Here's a list of the quintessential Penang experiences that every first-time visitor should try. Follow the links to explore our resources and know more to plan your perfect holiday on Malaysia's hippest island.
First time in Penang and you don’t know what to do? This page is a directory of all the essential things to do in Penang. Start here if you want to have a quick overview of what you can see and do in Penang: you can follow the links we provide to read other articles that will give you much deeper details on the best places, food and experiences that are waiting for you in George Town and Penang Island.
The Chinese community played a strong role in building up George Town as we can see it today. From the mid 19th to 20th century, Clan Houses were the places where fresh immigrants from southern Chinese went to find help and comfort as soon as they disembarked in Penang to find new fortunes. There are five main Hokkien clan associations in Penang, namely the Khoo, the Lim, the Tan, the Cheah and the Yeoh. Many of these ancestral houses are still preserved in George Town, and you can visit them easily.
Head down to Armenian Street and the cluster of roads surrounding it, where some of them are. Three of these clan houses are particularly striking and easy to access: the obvious starting point is Khoo Kongsi, a large Chinese clan house in Cannon Square, with a unique roof architecture and elaborate carvings and decorations. It’s probably the grandest clan temple in Malaysia, and one of Penang’s main historic attractions.
Seh Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi, at the end of Armenian Street, has been recently renovated and has a quiet, serene garden and a beautiful main hall with an open terrace with an altar and filled with carvings on the first floor.
Many tourists may stumble directly upon Ng Fook Thong Temple, as it sits at a corner of Chulia Street, George Town’s main backpacker area. It has excellent paintings of Celestial Guardians on its doors, which open onto a large, peaceful inner courtyard.
There are many other clan houses in the streets of old George Town, and all are open to visitors.