Penang travel – Penang city tour in Malaysia

Fernanda swing in the street art in Penang
Fernanda wished it was really a swing
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Penang city, in South East Asia, is one of our favourite spots in the world. Find in this Penang travel guide why we love it so much, its history, what to do in Penang, including places to visit in Penang at night and Penang with family and much more. Your travel to Penang will be remarkable and we hope we can contribute to it.

Fernanda swing in the street art in Penang
Fernanda wished it was really a swing

Why to go on a trip to Penang

The city of Penang is probably one of the most culturally diverse islands in the world. The whole island is lively and full of historical buildings, temples, art and graffiti, let alone one of the best gastronomy hubs ever as well – not overstating.

What really caught our attention the most in Penang was exactly this cultural diversity. For some reason, the island became home for many Chineses, Pakistanis, Syrians, Indians, English, Germans and, of course, Malaysians. This mix of such diverse people had quite positive effects on the local culture, history and gastronomy.

Georgetown (GT), the capital of Penang, is where everything happens. In your Penang vacation, you find churches; Buddhist temples; mosques; Chinese, Indian, Vegetarian or Syrian restaurants; street food; street art; mansions from the colonial time and a lot more you can imagine.

Georgetown is an UNESCO Heritage site. To get lost in its alleys is like going back to the past, but still having the frenetic pace of modern society.

Where is Penang

Penang is located on the West side of Malaysia (355 km from Kuala Lumpur), really near the border with Thailand.

Penang tourist map

We came to Penang through recommendations of people we met during our trip around Thailand as we had never heard of it before. Arriving in Penang not knowing anything about it – so without any expectations – made us love it even more. We liked it so much that the two nights we had planned to stay turned into a week.

The history of Penang Island

Inside a painted wall temple
Inside a Chinese Buddhist Temple

The island was a British colony for many years, keeping such status even after the independence of Malaysia. Likewise, the same happened with the city of Malaca and the former city of Singapore.

The results of a long colonisation are present up to this day, such as on the buildings and on the local culture. Currently, Penang and Malaca are part of Malaysia. However, Singapore became an independent region, mostly for being geographically isolated and formed by Chinese descendants. That made them gradually grown apart from the culture, politics, habits and laws of Malaysia.

Presently, Penang is an important tourist destination in Malaysia for both domestic and international tourism. Every tourist we met had fallen in love with this charming little island. Even Malaysians are quite proud of the place.

Where to stay in Penang

Art on the wall of a house in the corner os a street in Penang

Having so many things to do in Georgetown, it becomes the backpacker’s stronghold in Penang. For this reason, it is where you will find many hotels, hostel and Inns in each corner – with quite accessible prices too. Accommodation in Penang is normally inside historical buildings, which is an attraction in itself. That’s mostly in Georgetown though.

If you are interested in culture, art, history and good food, definitely look for a place to stay in Georgetown.

For the party-goers, you will be happy to stay very near the famous Love Lane, in GT. The 23 Love Lane has private suite, one king bed and a full breakfast.

If you would rather be in a more peaceful environment in GT, you won’t have problems finding it too. Penang is full of more sophisticated accommodations, including the Boutique Guest House.

But, if you are looking for something even more peaceful and remote, the hotels and bungalows in the northeast of the island are the way to go. We recommend the Bahang Bay Hotel, in Teluk Bahang.

5 star hotel in Penang

If you are looking for a 5 star hotel in Penang, we recommend:

Penang travel – what to do in Penang

The mosque in Penang built on top of the water just by the beach

Even though it is a small island, there are many things to do in Penang Malaysia. We did practically all the attractions in Penang one can possibly do in one week, we still there are many other places to visit in Penang. Find below a list of the best Penang attractions for a perfect Penang travel.

Do the street art trekking of Penang

One of our – and most people too – favourite things to do in Penang is the street art trekking. Mostly located in Georgetown, the island has more than 20 graffiti scattered around, some in 3D or more interactive. Moreover, there are over 50 artworks in metal telling the stories about a specific street, a store or a place. Most of the hotels will have a Penang travel guide map with the location of these graffiti and artworks for you to find on your own.

Art in Penang's Street

Oldest cable car in Penang Hill

A Penang travel is not complete if not going to the Penang Hill, one of the populars Penang tourist attractions. It offers breathtaking views of the island, sit at approximately 823m above sea level. The way to the top is through the oldest cable car, in operation since 1923.

Climb to the Penang Hill

Instead, you can climb up the Penang Hill. Just note that it is quite a demanding trekking route. We recommend to see the sunset from up there, so you can grab the day light, the beautiful sunset as well as the lighting of the city, as it is opened till 22:00.

Visit the historical Fort Cornwallis and the Victoria Clock

The Cornwallis Fort was built by the British East India Company in the late 18th century and named after the then Governor-General of Bengal, Charles Cornwallis. The fort played a significant role in protecting the British interests in the region during colonial times.

The Victoria Clock Tower (or Penang Clock Tower) is at the intersection of Light Street and Beach Street in Georgetown. It was erected in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

If you are interested in a private tour in Penang, have a look at this English speaking tour in George Town.

Fernanda sitting in front of the entrance of a temple in Penang with a large door in between two statues

Botanic Garden and the National Park

The Botanic Gardens is one of the oldest and most beautiful gardens in Malaysia, established in 1884. It is a haven for nature lovers and botany enthusiasts.

The Penang National Park (or Taman Negara Pulau Pinang) is a protected nature reserve located on the northwestern coast of Penang Malaysia. It is Malaysia’s smallest national park, but offers a wealth of natural beauty and biodiversity, including pristine beaches, dense forests and mangrove swamps. Don’t miss out on a nice trekking to Monkey Beach!

Trekking to the Waterfalls

Go on a trekking to the waterfalls! Just bear in mind that during drought, the falls have no water. Our recommendations are:

  • Monkey Beach Waterfall – within the Penang National Park.
  • Titi Kerawang Waterfall – in Balik Pulau.
  • Pantai Kerachut Waterfall – within the Penang National Park, near Turtle Beach.
  • Sungai Tukun Waterfall – in Teluk Bahang.
  • Balik Pulau Waterfall – in the hills of Balik Pulau.

Chew Jetties in Penang

Wander about the stilt houses over the water in the Chinese villages, also known as the clan jetties in Penang. They are part of the Heritage Trail of Penang, near the Penang ferry terminal. You can get an English speaker tour for the Jetties and other parts of Penang.

A Chinese man walking on a wood platform that connect to the stilt village of Penang

Beaches of Penang

Visit all the beaches in Penang. We recommend renting a scooter and make to the Pantai Pasir Panjang, just by the army camp, in the southern part of the island. It is a less visited beach with very clean water.

Religious sites

See the many different religious sites of Penang, such as the floating mosque and Hindu and Buddhist temples. See a nice self-guide Penang tour here.

Food tour Penang

Love Lane - one of the busiest street for bars and restaurants
Love Lane – one of the busiest street for bars and restaurants

Penang island is known for its incredible and diverse delicious food. To try out all the different culinary of the island is an interesting experience. In the Little India, you will find many restaurants – obviously Indians – but mostly vegetarians.

The Georgetown city centre has also some of the best Penang food and quite diverse too, such as Syrians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Malaysians, Thai, Arabic and many more. If you don’t have much time, focus more on the Jalan Penang (Penang Street) where you will find the greatest variety of places to eat and drink in Penang.

We will not tell you about a specific restaurant as the best is to really get lost and try everything. For instance, the area near the cable car that will take you to the Penang Hill is full of street market at night, where you can find a variety of dishes, such as chicken, pizza, kebab, grilled fish and many more mouth-watering local and international food.

Don’t forget to always travel with insurance. We recommend SafetyWing. You can check prices below or by checking their website here.

Penang at night

The view of Penang City at night from above

When the sun sets, Penang transforms into a vibrant and enchanting city. From bustling night markets to illuminated landmarks, there are many Penang night activities to make.


Enjoy the nightlife of Georgetown, full of bars and lively charming restaurants. Don’t miss out on Love Lane.

Night markets

Penang’s night markets, known as “pasar malam,” are a must-visit for those seeking a lively atmosphere and an array of local delights. The colourful contiguously put stalls begin their activities after dusk, offering an assortment of street food, clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. Don’t miss out on Gurney Drive Night Market and Batu Ferringhi Night Market.

Heritage Walks

Penang’s historic streets take on a different charm at night, illuminated by the warm glow of street lamps and heritage buildings. Take a leisurely stroll along Armenian Street and Lebuh Muntri in Georgetown, where you can admire the beautifully restored shophouses, captivating street art, and colonial architecture.

A temple in the corner of the street of Penang well-lit and adorned

Penang Hill at night

For breathtaking panoramic views of the city skyline at night, a visit to Penang Hill is a must. Hop on the funicular railway and ascend to the summit, where you can witness the glittering lights of Georgetown below. Enjoy the cool breeze and savor the romantic ambiance as you gaze at the city’s twinkling lights. Don’t forget to capture memorable photos and create lasting memories of your Penang adventure.

Cultural Performances

The Penang Street Art and Cultural Night Market showcases vibrant dance performances, live music, and cultural showcases, providing a glimpse into the region’s diverse traditions.

The entrance of a Buddhist temple with detailed art and ornaments in front

Penang travel with family

Note that most the Penang places to visit are actually fantastic to visit with family. Penang is indeed the place where everyone have your space and is happy. And yes, there is room for everybody.

Find more Penang tour packages here.

How to get around Penang

As the island is not particularly small, you will be ok with public transport. The bus fare costs around 1.7 to 2.5 MYR (about 50 cents USD) per ride. There will be traffic at some point of the day, so plan ahead not to get buses during rush hour.

Three tuktuk bikes parked at night in the streets of Penang

As we mentioned, we really recommend renting a scooter as you will have your freedom to move whenever you like. In Penang, particularly, you wouldn’t even have to worry about traffic. Renting a scooter in Penang goes for about 30 MYR (8 USD) and petrol is really cheap, about 1.6 MYR per litre (less the 50 cents USD per litre). And, if you prefer, you can also have a car rental at Penang airport or Georgetown.

Taxi is also a good option, particularly if you get to Penang by bus and want to go from the bus station to your hotel. Another way of transportation is the rickshaws, but pedal bikes instead of motorised ones and they can carry up to three people.

Alternatively, you can rent a pedal bike and enjoy the island at your own pace.

Airport in Penang

The Penang International Airport is the main international gateway to Penang Island for both domestic and international flights. Most common flights are from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia; Singapore; Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand, as well as many cities in China. If you are doing a Penang travel by flight, find a transfer to the airport here.

Companies such as Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, China Southern Airlines and AirAsia operates in Penang airport.

Well, we really enjoyed our staying in Penang – as you surely have realised by now. If you read this Penang travel guide up to here, you are probably really interested in visiting Penang. Please feel free to contact us at anytime. Leave your comments below, we would love to hear your experience in Penang too!

See the summary of this Penang travel guide in these FAQs

Where to go in Penang

– Do the street art trekking of Penang
– Oldest cable car in Penang Hill
– Climb to the Penang Hill
– Visit the historical Fort Cornwallis and the Victoria Clock
– Botanic Garden and the National Park
– Trekking to the Waterfalls
– Chew Jetties in Penang
– Beaches of Penang
– Religious sites

Is Penang a good place to travel with family?

Note that most the Penang places to visit are actually fantastic to visit with family. Penang is indeed the place where everyone have your space and is happy. And yes, there is room for everybody.

What are the best places in Penang at night?

– Georgetown
– Night markets
– Heritage Walks
– Penang Hill at night
– Cultural Performances

Where is a 5 start hotel in Penang?

Lone Pine Boutique Hotel – in Batu Ferringhi
Angsana Teluk Bahang – in Teluk Bahang
The George – in Georgetown
Beacon Executive Suites – in Georgetown

Where to go eat in Penang?

Penang’s night markets, known as “pasar malam,” are a must-visit for those seeking a lively atmosphere and an array of local delights. The colourful contiguously put stalls begin their activities after dusk, offering an assortment of street food, clothing, accessories, and souvenirs. Don’t miss out on Gurney Drive Night Market and Batu Ferringhi Night Market

* This article was originally written in September, 29th 2019 and updated in May, 11th 2023 *