10 Best Things To Do in Georgetown

Georgetown Best Attractions

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 to result 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 the indigo-blue Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion to the ornate Kek Lok Si Temple. 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!

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    One of Penang’s most prominent attractions, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a stately 1880s manor that stands out because of its decidedly expressive indigo-blue facade. Designed in traditional Hakka-Teochew style, it was rescued from ruin in the 1990s and converted into a boutique heritage hotel – a conservation project that 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, seven staircases and five 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. Read More...

    • Address: 14, Leith Street, 10200 Penang
    • Tel: +604 262 0006
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    Clan Jetties

    Located straight down from Lebuh Chulia, the Clan Jetties – a series of six jetties that form part of the Penang Heritage Trail – is billed as one of the last bastions of old Chinese settlements on the island. Initially 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 afterward. Read More...

    • Location: Weld Quay, Georgetown
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    Built in 1801 by Penang’s first Indian Muslim settlers (East India Company troops), the Indo-Moorish Kapitan Keling Mosque is a Penang landmark, set at the junction of Lebuh Buckingham and Lebuh Pitt. The largest mosque in Georgetown, it 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 eight (the land was claimed by the government for the construction of roads); if you want to visit, will need the permission of mosque officials. Take note, that only properly-attired visitors are allowed entrance – for women this means longs pants or skirts, and shirts for men. Read More...

    • Opening Hours: 09:30 – 17:30
    • Address: Lebuh Buckingham and Lebuh Pitt
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    Kek Lok Si Temple

    Standing on a hilltop at Air Itam, Kek Lok Si is Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temple, comprising a series of monasteries, prayer halls, temples and beautifully-landscaped gardens. A national icon, built in 1890, the ten-acre site is divided into three zones: the lower level of the complex comprises the hill entrance, souvenir, food and drinks stalls and the turtle liberation pond. The middle section houses temples, gardens, a pagoda and the four heavenly kings pavilion, while 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 not-to-be-missed attractions, ranging from a seven-storey, 30m-high pagoda of Rama VI to a 36.5 metre-high bronze statue of Kuan Yin. Read More...

    • Location: Air Itam, Georgetown
    • Tel: +604 828 3317
    Khoo Kongsi

    One of Georgetown’s most interesting attractions, Khoo Kongsi is the most famous clan house in Penang, 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. Read More...

    • Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
    • Address: 18 Cannon Square, Georgetown
    • Tel: +604 261 4609
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    Kuan Yin Temple

    Penang’s oldest temple, Kuan Yin Temple is set on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (previously known as Pitt Street). Built in 1728, at the cost of 4,000 Spanish dollars (a princely 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 kongsis (clan houses) of Penang, it was originally used not only for religious 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 that of a beautiful 18-arm statue of Kuan Yin. Read More...

    • Location: Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling
    • Tel: +604 261 6663
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    Fort Cornwallis

    The largest standing fort in Malaysia, Fort Cornwallis was once an impressive star-shaped bastion intended as a defensive structure against pirates, Kedah forces and even the French during the Napoleonic Wars. Built in 1786, it is set 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.

    Spanning 4490sqft, originally it was built as a stockade with no permanent structures: today only a set of ten foot-high outer walls remain, with an enclosed park within.
     The 1812 Overture plays over the speaker system while a Malaysian man dressed in full British regalia stands at the gate: inside the fort is a variety of informative exhibits. Read More...

    • Opening Hours: 09:00 – 18:30 Daily
    • Location: Lebuh Light
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    Penang Street Art

    Making a stroll through Georgetown’s streets even more interesting, in 2012 Penang’s municipal council hired London-trained Lithuanian artist, Ernest Zacharevic, and tasked him with breathing new life into some of the atmospheric Chinese shop-houses around the inner city. An effort to spawn awareness of the rich history of the streets, the project was a success with Zacharevic turning certain areas into thriving tourist destinations that also became the much-talked about object of attention among locals.   

    His 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’, a mural of a young child dressed in ocean blue pyjamas flanked by the two real windows of its ‘canvas’ – a building along Muntri Street. Read More...

    • Location: around Georgetown (Jalan Penang, Muntri Street, Weld Quay, Lebuh Leith, Armenian Street, Ah Quee Street and more)
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    Escape Adventureplay is a newly-opened theme park in Penang, designed primarily as a tourist attraction. An ecologically-friendly venture integrated beautifully within the natural landscape surrounding it, 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 13m or 30m tower and the Tubby Ride, a gravity ride where participants sit on an inner tube and navigate through a twisting landscape. Safety is taken seriously at SIM Leisure Escape so visitors can rest assured that park officials have ensured that the rides at this family-oriented complex are 100% safe. Read More...

    • Address: 828 Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang
    • Tel: +604 229 2299
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    Sri Mariamman Temple is a Hindu temple set 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, built in the southern Indian Dravidian style, shining diamonds and precious stones are part of its façade and it is dominated by a 23.5ft-tall gopuram (entrance gate). This four-tiered tower has 38 brightly coloured sculptures of soldiers, Hindu gods and goddesses and floral decorations, plus four swans. The tower represents Mt. Meru, the celestial mountain that holds up the heavens, and the realm of the gods which begins in the temple compound.

    Pujas (prayers) at the temple take place in the mornings (07:30) and evenings (18:30). Read More...

    • Opening Hours: 06:30 – 12:00; 16:30 – 23:00
    • Location: Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (Lebuh Pitt)
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