11 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Penang, Malaysia

© Malaysia/Shutterstock
© Malaysia/Shutterstock
Photo of Michelle Leong
1 August 2018

Here’s a wild guess: You live in Penang. You don’t want to hike up Kek Lok Si for the 12th time. You don’t need to listen to an audio guide about Peranakan culture. And please, no more about the Penang Road Famous Laksa (you probably go there every weekend)! Well, fear not; this list was made for the non-touristy you.

Attend a Show at the Penang PAC

A country is only as developed as its arts, and nowhere is this idea more apparent than at the Performing Arts Centre of Penang (PAC). From politically engaged plays to side-splitting stand-ups, this is the space to (literally) watch how Penang keeps up with the rest of the world.

Note: Comedies may rely on social stereotypes. Check out their showtimes here.

Performing Arts Centre of Penang (PAC), Straits Quay Marina Mall, Lot 3H-4-1, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Pulau Pinang, Seri Tanjung Pinang, 10470 Tanjong Bungah, Penang, Malaysia, +60 4-899 1722


Courtesy of Performing Arts Centre of Penang (PAC)

Be Mansion-Inspired

Penang’s richest don’t live in apartments. They have mansions lined along Bell Road and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, complete with rolling lawns, shiny sports cars, surveillance cameras, and a security guardhouse or two. If you prefer an uphill scene, Pearl Hill is the place to drive up; sprawling manors, each with a different design, stand on brick-legged foundations to command an unparalleled view of the sea.

Volunteer at SPCA

Did you know that 1,000 dogs were put down in 2015, following a Rabies outbreak? Our animals need to be loved, walked, vaccinated, and spayed. The SPCA is always looking for volunteers, and they hold volunteer briefings every third week of the month. Find out more here.

SPCA, Jalan Jeti Jelutong, Jelutong, 11600 Jelutong, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, +60 4-281 6559


Stray dog | © KTHANAPHON/Shutterstock

Join an Event at the Hin Bus Depot

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Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
Irene Navarro / | © Culture Trip
The Hin Bus Depot is to Penang what Camden is to London. From meditation evenings to open-studio paint jams, arborist exhibitions to casual fun runs, this space makes you trendier just by signing up. Check out their list of events here.

Check Out the Weekend Market at Straits Quay

Fridays to Sundays, a thriving weekend market sets up at this waterfront complex. Browse fruit-shaped soaps, homemade nut butters (yum!), and intricate brass jewelry in the air-conditioned comfort of Straits Quay. And when you’re done, stroll along the front quay for the cool sea breeze and white yachts gently rocking on water.

Weekend market at Straits Quay | © Michelle Leong

Lepak in The Esplanade

Known locally as the “Padang Kota Lama,” this stretch of lawn is where the locals lepak (chill out aimlessly) after dinner. Once the sun goes down, all is quiet and unlit — and usually not conducive for selfie-taking. The Esplanade sits between the busy Light street, the City Hall, and the lapping waves of the straits. You may also wish to try the ais kacang at Jalil Special nearby.

The Esplanade, Penang | © Malaysia/Shutterstock

Take Your Pet to Karpal Singh Drive

If your furry friend has walked the Straits Quay more times than his or her years alive, it’s time to switch it up to Karpal Singh Drive. This seafront promenade is a relatively young hubbub of Penang, with new residential and commercial properties popping up all around. Your dog (or cat, if so inclined to walk) will be pleased with the 0.5 miles (0.8 km) they get to exercise their paws.

Get a Tailor-Made Suit in Town

Earning the big bucks? Penang’s crew of tailor shops will help you look like a million bucks more. You get to choose your own fabric and design, or browse a catalogue for ideas, at the numerous tailor shops in Little India. For a more upscale experience, check out DeePee’s; they’ve been around since 1988, so there’s no question that they know their stuff.

DeePee Tailor, 3 H – G – 6, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tg Pinang, Seri Tanjung Pinang, 10470 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, +60 4-899 7129


Get a tailor-made suit | ©

Visit the Penang Science Cluster

This cool science center isn’t just for geeks. From Linux and Python coding workshops, to learning how to “sew” on the computer, this nonprofit helps advance the local STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) scene by injecting fun into numbers. If you’re just browsing, check out the year-round exhibition, and don’t try too hard to fit into the life-sized mini airplane.

Penang Science Cluster, 37, Gat Lebuh China, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, +60 4-824 4355

Attend a Reading Event

If you enjoy reading, why not check out the local literary scene? Every two months, MYWriters Penang hosts an event featuring 15-minute readings by local or visiting writers, followed by an interactive Q&A session. Got a “pre-loved” book? You can exchange it for another at their Book Exchange, too.

© Anna Tan | © Anna Tan

Go Café-Hopping

What’s better than the bars in Penang? The cafés, of course. With hundreds of chic, boutique little establishments across the island, you’re spoiled for choice. First-timers will enjoy The Mugshot Café on Chulia Street, where you can take a “mugshot” while enjoying their delightful yogurt parfaits (try the Gula Melaka!).

302, Chulia St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia, +60 12-405 6276