Penang isn’t called the Pearl of the Orient for nothing. This fabulous Malaysian city is getting rave reviews and is being ranked pretty high in recent travel reviews. Penang has much to offer, let’s start with the mouth-watering street food for one. The food here is to die for, and cheap on the go as well, something budget travellers love. Penang and art go well together, there’s art everywhere, especially on streets. And that’s only the beginning. Come with us to explore Penang’s many delights.
18 Things to Do In Penang
1. Check Out The Street Murals Of Penang
Tourists who visit Penang want to track down the street murals posted on Instagram by their pals and why not? They hire bikes and go around looking for a particular street mural that they’ve seen in a picture maybe 10 years ago. The city has many excellent murals and hunting them is permitted day or night.
2. Go Café and Bar Hopping
One of the best things to in Penang is to go bar hopping. Be sure to check out the Mug Shot Café (where you get to take a mug shot of yourself after some great eats), and Tavern in The Park and others. Head out to Straits Quay for a wide range of chain pubs and bars and cafes with killer views. Plus, there’s a seafront retail marina at Straits Quay as well.
3. Walk Along Harmony Street
If you want to take in Malaysia’s multi-cultural uniqueness, walk along Harmony Street, where you’ll find places of worship catering to different faiths. There’s the Islamic mosque Masjid Kapitan Keling, the Kuan Yin Temple, St. George’s Church, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple and many more. When you’re done, check out the famous Khoo clan’s Khoo Kongsi building, one of the top things to do in Penang.
4. Visit Kek Lok Si Temple at night
The Kek Lok Si temple complex is a rhapsody in magnificent sculptures and carvings. There are tons of the images of Buddha everywhere, and plenty of archways and pagodas. The temple gets decked up over the Chinese New Year and Wesak Day celebrations in dazzling lights, a sight you simply shouldn’t miss.
5. Visit Fort Cornwallis
Fort Cornwallis, named after the Indian Governor Lord Cornwallis, has ten-foot-high walls laid out in the shape of a star. There’s a 17th century chapel, ammunition storage area, prison cells and more inside. Check out the cool old bronze cannons. There’s even a Dutch canyon that’s supposed to help women’s fertility – go figure! Don’t miss Fort Cornwallis during your Penang sightseeing.
6. Check Out The Waterfall Hilltop Temple
The Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple is one of Penang’s oldest Hindu temples, built to worship the deity Murugan. You have to climb 500 steps to get to the temple but you’ll be rewarded by the splendid view of the area near Gurney and Mount Erskine from the top. During Thaipusam in January, the waterfall hilltop temple is decked to the nines and processions take place around town.
7. Explore Penang’s Street Food
Penang is one of the best foodie haunts in the world. The island has many food courts and hawker centres; start your culinary journey along the Gurney Drive. It can get very crowded during weekends so get there early on a weekday and enjoy a fabulous bowl of Laksa and Char Koay Teow or a Rojak meal.
8. Check Out One Of The Largest Reclining Buddhas In The World
The Siamese Wat Chayamangkalaram Buddhist temple, commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1845 houses a gold-plated reclining Buddha statue that’s 180 feet long. It’s one of the largest Buddhas in the world.
9. Visit The Snake Temple
The Snake Temple is a Buddhist temple, and is filled with snakes. The venomous vipers have had their venom extracted and are quite safe, but it’s still a startling sight to suddenly see that many vipers lolling around. The smell of the incense burning in the temple tends to lull the snakes into complacency, so they don’t rear at you.
10. Visit The Penang Ghost Museum
This museum is dedicated to ghosts – the ghosts of Malaysia and there are many kinds. You can take pictures with the ghostly exhibits and read the detailed explanations of the legends associated with various ghosts. There are ghosts from religious and cultural folklore, and from other beliefs. The exhibits are made of wax and they are a tad scary.
11. Take A Trip Into The Past At The Pinang Peranakan Museum
The Pinang Peranakan Museum is located in a 1900s Peranakan house whose exhibits showcase the way the earlier prominent Penang, Malacca and Singapore communities, the Baba and the Nyonya lived. You can see their tools and artefacts and the shoes left when they stepped into the mansion. The museum has been featured in shows such as the Amazing Race and the Amazing Race Asia and has also been incorporated in the Little Nyonya, the 2008 Singaporean drama.
12. Visit The Penang Bird Park
The Penang Bird Park in Seberang Perai is Malaysia’s largest bird park. It’s also the first of its kind, with a geo-dome that mimics the birds’ natural habitats. The aviary houses more than 300 species of birds, with half or more being native to Malaysia. The park also has creatures such as turtles, deer and pythons to add more fun to your trip.
13. Go Trekking At Penang National Park
Penang National Park is probably the smallest national park in the world but rich in diversity and splendid in its scenery. You can access pristine beaches from the park by boat! The little national park has mangrove plantations, lovely lakes, wetlands, mangrove coral reefs and even turtle nesting beaches. Tug on your trekking boots and hit the many challenging trekking routes in the park and be sure to stop and take in the spectacular views.
14. Ride The Funicular Train To Penang Hill
Penang Hill is known as Bukit Bendera in Malay; it is one of the best attractions in Penang, and you’ll go there mainly because it’s several degrees cooler. Ride the funicular train all the way to the top of the hill and take in the surrounding lush greenery and fresh air. At the top there are a few stores, a temple, mosque and a bird sanctuary plus a few restaurants and a souvenir shop.
15. Relax At Batu Ferringhi Beach
The Batu Ferringhi beach is so pristine that you’ll want to spend entire days here. Many top-class resorts have opened up shop around this area, and water sports tour operators are around to get you up and going. Be sure to watch the sun set over the Batu Ferringhi beach and laze around to your heart’s content.
16. Check out the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion was the home of a wealthy Chinese industrialist during the 1890s. It is the best example of 18th and 19th-century Chinese architecture in Penang. Totally Feng Shui adherent, the house took craftsmen from China over seven years to complete. The house has 38 rooms, seven staircases, five granite courtyards, 22 stained glass windows and more. It’s called the Blue Mansion locally and it is one of the three traditional Chinese houses outside of China. Today it is a 16-room heritage hotel and museum.
17. Stay at a heritage building or museum
Many heritage buildings in Penang allow visitors to spend the night. The Blue Mansion heritage building has a museum as well. Check out the 19th century Peranakan-themed boutique hotel the Seven Terraces, and several Anglo-Chinese terrace houses. Stay at these places to absorb Penang’s history and old-age ambience.
18. Penang Wonderfood Museum
If you want to get an in-depth look into the city’s unique food scene, head to this museum. Here you’ll find displays showcasing larger-than-life Malaysian dishes. The museum is divided into three galleries, the Info Zone, Wow Zone, and Educational Zone. Enjoy watching over 100 traditional delicacies belonging to the Indian, Malay, Chinese and Peranakan cuisines along with street food specialities.
Penang is full of historic nostalgia and lore. The island offers a mix of cultures – Buddhist, Hindu, Malay and Islamic. Everywhere you look, you’ll find signs of beauty, of art, of worship, of food and of nature. It’s a lovely little island where you’ll feel totally at home.