by Santorini Dave • Updated: November 27, 2018
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Penang Hotels – Tips and Advice
- The best areas in Penang for visitors: George Town, Batu Ferringhi, and Bayan Lepas.
- Best Hotels in Penang: Seven Terraces (most luxe heritage boutique) • Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang (most luxurious spa resort) • Cheong Fatt Tze (most historic boutique)
- Best Hotels in Penang for Families: Hard Rock Hotel Penang
- Malaysian food is known for spicy sambals and flavor fusion of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. Penang in particular is famous for its street food. The best hawker foods are at Presgrave Street Hawker Centre (run out of a back alley and most popular with locals) and Lg Baru (New Lane) Hawker Stalls, and Nasi Melayu Lidiana (at Medan Selera Tanjung Bunga). The best restaurants are Tek Sen (Chinese), Kebaya Dining Room (Peranakan fine dining), and Mish Mash (best bar).
- Many public restrooms don’t have toilet paper, so always carry tissue with you.
- Smoking is still allowed in many hotels in Penang, though it is usually confined to bars and certain floors. Be sure to request a non-smoking room if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke and smells.
- Though taxis in Penang are required by law to use meters, most drivers simply refuse. Getting around George Town via taxi usually costs about RM10-15. Do agree on the fare and exact drop off point ahead of time to avoid being gouged. It is always cheaper, easier, and friendlier to use an app like GrabTaxi or Uber here, as the charges are based on mileage, drivers are vetted and have GPS, and there is no haggling.
The 17 Best Hotels in Penang
1. Seven Terraces – George Town
Locally-owned, refined heritage hotel that features a lap pool, open courtyard, and Kebaya, the single best fine dining restaurant in Penang. Housed in a stretch of late-1800s Anglo-Chinese terrace houses, the interiors have been lovingly restored in an elegant Peranakan style, with antique furniture authentic to the period and region: ebony with mother of pearl inlay, opium beds, gold and iron lacework screens. Suites and apartments are spacious, many with two floors, large shower rooms, and terraces overlooking the city. Located in the UNESCO world heritage zone, this hotel is near several traditional artisan shops, hawker stalls, and cafes; historic temples, mosques, and churches; and colonial mansions.
Hotel phone: +60 4-264 2333
2. Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa – Batu Ferringhi
An upscale beachfront resort, home to the best spa in Penang, two pools, and five outstanding restaurants. All rooms are spacious and luxuriously appointed, many with balcony soaking tubs. Rooms and suites in the Rasa wing include exclusive access to the adults-only pool, plus complimentary afternoon tea service and evening cocktails and light bites. The spa features holistic Malay and Chinese treatments in private villas. Family amenities include a turtle hatchery, indoor playground, and children’s pool. Expect impeccable service, sumptuous gardens, and pure relaxation.
Hotel phone: +60 4-888 8888
3. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (Blue Mansion) – George Town
The immaculately restored, turn-of-the-century Blue Mansion boasts a main pool, water garden, suites with private plunge pools, and one of the islands top fine dining restaurants. Originally the home of Cheong Fatt Tze, the “Rockefeller of the East,” this Chinese-style mansion features imported Chinese hand-carved screens, Art Nouveau stained glass, English tile floors, and Scottish cast iron. Guided tours are offered daily here and give rich insight into the life of Cheong Fatt Tze and George Town history. Located in the UNESCO heritage zone (this was the first building to be awarded with that status), walking distance to historic temples and mosques, the Chulia Street Hawker Center, and cafes.
Hotel phone: +60 4-262 0006
4. Hard Rock Hotel Penang – Batu Ferringhi
For unforgettable family vacations, the Hard Rock has everything: the largest free-form pool in Penang, complete with waterslides and a play area, kids’ and teens’ clubs, plus family suites with a separate kids’ minibar, toys, and patio play areas. Their Lagoon Deluxe rooms allow guests to dive into the pool straight from their decks or grab a drink from a swimming bartender. True to their musical theme, the hotel offers loaner guitars and DJ mixing stations, while its spa has massage tables on top of vibrating speakers. This hotel is right on Bat Ferringhi beach, walking distance to the night market, accessible to Entopia Butterfly Farm and the Tropical Spice Garden and about thirty minutes from George Town.
Hotel phone: +60 4-881 1711
5. The Eastern & Oriental Hotel – George Town
This oceanfront, all-suite hotel boasts two pools, a luxury Thai spa, and world-class bars and restaurants. This historic space once hosted colonial-era elites, including Rudyard Kipling and Hermann Hesse, and the hotel’s design and décor remains largely unchanged, with claw foot tubs, checkerboard tile floors, original light fixtures, and period-era replica furnishing. Suites are enormous, beginning at 57 square meters. Heritage Wing suites all include the E&O’s signature butler service. Located on the seafront in downtown George Town, near Little Penang Street Market, the Goddess of Mercy Temple, and plenty of cafes and historic sites.
Hotel phone: +60 4-222 2000
Family-centered and beachfront, this hotel features two lagoon pools, a mini water park, indoor playground, Segway rides, and a turtle hatchery. Rooms and suites are spacious, with nature-inspired décor, connecting options and a variety of layouts, some with fun Murphy beds and wraparound balconies. Three casual restaurants are onsite with Western and local foods. Situated on Batu Ferringhi beach and walking distance to the night market and local restaurants.
Hotel phone: +60 4-886 1911
7. Hotel Equatorial Penang – Bayan Lepas
A five-star hotel offering a large pool with a grotto and kids’ area, several fantastic restaurants, a nature trail, and a cozy spa. Their signature restaurant, The View, features French fine dining with a focus on experience; do not miss the coffee flambe! Rooms and suites are spacious, all with long baths and balconies, some with kitchenettes. Serviced apartments are available with up to three bedrooms. Butler service is available for Club Class rooms and suites. The hotel sits in Bayan Lepas, overlooking Penang Golf Club, near the Snake Temple and the airport.
Hotel phone: +60 4-632 7000
8. Macalister Mansion – George Town
This stylish, eight-room boutique blends colonial charm with contemporary glamor and features an outdoor pool and four trendy bars and restaurants. Each room is unique, but all are large and fashionably decorated with blond woods, abalone mosaic tiles, and a white and grey palette. Outside, the building retains its original British-era plantation shutters, iron railings, and art glass awning. Its unique, all-white Dining Room is a popular spot for weddings and special events, while the other bars and cafes here are livelier and more casual, with top-tier food and cocktails. Macalister Mansion is in a quiet neighborhood, halfway between downtown George Town and the Gurney Drive shopping area.
Hotel phone: +60 4-228 3888
9. G Hotel Gurney – George Town
The most cosmopolitan hotel on the island, G Hotel Gurney features swanky rooms, an indulgent spa, and infinity pool. This upscale hotel offers a wide range of spacious rooms and suites, some with two floors and two-story windows, some with full kitchens and in room laundry. Six restaurants and bars on site serve a variety of cuisines, including Japanese seafood and a 24 hour café with a lava barbeque pit. The hotel is outside of the downtown area, next door to Gurney Plaza mall, across the street from the oceanfront, and is walking distance to hawker stalls, several restaurants, and cafes.
Hotel phone: +60 4-238 0000
10. Jawi Peranakan Mansion – George Town
Set in an Anglo-Indian colonial mansion on the historic “Malay Millionaires’ Row,” this boutique hotel is known for its impeccable service and features a courtyard pool and spacious rooms and suites. The decor showcases a local Muslim, Indian, and Malay blend of styles, with embossed tiles, block-printed textiles, and stained glass screens. Suites are built in a loft style, with two king beds and high-backed claw foot tubs. On a quiet street in downtown George Town, walking distance to excellent cafes, heritage architecture, and historic mosques, temples, and churches.
Hotel phone: +60 4-218 9858
11. Campbell House – George Town
With an authentic Venetian restaurant and eclectic décor, this downtown heritage boutique makes a great home base for exploring the city. Each room is unique and features vintage furnishing and décor from ethnic groups traditionally living here, especially Peranakan and Chinese styles. Run by three Italian chefs, the restaurant is stellar and features a new menu daily, local ingredients, and a selection of Italian wines. In the heart of George Town’s heritage zone, walking distance to the city’s best street art, great food, and gorgeous temples and mosques.
Hotel phone: +60 4-261 8290
12. G Hotel Kelawai – George Town
This posh hotel offers a rooftop pool, three fashionable dining spots, and complimentary bicycles. Common areas are decked out in rich upholstery and quirky accents like traveling trunks and a wall covered in small gold bird sculptures. Rooms and suites are more streamlined, with understated décor and sleek Herman Miller chairs. Guests can choose from any of their superb restaurants or get complimentary transfers to their sister hotel for more dining options and access to the spa. Located near Gurney Plaza mall, near tons of restaurants and bars, plus heritage sites, and galleries.
Hotel phone: +60 4-219 0000
13. Muntri Mews – George Town
The best located hotel in the city. This boho boutique (originally horse stables) offers spacious, pet-friendly rooms and a top café, with local food and live music every Saturday night. Especially good for families, this hotel offers long- and shorthouse family suites as well as rooms with gigantic beds (two connected doubles). Featuring original colonial elements, including a communal verandah and exposed brick, the décor is in Straits Settlements style, fusing Malay, Chinese, and Indian elements. On Muntri Street, the Mews sits within walking distance of all of George Town’s attractions: Armenian Street, Thean Hou Temple, hawker stalls, and street art.
Hotel phone: +60 4-263 5125
14. Royale Bintang Hotel – George Town
This oceanfront hotel features polished rooms, a courtyard pool, and a tranquil spa. Accommodations are divided into two wings: a heritage 1892 wing and a brand new, contemporary wing. Rooms and suites are large and tastefully decorated in cream and teal, with ocean, city, and pool views. There are four restaurants and bars here, including an exceptional Malay restaurant and a British afternoon tea room. Located on the coast, walking distance to the Clan Jetties and clock tower, plus several museums and street food.
Hotel phone: +60 4-259 8888
15. Muntri Grove – George Town
With generous, breezy rooms and a terrace pool, Muntri Grove is a welcoming retreat in the core of the George Town heritage zone. These mid-nineteenth century row houses feature canopy beds, bright Malay botanical accents, and retro post-war furnishings. This pet-friendly hotel includes an walled garden area, rattan cabanas, and a sunny breakfast nook. This secluded hotel sits off a small lane behind Muntri Street, barely visible from the main road, yet easily accessible to the street’s bars and cafes. Walking distance to Thean Hou Temple, Pinang Peranankan Museum, the waterfront, and hawker centers.
Hotel phone: +60 4-264 2626
16. The Wembley – George Town
This contemporary hotel boasts three incredible restaurants and an infinity pool overlooking the city and Straits of Malacca. Ample suites are ideal for family travel or longer trips, with batik-inspired décor, soaking tubs, and dining area. Executive class rooms and all suites enjoy access to the club lounge with complimentary breakfast, evening drinks and apps, and all day snacks. Southwest of downtown, The Wembley is across the street from KOMTAR (the largest skyscraper in Penang, housing a mall, planetarium, mirror maze, and more) and about fifteen minutes’ walk to the George Town heritage zone.
Hotel phone: +60 4-259 8000
A sleek and streamlined hotel with a garden terrace pool, expansive suites, and two restaurants. Suites are spacious and range from one to three bedrooms, comfortably sleeping up to six guests. Larger suites including a dining area; some add studies or balconies with views of the city, hillside, or adjacent golf course. The Vistana is convenient to attractions, such as the Queensbay Mall, the Snake Temple, War Museum, and a durian plantation. Near the airport and about thirty minutes to downtown George Town
Hotel phone: +60 4-646 8000
Staying in GeorgeTown
This eclectic city is Malaysia’s capitol of cool, with a celebrated street art scene, the best food in the nation, and a wild mix of colonial and local historic architecture and soaring modern skyscrapers. Though earlier settled by Arabs, Malays, and Minangs, the modern history of George Town began as the first British city in the Straits Settlements and the most important trade hub. The colonial era saw an influx of distinct ethnic groups, which gave rise to the area’s own unique cultures, the Chinese Peranakan (Chinese and Malay aka Baba Nyonya) and Jawi Peranakan (Muslim Indian and Malay). The city remains a multi-cultural metropolis, with its legacy visible in the numerous mosques, temples, and churches alongside British colonial and Peranakan-style mansions. Always an arts hub, the city is most recently seeing a boom in street art, and several cultural institutions have invited international artists to paint giant murals in its historic district.
Heritage is edible in George Town, too, with many intensely flavored dishes originating here: nasi kandar, asam laksa, and curry mee, to name just a few. Local coffee shops, called kopitiams, offer both Kopi-O (black coffee – roasted with margarine, wheat, and sugar) and Ipoh (white coffee – roasted in margarine only). Food is cheapest and most diverse at the street food stalls lining New Lane, Penang Road, and Chulia Street. Gurney Drive hosts the best known hawker center, but its popularity has created a spike in prices. Several fine dining restaurants also offer elevated versions of Penang’s famous foods.
The Best Hotels in George Town
- Seven Terraces • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-264 2333
- Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-262 0006
- The Eastern & Oriental Hotel • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-222 2000
- Macalister Mansion • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-228 3888
- G Hotel Gurney • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-238 0000
- Jawi Peranakan Mansion • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-218 9858
- Campbell House • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-261 8290
- G Hotel Kelawai • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-219 0000
- Muntri Mews • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-263 5125
- Royale Bintang Hotel • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-259 8888
- Muntri Grove • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-264 2626
- The Wembley• Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-259 8000
The Best Restaurants in George Town
- Kebaya Dining Room • $$$$ • Modern Nyonya fine dining.
- Tek Sen Restaurant • $$-$$$ • Casual Chinese and Peranakan foods.
- Restoran Nasi Padang Minang • $ • Best Indonesian-style nasi padang and nasi kandar.
- Indigo • $$$$ • East-West fusion fine dining in the historic Blue Mansion.
- Mish Mash • $$-$$$ • Trendy cocktail lounge with two-for-one drinks on Thirsty Thursdays.
- Lily’s Vegetarian Kitchen • $ • Filling, flavorful, and cheap veggie versions of local dishes. There are two Lily’s restaurants side by side, both the same owner. One is busy, lively, casual dining – this is the one you want. The other is more for catering, special events, and large group reservations.
- Tofu Village Restaurant • $$-$$$ • Great veggie food in a fun setting. Don’t forget to get a polaroid taken with your favorite cartoon vegetable.
- Kheng Pin Kopitiam • $ • Go for breakfast! Fantastic local Kopi-O and nasi lemak.
Staying in Batu Ferringhi
Batu Ferringhi literally translates to “foreigner’s rock.” On the north shore of the island, about thirty minutes from George Town, this area is where the first Europeans landed, and the site from which the crew pillaged every passing boat for months after. Otherwise this George Town suburb remained quiet, until the resort boom. The Shangri-La established the first footings here, then several others sprang up after, attracting restaurants, bars, and a night market along with it.
The area remains low-key and casual, set on a winding , jungle road with a long, white sand beach. Certain areas, however, have become overrun by jellyfish; ask at your hotel about current water conditions. This is a popular spot for parasailing, jet skiing, boat tours, or for taking a spa day. From here, it’s only a short drive to the Entopia butterfly farm, the Tropical Spice Garden, or neighboring Tanjung Bungah to visit the Floating Mosque.
Best Hotels in Batu Ferringhi
- Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-888 8888
- Hard Rock Hotel Penang • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-881 1711
- Golden Sands Resort • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-886 1911
Best Restaurants in Batu Ferringhi
- Ferringhi Garden • $$-$$$ • East-West fusion seafood in a lush garden setting.
- Matsu • $$-$$$ • Japanese fare at the Lone Pine hotel.
- Enca Café • $ • An international menu, but best for Indian food.
- Andrew’s Kampung • $ • Casual Chinese and Malay food. You may be able to grab a table for a bite at lunch, but reservations are recommended for dinner.
- Poker Café (OK Café) • $ • Ice cold beer and straightforward food: stir fry, burgers, and sandwiches.
Staying in Bayan Lepas
Bayan Lepas was originally an agricultural area and later home of the first British colonial airport in the Straits Settlements. It’s now a booming, industrial area known as the “Silicon Valley of the East” for its high concentration of multinational tech factories. The surge in manufacturing has led to increased local and international visitors, with thriving neighborhoods growing up all around the area. This is home to Queensbay Mall, Penang’s largest, as well as a golf course, butterfly farm, durian plantation, and the War Museum. This is also home to the Snake Temple, a historic Chinese temple known for its pit vipers and for leading the island’s Chinese New Year celebrations.
Bayan Lepas is geared toward business, and while it hustles in the day, it quiets down at night. About thirty minutes’ drive from George Town, this area is ideal for sightseeing in the day and indulging in a restful night of sleep.
Best Hotels in Bayan Lepas
- Hotel Equatorial Penang • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-632 7000
- Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul • Reviews • Hotel phone: +60 4-646 8000
Best Restaurants in Bayan Lepas
- The View • $$$$ • French fine dining. Do order the coffee flambe.
- Nasi 7 Buena @ Koo Boo Café • $ • Known for their combo meal with seven colorful rices.
- Bark & Bean Pet Wellness Café • $$-$$$ • A café full of little dogs! Coffee and cakes are available for people and pets. One drink minimum per guest.
- Azuma Japanese Restaurant • $$-$$$ • Fresh Japanese food in Queensbay Mall. Ask for the teppanyaki set.