When it comes to a short getaway, Penang is always a good idea. A haven for street food and big-ticket attractions, the island city has – in the last few years – stepped into the spotlight for its slew of historic mansions converted into charming hotels.
While some of us may bemoan the escalating gentrification and the phone-toting tourists who are only in Penang for the ‘gram, the very foundation of the island itself was built on travellers, traders and settlers from near and far since the 1500s. The Chinese, British, Arabs, Indians and many others have helped shape the identity of this place that we know today.
From repurposed mansions to modern hotels and everything in between, here are more reasons for you to discover the charm of the Pearl of the Orient.
Founded by the Sarkies brothers from Armenia (who are also the same folks behind the Raffles Hotel, Singapore) in 1885, Eastern & Oriental Hotel Penang still upholds its colonial heritage and elegance despite the ebb and flow of economic tide over the years. The nostalgic setting will take you back in time and the spacious, modern suites have everything you need for a much-needed R&R.
This 3-storey boutique hotel brings along the history of first housing the entrepreneurial-minded and well-educated Armenian traders followed by the Chinese migrant community involved in the copper and brass industry. Stay here for its luxe amenities and bygone charm, replete with copper accents.
Wake up at the delightful The Edison George Town and have your breakfast at the lovely outdoors or in the comfort of your room before heading out to explore the city. The Anglo-Colonial mansion has endless architectural aesthetics that calls for appreciation and photo-ops. Did someone say wine and cheese in the afternoons, everyday?
The sister property of G Hotel Gurney, the Kelawai outpost has a trendy, contemporary edge to its design element that makes it stand out on its own as a playground for business travellers and families alike. Among the highlights here is the rooftop bar with infinity pool, top-notch F&B offerings and its close vicinity to shopping malls and Gurney Drive.
Located next to the Goddess of Mercy Temple, Seven Terraces is a great place to soak up the rich Peranakan culture in all its glory. The brains behind this lovingly restored row of Anglo-Chinese houses is Chris Ong, who also founded the Galle Fort Hotel in Sri Lanka as well as a slew of other breathtaking boutique hotels around George Town. History buffs will find this place hard to resist.
The highly rated Noordin Mews along Lebuh Noordin was a Straits Eclectic shophouse for the trishaws and hand carts that were found in abundance along this street back in the day. Today, the heritage hotel comes with a pool, well-appointed rooms, excellent service and plenty of spots for photography. Pets are welcome too, and that’s an even bigger brownie point!
Formerly a communal parking for horse carriages during an era of affluence, Muntri Mews’ storied past is juxtaposed against contemporary touches that blends seamlessly with the rest of the property. The former quarters for drivers and syce are now converted into modern rooms, and that communal feel can still be felt throughout.
Jawi Peranakan refers to the assimilation between local Malay women and traders from Arab, Punjab, Gujerat, Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan. This mansion has been painstakingly restored to its former glory to house 8 mansion rooms and 6 family suites. The elegant Anglo-Indian beauty with distinct Moorish and Indian design elements is exceptionally charming.
Macalister Mansion stands as an ode to our colonial masters, designed around the idea of an old English mansion while making you feel right at home. There are 8 rooms for you to retreat to, but it’s the dining experience at Blanc that will steal the show. French culinary artistry takes centerstage, alongside carefully chosen wines and impeccable service. Bon appétit!
With a cameo in Hollywood flick Crazy Rich Asian, we cannot recommend this hotel enough for your next stay in Penang. Don’t leave without dining in at Indigo or having a drink at the uber-cool bar, The Bar. The daily mansion tours have always been popular, sign up and discover the history of Penang and the architecture of the blue mansion.
What makes this heritage hotel special is the rich architecture that blends five different architectural periods, thanks to its extended construction starting from the 1800s. The rooms at 23 Lovelane are worth writing home about, while the Chinese Indian terrace, library and the garden are simply enchanting.
Lush green landscaping and sun, sea & sand forms the perfect background of this award-winning beach resort on Batu Feringgi Beach. Culinary choices are aplenty, and meat-lovers will find Feringghi Grill a delight to their appetite. The resort is a popular choice for families with kids, so you might want to escape into the spa and pamper yourself. And if you’d like to take a trip into the heart of city, free shuttles are available daily.
Love birds, we cannot think of a better hotel than the Lone Pine boutique hotel to make your stay special. Batu Ferringhi’s only luxury boutique hotel is underlined by clean lines and cool white, blending blissful beach vacay with colonial charm. Our favourite spot: the plunge tub on the balcony with a view of the Andaman sea.
The Hard Rock Hotel Penang promises a fun-filled stay for anyone who wants to have a great time. Every room at this beachfront retreat is special (while paying tribute to the world’s greatest rock stars, no less!) but we highly recommend the poolside rooms – Lagoon Deluxe because you can just step onto the balcony and dive straight into the pool for a splashing time.
If you’re looking for something off-the-beaten-track, then the Malihom Private Estate is the right place to be. The estate is made up of a cluster of traditional Thai rice barns with modern amenities, perfect for those who want to escape the city and be in one with nature. Another plus point, a swimming pool filled with natural spring water.