Street Art in George Town, Penang: Must-See Murals & Their Stories

Street Art in George Town, Penang: Must-See Murals & Their Stories

The street art in Penang is about so much more than an interactive backdrop for your Instagram photos, the murals illustrate the story of George Town. Sculptures explain how roads got their names, signs describe the heritage of the area and large-scale portraits represent George Town businesses, past and present.

When we took ourselves on a self-guided walking tour of George Town, we came away with so much more than a bunch of pretty photos. I came home with a better understanding of Penang too.

Brief history of street art in George Town, Penang

Penang was not nearly as prominently placed on the international tourist scene until a Lithuanian artist named Ernest Zacharevic changed the fate of the crumbling heritage city in 2012.

Prior to Zacharevic putting Penang on the map, George Town, which was the first British settlement in Southeast Asia, had been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. To celebrate this recognition the State Government held a competition to find artists who could make signage for the ‘living museum’. The winners were Sculptures at Work and they made the 52 steel rod caricatures called Voices from the People that explain the names and characteristics of the historic streets of George Town.

Sculptures at Work in George Town Penang

Sculptures in George Town explain how the likes of Love Lane got their name and highlight where Jimmy Choo learned to make shoes.

Then in 2012 Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to create large-scale murals for the George Town Arts & Culture Festival, and his work celebrated the people of Penang on such a personal level that the portraits soon became world-famous.

Today, Zacharevic’s work sits alongside all sorts of murals that celebrate the local community, businesses and even stray animals of Penang.

>> See also: What to do & Where to stay in George Town, Penang <<

The murals you must not miss in George Town

Some of the must-see murals in George Town include:

Works by Ernest Zacharevic:

The mural of Little Children on a Bicycle on Armenian Street has become a symbol of George Town and appears on souvenir t-shirts and bags around the city

Ernest Zacharevic mural in Penang

Reaching Up on Cannon Street

Ernest Zacharevic mural in Penang

Boy on a Bike, Lebuh Ah Quee Street

Other favourites by Ernest are The boy and His Dinosaur on Ah Quee Street and Little Girl in Blue on Muntri Street.

Murals with a cause:

If you like cats, you’ll love Penang as there are several murals depicting cats and dogs (such as the well-known Skippy Comes to Penang on Armenian Street) that were painted as part of the George Town Festival in 2013 by “Artists for Stray Animals”.

Street art in George Town Penang

Street art in George Town Penang

Commercial murals:

Several Penang businesses have commissioned murals which you’ll find both inside their shops/cafes and on the streets. One of my favourite is the “I Want Pau” mural by WK Setor, which was commissioned by the Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop, a famous purveyor of pau (steamed buns) and baked eggs tarts in George Town. The painting shows children reaching out for some of their freshly baked goods and as you can place yourself in the picture it’s up to you whether you deliver them or not!

I Want Pau at Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop, Armenian Street

I Want Pau at Ming Xiang Tai Pastry Shop, Armenian Street

Street art in George Town Penang

A cat shop with a cat mural, of course!

Various artists:

Some other stand out murals that caught my eye are:

Street art in George Town Penang

Brother and Sister on a Swing by Louis Gan, a local deaf-mute self-taught artist, on Step by Step Lane

Mural of boy eating Penang Road famous cendol by by Canadian street artist Emmanuel Jarus

You know you’ve found foodie heaven when you see this mural of a boy eating the Penang Road Famous Teochew Chendul in Lebuh Keng Kwee

Another iconic mural (not pictured as we saw it in the dark) is The Boat Man by Julia Volchkova on Stewart Lane & Klang Street. Julia is a Russian artist who also has a mural on the Silo Art Trail in Victoria, Australia and has completed several captivating murals in George Town and Balik Pulau, a town in southwest Penang.

Tips for enjoying the street art in Penang

You can pick up a map with the most significant murals marked on them at a tourist information booth or at your hotel, local cafes and shops – which is where we got ours after getting a little lost. You can also print this one if you like to plan in advance.

Coffee on the Table, George Town Penang

Break up your street art walking tour with 3D lattes at Coffee on the Table

All the murals are within walking distance of each other but you might want to spread your walking tour over several days to avoid the heat. We structured our day around food (naturally) and ticked off a number of murals while visiting Ming Xiang Tai Pastry, Coffee On The Table, Kebaya Dining Room and the Chew Clan Jetties.

You can also hire a private driver or take a trishaw tour if you want to see a lot of the murals in the quickest time possible.

Where to stay in George Town

Where to stay in George Town Penang

There are a couple of beautiful heritage properties in the heart of historic George Town. We stayed in the elegant Eastern & Oriental Hotel, which is a luxury Colonial hotel owned by the same brothers behind Singapore’s iconic Raffles Hotel.

Seven Terraces George Town Penang

Stay in an elegantly restores shophouse at Seven Terraces

For a more boutique experience check out The Edison, or stay in one of George Town’s most famous bright buildings, The Blue Mansion. For a typical Peranakan experience stay at the elegant restored shophouses at Seven Terraces, or for more budget options you will find a number of hostels in converted shop houses on Love Lane.

Compare all hotels in George Town

Find more tips for your trip to George Town, Penang here.

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Our trip to Penang was self-funded. This article may contain some affiliate links. Please read disclosure policy for details.

4 Comments

  1. May 8, 2018 / 4:09 am

    I haven’t seen the motorbike one, that’s cool!! My favourite is the swing, but there are so many great ones! And so many cat ones haha. Those 3D lattes are amazing too!

    • Jayne Gorman
      Author
      May 23, 2018 / 12:31 am

      We loved the lattes! They tasted good too which was a bonus haha

      • Julia Beeveers
        August 20, 2018 / 8:56 pm

        Just read your post on George Town and the street art – yes, it’s brilliant, so amazing. Me and m husband were there in November last year, as part of a tour. I wasn’t expecting to like Penang, pre conceived ideas, but I was completely wrong and really loved it. We visited the Peranaken Museum, which I found incredibly fascinating, especially all the beautiful costumes and jewellery. There was so much more that we didn’t see and I would love to go and spend more time there. I’m working on trying to persuade my friend in Canada to go with me next year, combined with Langkawi and Singapore. Would love to stay at the Eastern and Oriental!

  2. November 22, 2018 / 3:35 pm

    Its so cool to see places we have seen and look at them from different perspective. I read that you are expecting baby in 2018 I bet that changed your life. Now you can explore together, all the best

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