Wow, time flies: did you know that it’s almost been a decade since George Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage City?
Let’s revisit why Penang’s capital is so well-loved among travelers via its top heritage sites. (And because we know you guys so well, we’ve also included nearby eateries so you won’t have to search far and wide for someplace to eat – you’re welcome!)
1. The Streets of Old George Town
When you mention George Town, its famous historical district is undoubtedly the first image that pops up in people’s minds, particularly its interactive street art.
Back in 2012, the city commissioned Lithuanian-born artist Ernest Zacharevic to breathe new life into the chipped walls of Old George Town’s buildings with clever wall murals that incorporate real-life objects, further putting the city on the map.
The works of other street artists have since mushroomed on the walls of streets and alleyways. Tourism Penang has even put together an easy-to-navigate map of where to find the various works of art, which you can access here. (Do note that some murals, such as “Boat” and “Broken Heart”, have since been expunged.)
Nearby eats: China House; Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls.
2. Khoo Kongsi
George Town is home to many prominent Chinese clans, many of which set up elaborate clan houses when they first settled in Penang, known as kongsi.
A clan’s kongsi is meant to represent the family’s success and wealth, and is also a central point for family gatherings and ancestral worship.
The Khoo clan’s kongsi is one of the most-visited clan houses, and is considered one of the grandest, thanks to its ornate design.
Its gold-painted carvings and stone statues are definitely a sight to behold.
Nearby eats: Edelweiss Cafe; Ping Hooi Cafe.
3. The Blue Mansion
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is more famously known as the Blue Mansion due to its distinctive indigo-blue hue.
The mansion features well-preserved and restored 18th and 19th-century Hakka–Teochew architecture, and is one of the few remaining traditional Chinese mansions outside of China.
The grandiose structure takes its name from Cheong Fatt Tze, the affluent Hakka merchant who commissioned its construction in the 1880s.
The opulent manor has 38 rooms, five granite-paved courtyards, seven staircases, and 220 wood-framed windows. While some of it remains a private residence, a part of it operates as a museum open to the public, and another part of it is run as a bed-and-breakfast.
Nearby eats: Hameediyah Restaurant; Kek Seng Ais Kacang.
4. Fort Cornwallis
Set along Penang island’s northeastern coast, Fort Cornwallis is Malaysia’s largest standing fort.
The star-shaped fort was first built in 1786, when British Captain Francis Light took possession of Penang Island from the Sultan of Kedah.
You can still visit its original structures and artifacts, such as a chapel, prison cells, an ammunition storage area, a harbour light, and some old bronze cannons.
Nearby eats: Hameed Pata Special Mee; Hussain Pasembur.
5. Pinang Peranakan Mansion
Another one of Penang’s famous dwellings is the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, which has been converted into a museum dedicated to the island’s long Peranakan history.
Also known as the Baba Nyonya, the Peranakan community are the descendants of Chinese immigrants, who assimilated to the local Malay culture.
The mansion was once the home of 19th century Chinese tycoon, Chung Keng Quee, who was one of the richest men in Penang at the time.
The jade-colored manor, which incorporates both Chinese and European architectural design, now features unique Peranakan antiques and artifacts.
Nearby eats: Auntie Gaik Lean’s; Jawi House Cafe & Gallery.
6. Penang Botanic Gardens
Explore George Town’s greener side at the Penang Botanic Gardens, which is located at the fringe of the city’s boundaries.
The Gardens are also known as the Waterfall Gardens due to the waterfalls nearby. Formerly an old quarry site, the Gardens were established by the British in the late 1880s.
The 30-hectare park is home to the island’s best jogging and hiking trails – a particular favorite is the trail that leads you up Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera), where you’ll get a panoramic view of the island. The trail begins at the Moon Gate near the park entrance along Jalan Kebun Bunga.
Nearby eats: Waterfall Cafe; Astaka Bukit Bendera (also known as Cliff Cafe)