Georgetown is the charming capital city of Penang, Malaysia. Known for being a walkable food oasis bursting with history and culture, it’s an amazing destination to add to your list of must-sees in Malaysia.
If you’re still not convinced, we’ve compiled a list of five reasons why Penang is worth a visit.
Go on a Free Walking Tour
Georgetown has a genuinely fascinating past, but the history can be a little complex to figure out on your own. To start off your trip, we recommend joining one of the city’s free walking tours run by the government. This tour starts at the Tourist Information Centre (take care of the map location of this as there are several similarly named locations) and takes you through the city by foot while explaining the historical past and places of cultural significance. These tours happen every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:30 are and you must register in person by 10 am on your chosen day. There is a limited number of people who can join, but this number is higher on Saturday. Get there early to ensure a spot!
Seek out some street art
If you’ve done even a scrap of research on Georgetown, you’ll have heard about the infamous street art at every turn. Georgetown was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 and launched the first art project with a series of steel artworks sharing the history of various streets and areas in 2009.
In 2012, beautiful murals and artworks began to be commissioned and appear around Georgetown and have been painted by skilled artists ever since. There are now at least 80 of these scattered throughout Georgetown!
Several maps have been compiled on this so you can avoid the headache of scanning your eyes across every wall in Georgetown. TimeOut Penang created a great map that you can add to your personal Google Maps by clicking the star icon. If you’d like to see the art before you go (and ruin the surprise), check out this blog post documenting many of the murals and this tourism brochure which includes the original steel artworks too. The artworks a beautiful sight, but due to the popularity of Georgetown, it’s best to view these early in the morning to avoid lining up for photos or having to dodge photo takers.
Walk the Clan Jetties of Georgetown
One of the most fascinating relics of Penang’s past is the remarkable, walkable Clan Jetties that reach out into the ocean. These are over a century old and consist of a wooden jetty lined with stilt houses. Originally designed for mooring boats, loading goods and resting between shipments, these stilt houses had no amenities and were not considered homes.
As different Chinese clans began to dominate each jetty, these buildings were gradually converted to communal homes (albeit without water or electricity). These six jetties are still home to people today – so make sure any exploring you do respect this! The jetties vary in length and touristy appeal.
Our favorites include Chew Jetty (the most touristy with many souvenir shops and a temple) and Lee Jetty (a more local, quiet jetty). Why not check them all out and find your favorite?
Make your own at a cooking class with MyPintuPlate
As a foodie destination with a melting pot of cultures, Georgetown is the perfect place to learn some delicious recipes to take home with you. One class worth the time and highly recommended is MyPintuPlate. The teacher is Khalid, knowledgeable local teaching in his small kitchen. A typical class here includes hands-on cooking of 3 or 6 local dishes such as roti jala with chicken curry, char kuay Teow, sambal and coconut rice (for nasi lemak) and fried banana fritters. Make sure you have ample stomach space and time because it’s a lot of food, and tends to run overtime. Classes are small so you’ll get to know everyone and have a friendly, social time. An absolutely delicious experience!
Try some local eats
There’s no way we can fit everything you should try in one paragraph or even one article but hopefully, we can set you off in the right direction to find your own delicious food. Malaysian food is generally split up into three major ethnic groups’ food: Malay, Chinese and Indian.
Each of these has a whole array of deliciousness, with Chinese food being particularly well-represented in the Georgetown center. In general, we suggest you seek out busy local-frequented spots serving these dishes – char kuay teow (wok-fried rice noodles), Assam laksa (spicy, sour noodle soup), Hokkien mee (prawn noodles), wan tan mee (wontons with noodles), curry mee (curry soup noodles), cendol (coconut shaved ice dessert with jellies), nasi kandar (rice with your choice of tasty meats and veggies covered in curry sauce), nasi lemak (coconut rice covered with sambal and your choice of protein), roti canai (roti with curry sauce), lor bak (deep-fried pork rolls), popiah (savory crepe stuffed with fillings) and roti kahwin (toasted bread with coconut jam).
Of course, there are so many more too like nutmeg juice and local dim sum places – ask your hotel staff for recommendations on their favorites.