7 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Penang Island
Penang is an exciting place to visit. Home to major tourist attractions like the hilltop Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si Temple, and the historic Fort Cornwallis, this is no longer a small fishing village.
You don't need to spend a lot of time in this gorgeous island to enjoy the treasures it has to offer, however. Penang's neighborhoods are fun and charming, and you'll find that it's possible to discover true local flavor in the province, without sacrificing comfort and amenities. After a day of sightseeing, guests staying in Penang can sample the island's delicious cuisine or go shopping at major malls.
This video guide to the best things to do in Penang also includes information on Penang's popular nightlife, shopping, and public transportation.
If you are traveling with children, we recommend that you visit the Penang Botanical Gardens. There you can find special kids' areas with activities and babysitting services.
Any time of year is a good time to visit, but autumn is a great time to come, and you'll find it's a convenient departure point for backpacking through Southeast Asia.
Penang Hill (Bukit Penang), the highest point on Penang Island, offers great views of the north-western tip of Penang Island and the Penang Strait to the south, as well as of the other islands on this part of the strait. At its highest point, the grade 2 climb will take you to an elevation of 326 meters (1,067 ft). Activities include the scenic walk around the hill, through small villages and along the coast to Bekok River. There are also many coffee shops, small cafes, and bars offering good views across the Penang Strait. You will find hiking paths that will take you through tropical rainforests, on the coast, or along mountain streams.
Batu Ferringhi Beach
A black sandy beach with small restaurants and hotels, the beach attracts a large number of tourists during the months of November and December when the area is prone to overcrowding. This southern shore of Penang Island consists of half-moon bays, and the highlands stretching behind are home to rubber, pineapple and coconut plantations. The town of George Town on the island's east coast is the island's main commercial and cultural hub. Here, among the shops, galleries and cafes, you'll find the impressive Sikh temple of St. Andrew and the country's second-oldest mosque. The peninsula has excellent deep-sea fishing and scuba diving.
On Penang Island's northwestern coast lies this restored fort from the early 19th century. Made famous by the giant, covered pier protruding into the sea, Cornwallis has been the site of public hangings, high-water mark parties, and a tourist trap. Visitors to Cornwallis need to pay a small admission fee and buy a timed ticket (there's only a finite amount of time to look around inside) to visit the upper ground floor. The fortress also has exhibits on the history of the island and the British in Malaysia, and a great view out over the water.
Kek Lok Si Temple
A beautifully crafted one-room structure with several inscriptions in the local language called Latin, this temple was built in 1826 to commemorate the end of a war against the Dutch. Close to the temple is the infamous Penang Hill on which the Langkawi Turtle Farm, the oldest of its kind in Southeast Asia, is located. Several ships depart every day for Langkawi from Penang's port of Penang Island. Other towns along the scenic Penang Straits that are worth exploring include Georgetown, Seberang Perai and Limbang.
Fort Margherita is a replica of the Penang fortress built in 1753 by James Brooke, a Scottish adventurer, who is known as the "Tiger of Malaya". Constructed by the Dutch during their time as rulers of the area, the fort's white-washed walls have not fared well in time and have developed a nice patina, while interior spaces have seen some restoration and have been made welcoming with beautifully crafted screens and furnishings. A visit will leave you feeling like a traveling history class, as these fortified buildings provide plenty of historical evidence of the culture, architecture and fighting styles of the past. Enjoy the cool breezes and overlooks of the sea, as well as walking in some beautiful and peaceful nature areas.
The principal town of Penang Island (sometimes known as Penang) has a traditional laid-back feel, especially in the atmospheric colonial quarter of old George Town. Explore the quaint narrow streets, which are lined with shops selling local crafts, and the compact grid of colonial streets that leads to the heritage site of George Town. There are a number of popular shopping malls and larger supermarkets, with good selection of Western foods and fresh Malaysian and Asian cuisine. Although beaches are more developed in southern and eastern Penang, they're quite a long journey from George Town by car or train and there are also many mangrove forests and national parks to explore in the island's west and northwest.
Penang State Museum
Penang's State Museum has a unique collection of exhibits ranging from early Stone Age man-made ornaments to a beautiful collection of antique musical instruments. Opened in 1980, the Museum has its own theater for showing short films on various aspects of the state's past, highlighting its cultural heritage. The Museum's impressive exhibition hall houses not only an ever-changing and unique collection of Penang's cultural history, but also showcases permanent collections of Southeast Asian antiquities, stamps and coins, and art.