Things to Do in Penang Malaysia

33 Best Things to Do in Penang (& What Not to Do)

Looking for what to do in Penang? 

Luckily there are so many fun things to do in Penang (maybe too many tbh?)! 

I travel full time and have visited, and lived in, so many places in South East Asia. Penang remains one of my favorites. So to help you totally rock your visit to this island in Malaysia, I’ve created this epic list of what I think are the 33 best Penang activities.

Do you think you can hit all 33? 😉

Ok, ok – if you skip a few that’s ok, but you definitely DON’T want to miss #5 (my personal favorite thing to do!)

Oh, and stay until the end of the post for a few special bonuses: 

Table of Contents

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33 Fun Things to Do in Penang

1. Explore Street Art in George Town

Street Art in Penang
Fun with street art in Penang!

📍 Google Maps | Free | Note: some street art installations are likely to have queues

If there is one thing that Penang’s George Town is famous for, it is the street art plastered all over buildings and walls across the town.

The above photo of children on a bicycle is likely the most famous street art in George Town, but there are dozens of works to be found all over the city (use this useful street art map)!

👉 Pro tip: To find the most street art in Penang, I suggest wandering the area around Lebuh Armenian and Lebuh Acheh streets. It’s a great free thing to do in George Town! 

2. Relax at Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach, a Top Place to Visit in Penang

📍 Google Maps | Free entrance (boats from 50 RM) | Take a Grab taxi or Bus 101 from Georgetown

Monkey Beach is a secluded beach buried inside Penang National Park – it’s the sort of stunning beach you’d find in Thailand, but without the crowds. 

You can’t drive here, so you’ll need to either take a boat from the entrance to the national park (cost is around RM 50 per boat) or brave the 1.5-2 hour hike through the jungle to reach the beach. 

Once there, kick back and enjoy a drink while relaxing at one of Monkey Beach’s shack bars. There are even very basic huts that you can rent and stay overnight! 

3. Hike Penang National Park

A beach in Penang National Park
One of Penang National Park’s many stunning beaches

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 881 3530 | Website | Take a Grab taxi or bus 101 from Georgetown

It may be the smallest national park in Malaysia but don’t count it out of your list of the best things to do in Penang.

Penang National Park is located on the northwest tip of the island and offers several great hiking trails through the jungle, most of which will spit you out on one of the park’s many secluded beaches!

Be sure to pack extra water for your hike, and consider camping overnight in some of the huts available on the beaches. 

👉 Short on Time? If you’re trying to cover all the best stuff to do in a day or two in Penang, it’s going to be hard unless you have a car. I’d suggest you check out this highly rated private tour on Viator, which you can customize to take you where you want to go.

4. Take a Street Food Tour

Street Food in Penang Malaysia

One of the best things about Penang is that it sits at a cultural intersection, with at least three major ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese, and Indian).

Nowhere is this more on display than in the famous food scene of Penang! From street food to fine dining, Penang is a culinary tapestry just waiting to be explored.  

Since there are so many options, many tourists to Penang choose to take a guided food tour with a street food expert. This is a case where a guided tour makes a lot of sense to me – they help you to sample only the best food stations and can also help avoid any nasty tummy surprises later. 

The two best reviewed Penang street food tours are: 

  • 👉 Georgetown Dinner Hop Tour – a tour led by a super knowledgeable local expert. This is the highest-rated food tour in Penang.
  • 👉 Georgetown 4 Hour Food Tour – this one has over a hundred perfect reviews and earned Viator’s coveted Badge of Excellence.

Happy eating! 

5. Brave the Top at Komtar (My Personal Favorite Thing to do in Penang)

The Top at Komtor Penang
Don’t look down!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 375 9800 | Website | ~$16 USD for The Top / Rainbow Skywalk Combo Ticket

This is probably my personal pick for the absolute best thing to do in Penang!

The Top at the Komtar is an entertainment complex at the pinnacle of a skyscraper loaded with great views and lots of fun (if a tad cheesy) things to do. You can walk out over the glass “Rainbow Walkway” or sit and have a drink on the excellent rooftop (a great place to watch the sunset in Penang).

If you’re the daring type, you can even walk around the outside of the tower on a ropes course!

For quick entrance, buy your tickets online in advance. I suggest you come in the afternoon and stay for a drink on the roof at sunset!

6. Tour the Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion

The Blue Mansion Penang
The Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 262 0006 | Website | 👉 Book Cheong Fatt Tze Hotel on Booking

This charming mansion once belonged to a 19th century Chinese industrialist so famous he was nicknamed by The New York Times “The Rockefeller of the East.”

A major renovation in the 1990s won the Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion UNESCO status, and the gorgeous interior of this heritage hotel has served as the set for multiple movies – including the mahjong scene in the blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians.

Tours run at 11 AM, 2 PM, and 3:30 PM.

You can book your ticket here for about $6 USD. Or for a real treat, book a stay for a night in the Mansion.

7. Climb to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Waterfall Temple

Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani temple Penang Malaysia

📍 Google Maps | Hours: 6 am – 12 pm, 5 pm – 9 pm daily

You’ll have to climb 513 stairs to check this one off your list of things to do in Penang, but you’ll be rewarded with some time to explore a fascinating Hindu temple honoring the deity Murugan.

And you’ll also be treated to spectacular views of the Georgetown skyline in the distance. 

8. Ascend Penang Hill

View of Georgetown from Penang Hill Malaysia
The View from Penang Hill

📍 Google Maps | Hours: 6:30 AM to 11 PM (last train from top station) | Cost: Adults RM 12, Children RM 6 roundtrip

The next item on our list of what to do in Penang also involves a bit of an ascent (sensing a trend here?), but at least this time you have the option to be whisked to the top of Penang Hill in a funicular!

This funicular track is the longest and steepest in Asia and will take you to the top of this former colonial hill station, where you’ll be able to take in some incredible views of the island. You can pre-purchase your funicular tickets here.

You can also hike Penang Hill if you prefer (get ready to sweat!)

9. Explore the Tropical Spice Garden

View of the footbridge in the middle of the forest inside Penang’s Tropical Spice Garden
Forest Inside Tropical Spice Garden in Penang

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 12 423 6797 | Website | Cost: Adults 45 RM (Guided) or 29 RM (Audio)

Who knew that plants could be so interesting? At the Tropical Spice Garden, a popular eco-friendly Penang attraction, you can stroll through a garden showcasing 500+ species of herbs and spices.

Guided tours are available, or you can take it at your own pace with an audio tour. And for a special treat, book one of their special night tours to see the garden in a different light.

10. Marvel at a “Floating Mosque”

Penang Floating Mosque

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 12 405 1324 | Hours: 24 Hours Open | Free entrance, boats from 50 RM

The Tanjung Bungah Mosque occupies a unique position suspended out over the ocean, leading it to earn the nickname “the Floating Mosque.”

Only about a decade old, the structure is impressive and well worth a spot on your list of what to do in Penang owing to its unique backdrop of views of the city and the ocean.

Be respectful, and refrain from visiting during prayers.

11. Go Cycling in The Countryside

View of a motorcycle and the tourists cycling near the wide greenspace in Penang
If you’re licensed, a motorbike is also an option for exploring Penang (photo: Ije / Shutterstock)

Penang isn’t all about Georgetown! The island is huge and filled with green countryside that has a labyrinth of side roads, alleys, and paths. The best way to see it is to just grab a bike and start exploring!

If you want someone else to handle the hassle for you, this highly rated cycling tour will pick you up at your hotel, give you a bike, and take you biking to all the best spots. At less than $30 USD per person, it’s a pretty affordable thing to do in Penang!

12. Check Out St. George’s Church

Exterior view of the beautiful St. George’s Church on a sunny day

📍 Google Maps

St. George’s Church was founded in 1818 and is the oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia.

While St. George’s Church is a relatively small structure compared to more famous houses of worship in Europe, it’s an important historic site and one of the easiest things to do Penang offers in the downtown Georgetown area. 15 minutes is plenty for a quick visit to snap some photos, and then from there, you can easily walk to the next Penang attraction on this list …

13. Explore Penang’s Little India

Little India a Top Place to Visit in Penang
Little India, Georgetown by Night

📍 Google Maps

One of the most wonderful things about traveling to Penang is the incredible mixture of cultures on this charming island. And the best place in Penang to get a taste of that multiculturalism is in Little India.

Wander the streets and just take in the sites, the smells, and the sounds. Browse local vendors, try some street food, and just generally get lost in the bustling ambiance of Little India.

👉 Pro trip: visit Little India in the evening for a different vibe.

14. Visit the Clan Jetties of Penang

Tan Jetty Penang, a Top Thing to do
If a dock could have an Instagram account…

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 19 593 5333 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 9 pm daily

George Town’s clan jetties are definitely one of the most unique attractions in Penang!

What’s a clan jetty?

Well, I’m glad you asked: clan jetties are basically stilted villages perched out over the water. There are several of them very near each other on George Town’s east coast, and they are an important part of Penang’s heritage.

Chew Jetty is the most famous and most tourist friendly attraction, with lots of vendors and shops. Next door you’ll find Tan Jetty (pictured above), which is probably the most photogenic of the bunch.

Each clan jetty has a different feel, so try to check a few out.

15. Wander Colonial Georgetown

Georgetown is a Top Area to Stay in Penang
Georgetown’s Old Town from above

Another great free thing to do in Penang is to simply wander George Town’s colonial old town.

The entire area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and simply strolling the streets, admiring the architecture, and taking in the attractions is a can’t-miss bucket list item for any visitor to George Town. 

16. Chill Out at Batu Ferringhi Beach

Batu Ferrenghi beach in Penang
Me on Batu Ferringhi beach

📍 Google Maps

The Batu Ferringhi Beach is probably the most popular beach in Penang, and it is certainly the most accessible Penang beach.

The beachfront itself offers really nice sand and decent if not perfectly clear, water. You can partake in various water-sports activities here: jetski rentals, banana boat rides, and parasailing vendors are easy to find throughout the beach.

There are also a small handful of beach bars – Bora Bora being the most popular.

17. Eat at a Hawker Market

Hawkers markets are a top thing to do in Penang
The Red Garden Hawker Centre in Penang

There are way too many hawker street food markets and stalls in Penang to list them all, but you definitely have to put eating hawker food on your list of things to do in Penang. Here is a good rundown of some of the best hawker stalls in Penang. 

Oh, and be sure to try Char Koay Teow – the pad Thai-like noodle dish that is famous in Penang! 

18. Take a Trishaw Ride

An old trishaw in front of the Blue Mansion
An old trishaw in front of the Blue Mansion

This is definitely one of the coolest activities in Penang.

A trishaw is basically a type of traditional rickshaw where bicyclists push you in a chariot.

Although no longer really a traditional way of getting around Penang, you can find trishaw drivers offering you rides around George Town’s old town and even in the Batu Ferringhi area. Sure, it’s a little corny but it’s a fun and unique experience to have in Penang! 

19. Visit the Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 828 3317 | Website | Hours: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm daily | Cost: free entrance, but 3 RM for lift, 2 RM for pagoda

One of the largest Chinese Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia, Kek Lok Si is definitely one of the top Penang attractions on the island.

To reach Kek Lok Si, you’ll need to take a small walk up followed by a quick lift ride (cost 3 RM). For a real treat, you can trek all the way to the pagoda at the top for some incredible views. Here’s a report with some more details on how to visit. 

20. Wander Fort Cornwallis

Fort Cornwallis Georgetown Penang

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 263 9855 | Hours: 9 am – 10 pm daily | Cost: 20 RM for foreigners

Built by the British East India Company in the late 1700s, For Cornwallis is the largest remaining fort in Malaysia. Still, you have to keep your expectations in check: if you’re used to forts from Europe or Latin America, you may be a little underwhelmed.  

Nonetheless, its easy to access location in George Town makes it worthy of consideration on your list of things to do in Penang. 

21. Go Crazy at the Upside Down Museum

View of the parked cars outside the Upside Down Museum
(photo: Vicky Jirayu / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 264 2660 | Cost: RM 27

Your friends will wonder how you got those crazy shots of you standing on the ceiling!

Sure, it’s a bit of a touristy attraction, but there’s no denying the appeal of the Upside Down Museum in Georgetown.

This quirky mini-museum is filled with exhibits where everything is – you guessed it – upside down! The museum staff are happy to help you take photos (that’s kinda the whole point, right?). 

22. Try a Rollney 

Rollney, a top food to try in Penang
So delicious!

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 12 712 1570 | Hours: 2 pm – 8 pm daily, Closed Mondays

This unique dessert creation is definitely one of the tastiest things to do in Penang – and both locals and visitors alike go crazy for Rollney.

The creators at Rollney take Kurtos Kalocs (which is essentially Hungarian chimney cake) and put their own twist on it by turning the cake into an ice cream cone. Trust me when I say your taste buds will be watering!

23. Fly Away to the Entopia Butterfly Garden

Aerial view of the great architectural structure of Entopia Butterfly Garden Exterior
(photo: Izuddin Helmi / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 888 8111 | Website | Cost: Adult RM 60, Child RM 40

Wondering where to go in Penang with your children?

One of the most popular things to do in Penang with kids is to pay a visit to the Entopia butterfly farm, where you’ll find the Natureland – an indoor living garden filled not just with butterflies but with all kinds of invertebrates.

You can also visit the garden’s “Cocoon,” a two floor learning center perfect for the younger folk. 

24. Try Some Durian

Durian fruit

You’re either going to love it or you’re going to hate it. But there is only one way to find out! If you’ve never heard of it, durian is a local fruit that is uber-popular in Southeast Asia. But here’s the thing: it reeks. Really badly. So badly that most hotels and public places ban durians!

Still, many locals find the sweet fruit completely irresistible – and maybe you will to! You can find street vendors selling pieces of durian all over the island, and it’s definitely something you should try while in Penang.

Just be sure to ask for a plastic glove to eat it so you don’t get the smell on your hands! 

25. Visit the Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque

Georgetown, Penang by night

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 261 4215 | Hours: 11:30 am – 1 pm, 2 pm – 4 pm, 5 pm – 6:30 pm daily

A stunning mosque located in the heart of George Town, Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque was built by Indian Muslim traders over 200 years ago. It was an important part of George Town’s successful bid for UNESCO World Heritage status.

The mosque is a place to visit in Penang that you should definitely at least walk by to admire from the outside. While visitors inside are permitted, you’ll need to make sure you are properly attired. 

26. Hangout at the Junk Cafe

Junk Cafe in Georgetown, Penang
The funky interior at the Junk Cafe

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 12 455 4244 | Hours: 12 pm – 8 pm daily

Depending on how you look at it, the Junk Cafe either feels like a bar and restaurant inside an old antique shop, or what it must be like to attend a party at a hoarder’s house.

The eclectic interior of the Junk Cafe makes it a great place to visit in Penang in its own right, but the food and drinks are also on point!

27. Party Like a Backpacker on Georgetown’s Love Lane

Holy Guacamole Restaurant and Bar
The Holy Guacamole bar and restaurant

Sure, Malaysia generally isn’t exactly known as a party destination. Alcohol is much too expensive and restricted for that.

But, still, the nightlife area around the intersection of Love Lane and Chulia Street could give just about any other backpacker district in Southeast Asia a run for its money!

Look out for happy hour specials to keep the cost of drinking as reasonable as possible.  

28. Try the Best Falafel Ever at Vegan Falafel Penang

📍 Google Maps (Next to Reggae Club) | Cost: RM 10-15

Ok, maybe I’m being a bit over-the-top here. But I’m a vegetarian and I’ve tried a lot of falafels in my life.

And none of them hold a candle to the fresh, made-in-front-of-you offerings at Vegan Falafel Penang, a small vendor you’ll find next to the Reggae Club on Chulia Street.

I was so smitten by the dish that I went back multiple times and yet was always too distracted to even take a photo!

Update: I’m clearly not the only one who thinks this is the best falafel ever – just check out the reviews on Google and you’ll find many who have visited because of this guide and expressed their agreement!

29. Confuse Your Camera at the 3D Trick Art Museum

View of the 3D Trick Art Museum logo and information on the exterior
(photo: Rhea13 / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 263 1628 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm | Cost: RM 25 Adults, RM 15 Children

Penang really loves its gimmicky museums (you can find a museum for everything from durian to chocolate to glowing in the dark in Penang), but this one gets some of the best reviews as a fun thing to do in Penang.

You’ll find various exhibits playing with perspective and perfect for shooting some fun photographs to post on social media and show all your friends back home what a good time you are having in Malaysia 🙂 

30. Grab a Drink at Pokok

Pokak, a great bar in Penang
The Pokok patio

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 12 545 6152 | Website | Hours: 6 pm – 3 am

There are lots of cool bars along Chulia Street, but my favorite bar in George Town is Pokok. It’s got a large open air outdoor seating space and a funky second-floor interior space.

Best yet, most nights you’ll be treated to live music. Definitely, a great place to chill in the evenings in Penang. 

31. Go Shopping at Batu Ferringhi Night Market

The Batu Feringghi Night Market
Stalls at the night market

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 18 283 4117 | Hours: 7 PM – 1 AM daily

Let me be honest: night markets aren’t really one of my favorite activities and I didn’t truly love this one in Penang either.

But the Batu Ferringhi Night Market definitely is widely considered one of the top places to visit in Penang, so I’m including it here nonetheless. Starting around sunset every evening, you’ll find vendors lining the road selling nearly every type of trinket or clothing imaginable. 

32. Visit the Goddess of Mercy Temple

Goddess of Mercy Temple Penang
Goddess of Mercy Temple Penang (photo: / Depositphotos)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: +60 4 261 4137 | Hours: 8 am – 2 pm daily | Free

I tried to limit the amount of temples on this list of the best things to do in Penang, as otherwise, it might just become a list of temples in Penang!

But, still, the Goddess of Mercy Temple has a unique style and is definitely worth a quick visit. 

33. Take a Malaysian Cooking Class

Instead of spending your money on souvenirs and trinkets, you’ll never use after your Malaysia vacation, why not take back a skill instead?

Spend an evening learning how to make traditional Malay food is definitely a unique experience in Penang! You can book a private Malaysian cooking class with Chef Samuel here. He’ll also take you to a wet market, which is another unique Penang experience to check off your list!

Map of the Best Things to Do in Penang

Wow, that’s a lot of awesome things to do in Penang right? To help you hit as many of them as possible, I’ve organized them with this nifty little Google Map.

Click the star button next to the title to save this on your maps for later:

Tips for What NOT to Do in Penang

Penang is a pretty awesome travel destination, so to be honest there really isn’t a lot in Penang that isn’t worth at least checking out. 

But, still, I’ve got 3 quick tips for what not to do in Penang that can help you avoid some travel mistakes: 

#1 – Don’t Stay On the Southern or Western Parts of Penang Island 

You’ll find some cheap hotels there and, while there is nothing wrong with these parts of the island unless you are staying for a longer period of time or have a compelling reason, I think it’s best to stay in the northern part of the island around Georgetown. 

Check out my article on Where to Stay in Penang for a breakdown of the different regions of the island, or just book at one of my top recommended hotels:

Read my full guide to the best Penang hotels.

#2 – Don’t Be a Disrespectful Tourist (Especially in Old Town Georgetown)

One of the great things about Penang is that there are so many photogenic places, especially in Georgetown’s Old Town. 

But this has led to bad behavior from many tourists, whose obsessions with getting the right shot lead them to put themselves or others in danger or to disrespect the culture of where they are. 

For example, when you are in the Clan Jetties, remember that people live there! Be as courteous and considerate of that as you would if you were in your own neighborhood back home!

FAQs about What to Do in Penang

Things to do in Penang Malaysia

What is the Best Thing to Do in Penang?

In my opinion, the best thing to do in Penang is to go to the Top at Komtar (#5 on our list of what to do in Penang). 

While it is a touristy attraction, I still think it is a fantastic thing to do in Penang. But the views of Penang Island are awesome!

What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit Penang? 

November to January is frequently thought of as the best time to visit Penang. The weather is good and the island gets festive for the New Year (and Chinese New Year) celebrations. 

May to October is generally the wet season in Penang, so fewer people visit during this period (but of course that means that prices are lower!). 

What is Penang Famous For?

Penang Island is famous for the UNESCO World Heritage site at Georgetown, for its hawker food, and for its pristine beaches among other things. 

What Can You Do in One Day in Penang? 

Even if you have just one day, you can still check off many of the items on our list of what to do in Penang. I suggest visiting the Top of Komtar, wandering the streets of Georgetown and checking out the street art, visiting the clan jetties, touring the Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion, eating at a hawker food market, and visiting at least one of Penang’s beaches – all of which can be accomplished in a single, albeit long, day.

That’s it for this guide on what to do in Penang, Malaysia. 

Check out these other articles to help plan your trip to Southeast Asia: 

Have fun exploring all the unique things to do in Penang!

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  1. Penang is the best place for quality food and affordable lifestyle.
    I spend a few weeks there.
    I wish to visit that amazing place again.

    Thanks for your amazing content and your photos are interesting.

  2. Thanks for the brilliant listing, some amazing recommendations i would never know about. We are here at present….

  3. I’ve been in Penang a number of times over the years. My favorite past time is ‘eating’. It’s hard to beat the quality of foods and the prices. I do Indian just about every day. The best Indian is in Tanjung Bungah right next to a great Lebonese restaurant.
    Gus Gaster

  4. Great article.
    We’re going to Penang May 2023. Love your hotel recommendations. We were already booked at Blue Mansion (2 nights) and Shangri-La (2 nights). Can’t wait to try the food. We’ve noted the highlights to visit. Thank-you

  5. Nice article! I was amused by the secret garden and wanna check it out next week when I was around Penang. Googled it and saw that it was closed (Aw~ Sad!) You are lucky to be able to catch it before it closed man!

  6. Hey Nate! This is a fantastic list. Just FYI – the avatar secret garden now seems to be closed. Not sure when you went, but you may want to consider removing it and adding something else instead ☺️

  7. Thanks, this has confirmed my destination of choise for my stop off in malaysia en route to NZ. Any tips for meeting people as a solo traveller in Penang?

    1. If you want to meet people, I suggest staying in a hostel or joining group tours (food tours or walking tours). If you’re comfortable alone, Penang is perfectly safe and enjoyable to navigate as a solo traveler.

  8. Hey Nate I think you forgot to mention the botanical gardens with it splendid refreshing waterfalls

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