If you are on the lookout for historically interesting places in Penang, you are in luck as the vibrant island features a selection of excellent historic attractions. Penang’s rich history and colorful cultural influences from many different parts of the world, has created plenty of exquisite heritage sites that offer not only something interesting to look at, but also something to find amazement as well as an unmatched learning opportunity.
The historical places are the main tourist attractions in Penang. They give tourists an opportunity to go back in time. Majority of the buildings are still in their original shape. More then hundreds year of heritage is awaiting you in the island of Penang.
Historical Places of Interest in Penang
While, there are plenty of things to do in Penang, here are some of the most prominent places of interest in Penang featuring various cultural influences and incredible historical significance.
1. Heritage Temples
Heritage temples are among the most interesting places in Penang. Built in 1728, Kuan Yin, also known as the Goddess of Mercy temple, is the oldest temple in Penang. The structure was built as an homage to Kuan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy and for the patron saint of seafarers, Ma Chor Poh. This beautiful temple outdated the clan houses of Penang and originally served as a place where social and religious functions were held.
The Snake Temple is one of the most popular temples in Penang and sees visitors all throughout the year. The temple was built to honour Chor Soo Kong, a healer and Buddhist priest. According to local legends, the monk used to provide shelter to the snakes within the temple and the snakes moved in after his death. The snakes are also believed to be the priest’s disciples and the temple is home to venomous green tree snakes and Wagler’s pit vipers.
Sri Mariamman Temple is a striking temple found in the Little India district of Georgetown. Constructed in 1833, the temple is a dedication to Lord Subramaniam, a Hindu god.
Another beautiful temple that must be mentioned is the Kek Lok Si, the largest Buddhist temple in the country. Located on a hilltop at Air Itam, the temple complex comprises of three zones, souvenir stalls, food and drink outlets as well as a pond dedicated to turtle liberation. The complex is home to beautiful smaller temples, lavish gardens and a pagoda along with the pavilion of four heavenly kings.
2. Fort Cornwallis – 1810
Fort Cornwallis is the largest existing fort in Malaysia and one of the oldest structures on Penang Island. Fort Cornwallis is found on the north-eastern coast of Penang. The fort contains a selection of educational exhibits. Near the main entrance of the fort is a bronze statue of Captain Francis Light. The fort contains barracks, ammunition storage areas, a harbor light and prison ships along with the original Flagstaff.
3. St. George’s Church – 1816
Located right next door to the Penang State Museum & Art Gallery, St. George’s Church was built employing convicts all the way back in 1817. The church is the oldest Anglican Church in Southeast Asia as well as one of the oldest structures in Penang. Designed by Captain Robert Smith, a military engineer, the building carries Greek architectural influences. The interior of the church features marble floors and pastel blue walls. A memorial, built in the form of a Greek temple is found in the church grounds.
4. Penang Museum & Art Gallery – 1821
The Penang Museum & Art Gallery is considered to be one of the best presented museums in Malaysia. Established in 1821, the museum features a collection of state and national treasures, including furniture, costumes, jewelry and a collection of Baba Nyonya porcelain as well as Captain Robert Smith’s oil paintings. The exhibits are divided into temporary and permanent exhibits with the permanent exhibit being dedicated to the historical communities and historic events in Penang.
5. Heritage Mosques
Constructed in 1801, Kapitan Keling Mosque is one of the most prominent landmarks on the island. The mosque was built by the first Indian Muslim East India Company troops. The Kapitan Keling Mosque is the largest in Georgetown and is quite a vision in the evenings. The mosque is as beautiful from the inside as it is from the outside. The Kapitan Keling Mosque has a spacious prayer hall that has been decorated with Roman arches to create the illusion of depth and a sparkling chandelier on the ceiling.
Officially known as the Masjid Lebuh Acheh, the Acheen Street Mosque is built in the Egyptian style and stands out from many of the other local mosques built in the Moorish style. Constructed in 1820, the mosque is found in Georgetown and is considered one of the most crucial structures for Arab and Malay traders in the area. The Acheen Street Mosque is also one of the oldest mosques in Penang and is definitely worthy of checking out.
6. Penang Islamic Museum – 1860
Also known as the Sayed Alatas Mansion, the Penang Islamic Museum is an important part of the island’s Islamic heritage. The museum is home to an exhibition where the introduction and growth of Islam in Malaysia and Penang is detailed. The museum is found on Armenian street and also features a gallery, offering details about the cultural influence brought onto the island by key 19th and early 20th century notable public figures. The museum also features a collection of 19th century furniture and a life sized dock-scene diorama.
7. City Hall (Dewan Bandaran) – 1903
The Penang City Hall is located along the Esplanade. The building itself is a fine specimen of Victorian architecture and was constructed in 1903. The City Hall building is a proud reminder of Penang’s vibrant colonial past. The City Hall is located facing a historic field known as the Padang Kota. This is a venue for various large scale events and festivals. As of today, the City Hall continues to be used for the Penang Municipal Council Chamber meetings.
8. Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – 1904
The striking blue Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is definitely one of the interesting places in Penang. This beautiful boutique hotel was constructed in the 1880’s portraying the traditional Hakka-Teochew style. Cheong Fatt Tze was actually a merchant-trader who succeeded in establishing a massive financial empire in East Asia during the 19th century. Being of Chinese origin, he built his home in the traditional Chinese courtyard style.
The house contains 38 rooms, 5 courtyards paved with granite, 7 staircases and 220 windows framed with timber. The structure is definitely hard to miss due to its distinctly vivid exterior and features delightful floor tiles and stained glass as well.
9. The Queen Victoria Clock Tower – 1897
The Queen Victoria Clock Tower is a must-visit place of interest in Penang. Built by a local millionaire in 1897, the clock tower symbolizes the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The structure stands 60 feet high and each foot is said to represent the 60 year reign of the Queen. This beautiful clock tower is located in King Edward’s Pace, George Town. If one looks closely, it can be noted that the clock tower actually leans to one side as a result of the bomb impacts during WWII. The whitewashed tower features a Moorish dome at the top and has four tiers.
10. Penang Peranakan Mansion
The Penang Peranakan Mansion is an elaborate structure that was a recreation of a typical rich home in the 19th century. The house is beautifully restored to display Penang’s Baba-Nyonya culture and features a selection of over 1000 collectibles and antiques from the era. Within the mansion, visitors will find an eclectic mix of different styles and influences from various parts of the world.
Featuring English tiles, European art, Scottish ironworks and carved wooden panels from China, the interior is truly an exquisite combination of various cultural influences. The house was once where the Kapitan Cina Chung Keng Kwee lived and operated an office.
These are some of the best and interesting places in Penang for history lover. If you want to recommend an interesting place or share your opinion, please do so by adding comments below.