Old and new delight at Penang's World Heritage Site

The architecture and cultural landscape of George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site is 'without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia' and remarkably, there's more to see and do.

Penang Temple designed with red and yellow Festival Lanterns.
  • Paul Ewart
  • August 2018

Penang George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site is abuzz with the old and the new, where street art and modern cafés sit side by side with pre-war heritage buildings.

A picture of vendors preparing Teochew Cendol for their costumer, Penang.
The famous Teochew Chendul is considered to be one of best for the sweet dessert Cendol, an iced sweet dessert.

Penang Road Teochew Chendul

Join the queue in the sweltering heat along Lebuh Keng Kwee for a bowl of delicious cendol opens in new window – a shaved-ice dessert topped with coconut milk, palm sugar, kidney beans and rice-flour jelly. A family-run business that started in 1936, this cendol stall now has 22 franchises all over Malaysia, but this is the original booth started by founder Tan Teik Fuang. 27 and 29 Lebuh Keng Kwee.

A Buddhist Temple on top of the mountain, Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang.
The impressive Buddist temple Kek Lok Si.

Kungfu Girl Mural

Over the years, George Town has earned a reputation for its street art, largely thanks to artist Ernest Zacharevic, who was commissioned to paint six murals during the 2012 George Town Festival. Kungfu Girl is one of the original six and the larger of Zacharevic’s works. Don’t miss this beautiful piece – the girl in blue looms over the Chinese Goldsmiths Association. 47 Jalan Muntri.

Old-world Asia meets a diverse, cosmopolitan culture – and one of the world's great cuisines

Rickshaw tricycle parked at the streets of George Town, Penang.
A rickshaw parked in George Town, Penang.

Kenangan Silam ENT

Kenangan Silam, Malay for ‘memories gone by’, is a treasure trove packed to the brim with vintage clocks, telephones, watches, door knobs, light fittings and silverware. It’s a little tricky to find due to its fading signboard, but once you do, you’ll spend hours exploring it. The store is open in the afternoons and run by the friendly owner, Haji Din. 35 and 37 Lebuh Carnarvon.

China House

A restaurant, live music venue, bakery and art gallery all rolled into one – ChinaHouse opens in new window is a 16,000 sq-ft hybrid space made up of three heritage houses. Sip wine in the private dining area, browse through the library or dine in the alfresco Chinese courtyard, but don’t leave without trying one of the decadent homemade cakes. 153 and 155 Beach St (Lebuh Pantai)

Colorful buildings at George Town shopping district, Penang.
George Town shopping district is full of interesting shops.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion

A beautifully-restored mansion turned museum, the Pinang Peranakan Museum houses more than 1,000 antiques belonging to the Peranakans in Penang. Known locally as the Baba Nyonya, the Peranakans or Straits Chinese were a prominent community that adopted the ways of the local Malays and the colonial British. An entry fee of MYR 20 (SGD $6.50) gets you a guided tour of the 19th-century home and its artefacts. 29 Lebuh Gereja. 

Sri Weld Food Court

Open only for lunch, Sri Weld is a one-stop shop that serves up delicious Penang hawker fare like char koay teow and Hokkien mee.

A favourite with the banking crowd along Beach Street, it’s particularly famous for its nasi lemak – rice steamed in coconut milk with anchovies, eggs and spicy sambal, and beef koay teow soup – a hearty bowl of noodles cooked in beef broth, and served with a choice of beef balls, lean meat or offal. 21 Beach St.

A picture of Clan Jetties village in Penang.
The Clan Jetties have existed since the 19th century.

Clan Jetties

A unique Chinese settlement that has survived since the 19th century, the six Clan Jetties are a glimpse into an untouched way of life peculiar to Penang. These water villages are organised according to Chinese surnames and the houses on stilts are still functioning today as local homes. Chew Jetty is the most popular strip; the Lee and Tan jetties running parallel to it are also worth a visit. 47 Pengkalan Weld.