Penang’s UNESCO-listed Georgetown combines stunning architecture, street art, and food. Reestablished colonial buildings line the older parts of the city, viewing the Straits of Melaka. Mosques, churches, and temples sit side by side elsewhere.
Street art adds character to the already colorful neighborhoods. Botanical Gardens sprawls at the base of towering Penang Hill, a favorite with hikers. Grand Chinese mansions stand next to food courts, shopping centers, and weekend markets.
Explore Georgetown’s Colonial Heritage
Georgetown was Malaya’s (old name for Malaysia) flourishing colonial port. The British became wealthy from mining tin, rubber plantations, and growing coffee in nearby Perak state. Ships shipped these products from Penang.
Georgetown’s legacy of this bygone era lies in the number of preserved buildings. Penang’s capital showcases some of the best examples of British architecture in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Check out Fort Cornwallis, stately government buildings, and Anglican churches. Grab a map and stroll through old Penang and find architectural masterpieces around almost every corner.
Fort Cornwallis: Malaysia’s Largest Fort
The star-shaped bastion crumbles near the Straits of Melaka in northeast Georgetown. Fort Cornwallis started in 1786 to protect Penang against growing threats of piracy. With an area of almost 39 square meters, it’s Malaysia’s largest fort.
Parts of the original outer walls remain, which today encloses a small park. Travelers typically spend 15 minutes inside the complex. Fort Cornwallis is near the Penang Clock Tower and Esplanade. Information boards present the fort’s story.
Learn The ‘Penang Story’ At The State Museum
Discover what life was like during the British period. Find out about the critical events that occurred in Georgetown. Learn about the notorious Penang Riots of 1867 and see a replica of a Chinese trader’s home. Temporary exhibitions can include everything from ethnography to jewelry to contemporary art.
Photograph Penang’s World-Famous Street Art
Georgetown is known for three things: colonial architecture, food, and street art. Murals of all shapes, sizes, and styles add color to sections of the city’s otherwise bland walls. Renowned artists including Zacharevic, Alex Face, and Kenji Chai have contributed to some of the images.
Check out the Malayan Tiger, Brother, and Sister on a Swing and the Window Cat. Stealing Baos, an image depicting two young children reaching through a barred window is most photographed. Grab a map of the street art trail from the tourist information center.
Travel In Georgetown’s Colonial Hill Station
Penang Hill is Georgetown’s and Penang’s tallest point rising to 833 meters (2,733 feet). During colonial days, the British established a hill station (essentially a resort) at its summit. Slightly cooler temperatures provided respite from the stuffy, sticky lowlands. Bungalows appeared. Many remain.
Take the Bukit Bendera Cable Car if you’re short on time. Or hike along the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) road from Arched Moon Gate in the Botanical Gardens. Viewing platforms, English-style cottages, and themed areas entertain tourists at the top.
Tropical Flowers And Primates Within The Botanical Gardens
Since opening in 1884 on an old quarry site, Botanical Gardens has expanded to contain tens of thousands of plants. Check out Lily Garden, Tropical Rainforest, and Fern House. Or wander among cacti and herb gardens to a cascading waterfall. Troupes of long-tailed macaques live inside Botanical Gardens. Families sit on electricity wires near the entrance, curiously watching people walk by.
Four Religions, One Street
Malaysia is a multicultural melting pot. Georgetown flaunts the best of Penang’s religious harmony. Mosques, churches, and temples stand side-by-side on Kapitan Keling Street – the same way for the best part of two centuries.
Taoist Goddess of Mercy is the oldest, dating to 1728. Masjid Kapitan Keling, St George’s Church, and Sri Mahamariamman Temple opened in the early 19th-century. Saunter down the street and appreciate the religious harmony oozing from the brickwork. Tourists can visit all four buildings. Cover your arms and legs before going into the mosque. Avoid visiting during prayer times.
Savor Georgetown’s World Famous Food
Georgetown, along with Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, is the food capital of Malaysia. Hundreds of restaurants cater to all dietary needs and budgets. Try noodle soup in family-owned Chinese diners and dine buffet-style in 24/7 Indian ‘Mamak’ restaurants.
Penang is a hotspot for street food. Georgetown’s Chulia Street transforms after 6:00 pm. Wafting aromas rise from the dozens of hawkers cooking street food. Follow your nose around the labyrinth of stalls.
Eat In A Hawker Center
If you don’t fancy eating in a restaurant, check out Georgetown’s hawker centers. Stalls with a massive selection of food choices surround an enormous seating area. Walk around the perimeter and find various dishes, including noodles, rice, and fish balls. Others serve barbequed meat and roasted duck.
Order from the stall, take a seat, and the food arrives in minutes. Apart from an almost guaranteed delicious eat, meals usually cost just a few dollars. Check out Red Garden Food Paradise, CF Food Court, and Sungai Pinang Food Court.
Explore Penang’s Peranakan Heritage At Green Mansion
The mint green mini-mansion in Georgetown once belonged to a wealthy Chinese businessman. Covering two stories, the building exhibits elaborate carving on its doors and balcony. Aside from architectural aesthetics, the mansion doubles up as an intriguing museum. Discover Malaysia’s and Penang’s Peranakan culture and traditions inside.
Peranakan refers to a subgroup of Chinese Malaysians whose ancestors migrated to Malaysia hundreds of years ago. Learn about their quirky traditions and superstitions. Find out about family life, traditional food, and daily activities. An English-speaking guided tour is included with the entrance ticket. Most tourists spend an hour inside the Pinang Peranakan Mansion.
Photograph The Most Photographed Building In Georgetown
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, often called Blue Mansion, is Penang’s most famous building. The 38-roomed mansion has more than 200 windows and an attractive indigo-blue façade. Various elements blend East and West in the late 19th-century building. Take note of the stained glass windows.
Blue Mansion is a few minutes west of old Penang on Leith Street. After falling into disrepair, Blue Mansion received well-needed restorations in the late 1990s. Join a guided tour of the mansion and learn about Cheong Fatt Tze’s inspiring rags-to-riches story.