How to Spend 48 Hours in George Town, Penang
George Town is where creative and culinary delights come to play. Renowned for its street art and street food scene, this little colonial town should be on every art lover’s and foodie’s bucket list. Yet George Town has a fascinating history to discover too. For centuries it has drawn people from different cultures from around the world to settle on its shores that have earnt its status as a UNESCO world heritage centre today. With so much to explore, you should definitely spend longer than 2 days here if you can. Yet if you do only have 48 hours in George Town, it’s certainly enough time to at least see the highlights. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss out.
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The Clan Jetties were originally home to early Chinese settlers, with each jetty belonging to a different clan (hence the name). Here you’ll find historic houses built on stilts over the water, connected by wooden gangplanks that take you out to sea. Most of the Jetties are still residential, albeit holiday homes now apparently. Yet Chew Jetty is a little more tourist friendly with some shops. There’s also a very scenic temple (Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yin) built over the water that’s worth visiting during your 48 hours in George Town, hidden down the maze of streets off of Raya Merdeka.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (The Blue Mansion)
The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is a beautiful example of Imperial Chinese architectural style that you should definitely make time to go and see. It was originally the home and workplace of a wealthy merchant but now is a hotel and museum. To learn about the building’s past and architecture, the hotel offers tours for non-residents. Though there’s also a bar and a restaurant you can visit too. Signature features include its eccentric blue walls, hence its other name, and intricate interiors designed in line with Feng Shui.
Another great way to spend 48 hours in George Town is to discover its brilliant world of street art. You won’t have to look hard for it either as there are murals all over the town. However, if you want to find specific pieces, it’s best to pick up a free map of where to find the more famous ones from a cafe or your hotel. It shouldn’t take much longer than a couple of hours to wander around it all with most concentrated around Love Street.
On an evening Chulia Street becomes Hawker central. Where locals come to eat and stalls cook up local culinary favourites every night. Grab a plastic stool, join them and tuck into some of the best, no frills street food George Town has to offer.
If you’re not full from Chulia Street head up to Little India for even more foodie wonders. In particular, Restoran Kapitan is must visit during 48 hours in George Town. It’s cheap, cheerful and is where I ate one of the best curries I’ve ever had. And if you don’t believe me, the fact it’s packed with locals should convince you.
China House boasts itself as being the longest Cafe in Penang. A bit of a strange thing to be accredited for if you ask me, but there you go. It is very long that though. Split into different sections and home to a mix match of establishments. At one end, there’s a cafe and a bar at the other. In the middle, a little garden and a reading area with books to borrow. And upstairs an art gallery and craft shop. Stop by for a coffee and check it out, in particular, the cakes in the cafe are to die for, just FYI.
No 48 hours in George Town would be complete without visiting Penang Hill. It’s around a 40-minute drive from town so you’ll need to order a Grab car there. Once you arrive you have two options to get to the top – walk it or get the funicular train. We ended up walking it, however, I would only advise this if you’re quite physically fit as it is very tough and will take around 2 hours! At the top, there’s lots to explore, from the impressive views across the whole of Penang island to historical and religious buildings.
On the way back from Penang Hill stop off at Gurney Drive – aka another foodie heaven. Ranging from all-day cheap hawker stalls to high-end restaurants, this coastal road is a gastronomic experience you won’t want to skip.
Have you been to George Town before? Share your recommendations in the comments below!