To say I was excited to be revisiting Penang is probably the understatement of the year. I love this little island and ever since my first stay 5 years ago, I’ve been doing my best to convince as many people as possible to visit. I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in Penang this time around and I’m happy to say it was as great as I had remembered. If you’re planning your first visit, I’ve got the perfect 3 day Penang itinerary that will see you taking in a little of all the best bits.
Penang’s capital, Georgetown, is the best area to stay for a short trip to Penang. It’s where you’ll find amazing food, culture, street art and history. But if you wanted to escape to the beach for a bit of R&R then Batu Ferringhi is great for you. You can find out a bit more about this area in my post below about my top 7 things to do in Penang and if you have more than 3 days I would definitely recommend getting over to this part of the island.
You might also like to read:
- Exploring the unmissable Georgetown Festival in Penang
- My top 7 things to do in Penang
- 16 things to do in Melaka
- My budget friendly guide to Kuala Lumpur
How to get to Penang
Penang is a little island located off of Malaysia’s west coast. It’s super easy to get to with both buses and trains running to the ferry port (Butterworth) for you to catch the boat across to Georgetown on Penang. This time around I caught the train from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth which took about 4 hours but last time I caught an overnight bus there.
Once you reach Butterworth, you will either come out of the train station or be dropped off by the bus in the bus station next to it. You then just need to jump on the free shuttle bus that will take you to the ferry port where you buy a ticket for the grand total of 1.20 Ringgit (about 25p). The ferries run every 20-30 minutes and it only takes about 15 minutes to get to Penang. What’s even better is that the ferry back to Butterworth is free. You can check the ferry times and some more information here.
Where to stay in Penang
Georgetown is the capital of Penang and where all the main sight-seeing is done. It’s such a vibrant area and there are some great places to stay to suit all budgets. It’s quite artsy and there are plenty of boutiques as well as heritage hotels to choose from. If you’re travelling on a budget (like me) then be sure to check out the hostels. I stayed on Love Lane in The 80’s Guesthouse in a 6 bed dorm and it was super comfy, clean, had great showers and awesome warehouse decor throughout. The staff are really friendly too and gave us loads of suggestions so it’s an all round great place to stay in Penang on a budget.
The 3 day Penang itinerary
Penang is famous for its street art and it really is brilliant. There are different types of artwork spread out all over Georgetown from big murals to wire artwork to the awesome pieces that you can interact with. You can either pick up a tourist map which shows their locations or just walk anywhere are you will be sure to stumble across plenty of pieces. There are loads to see that it’s easy to fill a morning finding them.
Some of my favourite street art pieces are the children on the swings and the boy on the motorbike, both of which you can interact with. I also really like the wire pieces which give little snippets of the history (often the more seedy parts) about Penang.
For a quick bite to eat and a refreshing drink, stop by GAYO Coffee. This cafe is huge, covers 2 floors and also has a hidden live music venue tucked out the back. It’s beautifully decorated but its highlight is the huge old tree that sits in the centre of the cafe.
After lunch take a walk down to the clan jetties on the waterfront. There are 6 in total with the most famous one being Chew Jetty. These water villages were originally built on stilts as stations to unload and load goods from boats but after time houses were built and each jetty became the home of different Chinese clans. Today, as you walk along the jetty you will see a number of shops and small restaurants to try some local bites as well as to get a view of the neighbouring jetties. People still live here so be mindful that this is not solely a tourist attraction when it comes to taking photos and having a look around.
As day turns to night, the jetty area is also a great place to watch the sun go down. The sun will actually set behind you over Penang but on a good night the sky can turn some awesome colours and it can be a nice place to relax for a bit.
On your first night in Penang, why not try some of the delicious local foods? Just across the road from Chew Jetty, you’ll see the lively CF Hawker centre. There will be music blasting out, some flashing disco lights but most importantly a room rammed full of food stalls to choose from. From seafood curry to satay and noodles, you’ll find everything here. It’s full of locals and the food is delicious and super cheap!
This morning is all about learning about the colonial history of Penang. Built by Superintendent Francis Light of the British East India Company in 1786, the fort is a star shape with 4 points for protection. The fort was never actually needed for protection as Penang was never attacked but as the oldest fort in Malaysia, it’s an interesting place to visit. They run free tours a couple of times a day and you can also go up the lighthouse to see the view.
Just around the corner from Fort Cornwallis, you’ll come across the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower. This was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee and stands at 60 ft tall on the middle of a roundabout. Right next to it on the roundabout, you’ll also see a gold shaped egg fountain. This is, in fact, a Betel Nut and represents Penang Island due to the Malay name for the Betel nut (Pinang).
Another day is another chance to indulge in Penang’s famous street food. Wander along a little further from the clock tower and make your way to Weld Quay. This bustling hawker market is smaller than the CF hawker centre from yesterday but is definitely a favourite with the locals.
After lunch, head back into the smaller streets of Georgetown to visit some of the many temples and really learn more about how multicultural Malaysia and this little island is. My favourites are the beautiful and ornate Chinese Yap Kongsi temple and the Hindu temple Sri Mariamman but you will also find mosques and churches dotted all around. Grab a map and go exploring!
Love Lane is a great area to head to in the evening for awesome street food and lively bars. At the top of Love Lane, on Chulia Street, you’ll find tonnes of little street stalls lining the road. Each stall specialises in one dish which they have been perfecting for years. I would highly recommend trying Wan Ton Mee (a noodle dish in a scrummy broth), spicy Laksa and a delicious savoury popiah just to top things off. You can, of course, get a bit of everything here though; from satay to burgers, there’s something for everyone.
After you’ve had a proper feed, take a walk down Love Lane and choose from one of the many bars to grab a cold beer or cocktail. Most seem to have a never-ending happy hour going on, so you really can’t go wrong here!
Start your final day off in Little India, a buzzing neighbourhood just a few minutes walk away from Love Lane. This area is full of colour, music and the delicious smell of spices wafting through the air. Wander the streets and you’ll find stores full of beautiful fabrics and jewellery as well as pretty flower garlands.
Personally, the smell of the food in Little India is completely irresistible to me, and if you’re the same, be sure to grab some food while you’re here. I highly recommend the banana leaves meals or a fragrant Biriyani from Kapitan- the food here is insane! If you want smaller bites then choose from a huge range on the many street food stalls you’ll come across. If you’re looking for a sweet treat then don’t miss the chance to try some Indian sweets. I don’t know what any of them are, I just let the stall owner choose a few for me.
After lunch, jump in a Grab (Asia’s version of Uber) out of Georgetown to Kek Lok Si Temple, also known as the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas. The views of this temple as you drive up to it are almost as striking as the views from it. It is a huge temple complex, in fact, it’s one of the largest in Southeast Asia. You can definitely spend a few hours getting lost.
To finish off your 3 days in Penang, take another short Grab journey to Penang Hill for sunset. The most fun and easy way to get to the top is to take the awesome funicular train from the base of the hill, up through the forest to the top. The views from up here are incredible. You can see the whole of Penang and all the way over to mainland Malaysia which looks extra special lit up at night. Once you’ve watched the island come to life from above, make your way back down on the funicular railway and back into Georgetown for some food and a few Tiger beers.
Other things to do in Penang
If you’re looking to spend a bit more time on this awesome Malaysian island, here are a few more things I would recommend to fill your days:
- Batu Ferringhi – Take a trip around to the beachy part of Penang, Batu Ferringhi. This area is famous for its gorgeous beaches, watersports, more street food and batik clothing. It’s more of a pricey area but there are definitely budget places to stay as well. You can either jump on bus 101 from Chulia Street to Batu Ferringhi or get a taxi.
- Penang National Park – Just a little further around from Batu Ferringhi is Penang’s beautiful National Park. You’ll find plenty of walkways and treks to keep you busy and its the perfect place to see monkeys on the aptly named, Monkey Beach,
- Escape Themepark – If you’re looking for a fun day then be sure to head here. This park is actually more like 2 parks in one with one half being a waterpark and the other being an adventure park. You could easily spend a day here! Check out the website here for ticket prices and opening times.