Spread across a strip along the mainland peninsula and a fairly large island, Malaysia’s state of Penang is famous for being one of the world’s premier places for mouth-watering street food. It also boasts an abundance of beautiful architecture, plentiful historic and religious sites, places of natural interest, and beaches.
Due to the state’s spread-out nature, deciding where to visit each day can be tricky. You don’t want to waste time travelling between hotspots only to later discover there were other cool places close to hand.
Our expert team of travel writers has done extensive research so that you don’t miss any of Penang’s highlights and can relax more when planning your trip. Add these best places to visit in Penang to your itinerary and you’re sure to have a great time.
Spoiler alert: with both popular tourist attraction and hidden gems, some of these best places to visit in Penang are quite surprising!
Table of Contents
Best places to stay in Penang
So, Penang is pretty big, and there are a lot of area and accommodation choices. Instead of drowning you in the details, we’ve instead opted to narrow it down to our top picks of awesome places in Penang to stay. Don’t wait or you might miss out!
Best Budget Hotel in Penang: Chiara Nostalgic House
The pocket-friendly Chiara Nostalgic House has double, twin, and family rooms (for four people) with shared bathrooms as well as en suite double rooms. Each room is air conditioned and has ample storage space and free Wi-Fi. There’s a shared lounge where you’ll find a selection of books and DVDs, and the hotel also offers free parking (reservation needed).
View on Booking.com
Best Luxury Hotel in Penang: Macalister Mansion
Macalister Mansion is a luxurious and swanky hotel in Georgetown. House in an elegant colonial-style building, the high-class hotel has various room types. All rooms have a private bathroom (complete with free toiletries, a hairdryer, and bathrobes), air conditioning, a fridge, a kettle, a desk, satellite TV, free Wi-Fi, and an iPod docking station. Cool down in the inviting outside pool, sunbathe on the terrace, dine on tasty cuisine in the two onsite restaurants, unwind in the bar, work out in the gym, and catch up with work in the fitness centre. A continental breakfast is available each day. It’s a top Penang hotel to treat yourself!View on Booking.com
Best Airbnb in Penang: Tiffany’s Mini Cozy Home
This two bedrooms apartment is very convenient for a holiday in Penang. Located in Georgetown and only 25 minutes away from Penang Airport, it has two bedrooms, including a master room, one bathroom and a small kitchen with basic amenities. You’ll enjoy a view of the city and of the sea from Level 27, where the apartment is, and can also go down to Level 9 to take a dip in the swimming pool, relax in the jacuzzi or workout at the complex gym. If you’ve got kids, there’s also a reading room, playing room and children playground area on this level.View on Airbnb
Best Hostel in Penang: Magpie Residence
Located in George Town, the peaceful Magpie Residence has a mixture of mixed dorms and private rooms. There’s a shared lounge in the lobby area and guests can use facilities like free Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and luggage storage. Breakfast is free each morning and the friendly hostel has bikes for hire. CCTV and round-the-clock security help to keep everywhere secure.View on HostelWorld
Need a place quick? Here's the best neighbourhood in Penang:
- Admire the colonial architecture of Wisma Kastam.
- Go for a stroll along Gurney Drive.
- Take a graffiti spotting tour through the city.
And now, onto the good stuff … here are the best places to visit in Penang!
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Penang!
#1 - Fort Cornwallis
One of Penang’s coolest historical sites!
- Malaysia’s longest standing fortress
- Unusual lighthouse
- Interesting displays
- Great views
Why it’s awesome: The star-shaped Fort Cornwallis was built in the early 1800s on the site of an earlier wooden fort. It was constructed by the British East India Company to protect the island, though it never saw any attacks. Today listed as an Ancient Monument and Historic Site, the fort provides terrific views over the sea. Old cannons still stand to attention through the grounds and there are various displays and buildings throughout the large park within the walls.
What to do there: Walk around the fortress’s outer walls and soak up the splendid vistas. Inside, see the proud statue of Captain Francis Light near the entrance and the many historic cannons that were intended to keep the island safe. Don’t miss the cannon called Seri Rambai—locals see this piece of artillery as a symbol of fertility, and you’ll likely notice offerings placed in front of the cannon. Learn more about the fort and its past at various display boards and explore old cells, storage rooms, and barracks. Visit the oldest chapel in Penang and see the old mast-like lighthouse.
#2 - Escape Theme Park
Awesome place to visit in Penang with kids!
- Thrilling adventure park
- Cool water park
- Activities and fun for all ages
- Surrounded by nature
Why it’s awesome: In a beautiful natural setting with plenty of lush greenery all around, Escape Theme Park is a cool two-in-one water park and adventure park. Backpacker, family vacationer, or soulful wanderer - doesn't matter! This insanely fun place in Penang is suited for all traveler's itinerearies. There are thrilling activities designed to get your pulse rating and tamer activities for younger visitors, and in the water park there are various slides and chutes, rapids, and pools. It’s a top place to escape your everyday routine and have fun! Do note that adults must accompany children on some attractions.
What to do there: Swing through the skies like an acrobat on Aerobat, bounce to your heart’s content on Air Bag, scale Gecko Tower, find your way out of A-Maze, and race to the top of the tree on Coco Climb. Feel the rush as you swing through the trees on Jungle Swinger, soar in the air on the Flying Lemur zipline, and get the adrenaline racing on Slingshot. Tackle the various challenges of Monkey Business rope course while little ones learn the basics at Monkey School.
Learn more about the underwater world at AK Discovery, take the plunge on Atan’s Jump, brave the Dunk Tank, drift along the Lazy River, have giggles on the Family Twister, bob around in Wave Ball wave pool, and try to be the winner on the watery Speed Racer.
#3 - Pinang Peranakan Museum
A fascinating educational place to visit in Penang
- Learn more about Peranakan heritage and culture
- Eye-catching artefacts
- Housed in a historic mansion
- One of Penang’s best museums
Why it’s awesome: Pinang Peranakan Mansion tells the story of the area’s Peranakan (Straits Chinese) past. The building, built in the 1890s, was once the home of a wealthy Chinese businessman, and it has been restored to showcase its former splendour. Rooms are decorated and arranged so as to transport people back in time and the museum is filled with numerous antiques and items from the Peranakan community. The museum is so well curated and the collections so vast that it has received many accolades and been featured in various TV shows.
What to do there: Admire the handsome green building from the outside, noting the blend of Chinese, European, and Malaysian elements. Peranakans maintained their own customs while also adopting those from their new area (the Straits) and later from colonial influences, leading to a unique way of life and culture. Explore the museum’s rooms and courtyards, filled with beautiful details and objects.
You’ll see things like exquisitely carved wood, ceramic floor tiles, decorative room screens, and more than 1,000 gorgeous antiques. See the statue of the mansion’s former owner standing inside the adjacent small shrine.
#4 - Snake Temple
One of the more unique places to visit in Penang!
- Home to many snakes
- Long history
- Surrounded in local legends
- Beautiful architecture
Why it’s awesome: Penang’s Snake Temple was constructed in the early 1800s to honour a Chinese Buddhist monk, Chor Soo Kong. He was known for doing many kind deeds, particularly tending to the sick and assisting snakes. Local lore says that when the temple was built, pit vipers just started to appear there. Today, lots of snakes lounge throughout the temple. Although locals believe that the incense smoke makes the snakes harmless, they have been de-venomed to be on the safe side!
What to do there: Wander around the temple complex and stare in fascination at the numerous snakes who call the religious site home. See snakes draped across the shrines, coiled around statues and columns, hanging from branches, and in almost any place you could think of! Most of the resident snakes are pit vipers, though you’ll also spot a number of other species. Visit the breeding centre and learn more about the slithery and often misunderstood creatures. You can also enjoy the attractive details of the temple.
#5 - Penang National Park
A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Penang
- Rich array of flora and fauna
- Diverse landscapes
- Great outdoor activities
- Youngest national park in Malaysia
Why it’s awesome: Despite being fairly small, covering just 2997 acres (1,213 hectares) of land and sea, Penang National Park boasts a wide assortment of plants and animals and also has diverse terrain within its boundaries. There are several habitats in the park not found elsewhere in the country and it’s one of the nation’s most biodiverse parts. Furthermore, the national park also has historical and archaeological elements and great views.
There are long beaches, mangroves, and wildlife-rich forests, with creatures calling the park home including turtles, otters, dolphins, monkeys, mouse deer, wild boar, and various species of bird. Plants include the delicate orchids, the unusual pitcher plants, sea almonds, bonsai trees, and various herbs.
What to do there: Soak up the splendid vistas and bask on the sandy shores of pretty beaches like Pantai Mas, Pasir Pandak, Teluk Kerachut, Tanjung Ailing, and Teluk Bahang. See the unusual meromictic lake, a lake where the waters don’t mix and the different colours can clearly be seen. Spot various creatures and plants and follow the two long nature trails. Be sure to wear sensible footwear!
Get a bird’s eye view of the forests and beaches from the 15-metre-high (49-foot-high) canopy walkway. Visit other places of interest within the park, such as Muka Head Lighthouse and the old Hokkien cemetery. There are natural swimming pools where you can take a dip and cool down and you’ll find plenty of nice places for a picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also camp within the national park.
#6 - Batu Feringghi
A perfect place to visit in Penang if you are on a budget!
- Popular white-sand beach
- Water-based activities
- Diverse places of interest close to hand
- Lively nightlife
Why it’s awesome: One of the most popular destinations in Penang with Malaysia backpackers, Batu Feringghi boasts a long, sandy beach and offers beautiful views. Previously a quiet village with a long history, today the area has an abundance of accommodations, restaurants, shops, and other amenities. A pleasant place to watch the sun go down, Batu Feringghi is also known for its cool laid-back night scene, with plenty of bars sitting close to the beach. While you’ll find plenty of ways to spend money if you wish, visiting the beach and enjoying the vibe doesn’t cost a single Ringgit.
What to do there: Sunbathe on the soft sands and admire the views of the shimmering emerald waters meeting the horizon. Stay until later on in the day to witness a beautiful sunset over the ocean. Although the waters generally aren’t considered great for swimming there are various water-based activities that you can enjoy, including parasailing, riding on banana boats, jet skiing, and kayaking. Kids and adults alike can have heaps of fun at Wet World Wild, with its many inflatable features. Browse a wide range of goods and feast on street food at the lively night market.
#7 - Penang Batik Factory
One of the most underrated places to see in Penang
- Learn more about traditional batik
- Watch artists at work
- Buy beautiful handmade items
- Free guided tours
Why it’s awesome: Penang Batik Factory was set up in 1973 and it shows the skills that go into creating stunning textile art. Artisans can make a living at the small cottage industry and tourists can see exactly how pieces are made, appreciating items a lot more than simply seeing them in a showroom. Each artist has their own speciality. The factory has three sections: a boutique, an art gallery, and a workshop. There are free tours of the facility and you aren’t overly pressured to make a purchase.
What to do there: Watch artists at work in the workshop and see the precision and talent that goes into creating traditional batik designs. See artisans hand drawing patterns, colouring in designs, and using blocks to create imprints on fabrics. Items here are atypical in that they have patterns on both sides of the fabric. Visit the art gallery to admire a wide selection of batik artworks in all sizes and colours. You may even wish to make a special purchase to add something unusual to your home. If you’re more interested in batik clothing call into the boutique, where you’ll find various garments for men, women, and children.
Quick Note - Staying Safe in Penang
Although Penang is mostly a safe destination in Malaysia, there are some dangers and annoyances that you should keep in mind on top of general safety practices. Don’t scrimp when it comes to accommodation—though not all, some of the cheapest places to stay can be a little dodgy. Make sure windows and doors lock properly and that you have an independent way to lock your door from the inside, such as a bolt or chain.
Avoid walking alone late at night and don’t carry valuables with you. The backpacker areas, such as around Love Lane, are best avoided by solo travellers at night time. Females can avoid unwanted attention to some degree by dressing modestly, though refrain from being overly friendly with locals. Be cautious of pickpocketing in crowded areas, and when using transportation, and make sure that you hide your money when traveling around from place to place.
Only use licensed taxis and try to travel in groups where possible. Don’t leave items on the beach unattended while swimming, and keep bags secure and in your sight at all other times. Take measures to avoid mosquito bites; as a tropical area close to the water, mosquitos can be problematic. Be cautious of wild monkeys; keep your distance, secure loose items, and seek medical advice if you are bitten or scratched.
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
#8 - Ghost Museum
Quite the quirky place in Penang!
- Different to the norm
- Learn more about myths and spooky legends
- Good photo opportunities
- Interactive experiences
Why it’s awesome: Penang’s Ghost Museum is a novel attraction that provides information on ghosts from various countries and cultures around the world. The displays and props might not be the best, but that somehow adds to the comedy value. There are various rooms with ghostly themes and information about ghosts from different parts of the globe. The museum is housed within a heritage building, adding somewhat to the eerie vibe.
What to do there: Enter the Ghost Museum and wander through the different creepy sections, seeing models of ghosts and learning more about legends and beliefs related to the supernatural. The first section is dedicated to Malay ghosts, with depictions of Orang Minyak, Toyol, Pontianak, Pocong (AKA the Indonesian Mummy), and Hantu Pisang, who is thought to live in banana trees and steal men’s souls.
Continue through the sections devoted to Chinese, Egyptian, and Japanese ghouls, experience Halloween at any time of the year, and enter the domain of vampires. There are many photo opportunities throughout the museum, with props and even outfits that you can dress up in.
#9 - Dhammikarama Burmese Temple
A great place to see in Penang if you love architecture
- Penang’s first Burmese Buddhist temple
- Beautiful architecture
- Retreat for Buddhist monks
- Traditional details created by Burmese craftspeople
Why it’s awesome: Founded in the early 1800s, Dhammikarama Burmese Temple is the oldest Burmese temple in Penang. It has strong links to women, having been established on land donated by a wealthy lady and several female trustees. Expanded and altered over the years, the temple was initially constructed from wood and later rebuilt using sturdier materials. It displays typical Burmese features throughout and skilled Burmese artisans were commissioned to ensure accuracy and authenticity. The temple also serves as a monastery, with Buddhist monks living onsite.
What to do there: Walk through the red and golden gateway, complete with large elephant statues and traditional Burmese designs and topped with the umbrella-like spire. Stand in front of the stupa, which is the oldest part of the complex, having been consecrated in the year 1805.
Rest in the shade of the sacred Boddhi tree, see the monk’s living quarters (from outside), and view the large collection of Buddha statues in various postures and detailed murals. Look for the interesting statues of mythical creatures too, including the garuda, chinthe, and panca rupa. Enjoy the peaceful and serene ambience and watch as local devotees come here to pray and seek blessings.
#10 - Chulia Street Night Market
A must-see for foodies!
- Huge assortment of street food
- Affordable prices
- Lively and friendly atmosphere
- Terrific photo opportunities
Why it’s awesome: Chulia Street Night Market is one of the best places in Penang for a wide array of delicious street food—and that’s quite an achievement in a city that’s world-renowned for its incredible street food scene. There are a number of small sit-down eateries as well as an abundance of hawker stalls and basic tables and chairs where you can dine on the streets. Dishes reflect the country’s mixed heritage, with Malay, Chinese, Indian, and local fusion fare all available. Prices are reasonable too.
What to do there: Stroll along the lively Chulia Street Night Market watching as vendors cook an assortment of dishes on the spot, the scents of cooking wafting through the air, the sizzling sounds breaking through the chatter, and the sights that are sure to tempt you.
If you’re into food photography this is a terrific place to indulge in your hobby. Of course, it’s also a fantastic place to get your fill of delicious street food. Be sure to come hungry! Try dishes like wanton mee, assam laksa, apom, lor bak, popiah, char kway teow, Hokkien mee, and satay. Wash everything down with a refreshing fresh fruit juice or sweet tea.
#11 - Penang Jewish Cemetery
A nice non-touristy place to visit in Penang
- Peaceful ambience
- Lesser-visited spot
- One of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Southeast Asia
- Legacy of a disappearing community
Why it’s awesome: Surrounded by high walls, the quiet Jewish Cemetery is one of the last traces of Penang’s former Jewish community. Even the old synagogue closed down back in the 1970s. The cemetery gates are often kept locked, but people wishing to visit can knock and the custodian will come and let you in.
It is thought that the last local Jew passed away in 2011, his grave the most recent in the lonely cemetery, thus ending Penang’s Jewish community. Neat rows of graves bear witness to the fact that there were once fairly substantial numbers of Jews resident in Penang. The interesting cemetery sees very few visitors.
What to do there: Chat with the cemetery keeper and learn a little bit about Penang’s former Jewish community and hear whispers from yesteryear as you walk through the rows of gravestones. Pay your respects to the deceased and wonder about the now lost local community. See the oldest grave in the burial ground, which dates back to 1835, as well as the newest grave from 2011.
You’ll notice that the memorials are in a typical Middle Eastern style and that most of the inscriptions are in Hebrew. You’re sure to feel as though you’ve stepped away from the tried and tested tourist path and are discovering new insights into Penang’s past.
#12 - Kapitan Keling Mosque
One of the most religious places to see in Penang
- Built by Indian Muslims
- Long history
- Open to non-Muslims (with permission from officials)
- Beautiful architecture
Why it’s awesome: Kapitan Keling Mosque - set in one of George Town's central areas - is a gorgeous mosque. It was built in the early 19th century by some of the earliest Indian Muslim immigrants to Penang. Designed in an Indo-Moorish style, it also has Gothic and Roman elements. A golden dome sits atop the pale building with a high minaret alongside. There are typical Islamic details, such as calligraphy of passages from the Islamic holy book (the Quran), floral imagery, geometric patterns, and colourful stained glass.
What to do there: Listen out for the lilting call to prayer, issued five times each day from the minaret by the muezzin calling the faithful. Walk along the sweeping path to reach the main building, complete with its glorious dome, passing elegant archways alongside. Look inside the prayer hall to see ornate prayer rugs scattered across the marble floor, rich traditional designs, and a beautiful chandelier. Do note that you should dress modestly to visit the mosque and will need to get permission to look inside if you are not from the Muslim faith.
#13 - Butterworth
A very cool place in Penang to go for a day
- Main town on Penang’s peninsula mainland
- Uncrowded compared with more popular places in Penang
- Local vibes
- Varied attractions and activities
Why it’s awesome: While most people see Penang as synonymous with George Town and the island, there’s a whole bunch more to explore in the state’s mainland areas too. Butterworth is the main town in mainland Penang and it has a variety of attractions and activities to keep you busy on a day trip. If you're wondering where to stay in Malaysia to explore Penang but still avoid the tourist life, Butterworth is a fine choice. Crowds are smaller than on the island and it’s a great place to immerse yourself in local life. The area boasts beaches, beautiful temples, lively markets, and more.
What to do there: Take a walk along the beach or relax at the seaside at hotspots like Pantai Bersih and Bagan Ajam. Get a glimpse of local beliefs at the Taoist temple of the Nine Emperor Gods, one of the town’s biggest places of worship. Snap pictures of the large pagodas, vibrant colours, statues of Chinese deities, and ornate decorative touches.
You can also experience local Indian culture at the lavish Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam Hindu Temple. Butterworth Bird Park is a lovely place for a family outing, home to many avian species from across the globe. Don’t miss the large and lively Apollo Market for street food, fresh produce, and knickknacks.
#14 - Upside Down Museum
Easily one of the most fun places to check out in Penang
- Fun for people of all ages
- Unusual attraction
- Fabulous photo opportunities
- See the world from a different perspective
Why it’s awesome: Penang’s Upside Down Museum is a cool museum where, as the name suggests, everything is upside down. With furnishings and other common items firmly attached to the top of each room, you really can feel like your world has been turned upside down and that you’re walking like Spiderman suctioned to the ceiling. You won’t just find typical rooms of a house here; there’s even a topsy turvy market, café, and others. There are fantastic photo opportunities and it’s an unusual and fun place for both children and adults.
What to do there: Walk through the upside-down bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathroom, posing for lots of awesome pictures that seem to defy gravity. Members of staff are happy to give you pointers as to how to achieve the coolest and most realistic-looking snaps.
Everything from the beds, cupboards, desks, oven, and kitchen sink are above you, with rooms that look incredibly lifelike … except for being the wrong way round! Discover the turned around market, pose as though you’re walking down the stairs on your hands, play the piano whilst seemingly hovering above it, and have a ball!
#15 - Kek Lok Si Temple
One of the most amazing places in Penang!
- Striking hilltop temple
- Biggest Buddhist temple in Malaysia
- Major pilgrimage site
- See various cultural practices
Why it’s awesome: The large and detailed Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si is perched on a high hill overlooking the surroundings. The extensive complex is the nation’s largest Buddhist temple and it attracts mainly devout Buddhists who want to make merit, worship, and pay their respects. The architecture and religious practices reflect different branches of Buddhism.
The ornate temple dates back to the 1890s, built using donations from a number of wealthy Chinese businessmen, and there have been a number of striking additions over the years. Spread over three main zones and with beautiful architecture, fascinating statues, splendid gardens, and terrific views, there’s definitely plenty to appreciate at the important temple.
What to do there: Marvel at the soaring seven-level pagoda adorned with thousands of statues of the Lord Buddha, and notice the blend of Chinese, Thai, and Burmese influences in its design. Be impressed by the towering 36-metre-tall (120-foot-tall) bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin). Find your Chinese zodiac birth animal among the 12 statues.
Stroll through the pleasant gardens and soak up the pretty views. Watch turtles and fish swimming in the ponds, spend some time in quiet reflection in one of the prayer halls, see devotees performing various religious rituals, buy a range of souvenirs, amulets, and religious memorabilia, and call into the restaurant for a tasty and filling vegetarian meal.
#16 - Guar Petai
Certainly one of the most exotic places to see in Penang!
- Off the beaten track
- Beautiful landscapes
- Former quarry
- Excellent photo opportunities
Why it’s awesome: Nestled in a sleep rural village on mainland Penang, Guar Petai is an old and abandoned water-filled quarry. Ponds are filled with sparkling emerald green waters and lots of lush greenery and reddish rust-coloured and sandy rocks add to the enchanting and alluring vistas. A natural splendour, it’s often pretty quiet. A great spot for photography and romantic moments, it is commonly said to resemble Jiuzhaigou in China. Even better, there’s no cost to visit this picturesque place.
What to do there: Climb to the top of the former quarry and soak up the picturesque views, admiring the contrasting colours and the way that the sun glints of the striking green waters. Snap plenty of beautiful pictures of the gorgeous terrain and enjoy the peace and quiet. Walk around the area to find even more great angles for stunning photography and terrific views.
#17 - Design Village Penang
A great place in Penang if you love to shop!
- Largest mall in Penang
- Beautiful tropical gardens
- Wide range of goods
- Diverse places to eat and drink
Why it’s awesome: Not only is Design Village Penang the biggest mall in Penang but it is also among the largest outlet shopping centres in the entire country. Home to around 150 shops that sell a huge array of goods, you’re almost certain to find anything that you could wish to buy here. The open-concept retail village is spread across stunning tropical gardens. There are plenty of shaded seating areas in the greenery as well as a good choice of cafes and restaurants that cater to diverse tastes.
What to do there: Naturally, the main reason to visit Design Village Penang is to indulge in a spot of retail therapy! Browse in shops like Guess, Coach, Samsonite, Timberland, Pierre Cardin, Gap, Puma, and Rip Curl, treating yourself to new outfits, footwear, home items, beauty products, sportswear, and more. Admire the balance between nature and commerce as you stroll through the lush gardens, and stop to refuel in one of the great eateries.
#18 - Clan Jetties
One of the most incredible free places to go to in Penang
- Floating villages
- Traditional ways of life
- Historic vibe
- Great views
Why it’s awesome: The six Clan Jetties of Penang are old water villages that were built by Chinese groups. Initially a wood yard and later a place where people would load and offload boats, workers began to build small huts along the wooden jetties. More and more of these basic stilted properties were constructed, creating entire small villages over the water.
Each jetty was associated with a predominant Chinese clan, and several clans still call the jetties home today: the Chew, Tan, Lim, Yeoh, and Lee, plus a mixed clan jetty (Snaeh). In the past, there were even more such jetties stretching along the waterfront. People still live at the jetties today and traditional ways of life prevail.
What to do there: Start with a visit to the Chew Clan Jetty and take a walk along the sturdy planks, passing local homes and stores. Inhale the scents of incense burning at small shrines outside dwellings and call into the small temple that sits over the water. Get a glimpse of a different way of life and appreciate the wooden structures that are simple but cosy and functional.
See small boats bobbing on the waves and soak up the views; the sunset vistas are especially pretty. If you want to experience more of life in the villages, visit some of the area’s other Clan Jetties too. Do remember to act respectfully, keep the noise down, and be courteous with your photography as these are still private dwellings where people live and go about their day-to-day business.
#19 - Dark Mansion
Cool place to see in Penang with friends!
- Unusual attraction
- Fabulous photo opportunities
- Glow-in-the-dark scenes
- Interactive art
Why it’s awesome: The Dark Mansion is one of Penang’s quirkier museums. It’s the country’s only 3D glow-in-the-dark museum, open since 2016. Using technology and science to enhance an arty experience, the museum not only has cool 3D paintings that let you appear as though you’re in a variety of scenes but it also has a glowing effect. Visitors can see the art in normal lighting and then in the dark, with special lighting, to appreciate how the picture changes. It’s certainly lots of fun and you’re sure to come away with many amazing photos.
What to do there: Immerse yourself in various scenes while your friends (or a helpful member of staff) snap plenty of pictures of you. Witness the transformation of art under different lighting conditions and play around with different props. Highlights include the magical glow-in-the-dark forest, complete with various creatures, the dazzling scenes of the night sky, and a cool radiant bridge.
Travel back in time and feel a pang of nostalgia as you pass through the time tunnel and marvel at the celebrated Edgar Muller piece called Fire and Water, which is the biggest anamorphic glow-in-the-dark image in the world.
#20 - Sri Mahamariamman Temple
A great place to visit in Penang if you are alone/traveling solo
- Penang’s oldest Hindu temple
- Eye-catching colours and details
- Strong sense of spirituality
- Home to many pigeons
Why it’s awesome: The melting pot of culture is just one of the many good reasons to travel to Malaysia. From Islam to Buddhism to (Tamil) Hindu, bring your shoulder covering, because we're going temple hunting!
Having started life as a simple shrine back in the early 1800s, the present temple building of Penang’s Sri Mahamariamman Temple was constructed in 1833. Built by early Tamil Indian migrants, it is the oldest Hindu temple in the state. Colourful with many ornate features, it’s a fabulous place to admire architectural beauty and religious art. The ambience is simultaneously energetic and peaceful, with many devotees coming here to perform prayers and religious rituals each day.
What to do there: Make sure to dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering the temple grounds. Admire the vibrant gopurum (entrance tower) with its many intricate carvings of Hindu deities, animals, flowers, symbols, and other features. Standing at almost 24 metres (78 feet) tall, it has four tiers and is meant to represent Mount Meru, which is said to be the mountain that supports the heavens in Hindu mythology.
You’ll notice that many pigeons have set up home in the tower too. Appreciate the many fine details within the complex and see the large statue of Lord Subramaniam inside the domed main building. Soak up the spiritual air and visit the nearby Indian stores and restaurants.
#21 - Penang State Museum and Art Gallery
Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Penang
- Discover local history, heritage, and culture
- See impressive artworks
- Home to a large collection of artefacts
- Housed in a gorgeous building
Why it’s awesome: Penang State Museum and Art Gallery is housed within a striking architectural gem that was once home to Penang Free School. It became a museum in the mid-1960s. It contains both an awesome art gallery and an informative museum with lots of artefacts and displays. Items include state and national treasures and there are constantly changing art exhibits in addition to the impressive permanent collections. It’s a must visit for anyone interested in delving deeper into the area’s past and culture.
What to do there: Take time to appreciate the diverse collections in the museums, seeing items such as furnishings, traditional clothes, weapons, old transportation methods, tools, ceramics, silverware, and jewellery. The hand-written Quran is especially interesting.
There’s good information as to the significance of the diverse exhibits and you can learn more about Penang’s multi-ethic, multi-racial, and multi-cultural community. In the art gallery you’ll find eight treasured paintings by Captain Robert Smith as well as plenty of other works. Travel back in time as you see old black and white photographs of Penang in times gone by. You can buy a selection of merchandise too.
#22 - St. Anne’s Church
A nice quiet place to see in Penang
- Off-the-beaten-track religious building
- Serene and spiritual ambience
- Old and new places of worship side by side
- Important pilgrimage site
Why it’s awesome: Located in Bukit Mertajam on Penang’s mainland peninsula, St. Anne’s Church is a lesser-visited spot with a long history and steeped in religious significance. While the yearly ten-day Feast of St. Anne celebrations are lively, drawing devotees from around the nation and beyond, the church is quiet and tranquil at other times of the year.
The original chapel was built in 1846, with a later church (now known as the Shrine of St. Anne) constructed in 1888. The nearby 2002-built church is a modern juxtaposition. It’s one of the country’s biggest Christian churches and it features traditional Malay designs. There are ancient megaliths close by. An active place of worship, mass is held in several languages depending on the day of the week.
What to do there: Spend some quiet moments of reflection and contemplation at the old St. Anne’s Shrine and appreciate the beautiful stained glass above the altar. See the large statue of St. Anne (Mary’s mother) with the Virgin Mary as a child in front of the newer church, pray at the Catholic Stations of the Cross, and view the Cherok Tokun Relics. Within the sanctuary’s grounds, the Cherok Tokun Relics are ancient rock inscriptions on a granite megalith. Enjoy the serene air and soak up the religious atmosphere.
#23 - Upper Penang Road
A great place to visit in Penang at night
- Various bars, karaoke spots, and nightclubs
- Wide choice of places to eat
- Energetic atmosphere
- Blend of architectural styles
Why it’s awesome: Upper Penang Road, located in George Town, is the epicentre of Penang’s nightlife scene. During the day there are many shops to browse in and the street also hosts the monthly Little Penang Street Market. Held on the last Sunday of each month, stalls offer everything from crafts and clothing to souvenirs and food, and there is often live entertainment to add to the carnival-like air.
Heritage buildings are interspersed with more modern buildings. At night time the street attracts many revellers, including both locals and tourists. There are plenty of places to enjoy dinner before starting your night out on the tiles, with street food stalls aplenty and sit-down restaurants. Bars and nightclubs keep people happy until the wee small hours.
What to do there: Walk along the historic street in the daytime to see the different architectural styles and peer into the shops and boutiques. Enjoy a romantic meal in the Three Sixty Revolving Restaurant, savouring delicious cuisine as you soak up the panoramic views, or feast on street food, visit another high-class eatery, and discover many local specialities.
Mingle with the party-loving crowds in the vibrant bars and maybe hit up a karaoke joint to warble your favourite songs. Visit a roadside bar to sit outside on the pavement and watch the world go by. Hop between the various bars and clubs and bust out your best moves on the dancefloor, accompanied by neon lighting and banging tunes.
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More of the best places to visit in Penang
Penang has myriad places of worship that reflect the area’s multi-cultural and multi-ethnic make up; the Goddess of Mercy Temple, St. George’s Church, Admiral Zheng He Footprint Temple, and the Thai temple of Wat Chayamangkalaram are just a few more to add to your list. Other top museums to visit include the Toy Museum, War Museum, Wonderfood Museum, Chocolate Museum, Penang Tunnel Museum, and Sun Yat Sen Museum. There’s definitely lots of diversity!
Wander through the Tropical Spice Garden and take kids to Penang Butterfly Farm. Feast your eyes on the ornate Chinese clan building of Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi. Feel a thrill as you walk across the towering Rainbow Skywalk, have an immersive experience at Penang 3D Trick Art Museum, climb Penang Hill, take a day trip to Jerejak Island, and discover the many species of flora in the Botanical Gardens.
There are so many awesome things to do in Penang! With lots of heritage buildings and places of worship, delectable street food, beaches, museums to suit all interests, family-friendly attractions, places of natural interest, and plenty of ways to find nocturnal fun, make sure to check off these best places to visit in Penang on your next visit to the Malaysian gem.
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.