It’s a wonderful thing to do in Georgetown.
Six clan jetties are found along Pengkalan Weld. Each jetty is named after a specific clam who settled in the houses along the jetty. The stilt houses were originally built over water to avoid paying taxes. Chew Jetty is the most popular, but it is worth visiting the others as well.
Little India is vibrant and filled with multicolored shops selling food, fabrics, jewelry, and flowers. The area consists of three streets including Lebuh Chulia, Lehu Queen and Jalan Pasar. If you are look for good Indian food, this is the right place. There are many places serving Biryani Rice, Roti Canai, Tandoori, Sweets and more.
Masjid Kapitan Keling
A stunning mosque built in 1801 by Indian Muslim traders. The Indo-Moorish structure was an important part of Georgetown’s successful bid for UNESCO World Heritage status. The whitewashed mosque is topped with large golden-yellow Mughal-style domes, crescents and stars and features a single, typical Indian-Islamic minaret from which the sound of the azan can be heard.
You should at least take a walk to admire from the outside. Visitors are permitted but you need to ensure you are properly attired.
St George Church
St. George’s Church built in 1817 is the oldest Anglican Church in South East Asia and one of the oldest buildings in Penang. The architecture and design is largely Greek and unpretentious.
The interior is a cool pastel blue with marble floors and outside the main building on the church grounds is a memorial to Sir Francis Light in the form of a Greek temple.
Built more than 650 years ago, the clan house is part of the five big clans that formed the backbone of the Hokkien community in olden-days Penang. One of Penang’s most lavishly decorated s Khoo Kongsi.
Definitely worth a quick visit to admire the architecture.
Penang Town Hall and City Hall
The Penang Town Hall and City Hall were British built administrative building. The Town Hall is the city’s oldest municipal building. It once housed the Municipal Commission of Georgetown and a venue for social events for the European elites.
Its administrative function was moved to City Hall upon completion in 1903. The Town Hall is one of the film locations for the 1999 film, Anna and the King.
The first colonial hill station in Peninsular Malaysia was Penang Hill. On a cloudless day, you can see the mountains of Langkawi but at sundown, the lights of Georgetown is a remarkable sight. Most people come to enjoy the unpolluted air and walk along the nature trails. Over one hundred species of birdlife call this hillside home.
Take the Penang Hill Railway to the top of the hill. The Swiss-designed funicular starts from Air Itam. Built in 1923, the funicular track is the longest and steepest in Asia. The queue for carriages can be quite long especially on weekends and public holidays and passengers have to change trains midway.
- Opening hours: 6.30am to 11pm (last train from top)
- Entrance: RM12 per adults. RM6 per child.
Tropical Spice Garden
A trip to Penang is not complete without a trip to Tropical Spice Garden, an eco-friendly attraction with over five-hundred herbs and spices in 8-acres of landscape garden. You can opt for guided tour or explore on your own with an audio tour. You will definitely learn something new or see plants you have never seen before.
After the walk through the garden, relax and admire the environment at the outdoor cafe that overlooks the Straits of Malacca. Before leaving, drop by the gift shop for some spice therapy spa products. You can purchase the entrance ticket in advance.
- Opening hours: 9am to 6pm. Last admission 5.15pm
- Entrance: RM45 (Guided) or RM29 (Audio)
Kek Lok Si Temple
Standing on a hilltop at Air Itam, Kek Lok Si is one of the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia. The temple grounds comprise the hill entrance, food and drinks stalls, souvenier, and the turtle liberation pond. The mid-section houses temples, the pagoda and the four heavenly kings’ pavilion, while the hilltop is home to the enormous Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin statue and temples.
- Opening hours: 9am to 5.30pm
- Entrance: Free but cost RM3 for the lift and RM2 for the pagoda.
Built by the British in the 1700s, Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Close to the Penang Clock tower and Esplanade, the star shaped bastion is one of the oldest structures in Penang. Today, only a set of ten-foot high outer wall remains, with an enclosed park within.
- Opening hours: 9am to 10pm
- Entrance: RM10 for Malaysians and RM20 for foreigners.