I love a good DIY walking tour. Ever since I put together this chocolate walking tour of Bruges for our Easter trip in 2018, I’ve realised it’s such a great way to see a city and stretch the legs. With a self-guided walking tour you can take as long as you want, chop and change the route and take detours if you see something that interests you. Georgetown, Penang is big enough that there’s plenty to see, but still small enough that you can walk around it quite easily – plus it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. The walk I’ve put together below is one that I did on a scorcher of a day when I wasn’t eating local food or perusing some local art! It incorporates a lot of the main landmarks and is great as a bit of orientation walk for when you’ve just arrived.
Street Art by Ernest Zacharevic
These murals are world famous and draw huge numbers of tourists, especially in the peak of the day. The works depict mainly local children going about their innocent daily life and were created in 2012 for the Georgetown Festival. I recommend starting your walk early in the morning to see four of the main murals (I started at 7am pretty much as soon as the sun was up). Head to Cannon Street to see the “Boy on a Chair” mural, before finding the “Kids on a Bicycle” mural at the corner of Armenian and Beach Streets. Then go on to Ah Quee Street to see “Boy on Motorbike” and finish with “Children Playing Basketball” on a side street of Chulia Street. You can find the exact locations in Google maps if you search for the names of each mural. If you’re interested in other art galleries and exhibition spaces in Penang, I put together this post on Georgetown’s art scene.
Near to the street art and next on the list are the Clan Jetties, floating villages where a community of Chinese families still live. Chinese immigrants began making their homes on the jetties in the 19 century and each jetty became associated with a clan or family. Chew jetty is the most accessible and I believe also the longest. There are souvenir shops and restaurants along the pier as well, and the temple is worth a look.
Church Street Pier
If you continue North along the sea front you reach Church Street Pier. This pier might not look that notable, but it actually has quite an interesting if a little sad history. It was built in the late 19th Century while the port of Penang was still a major hub for British Malaya, but was later abandoned as the port and sea trade declined in the area. In the early 2000s it was restored with the intention that it would be a world class marina for yachts and catamarans. By all accounts it was on its way to becoming just that, but the structure wasn’t maintained and so now it is once again out of use.
Victoria clock tower￼
Further North still and next to Light Street Roundabout is the clock tower that was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and is 60ft tall – 1ft for each year of her reign. It was only completed in 1902 after her death though so she never got to see it… still it’s rather nice despite being on a super busy roundabout!
This sculpture in the middle of Light Street Roundabout resembles a betel nut – pinang in Malay – which is what Penang island is named after. The locals weren’t fans of the design when it was first built, but I quite like it!
During British colonial rule in Malaysia, Georgetown was a key trading port and Fort Cornwallis was built in order to protect it particularly from pirates. Walking around the outside you can see the exterior walls and numerous cannons. There used to also be a moat but it was filled in during a malaria outbreak in the 1920s. It looks like there is a restoration project in progress at the moment so perhaps the most will be restored to its former glory – we’ll have to wait and see!
City & Town halls
I included the City Hall and Town Hall in my walk as they weren’t far from Fort Cornwallis and they’re quite impressive buildings to see.
Pinang Peranakan Mansion
I finished my wandering at the Pinang Peranakan Mansion or the “Green Mansion”, originally the home of Chinese tin mining tycoon Chung Keng Quee. For 20 ringgit you can enter this amazing time-warp and even join a free tour around the various rooms and galleries. It’s quite an amazing display of Peranakan decor and design, and has a huge jewellery collection in the back rooms. I particularly enjoyed seeing the kitchen with its rustic feel and cute pots and pans.
By now we’ve walked our feet off and deserve a jolly good break! I collected together my Georgetown food & drink highlights in this post which should serve as a starting point.
Have you been to Georgetown, Penang? I’d love to hear your highlights and recommendations in the comments! I’m pretty sure I’ll be heading back that way before too long.