• Mario Ng

Penang Attractions - What to see and do in Penang

Penang, Malaysia's food capital, has a wide variety of attractions for everyone to enjoy. For those who might consider what places to visit, Penang's Peranakan culture is well-known. Quite a few buildings have turned into museums for everyone to see how its former Peranakan owners used to live. Due to the predominantly Chinese population, there are also quite a few clan associations still active in Penang. Attractions for the families are catered for, with KOMTAR, the tallest building in Penang, having an observation deck for everyone to enjoy the city from above. Make sure you check out Penang Hill as well, with temperatures considerably lower than that of the city. We can see why the British used to stay there all year round! Check out our list of attractions you should visit in Penang below!


Remember to check out the Google map all the way below for our full list of attractions and food places you should head to while in Penang!

For your convenience, refer to this list of attractions you should head to while in Penang!

1. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

2. Pinang Peranakan Mansion

3. Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

4. Penang State Museum

5. Street Art around Penang

6. Wonder Food Museum

7. Rainbow Skywalk and Observatory Deck @ KOMTAR Penang

8. Penang Hill

9. The Habitat @ Penang Hill

10. Batu Ferringhi Night Market

11. Ferry between Butterworth and Penang Island

1. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Probably the most famous mansion on Penang Island, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is on the top of every tourist’s list of the places to visit when in Penang. The former house of Cheong Fatt Tze, he was one of the richest men in Penang when he was alive.


The mansion was built using only the best materials, a testament to Cheong’s affluence. Steel was imported from Scotland, while artisans from China were brought in to ensure the mansion looked perfect. Feng-shui was crucial, and one can see it at work in the mansion’s courtyard.

The living area of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion​
The living area of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion​

Interestingly, Cheong’s family was not able to ensure the proper maintenance of the mansion after his passing, and it became dilapidated after some time. Fortunately, some conservationists realised the importance of this building and bought it, restoring the mansion to its former glory. It now houses a beautiful hotel and restaurant.


The mansion offers daily tours to visitors, with bookings essential. We booked a tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. We learnt so much about Cheong Fatt Tze, how he was such a successful entrepreneur that gave him his riches, and how feng-shui played a crucial role in the construction of this house. We also found out how and why the building fell into disrepair after his passing, and what made it possible for this mansion to be restored so well after so many years of neglect. This is a great place to learn more about Penang’s history!

Looking down to the courtyard of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Looking down to the courtyard of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

After you have finished your tour, do not rush out of the mansion! Take some time to relax in the mansion’s bar, which is open to the public. Have a drink and a cake! I had their signature drink, which was a mixture of lemongrass, lemon, and ginger. It was refreshing after a long and sunny day in Penang, and a slice of their banana cake was simply the best!


If you are interested in having a meal at this mansion’s restaurant, check out our review of food recommendations in Penang!

Refreshments at The Bar inside Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion after completing the tour
Refreshments at The Bar inside Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion after completing the tour

Tour prices: RM25 per adult; RM12.50 per child (below 12 years of age)

Tour timings: 11am / 2pm / 3.30pm daily

Where to book: https://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com/discover/daily-tours/

2. Pinang Peranakan Mansion

If there is one place in Penang you should visit to understand the Peranakan culture, Pinang Peranakan Mansion is definitely the place to go. While it might not be as famous as Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, it contains a lot of Peranakan artefacts, spanning numerous rooms. Many precious vases, china, and gold bracelets are on display, each showing intricate Peranakan designs.

A few of the most exquisite china one can find in Penang
A few of the most exquisite china one can find in Penang

If possible, you should definitely join in a complimentary tour, which occurs periodically throughout the day. The guide will explain the purpose of each room in the house, and how the owner lived when he was alive. While you are there, be sure to take note of the 2 large mirrors in the dining room. While most of us would consider that as part of a house’s decor, these actually served a more important purpose. It was said that the owner had many enemies, and had to be on his guard at all times. As the dining room is located near the main entrance, the mirrors allowed him to check who is entering the house, so he might have a few seconds to be prepared. Such anecdotes were fed to us throughout the tour, and we enjoyed the experience.

One of the large mirrors in the main dining hall to allow the owner to always be aware of his surroundings
One of the large mirrors in the main dining hall to allow the owner to always be aware of his surroundings

After the tour, you are allowed to remain in the mansion, and you can take your time to slowly re-explore the different rooms, so you might admire the artefacts more closely. You should definitely make use of this time to examine those precious gems. Cater at least 2 hours in this mansion!

One of the smaller dining areas in Pinang Peranakan Mansion
One of the smaller dining areas in Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Ticket prices: RM20 per adult; FOC per child (below 6 years)

Opening hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm daily

Find out more here: http://www.pinangperanakanmansion.com.my/index.htm

3. Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi is a Chinese clan association and was built for the Khoos. This refers to those whose last name is Khoo, and the association was built by the Khoos, for the Khoos. Specifically, this was built by the Leong San Tong clan, which explains the name of this association.


This place is quite an eye-opener to Chinese heritage, and one can learn a lot from visiting this place. The stone carvings on the walls look really beautiful, while the rooftop ridge decorations look all the more amazing.

Check out the various stone carvings around the Clan House
Check out the various stone carvings around the Clan House

There is also a small museum located on the ground floor of the Clan House, and here you will learn about the history of this association and how this building came into being. You should definitely take some time to read and understand its past. You will also learn about some prominent Khoos, and what they have done to boost the Khoo name.


Fun fact: Some scenes of the movie Anna and the King was actually filmed at Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi! Try to see if you can identify the exact spots where this movie was filmed!

The Clan House of Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi
The Clan House of Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi

Ticket prices: RM10 per adult; RM1 per child (below 12 years)

Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm daily

Find out more here: https://www.khookongsi.com.my/

4. Penang State Museum

Penang State Museum is currently undergoing maintenance in a few blocks, which results in only selected areas available for viewing. At first glance, this may not seem like an amazing place to learn about Penang. However, when you look past the basic setup of the museum, you can find gems here.


You will be able to see how Penang came to be a place of various cultures. Discover more about Sir Francis Light, the one who founded modern Penang. Learn about his journey to the far east, and how he developed Penang to grow and prosper. Find out about the different ethnic groups present in Penang, and the different artefacts presented in the museum will allow you to see the common clothes and ware associated with them. See a traditional Nyonya wedding bed, a kris, and how Indians use different kitchen equipment for specific things.

Nyonya ware on display at Penang State Museum
Nyonya ware on display at Penang State Museum

There is also a replica classroom for visitors to take a look at, and one can see how children used to learn in school, back in the 1900s. While the equipment was really basic then, the setup remains similar, when each child had a table and a chair, with the teacher right at the front to teach the children.


As the museum undergoes maintenance, make sure you do not give this a miss!

A replica classroom showcasing how lessons were conducted a hundred years ago
A replica classroom showcasing how lessons were conducted a hundred years ago

Ticket prices: RM1 per person

Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm daily except Fridays

5. Street Art around Penang

Penang is absolutely famous for its street art that is across the city. There are even television dramas that talk about this street art, such is its fame. Hence, if you are a tourist in Penang, you should snap a few pictures with these pieces of art.

Penang Street Art - Boy on chair
Penang Street Art - Boy on chair

All you need to do is get a map detailing the locations of this street art, put on some comfortable walking shoes, a water bottle, and get going! It is quite fun to walk around Penang and take photos of these murals. Many tourists can be seen taking pictures with them and you can see how enjoyable it is as you wait your turn to snap these pictures. Be creative and strike a nice pose when it is your turn. Or, get inspiration from those before you. Whatever it is, have some fun and bring back memories of your time on the streets of Penang!

Penang Street Art - Brother and sister on a swing
Penang Street Art - Brother and sister on a swing

The streets along Penang are quite walkable, and you should not encounter too much trouble. The main concern would be the climate, as the hot conditions may cause you to be dehydrated. Make sure you constantly hydrate, especially while waiting for your turn!

The queue to snap a picture with the famous art can be long but fun
The queue to snap a picture with the famous art can be long but fun

More information on the street art around Penang:

1. http://www.penang-discovery.com/attraction/mural_wall_art/

2. https://streetartpenang.com/

6. Wonder Food Museum

This museum is quite a unique place to head to, although it is apt, considering Penang is the food capital of Malaysia. Much like those popular Korean trick eye museums, Wonder Food Museum allows visitors to explore the various food options available in Penang. Larger-than-life bowls of chendol, Nasi Padang, and curry noodles await you as you enter the different galleries.

Possibly the largest bowl of chendol one can find in Penang
Possibly the largest bowl of chendol one can find in Penang

There are also recommendations accompanying those delicious-looking plates of food. For example, while you salivate looking at that plate of nasi kandar, there is a list of places attached to the exhibit where you can find the most popular stores selling just that in Penang! This means that after your trip to Wonder Food Museum, you can head down to the actual store for a feast!


Besides just looking at these plates and bowls of uniquely Malaysian dishes, the museum really seeks to celebrate Malaysian food culture, and how it has brought together different peoples, and how people of all races can come together and enjoy the different food together. While each dish might originate from a specific race or country, most if not all, enjoy the dishes and that is what makes Penang, and indeed Malaysia, so special.

Peranakan food on display at Wonder Food Museum
Peranakan food on display at Wonder Food Museum

Make sure you take a look at those miniature figurines that show how life was like in Malaysia perhaps 50 years ago when life was much simpler and people can head down to grab a plate of satays for a really affordable price!


There are also lessons to learn at Wonder Food. Unfortunately, many Asians still consume shark’s fins, and Wonder Food explains just how cruel the practice of obtaining these fins are. The fact is these sharks are captured alive, get their fins cut off while alive, and simply thrown back into the ocean, where they are left to drown in pain. Such a cruel practice simply must stop. For sure, say NO to shark’s fins.

Simply say NO to shark's fins
Simply say NO to shark's fins

Have you also considered how much sugar is in that can of cola? Or how about that glass of red wine? Perhaps you will learn a little and get a little shocked, at just how much sugar we might consume daily. Knowing these and acting on them can really help our waists and our health! It is really interesting and educational over here at Wonder Food Museum. This is a great place for all to visit while in Penang!


Ticket prices: RM25 per adult; RM10 per child (below 12 years)

Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm daily

7. Rainbow Skywalk and Observatory Deck @ KOMTAR Penang

Located on the tallest building in Penang, the Rainbow Skywalk and Observatory Deck is a must-go for those who enjoy looking at the city view from above.


Built in 1986, KOMTAR has since remained the tallest building in Penang. It is also the best place for visitors to get a bird’s eye view of Penang, and look over towards Mainland Malaysia and Penang Hill. While it might not look as striking as those observation decks in New York City, KOMTAR offers a different perspective. Check out the shipping industry over Mainland Malaysia, while looking at Penang Bridge, which connects the island to the mainland. Then check out the heritage buildings down below, interlaced with the more modern office buildings and hotels. Penang Hill is in the distance, and it is also a place where temperatures are considerably cooler. If you are fortunate, you can see low clouds hovering just above Penang Hill. In the distance, aeroplanes regularly take off and land at Penang Airport, and you are likely to be able to see at least a few of these planes. Such are the colourful views presented at KOMTAR Penang, which makes it special and unique. It is definitely a place you will want to visit.

Looking towards Penang Hill from the observatory deck at KOMTAR
Looking towards Penang Hill from the observatory deck at KOMTAR

Right at the rooftop, there is also the Rainbow Walk. Opened only in 2015 as part of a revitalisation plan, it is pretty popular with locals and tourists alike. It is where you get to experience for a short while what it is like to walk on glass, seeing the streets below when you look down. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted, and I admit I did not dare try it. Nevertheless, it is a good and fun experience for those who dare!

The rainbow walk for those who dare!
The rainbow walk for those who dare!

If you are heading over during the evening to catch the sunset, it should be perfect. While waiting for the sun to take its daily nap, you can actually chill at the rooftop, have a beer or two, and chat with your family and friends. It is a nice way to relax in Penang and the temperature would also be more manageable come night time. The city will also light up by this time and it makes the entire experience even more fun. Make sure you head here when you are in Penang!

Looking at Penang Island and Penang Bridge from the comfort of the observatory deck at KOMTAR
Looking at Penang Island and Penang Bridge from the comfort of the observatory deck at KOMTAR

Ticket prices: RM68 per adult; RM48 per child (12 years and below); RM48 per senior citizen (60 years and above; includes foreigners)

Opening hours: 11 am to 10 pm (Sundays to Thursdays; 11 am to 11 pm (Fridays to Saturdays); 10 am to 10 pm (Public and school holidays)

Where to book: https://thetop.com.my/buy-tickets/

8. Penang Hill

Penang Hill used to be the place the British head to whenever they wanted a break from their official duties. Ever since that colonial era was over, Penang Hill became a popular tourist attraction. The reason for its popularity through the times is quite simple. The cool climate Penang Hill brings is just lovely. Quite cooling at the top, it reminds one of Genting Highlands, where the altitude lowers the temperature to a comfortable low 20s (degrees Celsius).

View of Penang Island from Penang Hill
View of Penang Island from Penang Hill

Due to its popularity, it can be really crowded as the day progresses. To best experience Penang Hill, my recommendation is to take the first or second train up Penang Hill. There are quite a few benefits to this. Especially on a weekday, you might face traffic jams on the way to the foot of Penang Hill. This can have a huge impact if you only leave your accommodation from 7 am onwards. By heading there early, you will have a good chance of avoiding the jam, making the journey fuss-free. Next, there will not be any queues that early in the morning. I set off at 6.30 am, met a traffic jam, and managed to board the 7.30 am train. While there were people waiting for the train, I was comfortable on the short train ride. If you come later as the crowds start to arrive, you can face queues to board the train for up to 2 hours! Even for those with fast lane passes, you will still need to wait for quite some time. Queuing for such a long time can spoil the experience somewhat. Thirdly, the sunrise from Penang Hill is just beautiful. Seriously, I must have spent 30 minutes at the top trying to take as many pictures as I could, while the sun slowly rose. This view is really just amazing, and can only be seen when you wake up early enough. Lastly, it is during this time when the temperature is really cool, and you can enjoy the nice breeze. It is quite enjoyable and allows you to forget you are actually in a tropical country. For a few hours at least.

One of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen in my life
One of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen in my life

However, do note that most attractions only open from 9 am onwards, which means you will have some time to kill. Even the cafes do not open until 9 am onwards. This should not deter you, since the amazing view will more than make up for it. You should definitely head over to Penang Hill first thing in the morning!

An aeroplane taking off from Penang Airport as the sun slowly rises over the horizon
An aeroplane taking off from Penang Airport as the sun slowly rises over the horizon

Standard return train ticket prices: RM30 per adult; RM15 per child (12 years and below); RM30 per senior citizen (60 years and above)

Fastlane return train ticket prices: RM80 per adult; RM 40 per child (12 years and below); RM60 per senior citizen (60 years and above)

Opening hours: 6.30 am to 11 pm daily

Where to book: http://www.penanghill.gov.my/index.php/en/

9. The Habitat @ Penang Hill

Located on Penang Hill, The Habitat is the place to go to explore Penang’s rainforest. First built in the 1800s by the British, the Malaysians have since taken over control and have successfully run the reserve.


There is a 1.6km trail, where you can walk amongst the trees in the rainforest, and explore them in more detail. Some parts of the trail are elevated, and you really get to see the rainforest from high up. It is quite amazing to see so much greenery in a compact city like Penang. This is probably the city’s lungs, and it was quite awesome to breathe in the pure fresh air. The view was just amazing, where you see nothing but trees and the sea beyond that. There are no buildings or skyscrapers and you feel connected with nature while walking along the trail.

Look at the beautiful rainforest when walking along the Canopy Walk at The Habitat
Look at the beautiful rainforest when walking along the Canopy Walk at The Habitat

Make sure you head up to the Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk, where you will experience how life must be like at the top of these trees and see if you can spot Langkawi and beyond. You can also see Penang city from here, and you should try to spot your hotel! This gives visitors a fresh perspective of Penang, and see how different Penang Hill is from the city down below.

View from Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk: Nothing but rainforest
View from Curtis Crest Tree Top Walk: Nothing but rainforest

I really enjoyed myself at The Habitat, and I was amazed at how clean the air was. It was such a unique experience that I feel some botanic gardens around the world simply cannot beat this. I mean, this is a rainforest after all! And it is not often one gets access to a rainforest so easily! So for sure, this is a place travellers to Penang must visit!

Not just trees: One of the ferns thriving at The Habitat
Not just trees: One of the ferns thriving at The Habitat

Ticket prices: RM55 per adult; RM35 per child (17 years and below); RM35 per senior citizen (60 years and above)

Opening hours: 9:00am to 5:30pm (Exit by 7:00pm)

Where to book: https://thehabitat.my/buytickets.html

10. Batu Ferringhi Night Market

Located in Batu Ferringhi, this night market is near the beach, along the stretch of hotels, including Hard Rock Hotel Penang and Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa. If you have ever been to Phuket, this feels like the night market at Patong beach, along the roads. Naturally, this night market targets those who stay in the area. However, if you have a day planned at the beach, this would be a good ending point for the day.

Check out some of the souvenirs for sale at Batu Ferringhi Night Market
Check out some of the souvenirs for sale at Batu Ferringhi Night Market

Use the opportunity to get some bargain finds, buying cheap t-shirts and souvenirs. Of course, the best end to the day is getting some local seafood, and here at the night market is also a hawker centre, where local delights are the order of the day.

Grilled stingray for supper at the local hawker centre at Batu Ferringhi Night Market
Grilled stingray for supper at the local hawker centre at Batu Ferringhi Night Market

Opening hours: 7 pm onwards daily

11. Ferry between Butterworth and Penang Island

While not an attraction per se, this is quite a fun way to travel to Penang Island and see it from afar. For those who have some time to kill, we actually took a Grab (Southeast Asia’s version of Uber) from Penang Island to the Pangkalan Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal, located at Butterworth. One good thing about this is that you get to travel on the Penang bridge, and it does seem fun to travel along such a long bridge. I would want to travel on the Golden Gate Bridge, no?

Saying goodbye to the industrial area at Butterworth
Saying goodbye to the industrial area at Butterworth

After arriving at the ferry terminal, you might want to relax for a while, and grab some food. There are a few fast-food restaurants here, including a Starbucks. The ferry terminal is an interchange, where trains and buses bring you to other parts of Malaysia. Hence, make sure to follow the signs to direct you to the ferry. Depending on the time of the day, the ferries should run every 20 minutes, and tickets should also be readily available.

Standing at the front of the ferry looking at Penang Island
Standing at the front of the ferry looking at Penang Island

Note that there is limited seating, although you should not be sitting anyway! It gets quite windy as the ferry moves towards Penang Island, and it was cool to snap many pictures of both Butterworth and Penang Island. You might also find it cool to be alongside cars, as this is a mixed ferry. Even more interesting is how the cars and people are all on the same level, so you can technically get out of your car and join the rest of us in enjoying the sea breeze. Hungry? There is even a snack store on the ferry, so you won’t need to starve while on the 15-minute boat ride.


This was definitely an enjoyable ferry ride and we highly recommend doing this as a fun family activity!

Passengers resting alongside their cars while the ferry heads towards Penang Island
Passengers resting alongside their cars while the ferry heads towards Penang Island

One-way ferry ticket prices from Butterworth to Penang Island: RM1.20 per adult; RM0.60 per child (12 years and below)

Opening hours: 5.20 am to 12.40 am

Google Maps: List of attractions and food places in Penang!

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