1 ) Penang Sunset Cruise
Penang’s National Park is a great bet for travellers keen to discover the island’s outdoor landscape but exploring it at night is another altogether otherworldly experience. Making it onto our list of Top 10 nightlife experiences in Penang is the Penang Sunset Cruise which will take you on a tour of the park’s 1181 hectares of forest and 1381 hectares of wetlands. The tour starts at 17:00, when there is plenty of natural light to see the park’s natural ecosystem but on the way back be amazed at the sun setting over the horizon from the comfort of your return boat.
2 ) Hawker Food
Easily making it onto our list of Top 10 nightlife experiences in Penang is the island’s local hawker food scene which really comes alive at night, when notable, sprawling open air venues found along Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Gurney Drive and Georgetown’s New Lane begin operations. Our favourite is New Lane Hawker Centre, just a minute’s walk from Sunway Hotel Georgetown, for its char koay kak, a dish of pickled vegetables, rice cake, bean sprouts and fried egg. Also good is almost-everything at Gurney Drive Hawker Centre (but it tends to get really packed), and Long Beach Food Court along Jalan Batu Ferringhi, which offers pretty inexpensive food (RM5 for a plate of fried rice) given its location.
3) Live Music
The local music scene is Penang is a thriving industry. The island plays host to several music festivals throughout the year including the Penang Island Jazz Festival, Malaysia’s second largest performing arts event held in August, and the Penang World Music Festival taking place between March and April. However, visitors looking for all year round live entertainment will not be disappointed as several island bars host live acts regularly. Our top choice is the iconic Hard Rock Café along Jalan Batu Ferringhi, where live local performers rule the roost, but international artists make stage appearances from time to time. For a more casual vibe, Reggae Mansion on Lebuh Chulia has an outer lounge where local performers are sometimes free to take the mike.
4) Penang Dance Clubs
For fun vibes and Latin rhythms, head to Slippery Senoritas, an island institution on Upper Penang Road famous for its salsa tunes, or try Jammin’ at Pengkalan Weld, which has a weekly Thursday tango night. Alternatively, M2 Club specialises in local fusion dance music, while Soju Room and Storm are great choices for those keen on the EDM music scene. The first two are in the basement levels of Penang Times Square, while Storm is set along Lebuh Chulia. The one thing they all have in common is that music is loud and drinks are strong, making it all the more easier to move to the beats
5) Kek Lok Si Temple
To experience real local flavour during your holiday in Penang, we recommend a visit to the elaborate Kek Lok Si Temple at night. You can visit during the day but it somehow loses that magical spark that makes it so special when lots of locals’ stop over for nightly prayers, with the smell of incense scenting the air and candles lit at the altars. Spread across 10 acres, it is lit up at night, providing you with plenty of opportunities for postcard perfect pictures.
6) Rooftop Bars
enang has only recently joined in the ranks of cities around the world with great rooftop bars, adding the dramatic Three Sixty Revolving Restaurant & Sky Bar and the equally-stunning The Press Rooftop Bar to its roster of nightclubs. Allowing visitors to gain a whole new appreciation for the island’s gorgeous views, each has a different vibe – the former is a classy revolving restaurant with an attached rooftop cocktail lounge, while the latter is a two-storey venue with a techno-oriented musical soundtrack. Another must visit rooftop bar is Loke Thye Kee Bar, set on Burmah Road, which offers seafront views of Pengkalan Weld – the only downside is that it closes before 23:00.
7) After-Dark Shopping
One of the island’s most popular shopping experiences, Jalan Batu Ferringhi is really the place to head to for after-dark shopping. Not only does it deserve an honourable mention for having the most extensive stretch of outdoor retail offerings, this street also has the best beach frontage on the whole island.
8 ) Upper Penang Road Bars and Nightclubs
Perfect for nightclub-hopping, Upper Penang Road is home to the largest concentration of pubs, bars and dance clubs on Penang Island. Located at the start of Jalan Penang, it is closed off to vehicular traffic allowing neon-lit clubs to place tables and chairs outdoors, where you can people-watch and also listen to the diverse, slightly muffled music soundtracks from individual clubs. Long standing institutions along this stretch include Monkey Bar, a cool speakeasy-style bar with quirky interior design, and Soho Free House, a British tavern with fantastic all-day happy hour beer promos.
9) Beach Bars
Making that dream of sipping a cocktail with the sand between your toes a reality, Penang’s beach bar scene is fairly comprehensive, ranging from simple shacks set on the sand, stocked with beer, to chic themed bars. Not only will you find them along Jalan Batu Ferringhi’s beach border, but there are also a few seafront venues in Georgetown. The perfect places to leave your worries behind, our favourite is Hard Rock Hotel’s Caribbean-style Sand Bar, and the ultra posh QEII, with resident DJs who spin remixed tunes from the 80s up to the latest chart hits.
10) Cocktail Lounges
Penang’s catalogue of great nightlife experiences continues with its array of classy cocktail lounges. Bartenders whip up some genuinely inventive and tasty candy-coloured drinks and all venues offer a winning formula of flavoursome, imaginative drinks, pleasing interior design, comfy seats, and background music that lets you have easy conversation with pals. A couple of our favourites are the rustic, Peranakan-style Baba Bar, and the fashionable G Lounge (in G Hotel along Gurney Drive) which has a 46-metre bar, the longest on the island