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Possibly our favourite place in Malaysia is Georgetown, a colourful city located on the island of Penang. We love it’s rich mix of street art, delicious street food and it’s amazingly epic sites to visit like Kek Lok Si Temple. It is no small wonder Georgetown is a UNESCO world heritage site and should be an essential part of every Malaysia itinerary. Here is our detailed guide to Georgetown, Penang street art:
Georgetown Penang street art
One of the best and most rewarding free activities when visiting Georgetown is to see all the superb street art that is dotted around the city.
It all began back in 2012 when Penang Municipal Council hired Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic to produce a series of vibrant drawings and murals around the town. They wanted to breathe new life back into the old houses and Chinese shops, and to promote the rich history of the local area and streets. No-one anticipated quite how well known and visited these murals would become, and since then, new pieces have been added by other artists such as Louis Gan.
The various murals vary greatly in style and are spread far and wide across Penang’s city centre, along historical thoroughfares like Armenian Street, Weld Quay, Lebuh Leith and more.
Zacharevic’s pieces are spread out far and wide although most are concentrated in the historical quarter. We would recommend visiting one of the tourist information offices (the best one is on Beach Street) and picking up a free dedicated map to show where every mural is located. We love following the street art trail in its entirety and getting pictures with our favourites.
The ones we most enjoy are the interactive ones where you can actually join and be part of the scene, like the famous ‘Children on a Swing’ picture by Gan (found on the rear wall of the print warehouse in an alleyway off Chulia Street Ghaut).
FURTHER READING – top things to do in Georgetown, Penang
There are also several ‘unofficial’ artworks to enjoy whilst walking around town – even the hotel we were staying at (Chulia Mansion) has got in on the act, claiming to have the biggest mural in town.
Penang street art metal 3D artworks
Another terrific trail to follow is that of the cartoon steel art pieces that are affixed to the walls around Georgetown. These were commissioned back in 2010 before the street murals, likely kicking off the trend towards street-art in Penang. Although possibly less well known internationally than Zacharevic’s work and the subsequent newer murals, these are equally fun to spot and are much more consistent in style.
Travelling around Malaysia?
These metal 3D artworks depict local customs and history with quirky, cartoon-like imagery (a bit like the saucy seaside postcards we used to have in the UK). A highlight is the artwork on Lebuh Muntri that marks the shop where world famous cordwainer (or shoemaker to you and me) Jimmy Choo first learned his trade.
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All in all, Georgetown remains one of our favourite South East Asian delights but we have noticed a few changes over the years there during our trips. The number of tourists visiting here is seeming on the up and up and as such, we’ve seen a lot of new tourist attractions opening such as 3D artwork museums, escape rooms (groan) and chocolate museums.
However (and possibly as a direct result of this), the murals seem to be deteriorating at an alarming rate with no clear signs of them being looked after – this seems a serious oversight by the council. If Georgetown want to remain world renowned for their street art, they need to urgently invest in this – there may be new drawings being added all the time (yay!) but the original (and arguably most famous) need to be preserved pronto.
FURTHER READING – 20 of the best street art cities in the world
More Malaysia blog posts
- Things to do in Georgetown, Penang
- Kek Lok Si temple in Penang – travel guide
- The perfect 2 week Malaysia itinerary
- Top things to do in Langkawi, Malaysia
- A cheap day tour in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
- Tasting Malaysian cuisine on a Kuala Lumpur food tour
- Top things to do in Melaka, Malaysia
- Eating like a local on a Penang food tour
- Exploring Kuala Lumpur from Above – KL Tower and Eco Forest Park
- Visiting Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur for the Thaipusam Festival
- Island hopping in Langkawi, Malaysia
Download the Grab app
Grab taxis are widely used by both tourists and locals, and the fares are really cheap! Download the Grab app here and use the code GRABCKTRAVELS to earn a free ride when you sign up.
Sim cards and pocket WIFI
Having data on your phone whilst travelling is almost essential these days – from planning your route around the city, booking a Grab taxi or for staying connected with friends and family back home. SIM cards are pretty cheap in Malaysia with generous data allowances and are available to purchase from airports, malls and convenience stores (bring your passport along for identification purposes).
You can also prepay online and collect a SIM from KLIA2 airport. Just remember to make sure your phone is not locked to your local network provider before purchasing one.
Alternatively if you do not want to change your sim card then renting a pocket WIFI device might be for you. We’ve used them multiple times and love that we can both connect our devices to it, however the downside to the Malaysian ones is that there is a data allowance of 1GB per day. Pre-order one online with Klook for collection when you arrive at either KLIA or KLIA2 airport in Kuala Lumpur.
Some hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
House of Journey hostel
Family owned hostel is located in the heart of Georgetown. Check out prices and availability for House of Journey hostel
Old Penang Guesthouse hostel
Charming heritage guesthouse a stone’s throw from Penang’s major historical landmarks and tourist attractions. Check out prices and availability for Old Penang Guesthouse
Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel
Highly rated hostel located in the heart of the UNESCO Heritage zone. Check out prices and availability for Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel
If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:
Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site with rooftop bar. Check out prices and availability for Chulia Mansion
Le Dream Boutique Hotel
modern accommodation featuring a rooftop spa tub, restaurant and rooftop bar. Check out prices and availability for Le Dream Boutique Hotel
Nam Keng Hotel
Comfortable rooms with traditional decoration in a great location. Check out prices and availability for Nam Keng Hotel
Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Georgetown:
Stylish hotel with swimming pool and rooms with balconys. Check out prices and availability for Seven Terraces
Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion
Boutique accommodation with individually designed rooms housed in a Chinese courtyard-style mansion. Check out prices and availability for Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
19th century heritage accommodation with spacious colonial-style suites and an outdoor swimming pool with ocean views. Check out prices and availability for Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Did you enjoy our Georgetown street art / Penang street art blog post? Let us know in the comments or by staring the blog on social media.