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Georgetown on Penang Island in Malaysia is an absolute gem of a City. It’s often overshadowed by Kuala Lumpur because of its North Western location but I promise you that you will not regret a visit to Georgetown if you want a City in South East Asia to chill in, eat nice food in and have slow enjoyable days in.
Georgetown is full of incredible architecture due to the British Colonisation and it’s home to World Class Food because of its melting pot of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian Cultures. It’s a city but it’s not a huge city, it’s very manageable and totally walkable. The prices are reasonable and the locals are friendly.
What more could you want?
I first visited Georgetown in 2014 for 3 days whilst backpacking Malaysia and it was firmly on my list to come back to. When I needed a base for a few weeks in South East Asia the idea of living in Georgetown for a few weeks sounded good, so I did and extended my stay to nearly 3 weeks in total.
Based on my trips, here is my full guide of everything you need to know about Georgetown Malaysia to plan you trip to Georgetown, have a great time, and to make sure that you leave with a very satisfied tummy!
November- April is the best time of year to visit Georgetown in Malaysia because it’s the dry season, whereas May to October brings the wet season to this side of Malaysia.
I visited in May and February, both months were hot in the middle of the day and both had random downfalls of rain on a few days so don’t expect it never to rain.
Either way, expect hot weather with some humidity. I’d recommend heading out early in the morning to explore and later in the afternoon as the middle of the day does get very hot and sweaty!
Penang is an island but it is connected to the mainland by a bridge to Butterworth.
Penang has an Airport and the island is only very small so the airport is very close to Georgetown. Internal flights in Malaysia and around South East Asia can be really cheap, search for flights to Penang Airport here.
Buses in Malaysia are really great and the Country is well connected. 12GO Asia is a good way to book buses in Malaysia. You might not be able to get a bus to and from Komtar bus station which is the main bus station in Georgetown but there will be buses leaving elsewhere in Penang for example from Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal not far from Georgetown.
You can get buses to and from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, the Cameron Highlands and Kuala Besut to head to the Perhentian Islands which is where I went to after Georgetown, plus a lot more places, but these are the most popular places to visit in Malaysia.
You can also get to Georgetown from Thailand. Daily buses travel between Georgetown, Krabi and Phuket and help you cross the border by land. I’ve done this journey both ways, it’s pretty painless and there are no border scams to worry about but the journey does take at least 12 hours in various minibuses.
There are also boats that leave Georgetown to Butterworth.
3 Days in Georgetown is a good amount of time to spend in the City I think. 2 days in Georgetown is enough if you are tight on time and 4 days is good if you have more time. It’s an easy City to pass a few days in.
Georgetown has accommodation for all budgets and style of travel.
Best Hostels in Georgetown
There are lots of hostels in Georgetown, I stayed in The 80’s Guesthouse a few years ago and really liked it, it’s in a great location on Love Lane.
Best Hotels and Guesthouses in Georgetown
The best area of Georgetown to stay in is near to Lebuh Chulia or a few streets away from it as this way you’ll be right in the heart of the action and tourist areas in Georgetown Penang.
Best Airbnb’s in Georgetown
I stayed in an Airbnb during my time in Georgetown, a lot of the Airbnb’s in Georgetown seemed to be hostels and guesthouses rather than homes, however, I found one. I stayed in Sunshine Room through Damon, it’s in a huge very local tower block in a local area but close to the centre of the city, it was great value and a good room for me to stay in for a few weeks.
If you’re new to Airbnb be sure to sign up with this link so we both get credit towards our stays!
There are not a huge amount of things to do in Georgetown Penang to be honest however that adds to its charm. It’s a City you wander around at your own pace taking whichever street and cafes take your fancy.
With that being said, to help you know where to start and to help you plan your Georgetown itinerary, here are the best things to do in Georgetown!
If you’ve seen photos of Georgetown you’ve probably seen photos of its really unique street art!
Georgetown has become famous for these incredibly unique pieces like the children on the swings, bikes and motorbike plus so much more, and I’m sure seeing these pieces are number one on your list of things to do in Georgetown!?
The best way to see the street art in Georgetown is to walk around by yourself, there are maps which detail exactly where each famous piece is, so make sure to get one from your accommodation in Georgetown when you arrive. Most of the famous pieces are around Armenia Street and you’ll know when you reach them because they’ll be a crowd.
If you want to get photos of the street art in Georgetown Penang with no people in them you’ll need to get up early and head out before 9:00-9:30 am and if possible go during the week as the weekends are much busier all day!
What you also may be surprised to know is that the artist of these pieces is actually Lithuanian!
Georgetown is also well known for its food! Penang is a melting pot of cultures with Malaysian, Chinese and Indian being the highest but there is also Japanese culture to be seen too. This is all shown in the food that is on offer, and especially in the street food in Georgetown!
The best way to try the street food in Georgetown is to head to the food courts or hawker centres as they are also called which can be found all over the City. Here are some of the best food courts in Georgetown which offer a huge range of stalls and food inside them at good prices, about 4-6RM per dish!
The other way to experience the best street food in Georgetown is to enjoy the food served on the street. Head to Lebuh Chulia which is one of the most popular roads in Georgetown for bars, restaurants and hotels. At the intersection of Love Lane and Lebuh Chulia during the day and evening, you’ll see street food stands selling noodles, rice dishes and so much more.
If you’re after Indian Street Food in Georgetown you’ll need to head to Little India, there is a Samosa Stand selling Samosa’a and other fried Indian treats on the corner of Lebuh Queen and Lebuh Pasar, and opposite there’s a small area with stands selling local Indian dishes and Chai!
Street Food Tours are also very popular in Georgetown, I didn’t see many being advertised on the street so booking online is a good way to secure and book one. You can go on a Walking Food and Market Tour, a 3 Hour Food Tour tasting 10 local dishes and a Half Day Evening Food Tour to name a few.
Georgetown is full of really cool cafes selling a huge range of coffees, teas, juices, smoothies and cakes, it’s unbelievable! Scroll down to ‘where to eat in Georgetown’ to see which cafes I recommend, although you’ll see plenty as you walk around too!
Free Walking Tour
I really enjoyed going on a free walking tour. I did one that is run by the tourist office. Usually, free walking tours advertise as free but you have to pay a tip as they are not government-run however there is no need to do that on this walking tour of Georgetown because it’s ran by the government so this is purely a free thing to do in Georgetown.
The free Georgetown Walking Tour runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10:30am however it is on a first come first served basis so you should get to the Tourist Office along Beach Street in the Whiteaways Arcade for about 10:00 am to be guaranteed a place. The tour lasts for about 90 minutes, it only covers a small area of the City but you get a much better understanding of Georgetown and its history from it.
I’d really recommend doing this walking tour of Georgetown on your first day in Georgetown as the City will make much more sense afterwards.
If you are not in Georgetown on the days when the free walking tour runs or you would like a more in-depth tour around Georgetown, I would really recommend booking a tour like the Half-Day City Highlights Tour which includes hotels transfers too. This city has so much history and it’s really interesting to learn all about it with an expert guide.
Komtar Viewing Platform
Do you want to see the best view over Georgetown, Malaysia? The biggest building in Georgetown called Komtar (which you really cannot miss) has a viewing deck and skywalk on top offering incredible views of the City. I’ve seen photos of people go in the evening just before sunset and this would be the best time to go up the Komtar building because Georgetown’s sunsets are spectacular!
Not only this but it has other attractions at the top like a Jurassic Research Centre, 7D Motion Theatre and lots of different rides so this would be a great activity for children and families to do in Georgetown!
It is fairly pricey with prices starting from 68RM for the skywalk only but it would be a special and unique thing to do!
3D Trick Art Museum
A fun activity in Georgetown especially for a group of friends or for families visiting Georgetown is the 3D Trick Art Museum.
There are loads of chances to take crazy photos of you that look real with Spiderman, Sky Diving and various animals. The cost is 25RM for foreign adults and 15RM for kids.
I don’t think this is the best thing to do in Georgetown however if you need something extra to do, especially with children or if it’s raining and you need an indoor activity, the Wonderfood Museum is home to larger than life displays of food!
Again there are loads of chances to take photos with the different foods but there’s also an educational side to Wonderfood Museum in Georgetown of how the food we eat has an effect on the environment and the animals we’re eating.
Cake in Penang’s Longest Cafe
More food recommendations I know. As you can probably see the best way to see Georgetown is through your tummy!
China House is Penang’s Longest Cafe which is really cool to see, the building that China House is located in and the buildings along that street are Malaysia’s very famous ‘longhouses’, because well, they are so long!
20-30 families up to 10 people each used to live in these. Nowadays families do not live in these really but many of the buildings still remain in the original design. You can walk all the way through China House Cafe from one street to the other which is really interesting to see.
Not only that but China House is famous for its Cake! They have 30+ different cakes on offer every day and trust me, the slices are huge and delicious!
If you’re still hungry they serve Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and in the evening often have Live Music but the best reason to come here is for the cake!
Art in Art Lane
A few buildings along from China House is Art Lane which is also one of the longhouses but this time it’s filled with art! Not only is this a great place to walk through to see some amazing art but it’s also another way to see how huge the longhouses in Georgetown really are, and it’s free to enter.
Appreciate the Architecture
Georgetown’s architecture is so unique and the actual City is full of Colonial-style architecture and many other styles. It’s not like there’s a small section and that’s it, there’s so much and it makes up a huge part of the city!
Walking around is the best way to see the buildings, taking the small, back lanes that you see.
If you’re backpacking around South East Asia and tired of big Asian Cities or small towns with not much to them, Georgetown will be a refreshing break to this.
If you want to know more about the architecture and history, a city tour like this would be a good idea!
As I’ve said many times already Georgetown is known for its food and street food is not the only type of food that’s good in Georgetown! Georgetown has lots of really good restaurants and cafes offering high-quality Western Food and Asian Food for Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert!
There is also a great range of purely Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants in Georgetown which pleased a Veggie like myself and even if you are a meat eater I’d urge you to try some of these out as the food is really high quality in them! Here were my favourite places to eat in Georgetown.
The Best Cafes in Georgetown:
The Best Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Georgetown:
If you’re looking for some evening entertainment and things to do at night in Georgetown, head to Love Lane and the section of Lebuh Chulia near Love Lane.
Love Lane is only a small street but its full of restaurants offering Happy Hours from the middle of the afternoon well into the Evening along with Live Music later which can also be found on Lebuh Chulia too.
Georgetown isn’t a party town so don’t expect clubs and big nights out but there are more than enough bars and restaurants to have some drinks at and listen to some music at to pass the evening.
Penang Island is really well connected by bus making day trips from Georgetown really easy.
The Rapid Penang Buses are everywhere, they run regularly, are inexpensive(2-5RM per way) and air conditioning. The main bus station in Georgetown is located right underneath the Komtar building at the Prangin Mall and is well organised with digital signs of which buses will arrive where and when. The Komtar building is the biggest building in Georgetown by far so you cannot miss it!
However buses also go through the Centre of Georgetown including down the popular road of Lebuh Chulia and the Jetty, so if you stay in this area of Georgetown you may not need to go to Komtar to get the bus.
Here are some of the best day trips from Georgetown:
Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si is the largest Buddhist Temple in Malaysia and one of the most important Chinese Buddhist Temples in South East Asia and is a really good half-day or day trip from Georgetown.
If you have been to Temples in Countries in South East Asia like Thailand, Cambodia and Laos you will be surprised at just how different Kok Lok Si Temple in Penang is because of its Chinese influence.
To get to Kok Lok Si Temple from Georgetown get on bus 203 or 204, both go from Komtar station.
It costs 2RM to get in and 3RM for the funicular so it’s a very budget-friendly activity to do in Georgetown.
The temple is located on a hilltop which again gives great views of Penang.
When you get there you’ll see why it’s the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia because it is pretty large! It has lots of different zones and areas to visit and there’s the funicular to take you to the top section. There are many Shrines and Temples, plus shops and a vegetarian cafe.
Remember to wear clothes that cover your legs and shoulders.
It’s possible to visit Kok Lok Si and Penang Hill in a one day trip from Georgetown which you can do by yourself but if you prefer there are also day tours bookable online. I didn’t see many tours being advertised whilst in Georgetown so booking online in advance is a good idea.
It’s possible to book an Afternoon Tour to Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si Temple with an expert guide to explain what you are seeing in the temple and a Private Tour to Penang Hill and Kok Lok Si Temple.
Penang Hill is close to Georgetown and a great way to spend a few hours away from the City.
The Bus to get from Georgetown to Penang Hill is bus 204 which runs from the Jetty passing through Komtar before heading in the direction of Penang Hill. Once at the base you need to buy a ticket for the Penang Hill Funicular Train.
The Funicular cost is 30RM return for a foreign adult and the funicular runs pretty regularly.
If you’re on a budget in Georgetown and would rather walk up to Penang Hill for free you have to go to the Botanical Gardens first (see below) and then walk up a 5km paved road. There is no other walking track up to Penang Hill.
Penang Hill was the first hill station in Malaysia set up by the British during their colonisation so they could escape the heat of the city and get a good breeze which is what tourists to Georgetown are still doing today.
Once on top of Penang Hill, you’ll be able to see one of the best views of Georgetown Malaysia, benefit from the breeze and have a walk around. There are not really any other things to do in Penang Hill apart from that.
Late Afternoon would be the best time to go to Penang Hill so you can see the sunset.
On the way back down you can get the Penang Hill Funicular again or walk down the road to the Botanical Gardens.
Penang Botanical Gardens
In the same area as Penang Hill are the Botanical Gardens so if you visit one, you should probably visit both.
The gardens were also established by the British as somewhere to get away from the City and relax in.
There’s not much else to do at the Botanical Gardens apart from walk around them and look out for some monkeys!
To get to or from Penang Botanical Gardens to Georgetown Bus 10 serves the Botanical Gardens directly and stops in the car park, or you can walk to the top of Penang Hill from here and get the funicular down.
Penang Bike Ride Tour
If you want an active way to see the island of Penang away from Georgetown bike is a good way to do it. However, going on a tour is best as some of the roads are very busy!
A Half Day Tour like this one will pick you up from your accommodation and take you into the Penang Countryside to observe rural Malaysian life and you’ll visit a fruit orchard, plantation, mangrove, fishing village and dozens of traditional Kampung in the local town of Balik Pulau.
Penang Island Discovery Tour
If bike riding isn’t your thing but you still want to see rural life in Penang away from the tourist spots like the Temple and Penang Hill, a Penang Island Discovery Morning Tour is a great way to do this. Accommodation transfers are included, you’ll visit the local village and observe traditional printing and jewellery making techniques among other things.
Penang National Park
I read that Penang National Park is the smallest National Park in the world which I can see to be true. It’s not tiny but not huge either.
If you fancy a hike in Penang or going to the beach in Penang this is a good day trip from Georgetown to do. Bus 101 runs from the Jetty via Komtar, it takes about 1 hour and the last stop is the National Park.
Penang National Park is free to enter but you do need to sign in at the information office when you arrive which you can’t miss as it’s next to the pathway where the walk starts.
There are a few cafes and small shops selling food and drink at the entrance so you don’t need to carry too much with you however once you start walking there are limited options.
The 2 main places people visit in Penang National Park are Monkey Beach and Turtle Beach and both walks start from the same point and split off after about 1km which is signposted.
The walk to Turtle Beach is the furthest and from what I’ve read the hardest because the tracks are very small and very up and down! I planned to walk to Monkey Beach because it isn’t as far however recently there has been a landslide so the track is blocked just before Monkey Beach! I walked as far as I could and sat on a different beach for a bit, there was no one else there apart from the odd walkers going past which was nice. The walk there was still very up and down though and by no means a really easy walk.
There are also boats on offer from the National Park entrance to Monkey Beach and Turtle Beach too so you could walk one way and get a boat back the other (once the access to Monkey Beach is open again that is, right now the only access to Monkey Beach in Penang National Park is via boat).
Batu Feringgi Beach
Another great beach to visit on Penang Island and on a day trip from Georgetown is Batu Feringgi Beach as it’s not far from Georgetown at all.
Bus 101 on the way to Penang National Park goes past it, takes about 30 minutes and you’ll know when you’re there as it suddenly gets a lot more built up as Batu Feringgi is a popular beach town and holiday destination in Penang.
Batu Feringgi Beach is really long, it’s a nice sand beach with nice water to swim in, cool off in and do some water activities in.
There are a number of beach cafes and restaurants along the beach and also along the road near the beach.
Ferry to Butterworth
There’s a Rapid Ferry that leaves Georgetown at Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal and heads straight to the mainland and to Butterworth.
The guide from my free walking tour told me about this and said it’s good to head over to Butterworth for a few hours and it’s also good to get the boat either there or back at sunset to see the best sunset in Georgetown!
I hope that gives you some ideas of fun, unique and yummy things to do in Georgetown Malaysia!
For more of my Malaysia posts see:
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I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.