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18 Things to do in Georgetown Penang, Malaysia (2023)

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Malaysia’s most colourful city, historic Georgetown on the island of Penang is a melting pot of culture, with its rich mix of delicious (and cheap!) street food, sublime street art and tranquil temples overlooking the ocean.

From eye-catching clan jetties to colonial architecture, Little India to Love Lane, there are many things to do in Georgetown in Penang.

A UNESCO world heritage site, whilst as well known as say Langkawi or Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown in Penang is quite simply a Malaysia must do.

Here is our guide to the top things to do in Georgetown, Penang (updated in 2023):

Click to skip to the accommodation section >

Things to do in Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

Things to do in Georgetown Penang:

1. Things to do in Georgetown – Street Art All Around

Possibly Georgetown’s top thing to do and best known ‘attraction’, the alley-ways and side-streets are awash with incredible artistry, illustrations and murals (most by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic).

Ernest Zacharevic street art swing Georgetown Penang Malaysia

This abundance of Georgetown street art was originally envisaged as a way to breathe new life back into Penang’s old shops and homes, and preserve the rich and vibrant history of the local area .

New Georgetown street art pieces still continue to appear on a regular basis, with the main street canvases concentrated along historical and commercial streets like Armenian Street, Lebuh Leith and Weld Quay.

See all of the main Georgetown murals in our guide to Georgetown street art >

2. ‘Marking Georgetown’ street art exhibition

Alongside the murals in Penang, there are cartoon metal artworks that are affixed to various walls around Georgetown.

Things to do in Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

The ironwork sculptures have been around since 2010 (before the murals became famous) and are a fun and novel way to learn more about Georgetown’s area’s rich history.

These are entitled ‘Marking George Town’ and were commissioned to commemorate their new UNESCO World Heritage Site Status.

3. Colonial Georgetown

Penang was a significant and historical trade link between Asia and Europe, and the older Georgetown streets are still well preserved and reflect those early European touches.

To a certain degree, a trip to Georgetown is a little like stepping back in time, especially as you wander around Fort Cornwallis or browse the shops and houses along Beach Street.

Things to do in Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

Other classic Colonial examples of architecture that can still be seen today in Georgetown include the regal Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower (built in the 1890s for her Diamond Jubilee) and St George’s Church (built in the late 1810s and Southeast Asia’s oldest Anglican church).

CK Travels Tip – You can also learn more at the dedicated Georgetown Colonial Penang Museum or on the complimentary walking tour organised by the Tourist Information centre; one of the best free things to do in Georgetown; more on this later. 2023 update – these free walking tours have been suspending since COVID times.

You might likeExplore Georgetown Half Day City Tour >

Things to do in Georgetown, Penang - travel guide
St George’s Church

4. Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian)

In the heart of Georgetown’s heritage district lies Lebua Armenian, a vivid and brightly coloured historic street with old shophouses that are now home to gift shops, cafes and tea rooms – this is also one of the best places to see Georgetown’s magnificent street art.

Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian) Georgetown, Penang
Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian) Georgetown, Penang

5. Little India in Georgetown

Georgetown’s colourful culinary centre is awash with street food stalls and restaurants offering all manner of delicious Malaysian Indian cuisine. You will also see several places of worship including Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Penang.

Little India Georgetown, Penang - travel guide
Little India Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

Centred around Chulia Street and Queen Street, Georgetown’s Little India district has a number of shops and stalls that sell everything from gold jewellery, flowers and saris through to cheap trinkets and your standard souvenirs.

It is easy to find Little India when approaching the neighbourhood- just listen for and follow the loud Bollywood style music that emanates from many of the stores in this area. It is a joyful and rejuvenating thing to do in Georgetown.

Little India Indian food Georgetown, Penang - travel guide
Little India night lights Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

6. Chinatown, Georgetown

One of only three Chinatowns in the world to be located in a UNESCO World Heritage site (fact-fans, the other two are in Malacca and Laos), Georgetown’s Chinatown in Penang is a charming concoction of clan houses, souvenir stalls, tea houses and restaurants.

Chinatown Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

Based originally along China Street but since expanding all the way to Little India, the best way to circumnavigate Chinatown is to start in the Kuan Yin Teng Temple, Penang’s oldest Taoist temple built in 1728.

Always busy, Kuan Yin Teng Temple is a wonderful place of worship to visit, especially the main praying hall. Souvenir hunters can find a wide variety of Georgetown gifts here including jade and crystals.

You might likea private full day tour exploring the ‘seven wonders’ of Georgetown >

Chinatown Georgetown, Penang - travel guide
Dim sum Chinatown Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

7. Clan Jetties

Not something we’ve ever come across on our travels before or since, when we look back on our previous trips to Georgetown and Malaysia, it is always the Georgetown clan jetties that we remember most fondly.

Clan Jetties Georgetown, Penang - travel guide

Located near to the main ferry terminal, these six family / clan jetties in Georgetown are over a century old, each with their own unique character – you never quite know what to expect when you walk down them.

Whilst some of the Georgetown Clan Jetties are geared towards tourists like Chew Jetty (gift shops galore and the longest jetty), some are entirely residential and give you a brief glimpse into the lives of the locals and Penang residents.

Remember to use common sense when taking pictures as you are wandering around people’s homes – and try not to disturb the families that live here.

Clan Jetties Georgetown, Penang

8. Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yim – a hidden gem of a temple

We aren’t actually sure if this is classed as one of the above clan jetties as it is newer (built in the 1970s) so we’ve listed it separately as for us, this is one of the hidden gems of Georgetown and one of our must do things in Georgetown.

Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yim Temple Georgetown Penang

We’ve visited Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yim temple on multiple occasions and on all those occasions, we’ve had this serene seabound ‘floating’ temple all to ourselves with no other tourists in sight.

Dedicated to Kuan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy), this Buddhist Georgetown temple is one of the most beautiful and tranquil places of worship we’ve ever encountered (small but sublime) – likely something to do with being in a temple surrounded by the sounds of ocean waves.

You might like Heritage Tour and Trishaw Ride in Penang >

Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yim Temple Georgetown Penang

9. Hawker markets and Georgetown Street Food

Everyone knows Georgetown in Penang is renowned for its amazing street food – some publications such as CNN have even described Georgetown as the ‘best street food in Asia’.

Whilst we aren’t saying that, there is an array of fantastic food courts and hawker centres to indulge at (and prices are comparatively cheap compared to other parts of Malaysia).

One thing to note about the food courts in Georgetown is that if you want to sit at a table, you normally also have to buy a drink from one of the serving staff, in addition to your food.

Hawker markets  Penang

Our favourite Penang foodie places include:

Sri Weld Food Court

We discovered this food-court on Beach Street after doing our free walking tour (it is near to the main tourist information office) and were enticed in by the sight of the nasi lemak stall at the entrance.

They were making a big batch en masse and were so graceful in how they made it – delicious, filling and cheap as.

CF Food Court 

The largest food court in the area, this is the Georgetown food-court visited by Anthony Bourdain (RIP) on his hugely popular No Reservations series.

We were regular visitors to the CF Foodcourt both in the day and night, as it is close to all the main historic Georgetown attractions. Better still, there is lots of choice and mainly frequented by locals which is always a good sign.

CF Food Court Penang
CF Food Court 

New Lane Hawker Centre

A collection of around 20 or so street food stalls alongside a busy road, the New Lane Hawker Centre is a popular pitstop for our late night snacking.

The rojak here was particularly good – a kind of fruit salad with shrimp paste, tofu and peanuts.

Red Garden Food Paradise

Whilst this can be tourist central, the evenings are always entertaining here due to their rather interesting music sets. They even had ‘ladyboys on pianos’ (their words) one night we visited.

Make sure you get a table before ordering food, as they’ll want to know where you are sitting.

Red Garden Food Paradise Penang
Red Garden Food Paradise

10. Enjoy a Georgetown Food Tour

A Georgetown Penang food tour is a must do for any food lover and is a great way to check out some local hidden gems you might not find by yourself.

We did an evening food tour in Georgetown with Food Tour Malaysia and got to sample some of Penang’s classic dishes from a variety of street food stalls, hawker centres and restaurants.

Read more in our food tour in Penang blog post >

Georgetown, Penang food tour

Other Georgetown Penang food tours:

Check out our What to eat in Penang food guide >

Georgetown, Penang food tour
Georgetown, Penang food tour

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11. Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls

Chulia Street comes alive at dusk with the hustle and bustle of hawker vendors and the unmistakable aromas of incredible Malaysian street food.

Recommended and inexpensive street food dishes in Georgetown include:

Char Kway Teow
Flat fried noodles with Chinese noodles, cockles and shrimp – you can purchase from food stalls or restaurants.

Lok lok
Get your fill of fish balls or veg at a lok lok stall, where you steam / boil your food on a stick, and pay based on the coloured sticker on your skewer (so for instance, the meats are more expensive than the veg skewers).

Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls
Lok lok Penang Malaysia
Lok lok stall

12. Love Lane

Love Lane is a narrow street in Georgetown’s historic quarter, where the brightly coloured colonial style homes and houses have generally been transformed into all manner of hostels and cheap (ish) backpacker accommodation.

Love Lane Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Most of the Love Lane hostels in Georgetown have their own bars too making this area one of the more vibrant parts of Georgetown.

Once home to Penang’s redlight and brothel district (likely how the ‘Love Lane’ name came about), this is worth a walk down in the early evening: the Holy Guacamole Mexican restaurant here always seemed insanely busy, likely due to its happy hour drinks deals.

Love Lane Georgetown Penang Malaysia

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13. Kek Lok Si temple

Meaning the ‘Temple of Paradise’ and the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, our visits to Kek Lok Si Temple are one of our best ever South East Asian experiences.

Kek Lok Si temple

Just a short bus or Grab taxi ride away from Georgetown’s historic heart, Kek Lok Si is located at the base of Air Itam Market.

We cannot recommend it enough, from the tranquil temples and pagoda views, through to the funicular railway up to the huge Kuan Yin / Goddess of Mercy statue which you can see from miles around

Find out more in our guide to visiting Kek Lok Si including how to get there >

Kek Lok Si temple

14. Komtar Tower

The tallest tower in Penang and the third largest tower in Malaysia outside of Kuala Lumpur, Komtar Tower is just under 300 metres high with 68 floors.

Komtar Tower houses a rather strange mall below it and plus several amusement park style attractions and museums – which were always deathly quiet whenever we visited.

Komtar Tower Penang

The main reason to visit the Komtar Tower is for the observation deck on the 58th floor that offers stunning panoramic views of Georgetown and the surrounding Penang bays.

On the rooftop of the Komtar tower is the open air Rainbow Skywalk where you can walk on a curved glass ledge and look down at the streets of Georgetown.

The views are awesome and we recommend arriving just before sunset so you can take photos during dusk and at night. Rainbow Skywalk is also the highest glass skywalk in Malaysia – just don’t look down!

One of the newest attractions at the Komtar Tower is The Gravityz, billed as the world’s highest rope course and located on the exterior of the top floor – eek!

Book your discounted The Top at Komtar Tower here >

Komtar Tower Penang

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15. Pinang Peranakan Mansion

The beautiful Pinang Peranakan is a Chinese courtyard style mansion that was lovingly restored in 2004 after being abandoned and left to decay after World War Two.

It once served as the residence of Chung Keng Kwee, the richest man in Penang in the late 19th century but is now a museum dedicated to Penang’s Peranakan heritage, housing more than 1000 pieces of antiques and collectibles.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

The decor inside is gorgeous and has architectural elements from both east and west, featuring Chinese crafted wood panels along with British floor tiles and Scottish ironwork.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion is open to the public everyday for a 25 MYR entrance fee and guided tours are available. Price correct as at June 2023.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

16. Khoo Kongsi

A sublime and spiritual experience, visiting the Khoo (their family name) Kongsi (clan house) is one of the most rewarding things to do in Georgetown, Penang.

Khoo Kongsi Penang

Said to be the finest clan house outside of China, this version of Khoo Kongsi was built in 1906 after the earlier temple burned down (said to have incurred due to the wrath of the gods – oh dear!).

Khoo Komgsi was also bombed during WWII and has since been restored by the clan members. The admission fee includes access to a museum exploring the history of the Khoo Kongsi.

17. Fort Cornwallis

Constructed by the British East India Tea Company in 1810 to protect the island of Penang from invasion (which never actually happened), the resulting fort was named after Lord Cornwallis. Fort Cornwallis is the largest fort of its kind in Malaysia.

Fort Cornwallis Penang

It also marks the location where Captain Francis Light, the ‘founder’ of Penang Island first landed in 1786 (he has a statue within the fort).

Today, of the 100 or so cannons that were once installed at Fort Cornwallis, only a handful remain and make for a poignant photo opportunity.

We were a little underwhelmed by what we found inside Fort Cornwallis so this might be one Georgetown thing to do for history buffs – we thought there was very little to see or explore once inside (maybe other forts have spoiled it for us).

18. Free Georgetown Penang walking tour (currently unavailable)

2023 update – these free walking tours have been on hold since the start of the COVID pandemic.

Free 90 minute walking tours are run by the tourist information centre every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday at 10.30am and are a perfect introduction to historical Georgetown Penang.

The booking system is a little odd – you have to arrive early on the day of the tour to claim your place, and then return at the appointed time (you cannot book the day in advance).

We recommend you definitely do this as they limit guests to around 20 people per group. Tipping is greatly appreciated at the end of the tour.

Other fun things to do in Georgetown / Penang

The Habitat Penang Hill
Canopy Walk with 360-degree panoramic view of Penang Island – the highest viewing point of Penang. Click here to book

ESCAPE Theme Park in Penang
Over 30 thrilling activities including ziplining, water slides, rides and games with aerial views of Penang’s forest – just half an hour away from Georgetown. Click here to book

Wonderfood Museum
Unique museum in the heart of Penang featuring oversized replicas of traditional Malaysian dishes. Click here to book

Tropical Spice Garden Experience
Landscaped award-winning gardens set out over 8 acres of secondary jungle valley and more than 500 varieties of tropical flora and fauna from around the world. Click here to book

Dark Mansion Museum
3D glow in the dark museum with special light effects creating day to night transitions. Click here to book

Pinkfong Baby Shark Adventure Ville
New Baby Shark-themed playground in Penang! Click here to book

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion Tour in Penang
Soak up the beauty and history of the iconic The Blue Mansion. Click here to book

Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm
The largest butterfly garden in Malaysia with more than 15,000 butterflies. Click here to book

Boutique Aquarium at The TOP Penang
Aquarium with displays of tropical fish and sharks, plus events for kids such as feeding sessions. Click here to book

How to get to Georgetown Penang

Penang is a popular tourist destination and there are plenty of affordable ways to reach there:

By plane

The island of Penang has an international airport which operates more than 20 flights a day to and from the island (including budget airlines such as Air Asia).

We have booked flights as cheap as £5 (25 MYR) one way from Kuala Lumpur to Penang in the past, and is definitely the most convenient way to reach Georgetown. Check Skyscanner for the best fares >

By bus

Taking the bus to Penang is an affordable option which is great for backpackers or for travellers who are in no rush.

Most coach operators run clean and comfortable services, and Penang has direct routes to Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and other destinations (make sure your final drop off bus station is in Georgetown).

Use 12Go Asia to find the best bus fares for your trip to Georgetown:

Powered by 12Go Asia system

By train

There are 2 fast Electronic Train Service (ETS) routes from Kuala Lumpur every day taking 4 hours 15 minutes, and is one of the quickest ways to reach Penang.

The train arrives at Butterworth, so you will need to hop on a short 15 minute ferry ride from there to reach Georgetown. Overnight trains are also available from KL, and one advantage of taking an overnight train is that is does save one nights accommodation!

By ferry

If you also plan to visit Langkawi Island as part of your Malaysia itinerary then you can get the ferry to and from there direct from Georgetown!

The ferry departs twice a day from Langkawi to Penang’s Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal, costing 80 MYR for a 2 and a half hour journey.

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Getting around Georgetown Penang

Georgetown is pretty compact so easily explored by foot. If you do not feel like walking or need to go somewhere a bit further out of town then we highly recommend Grab taxis. They are widely used by both tourists and locals, and the fares are really cheap! Download the Grab app here > 

Georgetown Penang accommodation


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 

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

Mid range

If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:

Chulia Mansion
We have stayed at this hotel twice and love it’s central location and rooftop bar area. 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

Treat yourself!

Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Georgetown:

Seven Terraces
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

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 airportJust 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. 

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