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George Town is quirky, modern, and traditional all at the same time. It’s a multicultural melting pot of Malays, Chinese, and Indians who have put their stamp on the island.
The best thing to do in this Malaysian city is get lost in the labyrinth of streets, talk to the locals, and try all the local food. There is a lot to see and do in vibrant George Town. Walking around town is like stepping back in time and everywhere you look there is something unusual. It feels like you’re in a living museum. You could wander in circles and see new things every time.
Stroll through the streets in search of local food and street art, stopping at all the temples and mansions along the way.
You have to try the street food. Also, don’t leave the city without visiting some of the religious sites and mansions.
How to Get to George Town, Penang
The easiest way to get here is by plane. Luckily, Penang has an international airport with quick direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Phuket, Bangkok, and Ho Chi Minh (and more).
There are also ferries and trains but those are more complicated, and not necessarily any cheaper.
If you are only here for a few days, I’d say your feet are the best mode of transportation around here. You can also hire bikes and scooters but everything is within walking distance. You can also use the Grab app (same as Uber) if it’s too hot to walk or raining. Don’t call a taxi, they will rip you off.
Where to Eat in George Town, Penang for Dinner
Penang is world-renowned for street food. It’s been called the best in Asia and one of the reasons that people visit Penang. It even brought Anthony Bordain here. But after living here for almost seven years, I wouldn’t just give you street food choices. There are too many fantastic restaurants to choose from as well. Here is my list of top places to eat in George Town.
Red Garden Hawker // A fave of Anthony Bourdain. Try the sticky chicken wings with spicy sauce from the guy in the corner. Best wings in Malaysia, seriously! Also, try the grilled fish or ikan bakar. The best way to go is with the stingray. The cook rubs it with a curry paste then cooks on a flat top grill. They cook it low and slow on a banana leaf, adding water to steam it and keep it moist. It is served with a side of tamarind sauce that has onions, torch ginger flower, and spicy chilis.
CF Food Court // Get the char kway teow. Imagine glossy rice noodles with a couple of different soy sauces, a dash of fish or oyster sauce, and chili sauce. Then they add in chives, an egg, fresh bean sprouts, and thinly-sliced Chinese dried sausage. It’s one of Malaysia’s national dishes and not to be missed.
Bee Hooi for Assam Laksa // It is a hearty bowl of sour-ish broth made of mackerel, tamarind, and chilis. There are more than 15 ingredients in this noodle soup dish. They cook it for hours, which breaks down the fish to form a rich base. Then they top it with pineapple, mint, and calamansi limes for that extra punch. It sounds confusing, but the taste is beyond!
Chulia Street // It’s a major street and part of the busy tourist center of the island. But every night, they set up about 20 food stalls to stuff yourself at before heading to the bars. It may be touristy, but even the locals go there for the Wan Tan Mee. There is always a crowd around the stall; it’s one of the best on the island. They make hundreds of plates every night.
Kebaya // This has the best Nyonya food on the island, and it happens to be in one of the most beautiful boutique hotels in town. It’s not the cheapest food, but after eating $2 meals, you should splurge for this one. The 4-course meal is RM128 per person, and each plate is a work of art. For each course, you get to choose from 5-7 options. It is worth every penny.
Things to See in George Town, Penang at Night
See the sunset at the Habitat on Penang Hill // It’s the highest point on the island so you’ll have an amazing birds eye view.
Go speak-easy hopping // There are all sorts of cool hidden bars in George Town. Half the fun is finding the way in! Check out Manchu, Out of Nowhere, Magazine 63.
Go to China House // Great place for dessert and drinks while listening to live jazz.
Go for drinks on Love Lane // It’s where the rich Brits and Chinese used to keep their mistresses back in the day. Now it’s lined with bars, cafes, hostels and hotels.
Hang out at Nagore Square // It’s lined with restaurants (but they close around 10:00 pm) but there is a little alleyway that gets packed with locals having a night out. Grab a table because it get packed the later it gets.
Also check out:
- Kochi, India After 5:00 pm
- Sharjah, UAE After 5:00 pm
- Ras Al Khaimah, UAE After 5:00 pm
- Osaka, Japan After 5:00 pm
- Rishikesh, India After 5:00 pm
- George Town, Penang After 5:00 pm