Scroll Top

The best places to visit in Penang, Malaysia

shows Susie on a jungle bridge in the Habitat in Penang

Penang… Malaysia’s most iconic island. It’s known worldwide for its food and culture, but it’s also a place full of stunning natural attractions, beautiful beaches and intriguing wildlife. It has so much to offer any type of traveller! After exploring most of what Penang has to offer, we’ve created a comprehensive travel guide to give you inspiration on the top attractions.

Continue reading to discover the best places to visit in Penang. From the beaches and forests of the north to the remote south-west and its rural rice fields and villages, and Penang’s cultural capital, Georgetown, you’ll find plenty of attraction ideas.

If you have any questions about any of the places we’ve featured, be sure to send us a message or leave a comment.

Penang Hill

We’re starting off our list of places to visit in Penang with Penang Hill, a towering hill resort area with stunning views of Georgetown. Penang Hill is one of the most popular places to visit for both locals and tourists. It’s full of hiking trails, viewpoints, attractions, and most importantly, an abundance of wildlife and jungle terrain. It’s a place you can visit to get lost in nature and admire the view.

To get to Penang Hill, you’ll need to board a funicular transport from the base of the hill. The ride up to the summit is all part of the experience and it moves surprisingly fast! At the top of Penang Hill, you can explore at your own leisure. Enjoy a drink with a view, get some exercise or see if you can spot the elusive Dusk Leaf Monkey. We recommend visiting first thing on a morning on a sunny day.

shows a dusky leaf monkey in penang hill

The Habitat

The Habitat is one of Penang’s latest attractions, and you really don’t want to miss it! Located on Penang Hill, The Habitat is a biosphere nature reserve that was created to protect the beautiful forests of the region, but also to give people a glimpse at Penang’s ecosystems and wildlife. The area is home to many species of birds, wild animals, insects, reptiles and a variety of flora and fauna.

For a small entrance fee, you can walk around the jungle paths of The Habitat. It has a series of large jungle canopy walkways, a circular, overhead bridge and lots of viewpoints. When we visited, we got up close to monkeys, birds and insects. The entire area is awe-inspiring to see, and it’ll be a highlight of your trip to Penang.

shows an overhead bridge walkway in the Habitat, Penang
Book TICKETS ON gET yOUR gUIDE
Powered by GetYourGuide

Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple is one of the best places to visit in Penang is you want to experience Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temple. It’s a complex of impressive temples that were built between 1890 and 1930, serving as a popular pilgrimage spot for Buddhists from across Southeast Asia. We’ve been to a lot of temples in this area of the world and Kek Lok Si is one of the best!

Visit Kek Lok Si and you’ll find a series of temple buildings, shrines, statues, lanterns and a waterfall. There are several areas of the temple grounds to discover, each offering something unique. The most notable area of Kek Lok Si is a giant Buddha statue that sits underneath large stone columns, at the highest point of the temple.

shows kek lok si temple in Penang Malaysia

George Town – UNESO World Heritage town

A visit to Penang is not complete without a multi-day trip to its capital. The living, breathing heart of the island, Georgetown, is a UNESCO protected city that’s full of history. It was the first British settlement in Southeast Asia and has a colonial past dating back to the East India Trading Company in 1786. Colourful, colonial architecture is everywhere to be seen.

Spend 2 or 3 days wandering around Georgetown sightseeing. A top thing to do is simply wandering around the streets, admiring the beautiful buildings and exploring the food and café scene. Georgetown is a cultural hotspot; you’ll want to spend plenty of time here.

shows the streets of George town, Penang - the best places to visit in Penang

Street Art

Penang, and in particularly Georgetown, is known for its street art. Giant, colourful wall murals and historical paintings depicting past events are apparent all over the island. It’s famous for it! One of the top things to do in Penang is a street art walking tour in the centre of Georgetown. You can join a guided tour, or simply pinpoint the artwork locations on a map and discover them on your own self-guided tour.

See if you can spot famous murals such as the child on a bike, the lost kittens and the many works of talented artist Ernest Zacharevic. This website has an excellent guide on Penang’s must-see street art. https://www.boboandchichi.com/georgetown-street-art/

shows a street art mural in Penang Malaysia

Street Food Markets

You can’t visit Penang and not sample its delicious street food! It’s known as Malaysia’s food capital for good reason! Hawker markets and street food stalls can be seen across the island. They’re a great place to sample affordable local food, drinks and sweat treats. Penang’s food combines flavours from across Asia and is widely regarded to be one of the world’s top cuisines. During your visit, spend plenty of time trying new dishes at the food markets.

We recommend checking out the following street food/hawker spots:

shows a street food market in Penang - the best places to visit in Penang

Armenian Street

Armenian Street is one of the best places to visit in Penang to experience the city’s rich culture. Originally named after the nation of Armenia after seeing an influx of Armenian and Chinese immigrants in 1808, Armenian Street is a multicultural, narrow street in the city centre. Intricate Chinese temples, old shops, paper lanterns and traditional rickshaws set the scene for one of the most unique streets on the island.

Armenian Street is very touristic, but it’s well worth a visit. It has some of the most famous street art murals, some excellent temples and lots of nice cafes, restaurants and shops.

shows armenian street in Penang, Malaysia

Entopia

Entopia is a Penang attraction that absolutely blew us away! Unlike any other butterfly farm or man-made nature attraction we’ve visited, Entopia is a thrilling learning and interactive experience that shows you the many species of small insects and reptiles that make our planet their home. It’s a large indoor biome that surrounds you with tropical plants, walking trails, and most of all, butterflies.

Walk through Entopia and you’ll be surrounded by many species of colourful butterflies, flying all around you. The waterfalls, ponds and exotic plants are a sight to behold. In addition to the outdoor nature attractions, you’ll get to learn about the lifecycle of the butterfly and can get up close to a variety of live bugs and reptiles. Adults and kids alike will enjoy a visit to Entopia.

shows a waterfall feature at Entopia Penang
Book tickets on Get Your Guide
Powered by GetYourGuide

Batu Ferringhi Beach

Batu Ferringhi is Penang’s most popular beach destination. Located on the north of the island, Batu Ferringhi has long been a top spot for those that want a relaxing beach escape in a nice hotel. It has a long, sandy beach, water sports, and sun loungers that you can hire for a few hours. It also has a good selection of bars and restaurants, with a typical beach atmosphere.

Batu Ferringhi isn’t one of Malaysia’s most amazing beaches. However, it’s a fun place to visit day or night and is well worth checking out. We stayed in Batu Ferringhi’s Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort for 3 nights and absolutely loved it.

Read our guide on the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort.

shows batu ferringhi beach at sunset

Batu Ferringhi Night Market

Another great place to visit in Penang in the Batu Ferringhi area is the Batu Ferringhi Night Market. Every evening, the street adjacent to the beach comes alive with market stalls, food vendors and bars and restaurants. The atmosphere is great fun, and you can pick up a bargain if you’re looking for some market fashion or accessories.

Long Beach Food Court is a great place to eat whilst exploring the Batu Ferringhi Night Market. It has cheap and tasty Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and Seafood options, set in an authentic hawker market centre. Spend the whole evening at Batu Ferringhi Night Market and end your night in a beach bar.

shows a variety of different food on a table

Tropical Spice Garden

Next on our list of great places to visit in Penang is a paradise of nature, wildlife and many tropical spices and flowers. Located to the north of the island next to Batu Ferringhi, it’s a somewhat off-the-beaten-track attraction. For a small fee, you can enter the spice garden and wander around the terraces at your leisure. The tropical garden will awaken your smell and other senses, giving you an up-close experience of Penang’s nature.

Try a cooking class, take in the beautiful scenery and see if you can spot some elusive dusky leaf monkeys hiding in the trees. There are many species of plants and flowers, and you’ll learn all about the local spices as you walk around the garden. It’s surprisingly large and there’s a lot to see here.

shows a pond area at the tropical spice garden in Penang - best places to visit in Penang Malaysia

Penang National Park

Head to the far north-west of Penang to experience its very own protected nature park. Penang National Park is a vast jungle area that’s home to some excellent hiking trails, remote, untouched beaches, a small lake and some cool viewpoints. It’s a place to escape to nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the towns.

The best way to see Penang National Park is by hiking through the forest until you get to the beaches on the far-side of the park. The trekking can be quite challenging in the heat. Therefore, some people choose to hike one way to Monkey Beach and then return via a boat transfer. You can also use the boat transfer two ways if you want to avoid the long jungle walk.

Penang attractions - Shows a beach in Penang National Park

Escape Penang

Currently rated the number one attraction on Tripadvisor, Escape Penang is one of the best places to visit in Penang if you want a fun adventure activity. Great for both kids and adults, it has over 30 different activities located in the forest. Ziplines, climbing platforms, a water park, ski slope, a lazy river and many more activities will keep you entertained for the full day. It has excellent reviews and is a top Penang attraction for those that are travelling with their family.

Escape Penang is right next to the Entopia Butterfly Farm attraction. Therefore, we recommend visiting both attractions on the same day. Combine exhilarating adventure with a slow walk around the butterfly garden.

shows a girl on a zipline

Clan Jetties

The Clan Jetties are an iconic place to visit in Penang. Set up by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, the series of fishing villages were constructed over-water on the shores of Georgetown. Each set of jetties or piers belonged to different Chinese clans, some of them being larger and more diverse than others. The rickety old façade and unique wooden walkways of the Clan Jetties make them an amazing site to behold.

Although many people still live on the Clan Jetties, they’re open for tourists to visit. Chow Jetty is the largest of the fishing villages and is the one most people visit. Walk along the wooden planks, browse the gift stalls and get up-close to the unique over-water houses and buildings. You can also board a small boat tour to see the jetties from the sea.

shows the clan jetties in Penang - best places to visit in Penang Malaysia
Book a tour on Get Your Guide
Powered by GetYourGuide

Dhammikarama Burmese Temple

If you’re looking to see some of the island’s best temples, add Dhammikarama Burmese Temple to your list. Golden columns, a giant Buddha statue and several turrets, shrines and garden areas make up this beautiful temple and its grounds. It’s the largest Buddhist temple in Penang and was built in 1803 by the island’s Burmese community.

Dhammikarama is completely free to visit and is well worth checking out. Cover your arms and legs to enter the temple grounds and spend time exploring its grand façade, murals, decorations and statues.

shows dhammikarama burmese temple in Penang Malaysia

Chaiya Mangalaram Thai Buddhist Temple

Right next to Dhammikarama Temple we mentioned above, you’ll find Chaiya Mangalaram Thai Buddhist Temple. Located on the other side of the road, Chaiya Mangalaram is just as impressive. It features shimmering golden pagodas, giant statues, and most notably, a huge dragon sculpture at the entrance of the temple. Inside Chaiya Mangalaram you’ll find a giant golden Buddha statue lying down.

We’ve been to Thailand many times and Chaiya Mangalaram Thai Buddhist Temple perfectly represented Thai temple architecture. It’s colourful, golden and full of reflective panels that shimmer in the sun. This temple has a small entrance fee, which is definitely worth paying. Both temples can’t be missed!

shows chaiya mangalaram thai buddhist temple in Penang

Gurney Plaza Shopping Mall

Gurney Plaza Shopping Mall is the top place to visit in Penang for an afternoon or evening or retail therapy. Shopping malls are a big thing in Malaysia, and Gurney Plaza is Penang’s main offering. It’s full of international brands such as Uniqlo, Nike, Adidas and Innisfree, but also some local fashion brands. You can find anything you need here, and prices can be quite affordable. It’s also a great place to eat, boasting some excellent restaurant options.

Add Gurney Plaza to your list of things to do in Penang if you want to do some shopping on an evening, or for when you want a break from the sun. Wandering around an air-conditioned shopping mall to cool down is always a good idea!

shows gurney plaza shopping mall in Penang - the best places to visit in Penang

The Blue Mansion

The Blue Mansion is Penang’s most recognisable heritage hotel. A UNESCO World Heritage protected building that was constructed before the end of the 19th century, the mansion is known for its vibrant indigo colour, inside and out. It showcases Chinese architectural styles of the Imperial Period and was built by merchant Cheong Fatt Tze. These days, The Blue Mansion is a hotel, rated one of the top places to stay in Georgetown.

You can also visit the mansion on a guided tour. Tours take place throughout the day, giving you a glimpse of the beautiful interior and exterior of the iconic heritage building. Add it to your Georgetown sightseeing itinerary and allocate around an hour for the full tour.

Fun fact: The Blue Mansion was featured in a scene in the hit movie ‘Crazy Rich Asians’.

shows the outside of the blue manion in penang, malaysia

Penang Floating Mosque

One of the most unique places to visit in Penang is the Floating Mosque. Situated on the north of the island, this grand white mosque has been built on a platform over the sea. It sits just off the beach and is instantly recognisable for its towering minaret. We recommend visiting Penang Floating Mosque on your way to Batu Ferringhi Beach. Stop off to see this unique mosque, take some pictures and admire its beautiful interior.

Shows the Floating Mosque from a drone

Chulia Street and Love Lane Nightlife

Chulia Street is a hotspot in Penang when it comes to eating out, bars, nightlife and street food. During the day, it’s a quiet street with old buildings and some excellent cafes. On an evening, it comes alive with vibrant music bars and karaoke spots. It also hosts an evening street food market. Adjacent to Chulia Street, you’ll find the iconic ‘Love Lane’. The narrow street has some excellent street art, restaurants and cafes, and a section dedicated to nightlife.

This area is one of the best places to spend in Penang on an evening. Visit for a cheap dinner at the street food stalls or dine in one of the restaurants. There are some excellent places to eat, all in one place. After dinner, stop by the bar street for some live music and an upbeat atmosphere.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Pinang Peranakan Mansion is one of the most beautiful buildings we visited during our time in Penang. Once a mansion house and now a preserved museum with hundreds of artefacts from the Peranakan’s that once made this area their home, it’s a must-see Penang attraction for those that want to learn about the island’s rich cultural heritage. The outside of the building is a vibrant shade of green. Inside, you’ll find more bright colours, and a style that combines Chinese and European designs.

Pay the entrance fee for the mansion house and you’ll proceed to explore each room on a guided tour. The colourful walls, ornate décor and old artefacts make it an interesting place to browse for an hour or so.

Fun fact: Pinang Peranakan Mansion is another Penang attraction that was featured in the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ film.

shows the inside of the peranakan mansion in Penang - the best places to visit in Penang

Penang Botanical Garden

As you’ve probably realised by now, Penang is full of breath-taking nature scenery, wildlife and natural attractions. To see more of the island’s forests, parks and tropical plants, pay Penang Botanical Garden a visit. It’s a great place to go for a long morning walk. Dense forest, a Lilypad pond, waterfalls, ornate gardens and countless species of tropical plants can be found throughout the botanical garden. You’ll also see lots of monkeys!

shows a tropical plant - The best places to visit in Penang

Fort Cornwallis

Fort Cornwallis is a tribute to Penang’s colonial and historical past. It’s a bastion fort that was built by the British East India Trading Company in the late 18th century and served as a key island fortification for many years. Today, many areas of the fortress still stand, including its fortified walls, cannon batteries, drawbridge and lighthouse.

You can see many areas of Fort Cornwallis from the outside by walking around the fortifications yourself. Alternatively, pay the entrance fee (which includes a free drink) and see the inside of the fort. There isn’t a lot to see inside. However, you’ll get to learn about the fort’s history and can walk across the fortified walls.

shows cannons on Fort Cornwallis in Penang
Book a tour on Get Your Guide
Powered by GetYourGuide

Esplanade (Padang Kota Lama)

The ‘Esplanade’ or promenade is the long walkway right next to Fort Cornwallis on Georgetown’s seafront. It’s one of the most relaxing places to visit in Penang, morning, or evening. After visiting the fort, go for a long walk along the promenade, look down at the crashing waves, or simply sit down on a bench and admire the view. There are several viewpoints in this area and it’s full of beautiful colonial buildings.

shows the esplanade in Penang, George Town - The best places to visit in Penang Malaysia

Pantai Pasir Panjang (Long Sand Beach)

Penang isn’t really known for having amazing beaches, but Pantai Pasir Panjang, aka, Long Sand Beach, is an exception. This untouched, remote beach sits at the far south-west of Penang, away from most attractions. It’s a more rural area of the island, surrounded by rice fields, small villages and residential areas. Batu Ferringhi Beach on Penang’s north coast is the more famous, but Pantai Pasir Panjang is a more stunning beach destination.

Hire a car or moped and go on an adventure to Long Sand Beach yourself. You’ll pass some beautiful countryside scenery along the way and will have a thrilling experience away from the tourist trail. It’s one of the best places to visit in Penang if you want an off-the-beaten-track attraction.

shows a boat near the sea shore in Penang Malaysia

Balik Pulau rice fields

Another less-visited Penang attraction that’ll show you the more rural areas of the island is a bike tour around the paddy fields of Balik Pulau. It’s a fun way to see Penang’s countryside and gain an understanding of the rural way of life. Various tours are available, but they generally all involve a small group tour with a guide, taking you to rice fields, farms, along riverbanks and to local villages.

Guides are knowledgeable and the Balik Pulau area feels unlike anywhere else on the island. It’s far away from the tourist trail and the lack of crowds is a breath of fresh air. We highly recommend booking a tour online with Get Your Guide. You’ll get picked up at your hotel for the tour and then dropped off when it ends. It’s a leisurely tour that appeals to all levels of fitness.

shows a local in a rice field - The top penang attractions

Little India

A large percentage of Malaysians have Indian ethnicity, and Indian culture, flavours and tradition can be found everywhere. Little India in Georgetown is where you can find Penang’s largest Indian community. Visit this neighbourhood to be transported into a unique community of colourful streets, Hindu temples, Indian shops, restaurants and other local businesses. The Indian culture is immediately recognisable, and the area appears very different to other corners of the city. Wander around Little India at your leisure, see the local attractions and try some authentic dishes.

shows the streets of Little India in Penang Malaysia

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Whilst in Little India, stop by Sri Mahamariamman Temple. It’s the oldest Hindu temple in Penang state, adorned in colourful sculptures of gods and goddesses and with a grand entrance. It’s one of the most visually stunning buildings in the area and instantly stands out to you as you walk down the street.

shows a Hindu temple in Penang Malaysia - Best places to visit in Penang

Chinatown

Malaysia doesn’t just have a large percentage of residents of Indian Heritage. Almost 23% of Malaysians have a Chinese background. Chinese temples, architecture, restaurants and tradition is everywhere to be seen no matter where you are in Penang. Head over to Chinatown to see Georgetown’s largest Chinese community. Colourful lanterns, Chinese shops and a great selection of restaurants make Chinatown well worth a visit.

Chowrasta Market can also be found in this area. It’s a great place to experience a local Penang market, where you can buy everything from fresh foods and snacks to market fashion, accessories, and homeware. It has a very ‘local’ feel to it.

shows red Chinese lanterns - The top Penang attractions

Penang THE TOP Theme Park at Komtar Tower

To experience more amazing views of Penang and the city of Georgetown, head to THE TOP Penang at the Komtar Tower skyscraper. The tower is the highest building in the city, hosting several unique attractions on its rooftop. A restaurant, go karting track, dinosaur park and aquarium can be found within the theme park. However, the main attraction and the best reason to visit Komtar Tower is for its Rainbow Skywalk.

Walk across the glass platform and stare down at the rows of streets below. It’s a great place to spot some of Penang’s top attractions. You can even see the mainland Malaysia in the distance! We recommend visiting Komtar Tower on an evening to see Georgetown illuminated below you.

shows a view of Penang - the best places to visit in Penang Malaysia

Tropical Fruit Farm

Penang Tropical Fruit farm is one of the best places to visit in Penang if you want to learn about and sample some of Malaysia’s most delicious tropical fruits. It’s located way out in the countryside in the centre of the island, making it a great escape from the city and a chance to see rural Penang. The farm has tours operating throughout the day, giving you an insight into how various fruits are harvested, and in a tropical garden environment. At the end of the tour you’ll get to try an assortment of tropical fruit.

shows a banana tree at the Penang Tropical Fruit Farm - The best places to visit in Penang

Thanks for reading our guide on the best places to visit in Penang, Malaysia. We hope we inspired you with some excellent Penang attraction ideas and you can now plan your own visit. We recommend spending at least a few days in the island’s capital, Georgetown. You can then explore the north of the island during a stay by Batu Ferringhi Beach. There’s a lot to see and do in Penang so we suggest staying for a full week. You’ll need 7 days just to try all the amazing food!

If you have any questions about the places we’ve featured, be sure to post a comment below.

Ricky

BY RICKY MARSHALL

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.

Leave a comment