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Penang is, in my opinion, Malaysia’s coolest island. Sure, Langkawi and the Perhentians are undeniably gorgeous, but when it comes to art, culture, heritage and food, Penang is second to none. Its diverse mix of cultures and rich history make it one of the most fascinating and fashionable destinations Malaysia has to offer. This Penang luxury travel guide is here to help you get the best out of your trip.
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Like much of Malaysia, Penang has two seasons: wet and dry. November – April are the dry months and therefore the best time to visit. However, visiting Penang during wet season shouldn’t put too much of a damper on your trip. Rain tends to come in short, sharp bursts rather than spoiling the whole day.
It’s worth noting that the Lunar New Year celebrations take place in either late January or early February. During this time, many local Chinese businesses will be closed for the holiday.
I’d recommend spending two or three days exploring Penang’s capital city of Georgetown. There’s a lot to do in the city but it’s fairly small, so a few days should be sufficient. Then, it’s definitely worth taking another day or two to visit the beaches and national park on the north-west corner of the island.
Penang’s beaches aren’t quite as spectacular as Langkawi’s, but they’re still pretty lovely. However, if you’ve got several extra days to laze on the beach, I’d recommend hopping on a ferry to the Jewel of Kedah.
Georgetown is a very walkable city that’s fun to explore on foot. However, for longer distances it’s best to use Grab, the most reliable ride-hailing app in the region. If you can’t find any WiFi, then Ocean Jupiter is one of Penang’s best taxi companies.
Alright, so now you know when to go and how long to go for, it’s time to figure out where you want to stay. In keeping with its colonial history, Georgetown is home to some grand imperial hotels where you can really soak up the island’s heritage. However, there are also some more modern choices, too, for those who prefer slick, trendy digs.
Not to be confused with the huge house from the Home Alone movies, this hotel is a gorgeous 20th century English mansion. It was renovated in 2012 and seamlessly blends the past and present with its modern-yet-regal decor. No Penang luxury travel guide would be complete without a mention of this legendary abode.
The Eastern & Oriental belongs to a class of hotel whose glamorous appeal is predicated on old-world charm and colonial heritage – and really, that’s what Penang luxury travel is all about. Like Raffles in Singapore or The Majestic in Kuala Lumpur, the E&O is a famous favorite of 19th and 20th century literati, dignitaries and socialites.
The hotel consists of two wings: the 2013 Victory Annexe and the Heritage Wing, which is the original 1885 building. With spacious rooms, antique furniture and plenty of vintage decoration, this hotel oozes grandeur and luxury.
It’s unclear what the G stands for (Good? Great? Georgetown?) but what I do know is that the G Hotel is one of the most modern luxury hotels in Penang. It’s a sleek skyscraper with a stylish, contemporary interior and excellent facilities, including an infinity pool and a rooftop bar.
Georgetown is famous for its quirky, inventive street art. There are many amusing and edgy murals throughout the city. Back in 2012, Penang’s council hired a street artist, Ernest Zacharevic, to brighten up the city. After a stroll around, I think you’ll agree he was more than up to the task. Some of the best pieces include ‘Little Children on a Bicycle’ on Armenian Street and ‘Brother and Sister on a Swing’ just off of Pengkalan Weld.
Keh Lok Si is the oldest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and it’s well worth exploring. It’s an impressive and colorful complex with over 10,000 Buddhist statues and the dizzying seven-storey Rama VI pagoda. You could easily spend a good few hours exploring this fascinating temple.
Georgetown is home to plenty of quirky museums. Whether you want to indulge at the Coffee and Chocolate Museum, take cool (and slightly mind-boggling) photos at the Upside Down Museum or unleash your inner child at the Teddy Bear museum, you’ll definitely have fun exploring these kooky venues.
Excellent views, historical buildings and a love lock fence await you at the top of Penang Hill. The only question is: how do you get to the top?
You can either undertake the three-hour hike to the top or take the funicular railway to save time (and sweat.) Both are enjoyable ways of scaling the hill, although it probably depends on who you ask…
Once you get to the top, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of Georgetown and you can wander through the British and Chinese bungalows that date back as far as 1803. You can also pay a visit to the oldest Hindu temple in Penang, Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan (that’s a mouthful, huh?) or simply enjoy some tea and cake at David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terraces.
Sadly, soaking up the sun is all you’ll be able to do as swimming is prohibited on Batu Ferringhi due to jellyfish. However, it’s still a very pretty beach and you might be able to spot monkeys in the trees. There are also a handful of beach bars to enjoy, such as Bora Bora and Frandy’s. At sunset, you can go horseback riding – just don’t let the touts rip you off.
This 650-year-old Chinese clan house is one of the most famous in Penang. Ornate and impressive, it represents the importance and success of the legendary Khoo Kongsi family. From the looks of it, they did pretty well for themselves. This fascinating, elaborate temple is definitely worth a visit.
Not for the faint of heart, this temple in Bayan Lepas pays homage to a reptile-loving Buddhist priest. After the building was completed, hundreds of snakes moved in and made it their own. If you’re brave enough, you can take a look around the temple and witness its scaly inhabitants first hand. Don’t worry, they don’t bite!
Most of the trails through Penang National Park are challenging, but not ridiculously so. You’ll sweat a lot, but you’ll also get to enjoy forest landscapes and finish up on the pristine turtle beach. If you don’t want to hike back, you can take a boat back instead to spare your legs.
No Penang luxury trip would be complete without a visit to Kebaya. Head to this restaurant inside the Seven Terraces hotel for decadent decor and delightful Chinese-Malay cuisine. Here, you can enjoy a sumptuous 5 course meal and excellent service underneath glittering chandeliers. You’ll need to book in advance, as the restaurant only offers two seatings per day, at 6pm and 8pm.
Putien is one of the only Michelin star restaurants in Penang. It offers authentic food from the Fujian province of China in a relaxed and simple setting.
Honestly, I think the salmon bagel I had at Mugshot cafe was the best one I’ve ever had in my whole life. They’re cooked in a wood-fired oven and then stuffed full of fresh ingredients and served in a hip, cosy setting. True to its name, you can also take some just-for-fun mugshots here in the cafe’s cute photobooth.
This art gallery slash bar slash cafe is a hipster hotspot full of local artwork, antique pieces, amazing speciality coffee and a classy selection of wines. It’s the ultimate Penang luxury cafe, where Georgetown’s coolest residents go to feel cultured and classy.
Who doesn’t love dinner and cocktails with a view? This revolving restaurant offers an upscale experience with spectacular views of the city below. It’s currently the only skybar in Penang, so this place is a must for luxury travelers.
Have you been to Georgetown? I’d love to hear your Penang luxury travel recommendations, so please drop them below! If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia, why not check out this list of the best luxury travel destinations the country has to offer, or this Kuala Lumpur travel guide?
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Your Luxe Lifestyle was founded by luxury world traveler Isabella Garofanelli bringing you the very best the globe has to offer in travel, lifestyle, and wellness.
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