Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, the northwestern Malaysian province of Penang truly lives up to its moniker. With fascinating colonial-era architecture, a melting pot of cultures, and some of the most delicious food in all of southeast Asia, this relatively small island packs in more than seems possible. Here are the best, most unique and coolest places to stay in the area.
At last, somebody took advantage of this imposing, multi-storey colonial-era building overlooking George Town’s harbour. The Prestige Hotel Penang’s 162 rooms are done out in dreamy tones of white and brass, recalling the ships that would have docked at its doorstep in previous centuries. As such, Victorian-era influences abound, the one exception being the distinctly uncoy clear-glass showers.
Are you the type who fancies a classic, landmark hotel stay? Then look no further than George Town’s Eastern & Oriental Hotel. With a history that spans nearly 135 years, you can drink your morning OJ in the same place as literary legends Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Hermann Hesse. A recent renovation has the Heritage Wing looking better than ever, while the newer Victory Annexe offers expansive views over the Straits of Malacca to mainland Malaysia.
With a vibe that could only be described as South Pacific, this sprawling, seaside resort in Batu Ferringhi, Penang’s beachy escape, offers an almost village-like atmosphere. Like a small hamlet, you may find yourself lost in the expanse of century-old rain trees, pools, a golf course, tennis courts, a lauded spa and a semi-private beach. You’ll feel at home again in the spacious, subtly sexy suites.
The upper floor of this strip of 19th-century shophouses has been given a new life in the form of a hotel. The two- and three-bedroom suites are handsome and contemporary, some boasting smart kitchenettes. A location right in the middle of George Town’s UNESCO-certified protected zone means it’s only a few steps to some of the most amazing street food in southeast Asia – so you may not need that kitchenette after all.
You’ll have to take us on our word that this elegant colonial-era mansion was, until relatively recently, a somewhat dodgy backpacker crash pad. An extensive renovation has maintained the charm of the exterior while bringing the spacious, sunny rooms into the present day. A pool, courtyard and inviting café – not to mention a location a stone’s throw from some of Penang’s biggest sights – will serve as excuses to get you out and about.
If you’ve ever been to Penang, you’ve most likely seen this stately, sprawling mansion from a taxi and wondered what went on there. Now, you can live there. The eight rooms will calm you via an almost Japanese-esque minimalism, yet come outfitted with thoughtful amenities such as Nespresso machines and Bluetooth speakers. A pool, and one of Penang’s classiest bars, provide even more incentives to remain in-house.
A strip of linked Anglo-Chinese terrace houses on one of George Town’s most atmospheric streets, the Seven Terraces has a knack for making you forget what century it is. Apartments and suites are outfitted with old-world Chinese-influenced design touches, subtly concealing the modern amenities. A traditional granite-paved, open-air courtyard lends an element of space, and the adjacent restaurant, Kebaya, appeals to any senses that haven’t yet been satiated.
Warmth, heritage and hospitality pervade at this group of connected antique shophouses. From the handsome, old-school-feeling lobby to the inviting rooms decked out with vintage furniture, cosy is the operative word at the Areca. Soak up some of Penang’s ample sunlight in the plant- and tree-stuffed courtyard, where we dare you not to be tempted to spend the afternoon in a lounge chair with a magazine.
In Penang with the family in tow? Do yourself a favour and check into the Parkroyal. Sprawling across a strip of busy sand in Batu Ferringhi, you’ll be practically overwhelmed with options for both kids and adults. In addition to a pool the size of a small lake (yes, it has a slide), the rooms also boast lots of real estate, and dining outlets and helpful staff may mean you never feel the need to leave.
If you grew up in Penang in the 1950s, the Lone Pine would have been part of your beach escape. The hotel has expanded over the decades, but it still maintains an old-world charm – albeit one that can boast a saltwater swimming pool and rooms that feel both contemporary and stylish. The buffet breakfast, with its emphasis on local dishes, is one of the better on the island, and the Lone Pine is only steps away from the beach at Batu Ferringhi.
Fancy discovering more plush hotels in Penang? Check out our pick of the best hotels to book in George Town, Penang, or discover more great hotels in Malaysia with our guide to the best hotels in Kuantan for every traveller, all bookable with Culture Trip.
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