George Town, Penang in 3 days: the best activities in this vibrant city in Malaysia!

In this travel guide, we tell you more about George Town, its highlights and hotspots and how to best spend three days in this vibrant city!

After a wonderful week of enjoying the beautiful weather in Langkawi, we travel on to George Town, Penang. As soon as we enter the city we realize how big George Town is. We pass by skyscrapers, beautiful squares and many night markets. The following days we discover this wonderful city which is known for her delicious, almost famous, Malaysian street food. There is so much to see and do on this island.

The 15 best things to do in George Town, when you have only three days

George Town is a large city on the island of Penang in northwestern Malaysia. The city is known for its special cuisine (a mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay), but also for the street art and the beautiful buildings influenced by the Baba-Nyonya culture. The latter is the culture that emerged when large groups of Chinese immigrated to Penang in the early 15th century.

streets of George Town Malaysia

How many days do you stay in George Town, Penang?

Doing the fifteen activities described below, you will get a good impression and taste about George Town. The activities are spread over three (full) days. We recommend staying at least three days in George Town. In this time frame, you have enough time to see most of the city. If you have a few extra days, take it easy! The city is big enough to keep you entertained for a week.

This is us George Town Malaysia

Day 1: discover George Town

Today you head out to discover the centre of George Town. Wear some sturdy shoes because you will walk a lot today! The activities below are within walking distance of each other.

1. Marvel at all the street art in George Town

Your first activity is a small street art tour. George Town is completely full of cool street paintings. Some art is made in such a way that you are even part of it in a photo. Take a leisurely stroll through the various streets in search of the most beautiful art.

We have made a map with a number of artworks in Google Maps, see below. This might be handy as you walk from place to place. Tip: Start in the area of the Clan Jetty and walk slowly towards The Blue Mansion, which is where your next activity will be.

Food tip: Ready for a little break (and air conditioning): then visit the Bread Republic for a cute little pie. These small, very sweet pieces of art are almost too pretty to eat! The coffee is also very good here. The Bread Republic is just around the corner from the artwork “kids on a bike“, click here for the location on Google Maps

2. Visit The Blue Mansion

You are probably ready for some shelter from the bright sun. Luckily your next destination will be mostly in the shades: one of the most beautiful buildings of George Town: The Blue Mansion. The official name of this indigo blue building is Cheon Fatt Tze Mansion, it was built at the end of the nineteenth century by the rich merchant Cheon Fatt Tze.

The rich Cheon Fatt Tze

Funny fact: Not only was Cheon Fatt Tze rich enough to create such a beautiful house, but he also had eight wives, a number of concubines, eight sons and six daughters. And with 38 rooms, seven staircases and five courtyards, his building was large enough for all his residents. The architectural style, a mix of Chinese and Western, is so special that the building is Unesco World Heritage!

Blue Mansion Hotel George Town Malaysia

Tour through The Blue Mansion

Guided tours are given three times a day, the first is at 11 a.m. In 45 minutes the entire history of the house is told and you will see the beautiful rooms, architecture and courtyards. Price: MYR 18 (€ 4) per person. Click here for more information.

Did you know that you can sleep here too? The Blue Mansion is a chic hotel. Click here for more information and to book your stay directly!

Lunch tip: you can have lunch with fresh sandwiches or bagels at the trendy Mugshot Cafe. Click here for the location on Google Maps.

3. Shop around Armenian street for clothing, antiques from souvenirs

You have already walked through some nice shopping streets, now it’s time to go inside! In the Armenian street, you will find antiques and there are plenty of clothing stores and souvenir shops around this street. Finally, walk to Jetty 35. In this old warehouse, there is a coffee bar, 2f + Roastery, there are various exhibitions and small pop-up shops.

Eat tip: fancy something sweet? For a local pastry, visit Kedai Biskut & Kek Ming Xiang Tai. All sorts of small pastries and cakes are sold in this well-known restaurant.

4. Then continue to the Clan Jetty

Visit the Clan Jetty just before sunset. These are long jetties with houses built on wooden poles. Chinese clans have been living here for a century and a half, hence the name Clan Jetty. Previously there were seven “streets on poles“, but one was lost due to a fire. You can visit the six remaining streets. Nowadays some houses have shops, but in a large part still, members of the seven remaining Chinese Clans live.

Funny fact: to this day, the residents of the Jetty do not pay taxes because they officially live at sea and not on land.

The most popular Jetty is the Chew Jetty. However, we found this too touristy. Other jetties such as New Jetty are a lot quieter. Here you can see how people still live. Mind you, people just live here so stay respectful.

Charlotte and Chew Jetty George Town Malaysia

5. Have dinner at the super hip and cosy ChinaHouse

George Town is known for its great food. It is the food capital of Malaysia. You’ll experience this tonight in ChinaHouse, a restaurant consisting of three interconnected housing blocks. You will find art, live music, a wine bar and various menus with delicious dishes here. Definitely sit down for dessert. The cakes from ChinaHouse are really great !! Click here for the location on Google Maps.

Chinahouse George Town

Fancy a drink after dinner? Then go to Love Lane, where there are cafes. The Gravity Skybar is also cool. This bar is on top of the G-hotel, just outside the old centre.

Love Street

Click here for the travel guide of Kuala Lumpur with eight cool free activities!

Day 2: history and culture of Penang

Today it is time to learn more about the history of Penang and the Baba-Nyonya culture. Baba-Nyonya is the name for a group of early Chinese immigrants who settled in northern Malaysia in the early 15th century. Their Chinese origins (and Taoist beliefs) were soon mixed with Malaysian culture, creating a new unique culture in Penang. A new language, new kitchen, new rituals, and a different clothing style. The Penang Baba-Nyonya culture is still characteristic of Penang and George Town.

6. Participate in the free George Town Walkabout Tour

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, the Tourist Information Center of Penang organizes a free walking tour through George Town. This one is really free, so no tip is expected or asked for at all. The guides will tell more about the history of the city, the architecture and the Baba-Nyonya heritage. You also visit the Street of Harmony.

The tour is completely free but has a maximum number of participants. First come, first served, so make sure you are on time! Register on the day before 10 am at the Tourist Information Center (at the Whiteaways Arcade meeting point), the tour starts at 10.30 am. It takes about an hour and a half.

Tip: gain more insight into Penang’s colonial past at Cornwallis Fort. This open-air museum is also fun to visit with children.

7. Picnic in the Esplanada Park

After the free walking tour, walk past the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower and head towards Esplanada Park. This beautiful green lawn is perfect for a picnic. Grab a bite to eat at Esplanada Park Food Court and admire the beautiful buildings of Penang City Hall and Penang Town Hall on the outskirts of this park.

City Hall George Town Malaysia

8. Visit the Street of Harmony

Did you not participate in the free walking tour? Then pay a visit to the “Street of Harmony“. At the Jalan Kapitan Keling, you find a church, Taoist temple, Hindu temple and mosque next to each other! A separate but above all harmonious look: in one street, you find four different religions almost next to each other.

On the Jalan Kapitan Keling street, you will first find the beautiful St George’s Church, a building from the 19th century. If you then continue walking you will come to the Sri Maha Mariamman temple and The Goddess of Mercy Temple where with a bit of luck you can see a beautiful ritual. Finally, you end up at the Masjid Kapitan Keling mosque, where the large minaret stands out immediately.

9. View the exhibitions and have a drink at the Hin Bus Depot

Fancy a drink or looking for beautiful art? Then go to the Hin Bus Depot. This is a community art centre where there are various studios and art galleries and each time other artists exhibit. Behold the exhibitions, relax on the lawn or have a coffee at Bricklin Cafe! There are several cosy restaurants and cafés here.

Tip: a pop-up market takes place here every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here for more events at the Hin Bus Depot.

Hinbus Depot George Town Malaysia

Eating tip: At Muthu Restaurant you eat the traditional dish “banana leaf”. This is a tray full of rice, curry, vegetables and fish or meat. It is inspired by Indian cuisine. The restaurant is hard to find and is behind a yellow wall (without nameplate). Click here for the location on Google Maps.

Day 3: Outside the centre of George Town

After two full days in the centre of George Town, head out to see more of the island of Penang!

10. Breakfast in his Malaysian at Tiger Char Koay Teow

On your last day in George Town, you will start with a local breakfast. Eat at the popular Tiger Char Koay Teow. Order some goodies from one of the different counters, we can recommend the Want Tan Mee (noodle soup with dumplings and pieces of bacon) and the Char Koay Teow (noodles with shrimp and egg). Both dishes are famous Penang delicacy and really tasteful!

11. Visit the Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si

After breakfast, you will go to the Kek Lok Si temple. This Buddhist temple is eight kilometres outside the centre and is really huge! It is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. A build-in cable car goes to the different floors. We walked the first part to the second floor where we saw different temples, including a beautiful pink pagoda. From here you can see both the large white pagoda on the third floor and the Kuan Yin statue on the fourth floor.

View from Kek Lok Si Temple George Town Malaysia

The second and third floor

After the second floor, we walked through a maze of corridors and stairs to the pagoda. This thirty-meter high building is beautiful! It has elements of Burmese, Thai and Chinese architecture with hundreds of red and yellow lanterns.

You reach the fourth floor by cable car. The view from the cable car is very beautiful! On this floor, there is a huge statue of Kuan Tin (Guanyin), the goddess of forgiveness. The statue is over 60 meters high.

Note: the Kek Lok Si temple is really a big maze. Finding your way is not always easy, just like clarity about prices. Below you will find all the prices.

Costs for the Kek Lok Si temple:

  • You pay MYR 2 (€ 0.40) for the pagoda
  • Do you want to take the cable car to all floors? Then you pay MYR 16 (€ 3.5) per person (return). If you only take the cable car from floor three to four (as we did) then you pay MYR 6 (€ 1.30) per person (return)

How do you get to the Kek Lok Si temple?

By taxi, you can reach the temple in 30 minutes for MYR 15-20 (€ 3.5-4.5). With bus 201, 203 or 204 you take about 50 minutes and you only pay MYR 2 (€ 0.40).

You need about two hours to admire the entire Kek Lok Si temple. Afterwards hungry? As soon as you walk through the temple complex (past the parking lot) you will find a food court on your right.

Kek Lok Si stairs Temple Penang

12. Continue to Penang Hill or take the cable car.

You are now close to Penang Hill, a collection of high hills overlooking George Town. You can go to the top by cable car or by hiking for three hours.

The Penang Hill cable car

A return trip to the top with the cable car costs MYR30 (€ 6.50) per person. It is a spectacular ride because you partly go through a very steep tunnel. In fifteen minutes you are on top of the mountain, where it is often 5-6 degrees cooler than at the bottom of the mountain. Not bad with the burning sun!

View from Penang Hill George Town Malaysia

Climbing Penang Hill

Are you up for a physical challenge? You can also hike up to Penang Hill. In about three hours you will walk through the woods, jungle and past small golden temples. The first part is relatively easy due to the well-maintained road. The second part is more challenging, with steep stairs and sandy paths. You can still take the cable car down for MYR 15.

Tip: do you want to go hiking? Then start with Penang Hill and leave as early as possible! It quickly becomes very hot.

13. End your visit to Penang on the beach!

The rest of the day you can take it easy and go to the beach. The Batu Ferringhi Beach is known as one of the most beautiful beaches of Penang. It is 11 kilometres away from George Town. From here you can see a beautiful sunset. Another option is Tanjung Bungah beach. Here, you can fully enjoy water sports! Tanjung Bungah is only 8 kilometres away from the centre of George Town. Take bus 104 to travel in 40 minutes to Tanjung Bungah.

Note: there can be many jellyfish in the sea. Swimming is not always a good idea here.

Pulau Kentut Besar beach

14. Alternative: visit Penang National Park for free!

Are you not up for a beach day, but something more active to end your day? Then visit the Penang National Park. In addition to beaches, you will find beautiful nature such as lakes with a mix of salt and freshwater, jungle and turtles. You can even camp here overnight! Take your own tent and supplies.

Malaysian smallest national park is completely free. You will be approached on arrival by dozens of locals who want to take you by boat to one of the beaches (prices vary from MYR 50-120). You can also hike through the park to the different beaches. There are several challenging routes that run through the park.

Tip: to go from the centre of George Town to Penang National park, take bus 101. For MYR 4 (€ 0.90) this bus takes you to the national park in approximately hour and a half.

15. Eat your last meal at the Red Garden Food Paradise

For your last dinner in George Town, choose from one of the dozens of local dishes at Foodcourt Red Garden Food Paradise. For just a few euros you can enjoy dishes such as Penang Assam Laksa (spicy fish soup with noodles), Ais Kachang (shaved ice with beans, corn and syrup) or Mee Goreng (fried noodles).

Where do you sleep in George Town?

With a program full of activities it is important that you sleep well! Below you will find three excellent hotels and guesthouses, in different price ranges. Please note: these accommodations are popular among travellers. So book on time!

My Guesthouse 109 €my guesthouse 109

With five cats, a rabbit, turtles and a carp, this hostel has everything to make you feel at home. The rooms are spotless, there is a kitchen and a free washing machine at your disposal! You stay here from € 27 (two people)

Book now!

Victoria Garden Hotel €€Victoria Garden Hotel

Right in the centre is the Victoria Garden Hotel located, the perfect place to unwind after a full day. Rooms are large and you are here nearby the Jetty! You stay here from € 49 including breakfast (two people).

Book now!

Tien Hotel Residence €€€Tien Hotel Resdience

This beautiful hotel has a swimming pool, nicely decorated rooms and even the stairwell is full of art. For the real interior lover! You stay here from € 80 including breakfast (two people).

Book now

Super handy: the best hostels, hotels and lodges per destination at a glance. Read our guide to the best hotels in Malaysia!

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