We have already harped about Penang nightlife options, but when it comes to bars in Penang, we thought you needed a dedicated list.
The bar scene in Penang has boomed in recent years: from a low-key, backpacker-focused string of bars along main tourist thoroughfare Chulia Street, gentrification and the rise of trendy Penang cafes has paved the way to an equally tantalizing choice of Penang bars, especially in George Town, where one place, Magazine 63, kicked off the trend of hidden speakeasy bars in Penang.
From hole-in-the-wall drinking spots to sophisticated bars offering a wide choice of local and imported spirits to quirky Penang bars whose door is hidden inside a fridge, welcome to the wonderful, weird and unexpected world of Penang’s best drinking spots for a memorable night out.
NOTE: This article was published during business closure related to Malaysia’s Movement Control Order to reduce the curve of COVID–19 infections. All of the establishments we recommend here, however, have been contacted and confirmed that they at least offer takeaway services. We have provided links to the Facebook pages of each individual establishment, so that you may ask for more details yourself. We lift our glass for better times ahead!
The Best Bars in Penang
This article collects what we believe are the best bars for a boozy night out in Penang. We have handily divided this selection among bars in George Town, a selection of the best “Hidden Bars” in Penang, and a few bars outside of George Town.
Bars in George Town, Penang
As expected, UNESCO Heritage Site George Town — read about all the things to do in Penang — holds the majority of Penang bars and speakeasy hidden bars. That’s no other place to start our introduction than George Town’s best bars and drinking holes.
Mish Mash has been at the forefront of George Town’s drinking scene since 2014, offering mean cocktails, craft beers, and an impressive selection of international single malt whiskeys. Smokers will also find their wide selection of tobacco and cigars quite inspiring.
It’s certainly for the well-heeled, upmarket crowd, but its homely and casual ambiance appeals to anyone looking for a night out drinking. Sit at one of their high stools set along a traditional English-style bar and enjoy the company of other alcohol connoisseurs.
Address: 24 Jalan Muntri
Opening Hours: 6 pm – late
Manchu is one of the most choreographic bars in Penang, carefully outfitted to hark clients back to the Qing/Ming Dynasty of China — and for this reason, it gets a majority of Chinese clientele.
Manchu doesn’t only serve interesting localized cocktails — think of Yuzu Whiskey Sour (RM38) and the Penang Mule, a mix of Lime Juice, Vodka, Ginger Beer, Calamansi and Candied Ginger (RM38) — but also plenty of food ranging from bar tidbits like fried baby squid to haute-cuisine choices like Carbonara pasta, beef don, and Foie Gras & Scallops Don.
The ambiance and menu are perfectly enhanced by their Chinese Opera shows, something quite unique to see in a bar in Penang.
Address: 38 & 40 Jalan Pintal Tali
Opening Hours: 12 pm – 9 pm, Closed Monday
What was once considered a dangerous corner bar that spilled stools and drunken Indians on the road behind the God of Mercy Temple has morphed into George Town’s cheapest, most happening beer joints.
Unfortunately, it’s very popular with Penang backpackers these days, and it’s easy to see why: you can have a beer for as low as RM5 here. The downside is, you’ll be sitting among a mixed population of know-it-all backpackers, young and naive locals, and all the others who want their booze cheap may not be the experience of a lifetime though.
Absolutely not bad, but a ghost of what it once used to be — a local dive filled with interesting Penang street characters, which now is also listed on TripAdvisor (and I even mentioned it in the Rough Guide to Malaysia I updated).
Address: 21 Lorong Stewart
Opening Hours: 3 pm – 2 am
Unofficial FB page
4Good Friends Club
A fantastic, chilled-out local bar next door to the popular Hin Bus Depot (one of Penang’s best art galleries and alternative pop-up markets). It packs a local crowd of good friends who “never bojio” and is decked out like an old-school Chinese Kopitiam, with metal tables and chairs spilling on the curb.
But if you walk inside, you’ll find a cozier, dark room with a pool table, perfect to sit and sip one of their nutmeg-infused cocktails. Don’t forget to try their special Drunken Rum & Raisin Gelato, an ice cream that’s guaranteed to make you drunk.
Address: 39 Jalan Gurdwara
Opening Hours: 6 pm – late
5Beso Rosado by Chin Chin
Beso Rosado (once called Golden Shower) is one of the highest-class speakeasy bars in Penang. All painted pink and developed around a long, central bar tinged in hues of gold, Beso Rosado is an elegant restaurant and bar.
It doesn’t just offer tapas and craft cocktails (including a series of Tiki drinks, like the Tropic Panda) but also quality steaks and other foods prepared with a combination of spices – think starters like Italian anchovy crostini, Spanish Albondigas meatballs (RM22), or zesty Truffle Parmesan Fries (RM15).
Address: 86 Lebuh Bishop
Opening Hours: 5 pm–2 am
When Antarabangsa started cashing in, its clever Chinese owner decided to open another place that could appeal to the increasing numbers of flashpackers and tourists in Chulia Street and Love Lane… and the Pokok was born.
Set under a huge tree (“pokok” means “tree” in Malay), this open-air American-style bar has an attractive open patio filled with tables and an elevated terrace. They both fill up with young locals who come here for the cheap beers (a draft costs only about RM10, while the rest of the cocktails are a bit more overpriced) and to enjoy the open-air surroundings.
Expatriates and backpackers pop by, for sure, but the main focus here is local kids in their 20s and 30s — take note, Tinder champions, for this is the place to come strike a real conversation. And you can get pizzas, burgers and finger food as well.
Address: 227 Chulia Street
Opening Hours: 6 pm – 3 am
7Mike’s Place Love Lane
Deep in the thick of Love Lane backpacker action, Micke’s Place is a jolly, feel-good bar with tables spilling on the street and walls entirely covered in the musings of the hundreds of international visitors who had a drink or a meal here.
Expect the usual cocktails and beers, plus a concoction of food ranging from Chicken Wings to pizzas and Biryani rice, served in a friendly atmosphere, with musicians strutting their guitars and singing the night away. Popular with both tourists and young locals, it’s a good choice to experience the most lively face of Penang’s tourist central Chulia Street. Stay away if you are looking for a local-only bar or a refined drinking experience.
Address: 227 Chulia Street
Opening Hours: 5 pm – 2 am
8Heap Seng at 29 (Oyster Bar)
Born as a restaurant and George Town’s first oyster bar — with live air-flown oysters, and offering a small menu of small and rustic dishes of British & Italian Influence — Heap Seng at 29 has a nice selection of wines that guests drink over their dinner. Their bubbles are particularly good to pair with seafood or steak. Some of Heap Seng’s best-selling alcoholic cocktails are the Signature Espresso Martinis, Vers Linds (their own version of a Whiskey Sour), and the Malaysian favorite, the Jungle Bird.
At the time of writing Heap Seng at 29 was actually expanding its drinking space onto the first floor above the restaurant, which will be more of a lounge/private area for drinking and lounging as well as private functions.
It will have a small bar and pool table with lounge chairs upstairs.. watch this space.
Address: 29 China Street
Opening Hours: 5 pm – 2 am
9Beach Blanket Babylon
A part of the beautiful 32 Mansion, this upscale beach-front bar wins thanks to its main seating area, decked out with a wooden floor, couches, and sheltered by a line of trees to face the sea. Yes, you read it right: you can come here and have a drink while you enjoy one of Penang’s last remaining stretches of sand and a definitely hipster-chic ambiance. Sunset is a good time to come for a sundowner, and later at night, when the dim lights are on, Beach Blanket Babylon is perfect for a casual and yet romantic date.
Address: 32, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah
Opening Hours: 12 pm – 9 pm
Housed inside a white shophouse, Boudoir is a chic cocktail bar set within an art-deco-inspired furniture gallery, presented by Dad’s Woods and Backdoor Bodega.
Upstairs, Dad’s Woods showcases its custom-made wood furniture, which includes Aquaclean technology fabric sofas.
Downstairs, a white-hued sala filled with cream-colored leather sofas welcomes patrons to precious wines, elegant cocktails, coffee, and not the usual bar foods.
To step up and stay in business during the times of the coronavirus lockdowns, Boudoir stepped up from being only a cocktail bar to offering food. Their pies are delicious and loved by the many customers who order them online.
Address: 9, Lorong Birch
Opening Hours: 12 pm – 12 am
A chic cocktail bar made cozier by its wooden furnishings that nod at early 20th-century heritage. Naked light bulbs swing from white ceiling drapes, and small tables and chairs are lined right along the bar.
The selection of alcohol literally stands tall behind the mixologists who prepare cocktails with a local twist. Think of Revival 6, which mixes cucumber gin with elderflower lime, or Penang Rock, a pandan-scented vodka made all the sweeter with fresh coconut. Siam Marray mixes white rum with clarified tomato juice, Thai basil, and sweet orgeat syrup.
A nice spot for a night out drinking with an old-century Southeast Asian vibe. Recommended.
Address: First Floor, 316 Beach Street
Opening Hours: 6 pm – 1 am
12Garage Music & Bar
Opened in August 2020 regardless of coronavirus lockdowns, Garage Music & Bar plays with a noir, neon-lit ambiance where tall tables and stools spill all over an industrial-chic basement inspired by graffiti culture.
Besides cocktails and beers, you can have zesty pasta and Western mains like grilled Alaska Salmon or chicken with veggies (from RM22), burgers and fries (RM14), and pizzas (from RM20). Finger food ala onion rings and spicy wedges are available, too.
Address: 117 Lebuh Noordin
Opening Hours: 6 pm – 1 am
Best Penang Bars for Live Music
If you are looking to experience some live music while you have a drink, check out these venues in George Town. From punk to metal, an alternative to country, hip hop, and blues, you get all the colors of music covered here.
This is Penang’s, and northern Malaysia’s, most prominent alternative music club, and definitely the most peculiar bar in all of George Town. Prior to the pandemic, Soundmaker was one of the few places to host underground music and ideas: it operated for 10 years from another location along Weld Quay and then moved to this shophouse in Bishop Street — only a 5-minute walk from Chulia Street, in the northern end of Penang Little India.
The bar is simple, but it has a great atmosphere, kind of a Tiki lounge, backed by many potted plants. You can get beers, soft drinks, and coffee, but the best part of Soundmaker is the artsy people you can meet.
Address: 18 Lebuh Bishop, 1st Floor
Opening Hours: 6 pm – late
14The Canteen at China House
The Canteen is at the back of popular China House, the pioneer Penang cafe, with its main entrance on Victoria Street. Looking like a friendly cellar set up like a hip bar, it’s a nice spot for a beer or a cocktail.
Bring a date that loves some good music and dim lights, or just come down here to chase some other creative souls and listen to music, which is on pretty much every weekend. You won’t find loud amplifiers and screeching guitars here, but more of electro-acoustic duos, jazz bands, singers, one-man bands, and other less “noisy” groups — paired with a much more hipster crowd.
Address: 183 Lebuh Victoria
Opening Hours: 9 am–2 am
Free entry, buy drinks
Run by Kelvin, a real character himself, D’Loovi’s is a Penang bar to visit if you love live music. They are very well known for their Classic Mojito and Whiskey Sour, but again, their nice stage, set at the end of a large, loft-like and inviting bar, is what people come back for.
Bands like Touch Mahal, Muzza’s Mayhem, Raggy Project, The RetroGroovers, individual members of The AlleyCats, The Falcons, BluesGang, etc have all jammed or performed gigs on this stage.
The food is great too, painstakingly cooked by Kelvin as if customers were part of the family. The lovely sunset balcony with views over KOMTAR is perfect to chill out or have a decadent meal.
Address: 24 Lebuh Melayu
Opening Hours: 5 pm–2 am
Hidden Bars in Penang
In the past few years, George Town has seen a proliferation of speakeasies — think of “hidden bars” that use clever camouflages for their entrances. You’ll see it all: from golden and pink-plated bathrooms to the levers of a Wing Chun dummy, and doors hidden behind fridges and sliding wood panels.
Keep in mind that most of these hidden bars in Penang are on the upper end of the budget, mostly Chinese-operated, and see principally a Chinese clientele — which oftentimes also use them as locations for their pre-wedding photography.
This said they are also some of the most attractive bars and places to go to Penang at night. But exactly like the dozens of trendy Penang cafes that have sprung up everywhere in town, even Penang speakeasies can end up being quite stereotypical — hey hey Penang entrepreneurs… this is an invitation to try to think a bit more out of the box, lah).
The following are, in our opinion, the best Hidden Bars and Speakeasies in Penang.
16天下第一客棧 Magazine 63
The one hidden bar that initiated the speakeasy trend in Penang is also one of the best. Housed inside a shophouse along Magazine Road (at number 63, that is), this dimly-lit bar has exposed brick walls and nods at old China — the waiting staff is dressed as old-world Chinese coolies, and the spirits are all served in traditional Chinese porcelain jars.
Magazine 63 is hidden behind a scruffy, dark ante-room. You must find a way to push a hidden panel, and go through the partition. During the day, an anonymous noodle stall peddles bowls on the sidewalk. At night, expect a good combination of well-heeled Penang Chinese youth, some expats, and mostly trance music and DJ sets.
Address: 63 Magazine Road
Opening Hours: 8 pm- late
17Out Of Nowhere
This is another interesting speakeasy that you can access through… a fridge! The first, small room you’ll find is cozy and air-conditioned, but the best, we believe, is the space at the back. An open patio with dim lights, potted plants, and low wooden tables and shutters make for the perfect spot for a cocktail and to meet other locals.
Address: 73 Jalan Kuala Kangsar
Opening Hours: 7 pm – late
Hidden at the back of Good Friends Club, Backdoor Bodega has a completely different vibe — orange-lit, jam-packed, small, homely, and yet super exclusive. It really lives up to the “secret bar” reputation: here you don’t buy drinks, you buy pins. With pins, you can get drinks. Drinks infuse local Penang tastes, such as pandan and nutmeg, with classic spirits. A real cool haunt for a quirky cocktail.
Their latest brilliant idea to survive the pandemic lockdowns was releasing a new series of “vaccine cocktails”. Created for deliveries nationwide and in Singapore, each is “formulated” according to the theme. For example, the Sinosour is a parody of Sinovac, using Baijiu and Chinese ingredients, while Pfizermeister uses Germain liqueurs, and ExtraGineca uses London Dry Gin and English liqueurs.
Made with high alcohol content and filtered and clarified to become long-lasting, they can withstand long-distance deliveries and are ideal to reach customers via courier throughout the whole of Malaysia.
Address: 37 Jalan Gurdwara
Opening Hours: Thurs, Fri, Sat 10 pm — 1 am
This is another Old-China-inspired Speakeasy. There are two things we like here more than most other hidden bars of Penang: first, the camouflage. You’ll enter in a cozy ante-room with beautiful Chinese vintage furnishings and… a painting of Bruce Lee perched up on the left wall.
The door next to it is closed stuck… and there’s a wing Chun dummy between the two. Don’t let me spoil it more or go watch Ip Man. Very cool idea. The second thing we like here is the Chinese Opera girl mural towering over the bar. Bring a date here, as it’s quite cool, and they have some live music and DJ sets.
Address: 12 Lebuh Presgrave
Opening Hours: 4 pm–2 am, closed on Sundays
The Bund is yet another Old China-inspired hidden bar in Penang, set in Lebuh Noordin, not far from 1st Avenue, one of George Town’s most famous shopping malls.
Find the entrance and use the door to the left, with the very low knob, and walk upstairs to find a throwback Shangaiana made of hanging Chinese lanterns over black interiors and wooden tables that remind of a watering hole of the way back when. Even the cocktails, like the Flower Blossom, follow old fashions.
Things get livelier from 10 pm when a band gets on stage, and the liquor starts flowing.
Address: 117 Noordin Street
Opening Hours: 6 pm – 2 am
Cool Penang Bars outside of George Town
There’s some action and beers even outside George Town, of course.
21Taps Beer Bar Penang
This yellow-tinted hangout in Tanjung Bungah is part of a KL franchise and a pure craft beer bar that’s been collecting and distributing cans and bottles from around the world since the end of 2011. For certain, owner Andy serves and curates one of the widest arrays of brews in Malaysia.
During MCO, Taps Beer Bar Penang has stayed active by delivering booze all over the island. Check their offers on their Facebook page, and be prepared to return enjoying your booze at the bar as soon as there’ll be a chance.
Address: 31, Jalan Sungai Kelian
Opening Hours: 12 pm – 12 am
22Frandy Beach Bar
This popular beach bar is the best of a dying breed in Penang — honestly, the island should have more.
Frandy is popular for its Western and Oriental Cuisine, which include local specialties like Penang Laksa and their seafood BBQ by the beach, but people come here also to enjoy the beach bar, sipping on a sundowner as they tuck toes in the sand enjoying one of Batu Ferringhi’s pink-hued sunsets. How can you go wrong with that?
Address: 363, Gerai Kilat, Batu Ferringhi
Opening Hours: 10 am – 10 pm