WHERE TO STAY: Where to stay depends on your budget, style of hotel and the type of holiday you are after.
If you want to be walking distance from Unesco Heritage Sites, then Georgetown is ideal. If you want tranquility, an on the beach type of holiday, then select a resort in Batu FerrInghi. Or there’s Gurney drive, which is located in between the two. Either way, Penang is not a big island. You can get from Batu FerrInghi to Georgetown in about 20 min (without heavy traffic). Grab taxi will cost about 15RM.
E&O (Eastern & Oriental) - 10 Lebuh Farquhar, Georgetown
You can’t talk about heritage hotels in Penang without mentioning the venerable E&O. A colonial landmark, its legion of famous guests includes Noel Coward and Somerset Maugham. It was built in 1884 by the Sarkies brothers, who also built The Raffles Hotel in Singapore 3 years later. Its new wing resembles any new five-star accommodation. But the old wing’s lobby and public rooms still holds plenty of nostalgic character. The waterfront location is pretty scenic too. So you can have the best of both worlds – close to Georgetown’s UNESCO sites and beach holiday.
Seven Terraces - 8 Stewart Lane,Georgetown
After a successful career as an investment banker, Chris Ong, found a new passion; turning heritage buildings into beautifully-restored boutique hotels, first in Sri Lanka (Galle Forte Hotel) and then back in his hometown of Penang. Seven Terraces consists of seven Straits Chinese shophouses converted into one magnificent Peranakan property. Guest rooms are all on the second floor while the gutted interior now boasts a stunning granite courtyard. A "must-do" is to have dinner in their gorgeous restaurant, Kebaya. It is a unique to Penang dining experience with specially designed Nyonya cuisine and contemporary inspiration using French techniques
In Chris Ong’s portfolio of hotels, there are also Muntri Mews, Muntri Grove and Jawi Peranankan Mansion. https://www.georgetownheritage.com/our-hotels/
Campbell House - 106 Lebuh Campbell, Georgetown
The beautifully restored three-storey, 100-year-old house has 11 suites with a mixture of Eastern and Western furnishings. The owners are an expatriate couple that fell for Georgetown’s easy living and they’ve imbued the Campbell with a sense of authenticity and personal service. It also contains Il Bacaro, one of the better Italian restaurants in Penang.
Edison - 15 Lebuh Leith, Georgetown
A newcomer to Penang, this boutique luxury hotel (part of Small Luxury Hotel group) sees a heritage 20th-century mansion restored with beautiful Art Deco details and modern comforts, situated on the edge of a Unesco World Heritage site.
Here's a review from Telegraph
Around Gurney Drive
G-Hotel - Gurney Drive, Georgetown
G-Hotel is a contemporary hotel sandwiched between two of Penang’s biggest malls, Gurney Paragon and Gurney Plaza. We know it well for its excellent and affordable Japanese restaurant ‘Miraku’ on the first floor. Behind the main hotel on Gurney Drive, facing Kelawi Road, they have built a boutique hotel we call ‘Baby G' with a lovely rooftop pool and terrace. I'd stay at the Kelawi hotel as it is much newer and less busy.
Macalister Mansion - 228 Macalister Road, Georgetown
Perhaps the most beautiful and aesthetically pleasing of all the boutique hotels on this list (in our opinion!), Macalister Mansion offers 8 different gorgeous rooms filled with carefully selected art inspired by the life story of Sir Norman Macalister. Traditional meets contemporary in the form of stunningly executed minimalism, with colonial touches of shophouse windows and verandahs complemented by modern artwork and clean lines for a luxurious stay. Of all the hotels in town this is one you must visit to drool over its great style, even for a quick look at the beautiful bar area
Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa - Jalan Batu Feringgi
Set amid 30 acres of landscaped gardens and centuries old trees, on Batu Ferringhi Beach, the Shangri-La's Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, offers exclusive luxury within easy reach of Penang's attractions. Here you can relax in the tropical swimming pool, enjoy a jungle trek, dine at a choice of four bars and restaurants, benefit from a host of entertainment options and ease away every day tensions at CHI The Spa which features indigenous Malay style interiors and 11 treatments rooms.
Double Tree - 56, Jalan Low Yat Batu Ferringhi
Newly completed DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel is located about 5 minute drive from Shangri-la and just 45 minutes from Penang International Airport. They offer complimentary shuttle to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town, 20 minutes drive away.
RESTAURANTS - Penang is renowned as a ‘foodie’ town. Not for white table cloth restaurants, although there are a few, but for the ubiquitous food stalls or ‘hawker stands' serving up fresh Malay, Indian and Chinese dishes. Some of these little stands have been in business for 40-50 years and everyone has a favourite place for ‘Char Kway Tao', ‘Laksa‘, 'Mee Gorgeng' or 'Curry/Hokkien Mee. Friends of ours come to Penang to eat and they do, all day long! There are just too many to list but just talk to someone, they will direct you to their special spot. Penangites are among the friendliest people in Asia and happy to help. Here are some of our favourite restaurants.
Kebaya - Stewart Ln, Georgetown
Located in The Seven Terraces owned by Christopher Ong, the heritage-preserving, and award-winning hotelier, has worked with the hotel’s management to create a menu of classic Indo and Straits Chinese Nyonya dishes. The décor is unique Malay Peranakan in a long, high ceiling room graced with a classical pianist playing a baby grand. The multiple courses are designed for a table of four to pick one shared appetiser and main each. Lamb shank ‘Sous vide’, prawn curry, duck confit, etc. All excellent.
Tree Monkey - Tropical Spice Garden, Jalan Tanjung Bungah
The Tree Monkey Restaurant is perched on the hill of Tropical Spice Garden in Teluk Bahang. Surrounded by serene greens overlooking the Andaman Sea, this tranquil and romantic restaurant is reminiscent of kampung-style dining. You sit at the spacious open-air dining area on the wooden deck often entertained by Dusky Leaf monkeys in the trees around you. The food is authentic Thai and refreshing tropical fruit mocktails for those not wanting an ice cold Thai Singha beer. Up the hill behind the restaurant is a unique retail store selling spices like local nutmeg, stevia and masala mixes. Worth a look.
China House - 153 Lebuh Pantai, Georgetown
Another conversion of three back to back shophouses with 14 separate areas for dining, browsing and live music. Known for its stunning desert table created by the 10 bakers on staff. They display over 30 different cakes fresh every day. The “ fine “ dining area on the left just before the deserts is a lot more spacious than getting elbowed on the narrow walkway that runs all the way from Pantai to Beach Street. There are art spaces upstairs, live jazz at the back on Beach. Worth a visit.
Ferringhi Gardens - Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Batu Ferringhi
Known for dining under the stars in its lush green gardens, there are tropical plants here of every type with elaborate water features running through more than half of the al fresco eating area. At nightfall, glowing oil lamps create a romantic feel. From the humble entrance, however, you’d never be able to tell just how large and sprawling it really is. The menu is extensive; ranging from Western, pseudo Mediterranean to Asian. A note of caution. We have never loved the food but we do love the look. It is reason enough to go back. Stick to the giant, grilled prawns and it’s good.
Heap Seng House - No. 5 Halaman Seh Tan, Lebuh Pantai, Georgetown
Hidden on a quiet street across from a temple in old Georgetown (and well hidden sign) is a charming little spot run by expat Mark and his partners. These boys fly in fresh oysters twice a week from Ireland, France, England and Holland. Their expanding mains menu covers everything from fresh scallops to grilled lamb chops. Ah, but the oysters. Brilliant and not something you get in the tropics often and never at these reasonable prices.
Tek Sen - 18 Lebuh Carnarvon, Georgetown
Penang is blessed with a number of great, cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurants. This is certainly one of the best. On bustling Carnarvan Street in Georgetown for 45 years, Tek Sen has a constant lineup of people arranging a table, pre-ordering on the street and then just hanging out telling each other what they are having. The food is simple, wonderful and cheap. There are other places where you don’t line up (see My Homestyle) but this is worth the extra time it takes. Parking in Georgetown can be challenging but there is a rare parking lot just 20 metres past the restaurant, down a short street.
My Homestyle - Permai 32, no.2 Lebuh Lembah Permai 4
If the hustle of Georgetown to get to Tek Sen is a bit too daunting, here is your option. 'My Homestyle' in Permai is the go to place for people who live a little to the north (when I say a little, I mean less than a ten minute drive from Georgetown proper). It is spotlessly clean, portions are beyond generous and our usual group of about 10 people share nearly as many dishes as people for about $13-15 Sing dollars per couple. And, that is a LOT of food. Bring your own wine, they serve the ubiquitous Tiger beer in small chilled glasses.
SPEAKEASY'S - we've been to "Out of Nowhere"; entrance is an orange fridge door in a cafe. "Golden Showers” by Chin Chin is also fun; entrance is through a bathroom.
THINGS TO DO
Old Georgetown & its UNESCO World Heritage sites and temples, Blue Mansion, Penang Hill and Habitat, beaches of Batu Ferringhi.