Penang is most widely known for its capital, Georgetown. A foodie mecca, street art hub and home to a high concentration of cafes serving Malaysia’s best coffee. While Georgetown is totally deserving of the hype travellers often don’t realise the huge amount of other things to in Penang which can keep you busy for weeks.
If you have the time we recommend staying at least a week and taking the time to see the area at a relaxed pace. It also means you have more opportunity to fit in all the food and coffee options which can last a good couple of days.
But we realise not everyone has the luxury we do to travel at our own pace so we’ve put together the best of the best, the ultimate mix of things to do for exploring Penang in three days. Yes, it means you’ll be on the go a lot of the time but if you follow this Penang itinerary you’ll get the perfect combo of jungle, beaches, street art and food.
How to Get to Penang
Penang is easily accessible from most other cities on mainland Malaysia. The easiest way to get to Georgetown is to get either a bus or a train to Butterworth where the ferry will take you directly to Georgetown in 15 minutes for 1.20 MYR (return journey is free).
A bus from Kuala Lumpur will take around four hours or from Ipoh it only takes about two hours. You can also take the train from either destination which takes about the same time and is more comfortable but is a little more expensive.
There are also buses that go across the motor bridge to Penang but they drop you further away from Georgetown and you’ll need to take another bus or a taxi to get there.
For all bus and train times and ticket booking click here.
Where to stay in Penang
The first step to an amazing three days in Penang is to pick a great place to stay. Staying in Georgetown makes sense as everything is within easy walking distance and there are transport connections to other parts of the island.
We highly recommend Hotel Penaga which is a beautifully designed boutique hotel. They have a pool, spa centre, library, restaurant and bar. They make an effort to be eco-friendly and many of the design elements incorporate repurposed materials including furniture remodelled from Chinese antiques.
They also offer the perfect little touches to make it feel like a true luxury experience. A free welcome massage, tea and snacks served in the afternoon and a complimentary glass of wine in the evening. For more information and prices click here.
If you’re travelling on a tighter budget, Lang Hoose has comfortable and nicely designed double rooms in an old long house style building. Check prices here. Or for backpacker style check out the dorms at Dou Houz Guest House.
For a full review of the best places to stay in Penang read this article.
Penang 3-day Itinerary – Day One
Today is the day to get acquainted with Georgetown so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes and if you’re there in the rainy season bring an umbrella. The streets of Georgetown are easy to walk and are lined with small shops, cafes, street art and gorgeous colonial architecture. Don’t miss these stops on you day out in Georgetown.
Things to do in Georgetown
The street art in Georgetown is probably the most famous attraction in Penang these days. The 3D works by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, are dotted around the town and are really cool. You’ll have to queue for a photo for with the kids on the bike as this is located right at the start of the most touristy street. But the others are tucked away down smaller alleys and you’ll probably stumble across a few by accident.
There are also other artists featured around the town and our favourite was huge mural called ‘Trishaw Man’ located a bit out of the centre on Penang Road next to the car park behind the Blue Mansion. You can pick up street art maps at tourist info or your accommodation, use Maps.me which has them marked or simply wander and see what you can find!
Historically several Chinese families settled in Georgetown and each jetty is named after the family that settled there. You can wander down to the jetties to see how the people live in stilt houses over the water. Remember to be respectful as these people genuinely still live there and often don’t want photos taken.
If you’re feeling like mixing up your cultural experiences head through little India and you will truly fee like you’ve been transported to another land. All the restaurants sell Indian food (and it’s pretty good!) the shops sell all kinds of Indian clothes, decorations and food and all the people are ethnically Indian. The area really comes alive at night when the market stalls light up and the streets become crowded with people eating, shopping and meeting friends.
For some market shopping head to Chowrasta Market which has a dry market on the first floor and several clothing and second-hand book stalls on the second. It’s also surrounded by lots of great street food options. Across the road is the Panang Bazaar which has mainly clothes.
If you’re in town on a Sunday head to Hin Pop-Up Market which has a local crafts market. There are several pop-up stalls selling clothing, jewellery and handicrafts as well as coffee and snacks. The space is always open so if you’re there on another day of the week you can head there to check out the street art and grab an excellent coffee and cake at Bricklin Café.
Best Places to eat in Georgetown
Ummmm anywhere? Georgetown offers the most amazing selection of food choices. From street food to high-end Western options and everything in between. Here are some of our favourite places that we found during our stay in Penang.
Ee beng is an amazing buffet of local vegetarian food and a loaded plate will set you back less than 10 MYR. Make sure you try the chilli eggplant!
The Leaf Healthy House Café is a cute little restaurant serving a delicious range of fresh vegetarian and vegan food at really decent prices.
Black Kettle has a comprehensive menu of well-made food as well as a bakery section with croissants and bread.
We had some of the best Indian food outside of India while we were in Penang and a walk through little India will see you right in just about any restaurant. We liked Restoran Kapitan.
Head to Kimberley Street or find a night market that is on during the days you’ll be there.
Penang 3-day Itinerary – Day Two
Time for a trip! Did you know Penang is home to the smallest National Park in Malaysia and it’s free to enter? It makes a great day trip and is an easy way to get out of the city and mix up your trip with some jungles and beaches.
Head to the jetty and jump on bus number 101 which will take you right to the entrance of the national park. From there you can jump on a boat or head off hiking to reach one of the two white sand beaches located in the National Park. We opted for the hike to Turtle Beach which took around 1.5 hours and passed through dense jungle.
Once we were there a boatman offered us a ride back for 15 MYR per person. The hike to Monkey Beach was closed so we didn’t stop here but Turtle Beach is very beautiful. You can’t swim at the beaches in the National Park due to jelly fish so make sure you bring enough water to cool down after the hike.
Once you’ve hiked or taken a boat back to the National Park entrance jump back on the bus. You can choose to get off at the Spice Garden to check it out (we didn’t do this but have heard good things). Or continue on to Batu Feringgi Beach.
This long stretch of beach offers lots of relaxed opportunities for swimming and water activities like parasailing and jetskiing. Hang out at the beach and watch the sunset before taking a stroll through the Batu Feringgi Night Market where you will find all kinds of food, souvenirs, clothing and electronics. Buses run until 11:30 pm to return you to the jetty in Georgetown.
3 day Penang itinerary - Day Three
Start the day with brunch in one of the epic cafes around the town before heading for a morning in one of the museums. There is a museum in Georgetown to suit every taste, from history to optical illusions and giant food. Here’s a list of some of the most interesting museums to visit:
Penang State Museum
This museum is supposed to have a great collection of historical photos, maps and artefacts but it was closed for restorations when we visited. There’s no word when it will open again but check online before your visit.
Penang 3D Trick Art Museum
Penang seems to a have a bit of a thing for novelty museums and the 3D Trick Art Museum is a perfect example. It has optical illusion art works that put the viewer into a 3D scene. Lots of fun for kids and adults.
Entrance fee: 25 MYR
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm
Upside Down Museum
The name says it all really. A museum of scenes created upside down so you can get some fun photos.
Entrance fee: 27 MYR
Opening Hours: 9am - 5:30pm
One of the weirder museums in Penang, this one features oversized 3D versions of traditional Malaysian foods. Learn about Malaysian food and culture and gets some quirky holiday snaps.
Entrance fee: 25 MYR
Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm
Technically not a museum, this former mansion is now a boutique hotel. You can take a tour of the mansion and admire the stunning historic architecture and details. If you’re feeling like splashing out you can head to the Indigo Restaurant or spend the night in the hotel - check prices here.
Entrance Fee: 17 MYR
Tour Times: 11am, 2pm and 3:30pm daily. The tour takes about 45 minutes.
Penang Hill is the highest point on the island and a great place to get some views over the whole surrounding area. To get there take bus number 204 from the jetty which will take you to the funicular station. A return trip to the top costs 30 MYR.
At the top you can wander along a canopy walkway, have a coffee with a view, visit a mosque or get one of the most over the top dessert concoctions I’ve ever seen. The best time to head up is just before sunset when the queues at the bottom are non-existent and you have the chance to see the view both in daylight and then at night.
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*We were guests at Hotel Penaga for part of our stay but all opinions and reviews are our own.*