Before becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, Penang was once an undiscovered haven for backpackers and thrill seekers because of its raw city charm and uncrowded beaches. The past few years have seen more tourists flocking to this gem, as many have discovered the many fun and cultural things Penang has to offer.
Although it has since become more crowded and commercialized with its many tourist-friendly establishments, Penang has still managed to maintain its laidback city vibe as you stroll through old shop houses, coastal beaches, natural sceneries and cultural offerings. Widely known as the food capital of Malaysia, delicious local food is abundant from hawker stalls to fine dining restaurants.
When finding a good base for your vacation, first remember what kind of vacation you are looking for. To experience a little bit of everything, George Town is the best option. If your priority is a beach trip, consider staying in Batu Ferringhi or Tanjung Bungah. In terms of accommodations, there is a wide variety of options from luxury hotels to quaint boutique hotels to local hostels for backpackers. There are quite a few things to consider before planning your trip, and we’re here to help! Continue reading as we share with you where to stay in Penang and the best Penang hotels.
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Where to Stay in Penang
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Best Places to Stay in Penang
1. George Town, for a mix of culture and entertainment
If it’s your first time in Penang, there’s no better place for you to stay in than in Penang’s capital, George Town. Its energetic atmosphere offers the best mix of fun activities and cultural experiences. The old heritage part of Georgetown is filled with ancient temples, old churches and British colonial architecture, which earned it the title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2007.
Venturing outside the old heritage area will lead you through equally interesting things like cool street art, quaint cafes and multiple shopping options like luxury brands and vintage finds. A particularly cool area is Gurney Drive, a modern suburbia by the sea filled with trendy shops and stylish bungalows. Come sunset, the nightlife in George Town is bustling. There is a wide variety of restaurants and bars for you to enjoy good food and chill drinks. Once you’ve explored the city, you can take a trip to the Tanjung Bungah beach just a half-hour drive away.
If you don’t mind the big crowds and lively ambiance, this is definitely the place to experience a little bit of everything Penang has to offer, while still considering any kind of budget.
Things to do in George Town:
- Discover the history within this metropolis city by visiting old Chinese temples (Hock Teik Cheng Sin and Cheah Kongsi) and an old luxurious mansion
- Check out the 33-meter tall Buddha at Wat Chaiyamangalaram
- Explore the Buddhist temple of Kek Lok Si, before taking a train ride up Penang Hill for beautiful views of Georgetown
- Go museum hopping and visit the Dark Mansion Museum and Wonderfood Museum
- Appreciate the colonial buildings along Beach Street, the central business district of Georgetown and one of the oldest streets in Penang
- Stroll around the many picturesque places in George Town like Gurney Drive
- Spend a day exploring Penang National Park before heading over to nearby Monkey Beach
- Explore George Town at night and appreciate all the historical sites in a different setting
- Experience Penang’s local dishes, delicacies and drinks with this night tour around the city
- Unwind after a long day of sightseeing with a massage in Shangri-La’s CHI Spa
Where to stay in George Town: Eastern & Oriental Hotel
The Eastern & Oriental Hotel is the epitome of Penang’s rich colonial past and is a tourist attraction in itself. Built in 1885, staying in this hotel will make you feel like you’ve gone back in a time with the elaborate European architecture found throughout the hotel. The elegant furnishings are accompanied by equally top-class facilities, like its Spa Center, Fitness Center, retail shops, swimming pool and 5 dining options. Located right by the Andaman Sea, guests will end their jam-packed days with peace and relaxation. Nearby landmarks include Fort Cornwallies, Penang State Museum and City Hall, and it is also walking distance to many restaurants and shops.
2. Tanjung Bungah, for families
Next on the list is Tanjung Bungah, a seaside neighborhood ideal for families. Its quiet ambiance and ideal location allows you to have a relaxing beach getaway while still being close to the cultural attractions and fun activities in Georgetown. Although there are better beaches in Penang Island, the fine sand and serene waters make for a good afternoon without the distraction of noisy crowds. For a more adventure-filled day, tourists can enjoy different watersports in the Penang Water Sports Centre or go sightseeing at the Floating Mosque and Penang Toy Museum. In terms of accommodations, hotels by the beach are quite limited but significantly cheaper compared to more popular beaches in Penang.
Things to do in Tanjang Bungah:
- Spend a fun and relaxing day by the beach
- Enjoy some watersports at the Penang Water Sports Centre
- Take a break from the beach and explore the Floating Mosque and the Toy Museum
- Shop around at the Island Plaza
- Go on a food trip at the Tanjung Bungah Night market
Where to stay in Tangjang Bungah: Flamingo Hotel By The Beach
If you choose to stay in Tanjung Bungah, we recommend staying in the Flamingo By The Beach. Rooms are equipped with comfortable furnishings and modern amenities, as well as private balconies with stunning views of the sea. Other facilities include an in-house restaurant, fitness center, outdoor pool, as well as the convenience of a 24-hour front desk and room service. It is located near all the worthy attractions in the area like the Floating Mosque and Penang Water Sports Center.
3. Batu Ferringhi, for the best beach hotels
Batu Ferringhi is the most popular beach in Penang, located at the northern part of the island. More than its wide stretch of white sands, it is most known for its pleasant surplus of luxury hotels by the sea. For couples looking for a romantic beach getaway or anyone just looking to unwind in peace, this is the place for you. Although George Town is just a half-hour drive away, the area is also conveniently commercialized as it offers some of the best restaurants, happy hour lounges and fun bars in Penang Island. Other interesting sites are the Batu Ferringhi Night Market, Yahong Art Gallery
Things to do in Batu Feringghi:
- Have fun under the sun in Batu Ferringhi Beach, and enjoy water sports like jet skiing and parasailing
- Spend a fun and adventurous day at ESCAPE, Malaysia’s #1 Theme Park
- Play a few rounds of golf at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa
- Eat local cuisine at Ferringhi Garden and Living Room Café Bar & Gallery
- Have sunset drinks in Bora Bora, Feringgi Bar and Bay Lounge Lobby Bar
- Enjoy the night life but hopping around the area’s many bars
Where to stay in Feringghi: Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa
Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa is without a doubt one of our favorite hotels in Batu Ferringhi. This beachfront oasis is a feast for the eyes and for the soul. Rooms are complete elegance with its Minangkabau-styled furnishings and modern amenities. The more luxurious ones are found in the Rasa Wing, where guests can enjoy a soaking tub on their private balcony and access to the exclusive Rasa Lounge for high tea and cocktails. Either way, you won’t mind staying indoors because of all the fun and relaxing things to do, like trying out 5 different restaurants and bars, lounging by the pool surrounded by tropical gardens and enjoying the Health Club, The Spa, a golf course, a tennis court and volleyball court by the sea. The hotel also offers free shuttle services to George Town.
4. Sungai Dua, for a budget-friendly trip
If you’re on a budget but still want to enjoy the best things about Penang, you may want to consider staying at Sungai Dua, a small but energetic town south of George Town. The presence of universities and the students in the area give it a natural vibrant environment with many good restaurants and fun pubs, as well as the convenience of cheap accommodations. For your daily dose of cultural attractions and beaches, getting to the main area of George Town and popular beaches will not be a problem as it takes only 30 minutes by car or bus.
Things to do in Sungai Dua:
- Rent a bike to best explore the area
- Sungai Dua Night Market
- Enjoy a food trip to the many hawker centers like Super Tanker Food Centre and Sri Nibong Café
- Go on a hike at nearby Bukit Jambul trail
Where to stay in Sungai Dua: U Hotel Penang
Striking a good balance between comfort and affordability, U Hotel Penang is a good option if you decide to stay in this area. Rooms are stylishly contemporary and complete with basic modern amenities like free WiFi, a flat-screen TV, electric kettle and hairdryer. For the price you are paying, customer service is still excellent with 24-hour front desk and option to arrange tours, car rentals and laundry services. It is strategically located just walking distance from commercial establishments and Queensbay Mall.
5. Bukit Mertajam, for exploring nature trails
Compared to the other areas in this list, Bukit Mertajam is not in Penang Island and is actually in located in Mainland Penang. Because of this, it is not as popular among tourists which adds to its appealing and makes it worth discovering. It has its fair share of historical landmarks and cultural sites, as well as an abundance of nature trails nearby. If you love nature, you should plan day trips to Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest and Cherok Tokun Nature Park, or hike the nearby hills of Bukit Berapit and Tokun Hill. Experiencing delicious food will also not be a problem, as it is home to notable restaurants and hawker centers like Pek Kong Cheng. You can satisfy all your tourist interests without the George Town crowds.
Things to do in Bukit Mertajam:
- If you’re travelling with kids, take them to Kidzoona for a day of fun
- Go on a nature trip to Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest and Cherok Tokun Nature Park
- Hike the hills of Berapit and Tokun Hill
- Eat cheap but delicious food at Pek Kong Cheng
- Experience the Bukit Mertajam wet market
Where to stay in Bukit Mertajam: Vangohh Eminent Hotel & Spa
Ideally situated close to the area’s popular establishments isThe Vangohh Eminent Hotel & Spa. Like most luxury hotels, guests are given the star treatment with an outdoor pool, fitness center, a playground for kids and top-quality restaurant and bar options. Showcasing a tasteful blend of Oriental and Western styles, its rooms feature different themes from tropical to retro. Certain rooms also include a private balcony with relaxing views of the pool. You’ll be thankful to come home to this kind of comfort after a long day of exploring and sightseeing.
We hope that our guide on where to stay in Penang & the best Penang hotels has helped you! Please share it with your friends and family. Do also check out our other Penang reads below!
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