Penang island was the first place I visited in Malaysia, and I blame it entirely for seducing me into spending six months living in this beautiful country. For me, Penang combines Malaysian traditions with modern attractions, resulting in an island full of amazing coffee, quirky street art and incredible food…
Penang is a Malaysian island, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a tiny place. There are loads of things to do in Georgetown, and I’ll be focusing on my love of Georgetown, the main touristy area on the island. If you’re a caffeine addict, hipster or super arty soul, this is the spot for you.
Get Your Fix
I like coffee. A lot. I took a flight from my home in Langkawi to Georgetown to spend a weekend drinking the stuff, and I have absolutely no regrets. Traditional ‘Penang White Coffee’ is milky and sweet, laced with hazelnut syrup and a shot of espresso. This will be on most menus as it’s one of the most famous things about the island, so make sure you give it a go as it’s one of the most cultural things to do in Georgetown.
If you fancy something a bit more trendy, head to The Mugshot Cafe for coffee and cake, and get your photo taken in their mugshot station. The Daily Dose is central, and well worth a visit – this is the perfect place to fuel up on brekkie and caffeine while you plan your visit.
Work (or Hike) Up An Appetite
My travels tend to revolve around eating and drinking, so I like to do something physical in the mornings to really feel like I’ve deserved a feast for lunch. Head to the Botanical Gardens and take in Georgetown’s natural beauty. The botanical gardens are free to enter, and the bus from the centre of Georgetown is cheap and relatively quick. If you’re into nature, put this at the top of your list of things to do in Georgetown.
If you’re feeling brave, head up Penang Hill, either by foot or handy cablecar. Check the weather forecast before you go, and enjoy stunning views across the island. Walking is free, so I’d suggest hiking up while you have energy, before paying a small fee for the cablecar back down.
You can stop off at Batu Ferringhi beach on your way back, and take a dip to cool off. This beach might not be the most stunning I’ve seen, but the water is refreshing and clean. This is a family-friendly beach with heaps of water-sports on offer. There’s a bus stop just by the beach, so you can hop off for an hour or so before heading back to the centre. This one of the more relaxing things to do in Georgetown so take a book and chill out.
Ask anyone who has been to Georgetown about what they got up to, and the main answer will be ‘eating’. Penang offers some of the most incredible street-food I’ve tasted, making it one of the more essential things to do in Georgetown, for me at least!
Head to Red Garden Food Court and let the wafts of steamed pork buns, spicy curries and fried chicken guide you towards the market here. Each stall will bring your food to you, so grab a table or loiter around, just try not stare at what everyone else is eating.
Local dishes to look out for include mee rebus (boiled noodles that are way tastier than they look!) and cendol (pronounced, and sometimes spelt, ‘chendol’) which is a sweet dessert definitely worth trying if you like coconut.
DIY Art Tour
Georgetown is famous for its street art, and there are plenty of maps dotted around the city to help you take your own tour. Some of the art features 3D additions, while other pieces are more graffiti-style. Either way, it’s completely free to wander around, so charge your phone or camera the night before, as there is so much you’ll want to photograph. Keep an eye out for the half-motorbike and join the queue of eager tourists waiting to get that perfect shot.
Head to down to the Chew Clan Jetties while you’re there – long stretches of wobbly wooden paths into the ocean with a pen enchanting history behind them. There’s not much of a sunset in Georgetown, but this is a lovely place to explore in the later afternoon.
There are heaps of restaurants, cafes, food trucks and street markets to enjoy here. The centre of Georgetown is easy to get around on foot, so take your time and sample different things as you go.
We found an incredible dumpling place down a little, unassuming side-street last time I was there. Unexpectedly delicious, and full of locals who were all very friendly in helping us choose food from the huge trolleys being pushed around. Each plate is covered by a large lid, which, when lifted, releases amazing aromas into the hot air. I can’t remember the last time time I was so excited about the way my food was delivered to me!
Love Lane is a little street crammed full of late-night bars, shisha spots and, if you stay out long enough, dancing and singing in the street. Head to my favourite, Micke’s Place, to soak it all in. It’s just off Chulia Street (the Main Street, home to the 7 Eleven which is also worth a visit!), where there are also plenty of bars and foodie havens.
This is a lovely place to spend the evening, and you’ll meet heaps of tourists and locals alike. It’s handily located near most of the main hostels, too, so hopefully you won’t have to wander far. If you get hungry on the way home, there are some food trucks and bars serving food ‘til late. After all, Penang is all about eating…
Enjoy and Explore
Like I said, I fell in love with Malaysia as soon as I arrived here. There are so many great things to do in Georgetown that I couldn’t fit them all into one day! For me, though, Georgetown was all about having fun, meeting new people and, of course, eating.