One Day in Penang Itinerary – Top things to do in Penang, Malaysia

Malaysian travel is focused prominently on Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi which are usually regarded as must-visit spots for most travelers. Shift the focus to the north of Kuala Lumpur and you will arrive to the idyllic state of Penang. Divided into two sections, the Penang Island and Seberang Perai, this Malaysian state is home to fascinating attractions, natural scenic landscapes and leisure areas. Among the two sections, Penang Island appeals the most to visitors.

One day in Penang Itinerary

Known as Pearl of the Orient, Penang Island has an exceptional amalgamation of Asian culture, British colonial history, nature’s beauty and contemporary lifestyle. Its capital city – George Town – is the second largest city in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur, yet it keeps a slow-paced way of life. An underrated Malaysian destination from the global point of view, you are in for a surprise when you see Penang’s mix of culture, scenic views, and multi-ethnic cuisine upon visiting this fascinating destination.

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What is the best time to visit Penang?

Penang usually has a year-round tropical climate. However, from November until January is the optimum time to visit as the climate becomes cooler and has perfect sunny days for a stroll around the city. Christmas and New Year also mark the onset of vibrant events among the liveliest settings with the crowd surging up to celebrate and take in the warmth of the pleasant climate. This time of the year is the very crowded, so accommodations and services can see a steep rise in prices.

Once the holiday season wears off, Penang gets quieter and gets fewer tourists from February till April. If you want to visit this destination without flocks of tourists, then these months are the ideal season for you. However, the temperature tends to soar as the months pass. It is better to come prepared with light clothing, plenty of water and sunblock for the harsh afternoons. The rate for services and accommodation also drops after the peak season of Christmas and New Year.

The onset of monsoons from May till October discourages visitors. It is not recommended to visit during this season as Penang has some of the wettest showers during this period, leaving visitors with no choices for taking sightseeing tours, which is what this place is most famous for. But this part of the year is when Penang slashes its rates and provides unbelievable discounts on hotel stays and other services. Hence, it is a good time to look for relaxation holiday packages in Penang’s scenic regions. Visitors who are not keen on exploring the island much and are looking for a blissful getaway can stay in luxury hotels and get pampered with good food and wellness.

a Few facts about Penang

Penang is a state that has two sectors – Penang Island and Seberang Perai – both connected by the Penang Bridge. Among these sections, Penang Island is comparatively huge and has a diverse topography which makes it appealing to tourists.
George Town in particular is popular for its colonial-era architecture fused to Asian charms. Tagged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city embraces modernism while keeping alive its cultural heritage. The unique street arts on the paint-peeled walls of George Town are something you won’t witness anywhere else in Malaysia. The city is a pleasure to explore on a walking trip. George Town is the ideal spot for those who are spending only one day in Penang.

Where to stay: Best Hotels in Penang

Streets of Penang
Streets of Penang, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

One Day in Penang Itinerary

Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Penang.

Explore the street murals

Start your day in the charming George Town. The city is compact enough to be explored on a walking tour or on a bike ride. Head to Lebuh Armenian, Love Lane and Lebuh Muntri heritage streets in the morning where you can explore some fascinating Penang tourist attractions.

Heritage architecture of George Town, Penang
Heritage architecture of George Town, Penang, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

A stroll through these streets lets you discover amazing murals and paintings by the Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. His art and murals captivate tourist attention making these lanes a flourishing photo-stop for visitors. Some of his much-talked street murals are the ‘Little Girl in Blue’, ‘Little Children on a Bicycle’ and ‘Reaching Up’. You can even explore these street arts on a trishaw ride which costs about 40 ringgits for a 30-minute tour of these winding colourful alleys.

Street art, Penang
Street art, Penang

Visit the Penang Clan Jetties

George Town feels like a place where time stands still. The bygone years of the city still have a lasting impact on it. The early Chinese settlements in Penang can be witnessed at Penang Clan Jetties, one of the last remnants of Chinese influence on Penang. Located at the end of Lebuh Chulia Street, set close to the Penang ferry terminal, Penang Clan Jetties are one of the popular places to visit in Penang. Saunter around houses built on stilts adorning the waterfront area for insta-worthy photo stops and a leisure walk on the dockside.

Clan Jetties, Penang
Clan Jetties, Penang, Author: Marcin Pieluzek, Source: Flickr

Marvel at the heritage treasures of Khoo Kongsi

One of the popular landmarks in Penang, Khoo Kongsi has kept its ancestral vibes well preserved. Located on Jalan Acheh, at Lebuh Pitt, Khoo Kongsi reflects the olden Hokkien clan culture through its structure and designs. Its architecture infuses genuine Chinese accents with ornate stone carvings, ceramic structures, murals and paper lanterns.

Khoo Kongsi, Penang
Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Source: Shutterstock
Khoo Kongsi, Penang
Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Experience the Chinese influence on Penang at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

Wandering through the Leith Street, you will come across an indigo blue mansion that reflects the traditional Hakka – Teochew style architecture. What is fascinating about this mansion is that it takes you into the era of Chinese traditions, interspersed with Western elements – depicted throughout the mansion’s architecture.

Penang at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang
Penang at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang, Author: Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Source: Flickr

This traditional-style Chinese courtyard house originally had 38 rooms, five granite-paved courtyards, and 220 timber-frame windows. Today it has been transformed into a 18 room heritage boutique hotel, and the structure has undergone a Grade-1 restoration. You can even opt to spend the night here and find yourself amid the best Penang tourist attractions.

Penang at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang
Penang at Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Penang, Author: Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi, Source: Flickr

Travel back to the British era at Fort Cornwallis

Set next to Penang clock tower, Fort Cornwallis is one of the oldest structures in Penang and the largest fortress in Malaysia. The fort is structurally built in a star shape as a measure to get better defense from enemies. Inside the fort is a bronze statue of Captain Francis Light, a harbour light tower, Penang’s first chapel and several bronze cannons, barrack areas and an enclosed park.

Fort Cornwallis, Penang
Fort Cornwallis, Penang, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr
Fort Cornwallis, Penang
Fort Cornwallis, Penang, Author: xiquinhosilva, Source: Flickr

Visit Penang’s tribute to the British – Queen Victoria Memorial

George Town was once a British colonial settlement, and this is still accentuated through the fragments of the British era. Queen Victoria Memorial is one such testimony of Western influence. It was built to remember Queen Victoria’s 60 years of reign. Situated to the left of Fort Cornwallis, the memorial’s 60 feet tall clock tower is one of the iconic landmarks of Penang.

Enjoy the night at Gurney Drive

Wondering what to do in Penang in the evening? Head to Gurney Drive as the day fades into twilight. Step away from the old world charm and experience the modernity of Penang. Referred as the ‘New Esplanade’, Gurney Drive is a fusion of Penang’s best shopping, dining and night venues along the breathtaking stretch of Penang coastline.

Shopping at Gurney Drive

For shopaholics, Gurney Paragon Mall offers a massive beachfront shopping complex brimming with merchandises from luxury brands and famous designer labels. Gurney Plaza is another waterfront shopping mall that caters to a blissful retail therapy experience.

Nightlife at Gurney Drive

Penang has an eclectic nightlife. The wine bars and pubs are ideal places to enjoy your favorite drink and mingle with locals. Nightspots such as Three Sixty Rooftop Bar, 75°C Restaurant & Bar, The Canteen at China House and Martini’s Café offer elegant ambiances for nonchalant moments. If you want to dance away the night, head to Cuvée @ Precinct 10 or Soju Room which are the hot spots to get footloose on live DJ bands and enjoy drinks.

Dining at Gurney Drive

The Penang food scene is an extraordinary experience – right from a simple local dish of icy pandan-flavoured cendol or mouthwatering assam laksa to sophisticated grilled steak or hand-tossed pizza, you get an assorted range of lip-smacking epicurean treats.

Laksa, Penang
Laksa, Penang

Some amazing dining venues to check out are Michelangelo’s Restaurant & Bar, Bagan Bar & Restaurant, and Sesame+Soy Restaurant. Coffee Island offers an alfresco Kopitiam ambiance where you can enjoy a hot piping coffee under the starry skies.

New Gurney Drive Food Court is a first-class night street food arena where you can indulge in delicious delicacies of Asian and international menus at really affordable prices. The hawker stalls in New Gurney Drive Food Court start their business daily by 6 pm and remains open until late night.

Where to stay in Penang?

Save up to 30% on your hotel reservations!

Penang offers plenty of options that suit all type of travelers. Looking for budget stays, then Armenian Street Heritage Hotel and East Indies Mansion are best choices that offer you a comfortable stay with finest services at reasonable prices.

East Indies Mansion
East Indies Mansion

Seven Terraces Hotel, Evergreen Laurel Hotel Penang and Eastern and Oriental Hotel in George Town top the list for the finest luxury stays with flawless services.

Seven Terraces
Seven Terraces
Eastern & Oriental Hotel
Eastern & Oriental Hotel

For a heritage experience, you can choose between Blue Mansion and 1926 Heritage Hotel.

Cheong Fatt Tze - The Blue Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion
1926 Heritage Hotel
1926 Heritage Hotel

If you are spending the night at Gurney Drive, then the opulent G Hotel and Palanquinn Heritage Suites are your ideal options for elegant stays.

G Hotel Kelawai
G Hotel Kelawai

Extra tips while visiting Penang

– Travelling to Penang is easy. All you need to do is to book your Malaysia fight tickets and get your Malaysia visa online.

– Arrive directly at Penang International Airport located around 20 kilometers from city center. However, taxis from the airport are available at fixed costs, which can be quite expensive. Travelling by local transport is a value for money option. Local buses are your cheapest option as they cover most parts of Penang. However, George Town is ideally explored on a bike, trishaw or by strolling around its streets. You can even rent a car to explore the city as you please.

– Check the Malaysian holiday list before your Penang tour as the state is a multiethnic destination. Locals take their religious ceremonies and traditions very seriously and have grand celebrations and festivities. These periods tend to draw large local crowds and clog up roadways. Hence better to work your travel dates while considering Malaysian holidays.

– Keep cash in your wallet. Though there are ATMs available and restaurants do accept credit cards, the local coffee shops, hawkers, and certain attractions would demand cash for payments.

– Ensure you have all travel documentations in order. A valid passport and Malaysian visa is mandatory for visiting Penang. Also, keep your documents, passports and immigration card securely with you to avoid any pointless difficulties in your Penang trip.

Best Hotel Deals in Penang:  Lowest Price Guarantee


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Anca One Day Itinerary
Anca B.

Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).


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