Georgetown is a pedestrian-friendly city, with a well-planned series of roads and paths connecting one end of Penang’s capital to the other. Here, lots of random goodness has been mixed together, resulting in a city that is just so vibrant – think colourful street art caricatures right beside centuries-old temples, and you are right on the money.

    There is a wealth of creativity, plus a dedication to preserving this island state’s colonial heritage and evidence of this can be found just about everywhere, from indigo-blue mansions to ornate temples. What we love best about Georgetown is that although almost everything is within walking distance, you do not have to walk if you don’t want to – simply hire a brightly-coloured trishaw and be delivered to the entrance of each temple and art-filled street!

    What are the best things to do in Georgetown?


    Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

    A heritage landmark you can spend the night in

    • History
    • Photo

    Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a stately 1880s manor that stands out because of its decidedly expressive indigo-blue facade. One of Penang’s most prominent attractions, it's designed in the traditional Hakka-Teochew style and was rescued from ruin in the 1990s and converted into a boutique heritage hotel. The conservation project went on to win numerous architectural awards.

    It has even been featured in international films such as the 1993 Oscar-winning French film Indochine and the critically-acclaimed 2009 motion picture The Blue Mansion, as well as several TV programs on networks such as CNN, The History Channel, and the BBC. Under its roof, you will find 38 rooms that feature art-nouveau stained glass, Straits Chinese floor tiles, 220 timber-frame windows, 7 staircases and 5 granite-paved courtyards. You can choose to visit the mansion on a one-hour guided tour or you can even spend a night at the boutique bed and breakfast.

    Location: 14, Lebuh Leith, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia


    Clan Jetties

    Rustic stilt houses over the water

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    • Budget

    The Clan Jetties is a series of 6 jetties that form part of the Penang Heritage Trail, located straight down from Lebuh Chulia. They're billed as one of the last bastions of old Chinese settlements on the island. Initially, the place was a wood yard littered with planks and firewood, after the construction of the Quay in 1882. The waterfront was developed with short public landing stages (jetties). In time, settlements grew on these foundations, with each named and dominated by certain clans. Due to constant rivalry over access and monopoly of work consignments on the docks, relationships between the clans were very antagonistic and often led to bitter fights and disputes.

    Seven different clans still reside at the Clan Jetties: the Lim, Chew, Tan, and Yeoh jetties are the oldest, and the Koay, Lee, and Mixed Surname jetties were built afterwards.

    Location: Pengkalan Weld, George Town, 10300 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +60 (0)19-5935 333


    Kapitan Keling Mosque

    The largest mosque in Georgetown

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    The Indo-Moorish Kapitan Keling Mosque is a Penang landmark, set at the junction of Lebuh Buckingham and Lebuh Pitt. Built in 1801 by Penang’s first Indian Muslim settlers (East India Company troops), it is the largest mosque in Georgetown and was named after the ‘kapitan’ of the Keling (a leader of the South Indian community similar to the leader of the Chinese community), Cauder Mydin Merican.

    The whitewashed mosque is topped with large golden-yellow Mughal-style domes, crescents, and stars and features a single, typical Indian-Islamic minaret from which the sound of the azan (call to prayer) can be heard. It used to sprawl across 18 acres but now encompasses only 8 (the land was claimed by the government for the construction of roads). If you want to visit, you will need the permission of mosque officials. Take note that only properly attired visitors are allowed entrance – for women, this means long pants or skirts and shirts for men.

    Location: 14, Jln Buckingham, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

    Open: Daily from 5 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +60 (0)4-261 4215


    Kek Lok Si Temple

    A grand hilltop temple complex

    • History
    • Photo

    Kek Lok Si is Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temple, comprising a series of monasteries, prayer halls, temples, and beautifully landscaped gardens. A national icon, it was built in 1890 on a hilltop at Air Itam. The 10-acre site is divided into 3 zones: the lower level of the complex comprises the hill entrance, souvenir and food and drink stalls, as well as the turtle liberation pond. The middle section houses temples, gardens, a pagoda, and the 4 heavenly kings pavilion. The hilltop is home to an enormous statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin, as well as more gardens and temples.

    Carved into the rock face and perched atop the slopes of Air Itam, it is a cornerstone of the Malaysian Chinese community and is also called the ‘Temple of Supreme Bliss’. There are several stunning and not-to-be-missed attractions, ranging from a 7-storey, 30-metre-tall pagoda of Rama VI to a 36.5-metre bronze statue of Kuan Yin.

    Location: Kek Lok Si Temple, Jln Balik Pulau, 11500 Air Itam, Penang, Malaysia

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +60 (0)4-828 3317


    Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

    An ornate clan temple and museum

    • History
    • Photo

    Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi, or just Khoo Kongsi for short, is the most famous clan house in Penang and one of Georgetown’s most interesting attractions. It was built some 650 years ago on Jalan Acheh, off Lebuh Pitt. A kongsi (clan house) is a building in which Chinese families of the same surname gather to worship their ancestors. They were initially developed as a way for 19th-century immigrants to band together according to their respective districts.

    Khoo Kongsi is an impressive architectural feat, said to be the most impressive clan house in Southeast Asia. At the height of the Khoo family’s prominence, craftsmen from China were commissioned to build this architectural masterpiece, which is also known as Dragon Mountain Hall. Standing on a square of granite with stone carvings that adorn the entrance hall, inside there are pavilions, murals portraying birthdays, weddings and 36 divine guardian statues.

    Location: 18, Cannon Square, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +60 (0)4-261 4609


    Kuan Yin Temple 1880

    Penang's oldest temple

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Kuan Yin Temple, located on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (formerly known as Pitt Street), is Penang's oldest temple. Built in 1728 at the cost of 4,000 Spanish dollars (a considerable sum at the time), it was constructed by early immigrant settlers from China in honour of the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin. Older than the kongsi (clan houses) of Penang, it was originally used not only for religious purposes but also for social functions within the Chinese community.

    The temple features classic Chinese architecture with carvings of dragons around the stone pillars, high ceilings, and ceramic sculptures of dragons lining the roof ridges. However, one of the temple's highlights is a beautiful 18-arm statue of Kuan Yin.

    Location: Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

    Phone: +60 (0)14-261 5358


    Fort Cornwallis

    Malaysia's largest standing fort

    • History
    • Photo
    • Budget

    Fort Cornwallis is an impressive star-shaped bastion originally built in 1786 as a defensive structure against pirates, Kedah forces, and even the French during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest standing fort in Malaysia, it is located close to the Esplanade and Penang Clocktower and was named after Marquis Charles Cornwallis. Although it was intended for the Royal artillery troops and the military, it served an administrative function rather than an actively defensive one.

    Originally built as a stockade with no permanent structures, it spans 4,490 sq ft. Today, only a set of 10-ft-high outer walls remain, with an enclosed park within. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture plays over the speaker system while a Malaysian man dressed in full British regalia stands at the gate. Inside the fort, there is a variety of informative exhibits.

    Location: Jalan Tun Syed Sheh Barakbah, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

    Open: Wednesday–Monday from 8 am to 11 pm, Tuesday from 8 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +60 (0)4-263 9855


    Penang street art

    Vibrant artworks in the open

    • History
    • Photo

    To make a stroll through Georgetown's streets even more interesting, Penang's municipal council hired London-trained Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, to breathe new life into some of the atmospheric Chinese shophouses around the inner city. The project aimed to raise awareness of the rich history of the streets and was a success, with Zacharevic turning certain areas into thriving tourist destinations that also became the much-talked-about object of attention among locals.

    Zacharevic's artwork is spread out across Penang's city centre, along roads like Muntri Street, Weld Quay, Lebuh Leith, Armenian Street, Ah Quee Street, and more. The most widely known is the 20-foot-high Little Girl In Blue. This mural of a young child dressed in ocean blue pyjamas is flanked by the 2 real windows of its 'canvas' – a building along Muntri Street.

    Location: 316, Beach St, Georgetown, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia


    ESCAPE Penang

    Thrills and fun rides

    • Families
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    • Adventure

    ESCAPE Penang is a theme park in Penang primarily designed as a tourist attraction. It is an ecologically friendly venture integrated beautifully within the natural landscape surrounding it, and the park has gained popularity for its variety of water and thrill rides. 

    Some of its exciting activities include the Powerfan, a freefall descent from a 13-metre or 30-metre tower, and the Tubby Ride, a gravity ride where participants sit on an inner tube and navigate through a twisting landscape.

    Location: 828, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang, 11050 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays)


    photo by Cmglee (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Sri Mariamman Temple

    A vivid temple in Little India

    • History
    • Photo

    Sri Mariamman Temple is a Hindu temple located on Lebuh Queen and Lebuh Chulia in Georgetown's compact Little India district. Built in 1833, the temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Subramaniam. Also known as the Arulmigu Sri Mahamariamman Temple or Queen Street Indian Temple, it is the oldest Hindu temple on the island.

    A typical example of Hindu architecture, it was built in the southern Indian Dravidian style. The façade of the temple is adorned with shining diamonds and precious stones, and it is dominated by a 23.5-ft-tall gopuram (entrance gate). This 4-tiered tower has 38 brightly coloured sculptures of soldiers, Hindu gods and goddesses, and floral decorations, as well as four swans. The tower represents Mount Meru, the celestial mountain that holds up the heavens, and the realm of the gods, which begins in the temple compound. Pujas (prayers) take place at the temple in the mornings (7.30 am) and evenings (6.30 pm).

    Location: Queen St, Georgetown, 10450 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 12 pm and 5 pm to 9.05 pm

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveller

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