Georgetown boasts excellently preserved colonial architecture as Southeast Asia’s first British settlement and administrative stronghold. Fort Cornwallis, Malaysia’s biggest fort, showcases its star-shaped bastion enclosing a park. Arched windows and colonnades decorate Georgetown’s neo-Baroque style, City Hall. Nearby is Penang Clock Tower, Penang Museum and St George’s, Asia’s oldest Anglican cathedral. Heritage art-nouveau-style properties and churches flank Leith Street, Light Street and Beach Street.
Planned by the local council and London art school graduates in 2012, Georgetown’s UNESCO-listed street art scene adorns old Chinese shophouses. From the world-famous “Little Girl In Blue” and more by Lithuania’s Ernest Zacharevic, Malayan Tiger, Children on a Bicycle, and Window Cat to numerous 3D-style murals, Georgetown is famed for this art genre. Jalan Penang, Weld Quay, Ah Quee Street, and Armenian Street are dotted with intriguing examples.
Penang Hill is George Town’s and Penang’s tallest point, soaring 833 metres. Colonial-era Britishers established a hill station at its summit. Penang Hill’s pleasantly cool weather, panoramic viewing platforms, English-style cottages and themed areas attract locals and tourists alike. One can climb the 5-kilometre trail from the Botanical Gardens, ride the funicular rail, or the Bukit Bendera Cable Car to reach the top.
Fusing Chinese, Malaysian and Indian flavours, Georgetown’s mouth-watering street food comes from the hawker centres, waterfront seafood spots, family-owned Chinese diners and markets. While it is not hard to follow one’s nose along with wafting aromas of nasi lemak and dim sum from vendor stalls at Chulia Street after 6 PM, enjoying paid half-day or full-day tours of Little India and Penang Road Market for roti canai, char koay teow, mutton kebabs and wanton noodles is truly rewarding.
Situated on the hilltop at Air Itam near Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si is one of the largest Chinese Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia. Comprising of monasteries, temples, prayer halls, and gardens, the temple complex is a chief pilgrimage centre for Buddhists from Philippines and Singapore.
Time Required : 1-2 hours
Timings : 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM every day
Entry Fees : Temple: Free
Pagoda and Elevator: RM 2
Penang Road Market’s lively vendors and equally enthusiastic shoppers characterise Georgetown’s vibrant soul. Among labyrinthine tunnels of stalls in this once-a-month weekend market, one can find bargains for anything from groceries, clothing, fabrics and cheap household goods to souvenirs, handicrafts, footwear and trinkets. In addition, visitors can sample delicious dim sum, Assam laksa soup, fish balls and char koay teow noodles at the street food stalls.
Exploring Georgetown’s historical, natural, and other major attractions becomes possible in just a few hours with half-day tours. Hop on a bus, bicycle or private vehicle to visit heritage properties and museums on Penang Heritage Trail, beyond which lie skyscrapers and plazas. Seek blessings at Kei Si Lok and St George’s Church on extensive temple tours, dig into multi-cuisine street food at Penang Road Market, and venture to Penang’s national parks. A half-day Penang Hill tour via funicular rail allows visitors to escape the lowland heat.
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a majestic UNESCO Heritage Site located in Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia). Once the private residence of Cheong Ho, it now serves as a boutique hotel and museum. It is often known as the Blue Mansion because of its distinctive blue-coloured outer walls and external decorations.
Georgetown is perfect for splurging on ethnic Malaysian Batik fabrics, boutique apparel, handicrafts like rattan baskets, tainted glass and beaded shoes, textiles, homeware, antiques, jewellery and food. Flanked by tourists, fashionistas, bargain hunters, and souvenir collectors alike, Georgetown's famous local markets are Penang Road Market and Georgetown Night Market. At the same time, one can visit the popular malls, including Penang Times Square and Gurney Plaza Shopping Mall.
A part of the Penang Heritage Trail, Georgetown’s six Clan Jetties sit at the very end of Chulia Street. Featuring lengthy walkways, colourful stilt houses with Chinese architecture and decor, and even a Chinese temple, these 19th-century landing stages are still home to the Chew, Yeoh, Lim, Tan, Koay and Lee clans. Chew Jetty is the most tourist-friendly with its waterfront boardwalk and the wooden and aluminium houses.
Spanning Chulia, Market and Queen Streets, the Little India neighbourhood is home to Georgetown’s sizable Indian community. Enjoy tastes of the subcontinent while navigating through Little India’s colourful alleys, featuring traditional music, handicrafts, clothes and food. Nasi Kandars (pay for what you eat at buffet-style restaurants) remain open overnight, selling delectable biryani, roti-style pancakes, tandoor meat, sweets and more.
If Malaysia is a multicultural melting pot, Georgetown’s Kapitan Keling Street flaunts the best of religious harmony. Two magnificent temples, a church, and a mosque have been rubbing shoulders on this street for the last two centuries. Sauntering down the lush street, one can find the 1728-built Taoist Goddess of Mercy. In the early 19th century, St George’s Church, Masjid Kapitan Keling and Sri Mahamariamman Temple were established.
The Penang Botanic Gardens, also called the Waterfall Gardens, is located on the Jalan Air Terjun Road in George Town. The landscaped gardens is popular for housing the indigenous and exotic plant species.
Time Required : 1-2 hours
Timings : Botanical Gardens: 5:00 AM - 8:00 PM every day
Plant Houses: Tuesday - Thursday: 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM, 2:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Saturday - Sunday: 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM, 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Entry Fees : Free
The Wonderfood Museum is a unique museum in Penang that features oversized replicas of traditional Malaysian dishes, art and historical information. Discover interesting larger-than-life delicacies from across Asia, and learn about Malaysian cuisine, street food and cooking methods at Information Zone. Close to Victoria Memorial Clocktower, Wonderfood Museum is open daily.
Timings : 9 AM to 6 PM
Entry Fee : 50 MYR