Penang Sights and POI
There's plenty to see in Penang whatever your interests, particularly if you're willing to get out of Georgetown and explore more of the island.
The main attraction is the UNESCO world heritage site in Georgetown, with its stunning colonial style architecture, historic streets and iconic street art. It's worth spending at least a couple of days exploring what the city has to offer.
When it comes to historic buildings, there are several that it's worth making time to see. Cheong Fatt Zse Mansion was the home of a successful Chinese merchant and is an impressive indigo building that was constructed in line with feng shui principles.
Penang City Hall is a white stone building preserved from British colonial rule and is very well preserved. Fort Cornwallis was built where the founder of Penang first landed on the island and the Queen Victoria Clock Tower stands tall as a monument to the old British monarch.
Penang Street Art
When it comes to the best streets to choose for a wander and plenty of street art, one of the best is Lebuh Armenian and the surrounding streets. These feature well restored historic buildings, many extremely colourful and attractive, as well as some great cafes and souvenir shops.
The history of the city’s street art stems back to the council’s employment of a Lithuanian born street artist who was tasked with adding some creativity to the area. He did a fabulous job and the amazing grafitti art that is dotted around the city is worth several hours spent wandering round and admiring. Many are made to be interactive, featuring swings and even a motorbike in one instance - perfect for posing!
While you can find more colorful examples of the street art in Malaysia – take Melaka City, for instance – strolling along the historical streets of Georgetown and trying to spot all the graffiti is still exciting. Our favourite piece is the one next to the famous bakery in Armenian Street where they sell the best egg tarts in town.
Chew Jetty is also worth seeing in Georgetown, as the place where many of the first Chinese migrants made their homes. This is the most tourist friendly of the jetties and you can see a traditional way of life on the wooden stilt houses that are built over the water. There are many food outlets and small souvenir shops selling handicrafts.
Another good stop off is Little India, a small area of Georgetown that's home to some of the best curry restaurants in town and celebrates Penang’s Indian influences. There are many shops selling everything from old cassettes to flowers for offerings at temples.
Outside of Georgetown, Penang Hill is a must see attraction. It's actually a series of peaks and is around 6km outside of the city, easily accessible by bus or by taxi. This offers the best views over Georgetown and the coast and a trip here easily merits a few hours. Historically significant for its links with British colonists it became a tourist attraction way back in the 1920s and is still a busy spot today.
Whilst you can hike up to the peak, it's a seriously tough hike given the heat and it's far more fun to take the funicular railway - the only one of its kind in Malaysia - and takes only about 10 minutes maximum to reach the summit. There is a viewing deck at the top as well as a love lock bridge, plenty of cafes and bars and both a temple and a mosque.
Penang Botanical Gardens
If you need a fresh breath without too strenuous hike, Penang Botanical Gardens located at the foot of the Penang Hill are a good choice. As everywhere in Malaysia, the gardens are completely free to visit, though take a note that some of the most interesting pavilions like cacti pavilion or fern pavilion are open limited time only: from 9.30am till 12.30pm and from 2pm till 4.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. There are a couple of jungle walks there not requiring any special fitness.
Entopia Butterfly Farm
This is definitely a must-visit destination if you have your little ones in tow. Tickets are somewhat not so budget-friendly (MYR65 and MYR45 adult/child) but we would say they are completely worth it. There several open-air zones inhabited with butterflies and dragonflies and the museum-like interactive exhibition is also a great success with the younger visitors.
Finally, there are some stunning temple complexes dotted around that are worth a visit and typify Penang’s tolerant and multicultural way of life. These include Chinese temples like Han Jiang Teochew, Khoo Khongsi and Hock Tieck Cheng Sin Kongsi. There is also the Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si, the largest in Malaysia, and Hindu Temples like Masjid Kapital Keling. The Snake Temple is another famous one for travellers to take in and is known for the presence of vipers in and around the temple grounds – but to our tasting it looks somewhat abandoned and neglected.