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a guide to penang street art walking tour
For those looking to experience street art in Penang at its best, this self-guided walking tour has all the bases coveredand still allows for some exploring.

In league with the likes of Miami and Berlin, Penang is a recognized street art capital of the world. I prioritized a trip to Penang primarily for the street art and needless to say, the street art met every expectation. As a street art enthusiast, a weekend was not enough to do a thorough enough reconnaissance, and the amount of artwork that exists in George Town alone is overwhelming. If you have the time to exploregreat! If not, here is a detailed breakdown of what you will find, and where you will find street art in Penang.

penang georgetown street art

the next somewhere more informationA Map of Street Art in Penang

penang street art map

Here is a printable of the walking tour for reference.

penang street art george town

The “I Want Bao” mural adorns the front of the Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop. The artist, WK Setor, was invited to pain the piece for the pastry owner. Apparently, the two children are none other than the pastry owner’s children!

The History of Street Art in Penang

Don’t be fooled by the faded wash of murals splashed across decrepit walls. Street art in Penang is a less-than-a-decade old phenomenon that owes its existence to forward-thinking city officials, as much as it does to the creative ingenuity. In 2008, the historical core of George Town, Penang’s capital, was awarded a World Heritage Site title by UNESCO. In an effort to rally a campaign around the new title and forge a distinct identity, the Penang State Government hosted a competition called “Making George Town” calling for creative ways to make use of public spaces. The Kuala Lumpur-based firm “Sculpture At Work” won the bid and crafted a hefty 52 iron rod sculptures illustrating long forgotten anecdotes of the streets of Penang that now, mark the storied roads of Penang.

“Mirrors Georgetown” by Ernest Zacharevic

It wasn’t long before Lithuanian born artist, Ernest Zacharevic, was tapped to paint full-scale muralwork for the  George Town Festival 2012. The six commissioned murals he dreamt up are inspired by the everyday humans of Penang, capturing the lively spirit of the city through mischievous scenes. The iconic mural of the batch, “Little Children on the Bike,” singlehandedly put Penang on the map as tourists flocked to the site to be a joyride passenger along with two perky youngsters. Most of Zacharevic’s pieces are interactive, having components in which the art interacts with real elements –eg. a painted boy riding on the back of a decommissioned motorcycle. His work is a fascinating depiction of art merging with the environment.

Pro-tip: When standing in line for the “Little Children on the Bike” mural, start at the end closest to the seat. That’s where the line “technically starts” and you’ll get a turn on the bike much quicker.

penang street art malaysia

The mural that launched 1000 tourists

Update: Don’t look for the “Two Children in a Boat” at Chew Jetty. According to a few locals I asked, it has been neglected and worn away due to lack of upkeep.

“101 Lost Kittens” Project

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of animals, but strangely enough, I really love animal motifs and cat-themed art is something I get down with. Extra brownie points goes to “artivism”, art done in the name of a good cause! The “101 Lost Kittens Project” is an initiative championed by Artists for Stray Animals (ASA) to help raise awareness and curb high stray populations in Penang. Most of these murals are found on the second half of Lebuh Armenian (Armenian Street) past the Beach Street intersection. Each of the murals painted in this collection highlight a positive and/or point of concern regarding stray felines. The one below is called “I Can Help Catch Rats,” meant to encourage locals to keep cats as pets to help with pest control.

Street art penang georgetown malaysia
More Street Art in Penang

While the heaviest concentration of these murals are in the confines of George Town, the popularity of street art in Penang has spread passed the boundaries of the historic center and now exists in every nook and cranny. You’ll see illustrations of flying cats painted on window shades, sketched women lighting incense down alleyways, murals decorating the sides of warehouses and across the archways that mark Penang’s famous five-foot ways. This motivates those looking around to stay attentive, while in the same vein, offers a wealth of surprises. And the prominence of street art in Penang is something to note because Penang was the only Asian destination out of 42 cities featured in Lonely Planet’s latest coffee table book, Street Art. My best advice is to cherish the wandering and take the time to meander down every little lane. Staying present is key to enjoying your street art scavenger hunt in Penang.

Did you know? While this looks like a Zacharevic piece, “The Brother and Sister on the Swing” were actually done by deaf-mute artist Louis Gan, non-commissioned. He did another piece, “The Brother and Sister Playing Basketball.”

Street art penang georgetown malaysia

Where? This colorful entry looks over the famous “Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul” on Jalan Penang, where the stand sells the same exact treat the boy is indulging in the artpiece.


Check out this Interactive Walking Guide

the next somewhere watch video

👉 What’s a mural you absolutely want to see? Do you have any other street artwork that I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to explore more!

Give me a shout-out on Pinterest pretty please?

Looking for Penang Street Art? Here are all the spots at @The Next Somewhere.

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Millette Pulido is a Bay Area-based, Boston-bred Filipina who loves to vagabond. At 29, the former expat has traded in her nomadic ways for a semi-grounded life in San Jose, CA. Recently married, she's focusing on balancing travel with a full-time job and a destination wedding side hustle, all while planning her honeymoon in 2020. She lives for good times, good food, and good peeps. Find out her #wheretonext on Instagram @thenextsomewhere.

Comments:

  • July 13, 2017

    It’s amazing how street art can attract tourists. I first saw Penang’s street art when my sister-in-law posted it on her IG a little over a year ago. I was so fascinated at how unique and interactive the street art was. It’s funny how you mention the long lines because I never see more than two people in these cute photo-opts. I loved reading the backstory and hope to visit Penang some day.

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  • July 13, 2017

    I loved the post! It’s brilliant the way you’ve captured the spirit of the city along with the enthusiasm of the artist’s creation! I think street art is picking up in India as well. The ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) office in Ahmedabad, Gujarat has great street art but I haven’t captured it on my camera yet. You have inspired me to do just that next time when i am in Ahmedabad.

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  • July 13, 2017

    I absolutely love this, it’s cool how you have invaded the art but almost so you have to double check to see what is real, great creativity

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  • July 13, 2017

    I love this. It is so cool how you included yourself in the street art in the photos. It makes it all so interesting. This is perfect for instagram ☺

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  • July 13, 2017

    This looks awesome! What a perfect premier to your new site! I love all the different forms of media you’re using. I’ve tried making the gif-things, but I’m just not as dang cute as you are! The map is perfect! I’m definitely going to have to put this to use if we find ourselves in Penang. I LOVE street art!

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  • July 13, 2017

    The lion dance one!! I want to see that one most! Mostly because I have done lion dance before so that one is a little personal to me. I remember seeing the brother-sister bike on in a Hong Kong or Korean drama long along then started seeing it in lots of traveler’s photos. I like that the street art here in Penang feels like art and not just scribbles like a lot of the “art” where I am at.

    I would really like to check out the rod ones too! Those look really interesting!

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  • July 14, 2017

    I live in Florida and ever since I went to Wynwood walls I have been obsessed with street art. These are really unique and I love how interactive they can be. The maps you made are such a great tool. I love being able to follow a plan and you have laid it out so nicely.

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  • July 14, 2017

    I visited Penang back in 2009, and being a newbie traveler, didn’t spend too much time seeking out all the amazing street art. In fact, I didn’t know much about it at all. Definitely need to plan a trip back to see it and of course, to eat!!! Have you ever been to Malacca? There’s also a ton of street art there. Can’t believe LP only included ONE Asian city in their book. Oversight if you ask me. PS: The updated blog design is awesome. 🙂

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  • Sandy N Vyjay

    July 14, 2017

    The street art of Penang is so lively and colourful. It is almost life like. The pictures too are stunning and it is as if photography and art have merged together. The art in its beautiful form stands as a silent ode to the skills of some unknown artists.

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  • July 14, 2017

    I really like the photo of you on the swing, looking at the two children on the adjacent swing. Actually, all the photos/ videos are nice. Lovely presentation!

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  • July 14, 2017

    Wow, I didn’t know that Penang has this kind of amazing street that showcase the artistic people of Penang. I like how all the painting made, the color, the style and everything, it is just so beautiful. I truly love to amble around that street and take a lot of photos as well if i were to visit Penang. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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  • July 14, 2017

    Your graffiti walking tour is great! The neighborhood reminds me of all the graffiti you can find walking around Hongdae in Seoul. Penang is a place I haven’t really considered going, but maybe Malaysia has more to offer than I previously thought. This is on the island penang right? My favorite are the two kids on the swing, so sweet!

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  • July 15, 2017

    Very visual! Love your post, Izzy! As always. Those are attractive murals. Which brings to mind Korea’s Ihwa Mural Village. You in the photos makes the post even more interesting. It’s nice to go around a city that takes value in its streets, nooks and alleys. That initiative has surely drawn more tourists to the area. I am always in awe when art is consciously infused in the surroundings.

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  • July 16, 2017

    I would love to visit Penang! I’ve heard the street food there is amazing as well as the street art. I’ve saw quite a few of these in other people’s pics before but never even thought that there would be a queue. It’s quite nice, because you can get your photo without loads of people in it! Btw your new website design is a feast for the eyes! You’re a super talented gal, Izzy!

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  • July 17, 2017

    I love street art – I think it tells so much about a place. Your photos are amazing – especially because of the way you’re interacting with the art! I bet you’d make the artists proud!

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  • July 17, 2017

    This is so cool, Izzy! I strongly believe that most cities should feature street art to liven up the atmosphere. So many times I find myself wishing Korea would follow in the steps of Berlin, Panang and other cities. I’m not a fan of the grey, unremarkable buildings that abound. Hopefully soon enough they get on board with this idea!

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  • July 17, 2017

    I LOVE your cute video snippets. What a great tour of the area. I haven’t seen a map on any other posts from other bloggers when I’ve read about the Penang Street Art so I super appreciate the map you provided. You got some of the ones I’ve seen before and more. Looks like you had an amazing time. ^^

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  • July 17, 2017

    I have been to Penang a few times but I never knew about the street art there. This is so very cool, I would love to do a walking tour exploring it. I like you have put a walking map together. Some of that art work looks really cool, I love the one with the kids on the swing. I can’t believe that it was painted by a deaf-mute artist Louis Gan that is such great talent.

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  • July 17, 2017

    You’re really creative! You really did well in making the map. Malaysia’s street art reminds me of Ihwa Mural Village in Korea, (which reminds me that I haven’t blogged about it yet.) I rarely see blogs about Malaysia. I’m looking forward to read more travel guides from you.

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  • July 18, 2017

    I am absolutely a street art NUT! I loved hanging out in Wynwood when I lived in Miami. Besides Berlin, I found the street art in Lisbon to be quite incredible. I’m grateful that one of my favorite hangouts in Dallas has a wealth of street art and it switches up, so it is always fresh.

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  • July 18, 2017

    Wow! Penang has some truly amazing street art! I love how interactive each of the pieces seemed to be- especially the two kids on a bike and the kid on the swing!! I would’ve never put Penang on my list for street art, and I’m so glad you introduced me to this! Thank you!

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  • Vicki Louise

    July 18, 2017

    Penang has such great street art! And your map is super helpful for finding all the famous and not-so-famous spots. You really captured the pieces well, the colours are so vibrant and I love how interactive they all are!

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  • Rhiannon

    July 18, 2017

    So I thought you were the street art in the top photo! I spent ages looking at it and trying to work out which people were real and which were painted! I’ve seen quite a few articles about the Penang street art recently but yours definitely tops the list as most useful and informative (that map!). I can’t decide whether “The Brother and Sister on the Swing” or “I Want Bao” is my favourite piece!

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  • July 18, 2017

    Wow I didn’t realise Penang was such an amazing hub of street art! I have been dying to visit for sometime and reading this blog post has pushed Penang to the top of bucket list! Thanks for sharing!!

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  • Jean

    July 19, 2017

    The street art in Penang looks amazing. I love the way your interacting with the artwork in your images. Really makes me feel like I’m there seeing it all for myself.

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  • July 21, 2017

    I am a massive fan of Berlin, mainly due to the street art therefore I know I am going to love Penang! I need to put it on my hit list. I love the props they use such as the swing and the bike. It adds fun and interactiveness to seeing the street art. I have saved you page so I can use your walking tour when I do make it there. Thank you

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  • July 27, 2017

    Just started following your blog and I never knew this about Penang . I used to work for Malaysia Airlines in Los Angeles and I remember how great the food was. I will definitely be following your blog . Have you seen the street art in Philadelphia ?

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  • August 22, 2017

    Marvelous. They have so many of these arts on their walls. Utterly a unique piece of talent. Izzy, you got some pretty pictures by the way. Hope you’ve had some pleasant moments there in Penang. I never knew about such place. Lol. Thanks by the way.

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  • April 18, 2018

    Thank you so much for this post! I am in penang just now and your map was incredibly useful! 🙂

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  • August 27, 2018

    I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not positive whether this put up is
    written by way of him as nobody else recognize such special approximately my problem.
    You’re amazing! Thanks!

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