12 Best Things to do in Penang, Malaysia

Occupying a pea-sized portion on the Malaysia map, Penang has ample landmarks to flaunt and plenty of things to do. Most of Penang is located on an island and therefore, is blessed with serene beaches with sparkling waters. From strolling on the green trails of Penang National Park to getting fascinated at the Snake Temple, there is no dearth of things to do in Penang.

Peninsular Malaysia is full of a variety of nature, culture, and history. There are many places around the country, where you can taste all of it in various ways. Some of these places are more representative, so they have become popular landmarks.

Peninsular Malaysia is a multicultural land. There are Malays, Chinese, Indians, as well as many other people from foreign origins, including Europeans. But before all of them came in the Malay Peninsula, there were other, older inhabitants. These ancient people still live in Peninsular Malaysia today, and they are called Orang Asli, the aborigines of the country.

Let's make a journey to the places, where these people live, and explore their unique culture and lifestyle. One of these landmarks is Penang, a beautiful island near the west coast of the Malay Peninsula. Penang Island is so Instagrammable! Naturally beautiful destinations in Penang make you want to take out your camera instead of just a cam-phone. They're idyllic in its natural setting with the range of seaside activities for daytime pursuit. Penang is not a place for wild beach parties and booze, that would be another culture, another land.

Let's make a journey to Penang and identify the places to visit, to get the best experience of this amazing place! This is an ultimate guide to Penang Island- what places to visit for the best exploration of this multicultural gem in Peninsular Malaysia. Ride the world's steepest funicular rail to the top of Penang Hill - the flora and fauna along the way are distinctive to the luxuriant forested slopes. Some say it's exhilarating.

A state full of ancient history and a melting pot of people and culture: Indian, Chinese, Malay, Baba Nyonya and some remnants of English colonialism. Established nicely on the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Penang is one of the most preferred and highly visited tourist destinations in the country that attracts thousands of tourists every year as nobody wants to miss exploring this appealing wonderland. Reckoned as a wonderful traveler site, the place has numerous things to offer its travelers and so never disheartens its tourists.

Fort Cornwallis, The City's Wonderfood Museum, Burmese Temple, Reclining Buddha, and the waterfront Village are few of the most popular places that you can discover here. Street of Harmony, Rainbow Skywalk, and Waterfront Village are some of the major attractions that one can discover here.

Malaysia certainly has a lot of luxury to offer tourists. From opulent hotels to an affordable but luxurious Penang apartment stay, the region has a lot to offer tourists who want to enjoy the champagne lifestyle while they travel. You can also quench your thirst for a meaningful experience.

For laid back vibes, stupendous culinary experience, and quirky adventure, here is a handpicked list of interesting places in Penang for your Malaysia tour from India.

Penang SunsetPenang Sunset

Here are the best things to do in Penang for a wonderful experience of the city.

1. Hike to Penang Hill

There is a long list of hiking trails in Penang and among those is Penang Hill. Tighten your shoe-laces and hike up to Penang Hill at a height of 2731 feet above sea level. The views from the highest point of the hill are something beyond imagination. Among many, some hiking routes are - Jeep track, the Moongate, and one that starts from the entrance of Penang Botanic Gardens.

Location: Jalan Stesen Bukit Bendera, Air Itam, George Town, Penang Island 11500, Malaysia.

2. Visit Penang Wonder Food Museum

Penang sightseeing cannot be complete without a visit to Penang Wonderfood Museum. With over 100 Malaysian dishes, local delicacies, and street food on display; you are promised a great visual experience. The Info Zone, the Wow Zone, and the Educational Zone, three major sections here let you not just look but also click pictures with the models of the dishes. Don’t miss out witnessing the charm of Wonderfood museum and the American Street Art.

Location: 49, Lebuh Pantai, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.

3. Pay a visit to Kek Lok Si Temple

But if you feel particularly blessed or lucky to be in this vibrant and beautiful city, it may be an idea to pay your respects to Guan Yin, the goddess of compassion and mercy. Located in the Kek Lok Si temple complex in George Town, you will find Guan Yin's statue. To be honest, it is pretty difficult to miss. She is rendered in bronze and stands a Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas filled with alabaster and bronze Buddhas which can also be found at Kek Lok Si.

With exquisite architecture, flower gardens, and fish ponds in the temple complex; Kek Lok Si Temple is one of the best places to go in Penang. Pay a visit to this Buddhist temple, considered to be the largest religious structure in Malaysia. With around 10,000 Buddha statues present here, this landmark is a must-visit on your Malaysian tour from India.

The temple complex is actually one of the largest in Malaysia and is well worth a visit whatever your faith if only for the majesty of its construction. It was built over the course of 40 years, beginning in 1830. It provides a humble and life-affirming testament to what can be created when one has devotion, dedication, love, passion, and skill.

Location: Kek Lok Si Temple, 11500 Air Itam, Penang, Malaysia.

4. Visit the Floating Mosque of Tanjung Bungah

Sitting on a star-shaped wooden stilt above water, the Mosque of Tanjung Bungah is an impressive piece of architecture. Also, when the tides are high, it looks like a floating mosque, hence the name. The appeal of this place attracts tourists from all over the world. Visiting this magnificent place and paying your respects is one of the best Penang things to do.

Location: Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Tanjung Bungah, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.

5. Learn Glass-Making at Glass Museum of Penang

Take a tour of the Glass Museum, which is probably one of the most unique places to visit in Penang with kids. Spend your day learning glass-making and get hands-on experience as well. Try to create glass trinkets and souvenirs, and also witness the glass exhibits and a kaleidoscope of colors. Along with this, you will also come across 3-D art, a glass tunnel, a workshop space, and much more.

Location: 6, Jalan Burma, George Town, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia.

6. Sunbathe at Batu Ferringhi Beach

On a vacation, you also need time to relax and rejuvenate. For this, head to Batu Ferringhi Beach. It is one of the best places to hangout in Penang and offers jet skis and parasailing, which are must-try activities in Penang. If not, a sunbathe never hurt anybody. Buggy rides on the powder white sands, deep-sea fishing, and banana boat rides are fun Batu Ferringhi activities.

Location: 11 km from City Center, George Town

7. Visit Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

Representing the finest Chinese clan in history, Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi is a famous Chinese clan association in Malaysia. Years ago, two Kho clan members formed an alliance to work towards the welfare of Khoo clansmen in the Nanyang. If you love highly ornamented architecture, visiting this Chinese temple in Penang is one of the best things to do in Malaysia.

Location: 18, Cannon Square, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

8. Explore Pinang Peranakan Mansion

After being destroyed by the Japanese in WWII, today this mansion can be seen in its original state. One of the best places of interest in Penang, this is a 19th-century heritage museum dedicated to Peranakan heritage. In this museum, you will find a vast collection of artifacts, antiques, and other collectibles.

Location: 29, Church St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

9. Relive History at Penang State Museum and Art Gallery

One of the top state museums in Malaysia, the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery is an ideal place to peek into the country’s history. You will be greeted by a royal statue of Captain Francis Light. As you walk inside, take a look at several galleries displaying historical documents, old photos, and maps. Walking around Chinese furniture, costumes, and other antiques is one of the best things to do in Penang.

Location: Lebuh Farquhar, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

10. Dine-in at The Top Komtar Penang

Dining in for the finest culinary experience with the city views is one of the must-try things in Penang. Top Komtar Penang is an iconic tower comprising 18 themed attractions like Rainbow Skywalk, Tech dome Penang, Penang State Gallery, Penang Boutique Aquarium, and 7 D Discover Motion Theatre. Satiate your hunger along with entertaining yourself at Penang’s top-notch restaurants.

No wild beach party? No worries there are numerous vantage spots on the island where you can drink in the views as you sip your cocktails.

Location: 1, Jalan Penang, George Town, 10000 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

11. Eat at New Lane Street Foodstalls

Penang is famous for food; a favourite destination for Malaysians as well as for visitors to indulge. No exotic fare mind you but a spectacular spread of mouthwatering fare to suit everybody in a conducive environment guaranteed to put you in an amiable mood.

After filling your tummy with yummy hawker food, stop by China House to have a drink and dessert. It is a very long narrow premise comprised of three heritage buildings, linked by an open air courtyard, and converted into 14 spaces that served as shops, cafes, restaurants, galleries, live music and bakery.

Location: Lorong Baru, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

12. The Habitat Penang Hill

Surround yourself amidst Mother Nature’s habitat. Penang Hill’s ‘Habitat’ puts you at treetop level - you’ll know how Jake Sully and Neutiri (characters in ‘Avatar’ the movie) feel high up in a lush forest setting. Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream. Penang is never short of beautiful sights. The city lights from a distance on a starry night is quite a feeling on top of Penang’s tallest building.

The Baba Nyonya of Penang and Malacca are two distinct groups. They don't share the same historical characteristics. Many, even historians don’t know that the Peranakan (Straits born Chinese) was not created by the intermarriage of locals. They have already been practising their Peranakan culture even before they intermarry other races. There is nowhere better to sample authentic Nyonya cuisine than in Penang Island. It is one of a kind, literally.

A Nyonya favourite Kerabu Timun (Spicy Cucumber Salad) is a spicy and tangy Malaysian-style cucumber salad served to whet one’s appetite. Unlike Western salads eaten at the beginning of the meal, kerabus are usually eaten during the meal with steamed rice and other dishes. An essential ingredient is dried shrimps with an umami flavour; the other is a spicy condiment, Sambal Belacan - a Malay shrimp paste.

A slightly sweet and spicy peanut sauce is drizzled over or used as a dip for Pasembur - a Malaysian salad of vegetables, soft tofu, crisp fritters, prawn fritters, and other fried additions. Pasembur is one of India’s culinary contributions to Penang's food scene. Further south of Penang in Peninsular Malaysia, a similar salad is simply named Fruit Salad.

Like Pasembur, Fruit Salad is enjoyed on its own, a snack consisting of pineapple, payaya, green mango, cucumber, shrimp crackers, tofu puff, jicama with a drizzle of a non spicy savoury shrimp paste and ground toasted peanuts to mix it all up. Chinese New Year Prosperity Salad is a festive dish specifically for the fifteen days of the New Year celebration. It is not available at any other time of the year.

Known in Cantonese as Yee Sang, it's a salad composed of a variety of fresh and preserved vegetables, pickled seaweed, livened up with crackers, crunchy seeds, sweet and salty sauces, and a festive plume of spices (not spicy). The yee in its name is the Cantonese word for fish, which can also be interpreted to mean prosperity.

Sang denotes that the fish (salmon or any other good fish slices) must be raw, as it also has positive connotation. The fun begins, as diners around the table lift their chopsticks and toss the Yee Sang together; this part of the ritual is also known as lou sang lou means to toss/mix. The higher you toss, the better.

Location: Jalan Stesen, Bukit Bendera Air Itam, 11500 Penang, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

Penang is packed with lesser-known areas and hidden treasures for you to explore. Famously known for pristine beaches, historic monuments, and tropical landscape; you will be treated with ample activities and events on your Penang trip. Do not forget to get your hands on souvenirs at the bustling flea and street markets of Penang to bring back mementos to cherish forever.

About Author: Rekha Bisht is a travel enthusiast who loves to visit the most popular as well as offbeat places of the world. She loves to share her travel experiences with fellow travelers. For planning memorable holidays in India or any world destination, you follow her write-ups.
Kalyan Panja