Penang, the northern state in peninsular Malaysia, has become a host to visitors from around the world. In 2012, George Town, the capital, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This put George Town and Penang on the map, and it quickly became a popular destination. It is a unique city that perfectly harmonizes its old Peranakan heritage with its new hub of creativity.
View Penang Itinerary in Google Maps
The best way to start your weekend in Penang is to get a lay of the land, and there’s no better place to do so than at Penang Hill. Penang Hill is popular for the funicular train that takes visitors to the top for a sprawling view of the city. In addition to the views, there are also several activities at the top, like an Owl Museum, Toy Museum and historical and religious sites. Check out our post on how to get to Penang Hill and what to see there.
Back in George Town, head to China House, a multi-function space featuring shops, dining, art galleries and more. Their restaurant, BTB & Restaurant, features Western dishes influenced by middle eastern and asian flavors . On weekends, the Canteen at China House features live jazz and soul music. Check the calendar for the latest listings.
153, Lebuh Pantai
The Penang State Museum and Art Gallery provides an introduction to the history of Penang, the people and culture. Located in a former schoolhouse, the museum is filled with historical artifacts, furniture and costumes that provide a glimpse into life in Penang.
Penang State Museum and Art Gallery
Dewan Sri Pinang, Lebuh Light
There are a lot of cafes and coffee shops in George Town, but the one that I really liked is Urban Spice Cafe. Part of the Spices Boutique Residence Hotel, the restaurant decor is cute and the staff are friendly. They specialize in traditional Malaysian dishes, like nasi lamak and char keoy teow, as well as pasta and breakfast. Try the spaghetti aglio olio and the homemade cheesecake with brown sugar.
Urban Spice Cafe
89, Lebuh Acheh
Take a bus about 30 minutes outside of George Town to the Penang Botanic Gardens. The beautiful gardens and grounds contain hundreds of living plant specimens. Stroll through the garden and marvel at the different trees and plants. You’ll most likely come across many curious monkeys so be careful if you are carrying food!
Different arboretums throughout the park are dedicated to particular plant species, like cacti, ferns and orchids. A small trolley can take you around the gardens, but it is easily walk-able. On the weekends, you’ll find locals using the park as a jogging and exercise spot. The gardens are free to enter and open everyday from 5am.
Penang Botanic Gardens
Jalan Kebun Bunga
Penang is well known for its street food. A convergence of flavors from India, China and the Malay peninsula equal a menu of street eats as diverse as its inhabitants. Some of the best street food can be found around at the hawker stalls on Kimberley Street. Here, people line the streets to eat char keoy teow and asam laksa from plastic plates. If you want to try durian, the smelly “King of Fruit”, do it here, where a vendor cuts freshly cut slices from a pile on the back of his truck.
For some food and live music, head to Reggae Mansion. An offshoot of the Kuala Lumpur branch, this location serves as bar, cafe and restaurant. In the evenings, local musicians cover popular American songs. The menu features Western dishes like pizza, pasta and sandwiches and drink specials all night. Order a hookah and a beer and settle in for the night.
381, Lebuh Chulia
You know the graffiti art of two kids on a bicycle? You can find that here in George Town. In recent years, the city has become synonymous for street art. Sundays are usually quiet in George Town so it is the perfect time to walk through the city hunting for these popular works of art. Most of the art is around Armenian street. Check out our post for a detailed guide on where to find all the best street art in George Town.
Continue to to the water and walk through the area known as the Clan Jetties. Built in the early 20th century, these floating homes served as housing for harbor workers who were too poor to find housing on land. As the waterfront industry modernized, there became less need for the laborers and most of the families moved on to other industries. The jetties were set to be demolished, but with the appointment of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012, the clan jetties were saved.
Only a few of the clan jetties are left, with Chew Jetty being the most visited. Today the houses are no longer involved in the maritime trade, but instead mostly sell souvenirs and snacks to tourists. Even so, it is still interesting to walk the boardwalk and see these unique homes and way of life.
The Pinang Peranakan Museum is in a former home of a rich Baba of more than a century ago. The Baba Nyonyas refer to a ethnicity of people known as the Peranakan or Straits-Chinese, who are descendents of Chinese immigrants who settled here and married local Malays.
Built at the end of the 19th century by a local public figure, Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee, the home served as his house and office. It represents the typical wealthy Baba-style residence that were found throughout the streets of Penang.
The house spans two floors with an open courtyard in the center. The first floor contains the dining hall, study and game room. On the second floor, bridal chambers from three different eras from the 1900s to the 1950s have been recreated. In the family hall, four large paintings of ancestors adorn the walls.
Connected to the mansion is the Chung Ken Kwee Ancestral Temple. The temple was built in 1899 for ancestral worship and is decorated with intricate Chinese wood carvings embellished with gold leaf.
The Peranakan Jewellery Museum is a collection of jewelry worn by the Peranakan Chinese Nyonya women. The jewelry is ornate and elaborate, featuring gold, silver, diamonds, pearls and jade. Designs and motifs combine designs from Chinese, Malay and European styles.
Next to the jewelry museum is the Nyonya kitchen. Separate from the main house, the kitchen is where the matriarch of the family would cook and teach her daughter and daughter-in-law to cook. The kitchen still holds some of the appliances, cookery and utensils that were used when the house was active. You can also try some of the traditional Peranakan desserts and drinks.
Admission to the mansion is RM20 for adults and RM10 for children. The ticket fee includes access to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, the Straits Chinese Jewellery Museum, the Chung Keng Kwee Ancestral Temple and the Nyonya Kitchen.
Pinang Peranakan Museum
29, Church St