Most of the state of Penang is located on an island and as such you can enjoy beaches, sparkling waters, and a laid back island feel coupled with a big city experience. This part of Malaysia is also known for its food, and anyone who loves to eat will truly find a culinary paradise here, much of which is down to the mix of influences in the city.

1. Tour the Tropical Spice Garden

One of the highlights of Penang, especially if you want to get out of the central areas is the Tropical Spice Garden located on Jalan Teluk Bahang.

The garden is an ode to all the gorgeous herbs and spices that are indigenous to this part of the world and sits on the site of what used to be a rubber plantation.

This is an amazing place to visit for anyone interested in Malay flora and fauna and you can even take a cookery class here to learn how these herbs and spices are used to make classic dishes enjoyed across Malaysia.

There are also guided or audio tours of the garden and activities for younger visitors to help get them interested in all the various aromatic plants found here.

2. Learn some history at Fort Cornwallis

Fort Cornwallis is one of the most famous sights in Penang and dates from the 18th century.

It was built by the British East India Company under the direction of Sir Francis Light who was the founder of Penang and was designed to defend the city in case of an attack from the water.

The fort is still in good condition and you can see a famous statue of Francis Light that stands at the entrance to the fort as well as a selection of original cannons.

If you notice any flowers in the cannon, then this is because there is a local legend that says that anyone wishing to conceive should make an offering here.

3. Explore quirky museums

Penang has an array of small, offbeat museums with immersive exhibitions that instill a sense of wonder and childlike enthusiasm.

For a lowdown on Malaysian food culture, check out Wonderfood Museum, which features exhibits with larger-than-life food replicas of iconic Penang delights like asam laksa and cendol.

If you’re into local musical heritage, then Penang House of Music is the place for you. Don’t miss out on the gallery dedicated to Penang’s heyday as a popular music powerhouse in the 1940s to 1960s, as well as an immersive radio, cinema and VR experience room showcasing the island’s sights and sounds.

Ardent shutterbugs, meanwhile, can get up close and personal with over 1,000 vintage cameras and accessories at the Asia Camera Museum.

4. Watch a Potehi puppet show

A cultural transplant brought to the island by Hokkien settlers more than a century ago, potehi is a type of opera performed using glove puppets.

Depicting popular folk tales and historical events, this unique form of public entertainment continues to be performed by puppet troupes in Penang today.

One such group is Ombak Potehi, a collective of young practitioners trained by the Beng Geok Hong Potehi Group, one of the oldest surviving troupes on the island.

Their fresh, innovative approach to storytelling makes their shows an enjoyable spectacle for modern audiences. They’ve even been showcased at the acclaimed George Town and Butterworth Fringe Festivals in recent years.

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