Georgetown Travel Guide

Georgetown is the capital of Penang Island and the center for culture, entertainment and history. The streets are still lined with the traditional Chinese shop houses which sparked the island’s economic growth and are still going strong.

The city is home to many different cultures, all of whom work well together, complementing one another. Chinese Buddhists, Malaysian Muslims and Indian Hindus have businesses next door to each other. It is a fascinating blend which sees prayer and worship to three different deities take place side by side.

Despite its small size, there are many sightseeing opportunities, with a number of temples open to the public, parks and gardens, the famous Cheong Fat Tze Mansion and of course, the stunning coastline. There is enough to keep people of all ages entertained for a long time.

You can not visit the town without passing through the colonial district, housing crumbing historic buildings and Fort Conwallis. Chinatown and Little India are also popular with tourists as you will find many local markets and excellent restaurants here.

Shopping opportunities are abundant in Georgetown. There are small independent shops on every corner and larger malls in the town centre. Little India is not only home to a local market, but also a number of textile shops selling cheap material.

Everything on the island is within easy reach of Georgetown including the beautiful beaches which surround the island. Public transport options are plentiful in the capital should you be going on longer journeys and as long as you agree on a price up front, you should find taxis very cheap.

Travel to Georgetown - Getting There

Many tourists arrive at Penang’s international airport after flying into Kuala Lumpur. Kuala Lumpur is just 30 minutes away by air or 5 hours away by train. It is also possible to catch a ferry here from Butterworth, which is a hub for passengers arriving by train from Singapore, Bangkok and elsewhere in Malaysia.

  • Worth it? If you are staying on Penang, you should not miss out a trip to Georgetown to explore everything on offer.
  • What to do: shopping, market browsing, visiting the temples, enjoying the local cuisine, sightseeing.
  • Best time to go: Georgetown is fortunate enough to enjoy year-round good weather. Winter is especially nice to visit as it is slightly cooler than other times yet still sunny.
  • How Long? Three days is long enough to take in the sights.
  • Trivia: Georgetown was named after King George III of England.

Georgetown Attractions

  • Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion: this is an original oriental building which is a reflection of Chinese life on Penang throughout the 19th century. The mansion boasts 38 lavish rooms, five courtyards and seven ornate staircases to explore.
  • Fort Conwallis: was built by Francis Light, the founder of Penang, in 1786. It was built in the shape of a star, but unfortunately many of the buildings have since been destroyed. The only remaining structures which can still be seen today include the outer walls, an ammunitions storage area, remnants of a barracks and a harbor light. Fascinating old photographs are displayed on the walls.
  • Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi: is a temple which belongs to the Khoo clan that arrived in 1850 from China. There are stunning carvings adorning most walls, which were made by the finest craftsmen of their time in Penang.
  • Penang State Museum: houses a collection of paintings which once belonged to Captain Robert Smith and reflect the colonial art of the time. It also boasts an old Penang Hill railway carriage, a hand-written Koran and a number of ancient Malay weapons.
  • St George’s Church: is the oldest Anglican church in the whole of Southeast Asia. Designed by Captain Robert Smith, the church was constructed in 1818 with prison labor. There is a small Greek temple memorial which can be found in the grounds and is a tribute to Captain Francis Light.