Welcome to Time Out's guide to Penang. Here are 50 things to do in this Unesco World Heritage Site, covering Food & Drink, Nightlife & Music, Activities & Attractions, and of course, Heritage, Arts & Culture. Curated by our critics and experts, this list will inspire you to experience Penang's historical sites, creative energy and multicultural diversity. So start here with our interactive feature.

  • Food & Drink

    • 1. Enjoy a bowl of Penang's ubiquitous assam laksa

      Just beside Balik Pulau's old market is this humble stall offering assam laksa and Thai laksa which is a fish and coconut-based gravy laksa. The latter is such a crowd pleaser and addictive. Another popular place for assam laksa is Joo Hooi cafe.
      Joo Hooi cafe 475 Jalan Penang, George Town.
      For more assam laksa spots, here's a list of five laksa places to try.

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      • 2. Savour the island's favourite stir-fry, char koay teow

        The flat rice flour noodles stir-fried with dark soya sauce, a dash of chilli paste, garlic, bean sprouts, prawns and kucai leaves is very possibly the most popular hawker food among locals and visitors alike. To sample this, head over to the well-known Sin Hwa coffee shop or Ah Leng Char Koay Teow stall at Kafe Khoon Hiang. Ah Leng Char Koay Teow Kafe Khoon Hiang, 358 Jalan Dato Keramat, George Town.
        Sin Hwa coffee shop 329 Jalan Burma, George Town.

      • 3. Beat the heat with an ice ball

        Finely shaved ice packed tight into a ball and dipped half into palm sugar syrup and the other into rose syrup. Suck and drain the sweetness to quench thirst on a scorching afternoon. To experience this brain-freezing 'odd ball', look for any ice kacang stall and ask the vendor to make you one or try Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul (next to Joo Hooi cafe). Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul Lebuh Keng Kwee, off Jalan Penang, George Town.

      • 4. Get up close with the Peranakan culture through delicious Nyonya food

        The Peranakan people were probably the first to invent fusion cuisine with their Nyonya food that marries Malay and Chinese flavours. Their curries are a tad creamier and their ingredients create a more delicate base for stir-fried vegetables or seafood. Although, the most popular one is Mama's Nyonya Cuisine. Mama's Nyonya Cuisine 31-D Lorong Abu Siti, George Town. (+604 229 1318).

      • 5. Join Penang's longest Nasi Kandar queue

        Stand up to the challenge and join in the queue at the Nasi Kandar Beratur that will form just beside the Masjid Kapitan Keling by around 9.40pm. This nasi kandar place only opens at 10pm and the queue for it can go meters long. However, an easier choice is Hameediyah Nasi Restaurant. It's the third generation running the 100-year old family run restaurant today. Nasi Kandar Beratur Restoran Liqayat Ali, 98 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, George Town. Hameediyah Restaurant 164A Lebuh Campbell, George Town. (+604 261 1095).

      • 6. Hang with other cyclists over Roti Jala with curry

        Prepared individually when ordered, the runny flour batter is spread thin but wide using a special tool then cooked over a flat pan and served stringy and spider web-like with curry. There's a large stall under a tree at the roundabout of Jalan Teluk Bahang that offers this and it's especially popular with Sunday morning cyclists heading up or down Teluk Bahang dam. Roti Jala stall Jalan Teluk Bahang, Tanjung Bungah.

      • 7. Tap the humid weather with a refreshing Ais Tingkap

        Translated it means window sherbet simply because it's sold and served through an open window of the stall on Lebuh Tamil. The red colour stems from rose syrup that's mixed with olibanum gum resin (getah anggur), biji selasih, malva nut jelly and fragrant herbs such as pandan leaves. Served in a tall glass along with slices of coconut flesh and shaved ice. Ais Tingkap stall Lebuh Tamil, George Town.

      • 8. Drizzle fried taufu with spicy peanut sauce at Sri Weld food court

        Triangular or cubed pieces of soft taufu is deep fried, leaving the inside truly soft as if melting in your mouth but delicately crispy on the outside. The one sold at the front stall at Sri Weld food court on Lebuh Pantai is chopped to bite-sized and drizzled with spicy peanut sauce, while the one from Northam Beach Café is better off without the dipping chilli sauce. Sri Weld food court Lebuh Pantai, George Town.
        Northam Beach Cafe 58 Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, George Town (+604 229 0362).

      • 9. Upgrade our local coffee with stout flavoured marshmallows

        The Huey & Wah café at Straits Quay mall make their own marshmallows with 18 gourmet flavours and they dunk it into your order of kopi 'o'. An especially intriguing combination is the stout flavoured marshmallows in kopi 'o'. For a non-caffeine alternative, try the rose or passion fruit flavoured marshmallows dunked into warm milk. Huey & Wah Cafe 3A-G-31, Ground floor, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong. (+604 890 3962).

      • 10. Grab a cinnamon roll hot from the oven

        The Adventist Bakery has become an institution and an open secret within the locals. Their sticky and satisfying cinnamon rolls are either sold lose or four in a box are made out of wholegrain bread topped with plenty of walnuts and cashew nuts. Adventist Bakery Adventist Health Services Malausia, Penang Adventist Hospital, 465 Jalan Burma, George Town. (+604 222 7502).

  • Attractions & Activities

    • 11. Hop on the funicular train up Penang Hill

      Penang Hill is easily accessible by the funicular train. Once on the hill, the cooler weather will promote a lovely walk amid lush, greenery. There are spots for picnics if you care to pack food and drink before boarding the train. Penang Hill Jalan Stesen Bukit Bendera, Air Itam (+604 828 8880).

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      • 12. Enjoy Batu Ferringhi's romantic sunset with a friend

        Sunset at Batu Ferringhi beach stretch is a sight to behold. Wait for an especially hot, scorching day because this will guarantee an array of fuchsia and blue that'll fade into indigo at night fall. Beach resorts to stay in while enjoying this experience along Ferringhi are Lone Pine that's a modern boutique style, fun-driven Hard Rock Hotel and the luxurious Rasa Sayang Resort. Lone Pine Hotel 97 Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Batu Ferringhi (+604 886 8686).
        Hard Rock Hotel Penang Batu Ferringhi beach, Batu Ferringhi. (+604 881 1711).
        Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa Batu Ferringhi beach, Batu Ferringhi (+604 888 8888).

      • 13. Pretend to be a sea voyager on a ferry ride

        Ferry ride to Butterworth is not only fun but gives you a lovely view of the island's skyline. Once you get across after the 15-minute ride, you can hop onto a bus from the nearby bus station to head out toward the food-prone Jalan Raja Uda or the more modern area of Jalan Todak. Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal Butterworth. Raja Tun Uda ferry terminal Pengkalan Weld, George Town.

      • 14. Unearth the secret ingredients to Penang's famous local food

        Cooking classes are a terrific way to get to know the local cuisine and its exotic ingredients. Places that offer this regularly are the Tropical Spice Garden and Nazlina Spice Station. Both make these classes fun and satisfying. Nazlina will begin her class with a tour of a wet market in George Town and in both you'll end up eating what you cook! TSG Cooking School Tropical Spice Garden, Lone Crag Villa, 595 Mukim 2, Jalan Teluk Bahang, Batu Ferringhi. (+604 881 1797).
        Nazlina Spice Station 71 Lorong Stewart, George Town. (+6012 453 8167).

      • 15. Perform a free fall at ESCAPE theme park

        Outdoor activities are aplenty with the new theme park, ESCAPE in Teluk Bahang. Here's where balancing on tightropes hovering meters above ground and climbing a 30-foot tree will test your endurance and stamina. ESCAPE 828 Jalan Teluk Bahang, Teluk Bahang. (+604 881 1106).

      • 16. Skip the Penang traffic and flag down a bus

        A bus ride to Balik Pulau from Pengkalan Weld bus station is convenient. The ride will cut through the old part of George Town before hitting the expressway towards Jelutong, Bayan Lepas and the airport. This gives you a chance to have a quick view of the island and its morphing landscape of concrete jungle to lush, green hills. Venture around the island by bus with Rapid Penang.

      • 17. Put your bargaining skills to the test at a local market

        Markets in Penang are either open daily in the daytime or weekly night ones. The well-known Bazaar Chowrasta has not only fresh produce but also second hand books and clothing. There are also Pulau Tikus market that has a cluster of food stalls with tasty hawker fare and night markets such as the one in Tanjung Bungah each Tuesday that has a good selection of local fruits such as jackfruit, durian (when in season) and rambutan. Bazaar Chowrasta Jalan Penang, George Town.
        Pulau Tikus market Jalan Pasar (off Jalan Burma), Pulau Tikus.
        Tanjung Bungah market Jalan Tanjung Bungah, Tanjung Bungah.

      • 18. Cycle from Batu Ferringhi to Teluk Bahang for a workout

        Cycle towards Batu Ferringhi and onwards to Teluk Bahang dam where groups of cyclists throng early Sunday mornings. It's a long, windy and hilly stretch but a quiet one and rewards you with a breath taking view of the large dam at the top. Penang is becoming a cycle-friendly state with its new cycling policies. Take on the Penang mainland, just like us in Pedal Power.

      • 19. Challenge the trekking routes at the Penang National Park

        Penang National Park may be the smallest national park in the world but once you're in it, you'll not hold on to that idea. There are enough challenging trekking routes to test your stamina and they all lead to wondrous views of the water. Another way to access one of the loveliest beaches in Penang located within the park is by boat that you can take at the park's entrance on Jalan Hassan Abbas. Penang National Park Jalan Hassan Abbas, Teluk Bahang, Batu Ferringhi. (+604 881 3530).

      • 20. Count exotic birds at the Penang Bird Park

        The first of its kind here in Malaysia, this park's in Seberang Perai on the mainland and houses over 300 species of birds from all over the world and half of that is unique to Malaysia. Penang Bird Park Jalan Todak, Seberang Jaya, Seberang Perai (+604 399 1899).

  • Heritage

    • 21. Say a prayer on the Street of Harmony

      Street of Harmony is where all the different religious worship places can be found on one road, which is Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. Here, Masjid Kapitan Keling, Kuan Yin Temple, St. George's Church, Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Cathedral of Assumption and Khoo Kongsi are within steps of each other. Take a tour at the Street of Harmony & Historical Enclave with the Penang Heritage Trust.

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      • 22. Take a stroll through George Town's heritage streets

        Walk through George Town's heritage streets such as Lebuh Armenian, Love Lane and Lebuh Muntri to enjoy refurbished shop houses that are trendy cafes and boutique hotels while some remain antique stores, small businesses and Chinese coffee shops. Check our gallery for Streets of Penang.

      • 23. Stay the night at a refurbished heritage building

        Experience refurbished heritage buildings by staying in one of the many gorgeous boutique hotels such as the luxurious Seven Terraces, 23 LoveLane or a modern twist to an old mansion such as Eight Rooms within Macalister Mansion. Another option is to sip tea during the daily high tea served at the lovingly refurbished Suffolk House that was once the home of Sir Francis Light. Seven Terraces Lorong Stewart, George Town. (+604 264 2333).
        23 LoveLane 23 Lorong Love, George Town. (+604 262 1323).
        Eight Rooms Macalister Mansion, 228 Jalan Macalister, George Town. (+604 228 3888).
        Suffolk House 250 Jalan Air Itam, George Town. (+604 228 1109).

      • 24. Ride the trishaw on the streets of George Town

        Trishaw rides are an easy way of maneuvering around tight George Town traffic and a cool way to see the sights or to get from point A to point B within the town centre. You'll need to agree on a price with the trishaw driver before getting on. The rule of thumb is RM30 per hour. Ride a trishaw and discover Penang's best attractions in 48 hours.

      • 25. Manoeuvre the rickety walkway of the Clan Jetties

        Clan Jetties on Pengkalan Weld is a walk in time. These living areas on stilts that hover above the sea of several clans haven't returned the call of development and therefore remain quite true to their original architecture and layout. Check our gallery for Jetty Life: Penang's waterfront society.

      • 26. Take a walk amid Bangkok Lane's architecture

        Bangkok Lane is a short street consisting of houses built by the Cheah family in 1920s. Today most of these houses are rented out to boutiques, small hotels and eateries. After a walk through, the coffee shop on the corner offers, as some attest, one of the best hawker fare such as mee mamak and Hokkien mee. Bangkok Lane mee mamak 270 Lorong Bangkok, George Town.

      • 27. Learn to weave a rattan basket at Thean Seng Huat

        Craftsmen of traditional products are a dying breed. Still there are a few within George Town such as the rattan weaver on Lebuh Chulia, the famous joss stick maker on Lorong Muda, tombstone engraver on Lebuh Acheh and signboard engraver on Lebuh Queen. Thean Seng Huat 490 & 492 Lebuh Pantai, George Town.
        Mr Lee Shop House No. 1 Lorong Muda (off Lorong Stewart).
        Kok Ying Chow signboard maker 41 Lebuh Queen, George Town.

      • 28. Get a box of pop bombs from 41 Living Story

        Charming little exhibition such as the one in 41 Living Story is a charming bric-a-brac shop in a refurbished shop house that used to be a goldsmith business. Right at the back, in their courtyard, the old equipment for this trade is exhibited, along with its history written on panels hung on the walls. 41 Living Story 41, Lorong Love, George Town (+604 263 6103).
        Check our review on 41 Living Story.

      • 29. Be a self-assigned member of an exclusive Chinese clan house

        Kongsi or clan houses are normally within the town centre. The large compound of these kongsi housed numerous living areas for several families belonging to the same Chinese clans, a temple and a courtyard. While there are numerous of kongsi around, the more prosperous ones and good examples to view are Cheong Fatt Tze and Khoo Kongsi. Cheong Fatt Tze 14 Lebuh Leith, George Town. (+604 262 0006).
        Khoo Kongsi 18 Lebuh Cannon, George Town. (+604 261 4609).

      • 30. Stock up on nutmegs from Bazaar Chowrasta

        Local produce such as nutmeg, Chinese cookies, local handicraft and the like are easily found under one roof at either Bazaar Chowrasta on Jalan Penang or Lim Wah Thai emporium on Jalan Gottlieb. Penang's known for its nutmegs and the pickled variety that's pungent and distinct in flavour can be hard to find. Bazaar Chowrasta Jalan Penang, George Town.
        Lim Wah Thai emporium 3A Jalan Gottlieb, Air Itam (+604 228 1063).

  • Music & Nightlife

    • 31. Dance the night away at Soju Room

      For the agile and young at heart, shake to the beat at Penang Times Square's very own Soju Room. They play tracks according to the current music trend. Soju Room B2, Entertainment City, Penang Times Square, Jalan Dato Keramat, George Town (+6012 556 5876).

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      • 32. Book a ticket to Penang's largest jazz festival

        Penang Island Jazz Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in Malaysia and a very popular one in Penang, this annual festival sees international and local musical greats coming together for a three-day jazzy feast at Batu Ferringhi. It's normally held towards the end of November and early December. For more on the Penang Island Jazz Festival, see listing

      • 33. Get dizzy with a glass of toddy at Ong Cheng Huat

        In some seafood restaurants, this fermented coconut water is offered. Cloudy, sweet-sour and lightly fizzy, one place to try this drink is at Ong Cheng Huat. Ong Cheng Huat Seafood 2004 Bagan Lallang, Butterworth (+604 331 4782).

      • 34. Enjoy vivacious drum beats at the Penang World Music Festival

        Penang World Music Festival is also an annual music festival held at the end of March at the Penang Botanic Gardens where vivacious drum beats or gentle strums of strings will serenade you. Penang Botanic Gardens Jalan Kebun Bunga, Pulau Tikus. (+604 227 0428).
        For more on the Penang World Music Festival, see listing

      • 35. Chill with the musicians at The Canteen

        Live music on weekends can easily be found in places such as Jammin', a chill out place above Via Pre restaurant and there's a lovely view of the pier from their balcony where you can sit, chat and sip their gourmet Italian beers. The Canteen has a range of bands range from indie music to pop and jazz. Despite their rustic feel, they have a good sound system. Jammin' Via Pre, Second floor, 5 Pengkalan Weld, George Town (+604 262 0560).
        The Canteen ChinaHouse, 153 & 155 Lebuh Pantai, George Town (+604 263 7299).

      • 36. Lounge with a sunset view and a beer

        For places such as Straits Quay, Bora Bora and QEII at the end of the pier on Pengkalan Weld, they're great to go for drinks while watching the sun setting since they're located by the water. Straits Quay Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong (+604 899 5228).
        Bora Bora Lot 415, Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Batu Ferringhi(+604 885 1313).
        QEII Church Street pier, 8A Pengkalan Weld, George Town (+604 261 2126).

      • 37. Fall for smooth single malt whiskies at The Den

        The Den within the Macalister Mansion only serves single malt whisky and Vino Vino (around the corner from Queensbay Mall), specialises in wines (both old and new world varieties) and champagne. The Den Macalister Mansion, 228 Jalan Macalister, George Town (+604 228 3888).
        Vino Vino Bistro Block H-10-3, Lorong Bayan indah 2, Bay Avenue, Bayan Lepas (+604 645 9922).

      • 38. Sip an ice cold beer at BED Auto City

        For those preferring an easy ambience where you can just chat while sipping a favourite poison, there are BED at Auto City and Soho Free House. They often have beer promotion during their happy hour. BED Auto City 1824-G1 & 1823-G3, Jalan Perusahaan Auto-City, North-South Highway, Juru Interchange, Seberang Perai (+604 507 0725).
        Soho Free House 60A, Jalan Penang, George Town (+604 263 3331).

      • 39. Enjoy the sea breeze and mojitos at Sigi's Bar and Grill

        For intoxicating glasses of signature cocktails, take a shot at Maricosa at Straits Quay mall offers a line-up of flavoured margaritas and mojito at Sigi's Bar and Grill on the Beach within Golden Sands Resort. Maricosa 3E-G-1, Block E, Ground floor, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong (+604 899 0809).
        Sigi's Bar and Grill on the Beach Shangri-La Golden Sands Resort, Batu Ferringhi (+604 886 1911).

      • 40. Salute Penang's World Heritage status with a cup of joe

        The charming heritage area is filled with refurbished shop houses that are eateries, boutique hotels and cafes. The Daily Dose has reasonably good coffee and wines for less than RM100 per bottle, while Edelweiss Café is good for cool beers after an afternoon walk around the area. The Daily Dose Cafe 8C Lebuh Carnarvon, George Town (+604 261 2063).
        Edelweiss Cafe 38 Lebuh Armenian, George Town (+604 261 8935).

  • Arts & Culture