Penang Island is a vibrant part of Malaysia, popular with travellers for its food and history. It’s perfect for the curious and the culture-hungry as there’s so much to explore, particularly in lively George Town. If you have only 48 hours to spend in Penang, you’ll want to plan wisely in order to fit in all that the area has to offer.
Make the most of your 48 hours by following our guide to the best of Penang:
Spend your first morning in George Town, the capital of Penang and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is described as the heart of Penang and is a must-see destination. The most popular options for getting around George Town are on foot and by bicycle. The iconic trishaws (three-wheeled cycles with a seat for passengers) can be hired with a “chauffeur” and will give you a unique perspective on Penang life as you are pedalled through the streets in traditional style.
Among the many highlights of George Town is the Heritage Walk, particularly Armenian Street, where you will discover examples of Penang street art as you explore the Heritage Zone. The Heritage Zone is also the place to get a glimpse into Penang’s rich cultural past: be sure to keep an eye out for the varied architecture and old-style shops as you make your way through the streets.
Another famous feature of George Town is the Clan Jetties. Also within the Heritage Zone, at Weld Quay, each jetty is the home of a different Chinese clan. It is a fascinating way to immerse yourself in the local culture and understand Penang’s maritime relevance.
Just 20 minutes away by taxi or bus, Batu Ferringhi is the perfect complement to George Town. Whether you prefer the quiet life or a holiday of high activity, you will find both tastes catered for here.
There are beaches if you just want to relax by the water and soak up the atmosphere for the afternoon. For those seeking more action, Batu Ferringhi offers watersports galore: try a ride on a banana boat or a jetski for a thrilling experience. You can also enjoy Batu Ferringhi from the air, with unparalleled views available via a parasailing adventure. Away from the beach, hagglers will love the nighttime bazaar, with stalls on the sidewalk providing bartering opportunities until after midnight – perfect for those trying to cram in as much as possible into the day. It’s long, lively and eclectic, so bring your Ringgit!
Renowned for the range, quality and sheer number of street food vendors, Penang is one place where you will struggle to go hungry. The only difficulty may be deciding what to choose. Don’t spend too long deliberating: wherever you choose to dine, Penang’s restaurants and hawkers are sure to leave your stomach satisfied. Popular cuisines include Chinese, Indian, Malay, Western and Nyonya, so leave room to try them all during your stay.
Stop at New World Park for some Har Mee, prawn noodles or some asam laksa – a noodle soup made with fish which Penang is famous for. To eat like a local, make sure you try Char Koay Teow too, a local delicacy of stir fried flat noodles with prawns and dark soy sauce. For dessert, try Ais Batu Campur (called ABC or Ice Kacang by the locals), which is shaved ice covered in sweet syrup, condensed milk and various other toppings like corn, peanuts or red beans.
Penang National Park
Reportedly the world’s smallest National Park, the Penang National Park is a blend of rainforest and sea. There’s plenty to do so you can easily spend your second day here. Visitors are encouraged to make the most of picnic and fishing areas, and there are also boat rides should you wish to see neighbouring islands.
Two special attractions here are the lighthouse – still in operation despite being built in 1883 – and the meromictic lake, which contains both sea water and fresh water that do not mix together.
The Penang National Park is free to enter and is a 40 minute bus ride from George Town. There is a lot to see and the park closes at 5pm, so get there early to make the most of the park’s attractions and scenery.