There’s a lot to do in Penang for first-timers: from experiencing George Town’s vibrant nightlife, to lazying on at least 20 great beaches, exploring Penang National Park at Teluk Bahang, and experiencing a number of things to do in Penang with kids, including The Top Komtar, with its Rainbow Skywalk, most tourists have their hands full.
But what if you wanted to go a little bit more local, avoiding all those Penang Western Food places that many tourists love? We suggest you visit one of Penang Pasar Malam, or “Night Markets”. It’s something you will cherish if you have a taste for loud, boisterous fun and delicious street food. You won’t find other things, such as interesting books on Malaysia, here.
Imagine strolling on a balmy evening, the sun is setting, noise, people… lots of people, indeed… smoke and fumes wafting from charred grills churning satay and ayam percik, the local meat delicacies. If what you want is an authentic, scruffy Penang, you can find it all here, at one of Penang Night Markets — don’t forget that to some, they are considered the best places to shop in Penang (besides its many shopping malls, grocery stores and alternative boutiques and markets, by the way). The antithesis to the air-conditioned shopping mall experience (where, however, it’s easy to get a Tourist SIM Card for Malaysia), Penang night markets are hot, uncomfortable places where you’ll find the best bargains and stunning street food (here’s our guide to getting started with Penang food, by the way). Penang Night Markets are a must go for tourists and locals alike.
Why Visit Penang Night Markets?
The reason to go to a Penang Pasar Malam? First and foremost, their many stalls offer a very wide variety of bric-a-brac, some legal and some illegal, and plenty of food. What’s more, Penang Night Markets are always teeming with people. Do yourself a favour and choose not to come by car, unless you catch a Grab Penang or any of the other e-hailing services available on the island. Take your time and soak it up. There is a lot to take in, and if you take a little bit of trouble to talk to the vendors, it’ll make your experience much richer. Here you’ll find pure examples of true Penang trade’s persons, with their strong characters and passion for what they do. Most stall owners can be found at a different market, on each different day of the week.
We’ve visited some of the best markets on the island and gave you a day by day, Monday to Sunday, weekend list of the best Penang Night Markets. They all are similar, yet each has a distinctive character that makes it worth visiting… just try them all.
Pasar Malam in Penang for Every Day of the Week
1Monday Penang Night Market: Maccalum Street Night Market
Maccallum is a huge night market on the fringes of George Town. It may not be the kind of location on anyone’s bucket list, but it’s large, eclectic, and has that typical Penang feel that reflects in the way it’s sprawled all over adjoining streets and roadside nooks — not to mention that you could be run over by cars, since this market is not exclusive to the humble pedestrians. Plenty of food options are to be found here, with all the usual favourites plus some weird additions, such as crafted ice cream, moulded and decorated into the cute faces of cats. For those big people who can’t find their size of underwear in any of Penang’s shops, please know that there’s a huge selection of bra’s, knickers and more “exotic” stuff on sale here. For this reason alone, Maccallum Night Market is quite an interesting place.
Every Monday, 7 pm onwards
2Tuesday Penang Night Market: Tanjung Bungah Night Market
Tucked next to the wet market and bus depot of Tanjung Bungah, this market is very popular with local and expats alike. Parking is an absolute nightmare here, so we highly recommend to get there by anything but your own car. At the time of our visit, it was Durian season, and it was impossible to escape the sight, and of course, the pungent smell of the King of Fruits. This was also more or less the highlight, as this market is a bit timid compared to others, perhaps trying to fit a bit too much with the laidback nature of the area. However, should you live in the vicinity of the Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah districts, this market is a godsend — you won’t need to head into town or beyond, and you’ll experience something quintessentially local. Say hello to pizza uncle, who does nasty but tasty and crispy frisbees topped with cheese. Italians may cry, but here in Penang, these people and their weird food concoctions are our national treasures.
Every Tuesday, from 5.30 pm
3Wednesday Night Market in Penang: Farlim Night Market
Farlim is a very busy residential area in Penang, and for this reason, its market boasts a wide variety of great foods. You should definitely try the salted fish bao and pineapple tarts, better washed down with the fresh pineapple juice on sale here. The Tau Fu Fa, a Chinese pudding-like dessert, is also pretty good here. Meat lovers may enjoy the Thai style BBQ pork skewers and fried chicken, or grilled chicken served into juicy Ramli burgers. Don’t forget to get a bag of crunchy keropok lekok (fish crackers).
4Thursday Penang Night Market: Batu Ferringhi Night Market
This market is actually a true eyesore if you consider its location near the beach and right next to the sole congested main road. But the local traders have been around for many years, and they’re still going from strength to strength. The offerings are more directed to tourists, who are always looking to fill the remaining space in their suitcase with junk. There is an unimaginable range of stuff to be found here, but if you take your time and look around closely, you’ll come across some hidden gems. And that is what makes this market worth going at least once. Make sure that after you’re done, you hit any of the nearby beach bars, dig your toes in the sand, and enjoy what this part of Penang is known for.
Daily, 7 pm onwards
5Friday Penang Night Market: Jelutong Night Market in Jalan Van Praagh
This is one of Penang’s biggest night markets, spread along Taman Kheng Tian and Jalan Van Praagh. Definitely set up to cater to the locals in the area, it sells mostly household items, electronics and daily use stuff — but it’s also well known for its many food stalls. You should try the hokkien mee, putu mayong, nasi tomato, nasi kandar, Muar chee (a special Chinese sweet made of glutinous rice, peanut and sugar), nyonya kuih and a lot more delicacies. It’s best to come here on a very empty stomach.
Every Friday, 6 pm onwards
Penang Night Markets for the Weekend
6Sungai Dua Night Market
Set near Tesco Extra in Sungai Dua, close to the vibrant area surrounding Universiti Sains Malaysia, this simple street market runs along the main Sungai Dua road and down two parallel backstreets. Besides cheap clothes and electronics, The Sungai Dua Penang Night Market is a good option to try the food and also buy fruits — different seasons have different bargains, from durian to mangoes, bananas and mangosteens.
The perk here is the people, who are not just your general Penangites, but also many foreign students (particularly from Islamic nations) and youngsters who come here for the wide variety of foods on offer, and the chance to hop over the road and browse Tesco’s goods — an unsavoury, but popular local past-time.
Every Saturday and Sunday, 6 pm onwards
7Paya Terubong Night Market
Open on Sundays, this smaller Penang Night Market set not far away from the iconic Buddhist Temple complex Kek Lok Si mostly caters to locals and sells household items and cheap goods from Mainland China. However, it also has a reputation for its food stalls, which include laksa, char koay kak, and noodles. Mind the special rojak, which here is served uniquely on a skewer, and not on a plate.
Every Sunday, 6 pm onwards
Lebuh Keng Kwee Heritage Night Market
The latest kid on the block of Penang Night markets only opened on the 1st of June 2019, probably in a bet to revitalize the street life of nearby Penang Road during weekends. In the day time, Lebuh Keng Kwee hosts the most famous cendol stall in George Town, where long lines of people and some cars are always found waiting for this refreshing local snack (check out another of the desserts we love, roti bakar). But as of late, on Saturdays and Sundays from 6 pm, this place turns into a pleasant night market with plenty to be found. What sets this market apart from the rest is, you guessed, the music: in fact, in a bet to attract tourism, this new Penang Night Market features a number of local artists playing their favourite tunes.
The shopping on offer here is also a bit different from the rest of “mainstream” Penang Night Markets. For example, you may find artists selling their handicrafts and artworks. Though they call this a Heritage Market, the goods on sale here are pretty much very contemporary, including the series of questionably tacky, flashy, and noisy souvenirs that still find a wealth of buyers. Street food compliments the ambience, making this a decent choice to dine out, too.
Every Saturday and Sunday, from 6 pm onwards.