Penang Hill Guide

Penang Hill or Bukit Bendera is one of the top must-see places to visit in Penang! With glorious panoramic views of Penang during clear weather!

Either hike up or take the Penang Hill train! The Penang Hill railway itself is a marvel with steep inclines – one of if not the steepest railway in the world!

Crowds stemming from the popularity of Penang Hill can be avoided if you prepare ahead!

Table of Contents:

History Of Penang Hill

In the late 1700s, Penang Hill was made into a colonial hill retreat with bungalows by the British.

Many of these grand bungalows like the Convalescent Bungalow can still be seen on the hill today!

View From Top Of Penang Hill
View From Top Of Penang Hill – photo credits to watcult (Instagram)

And in those days, the only way up was cumbersome! On a pony or being hand-carried on a litter of sorts.

It was only in the 1900s, that the first Penang Hill Funicular Railway was finished. But not without complications, so a second one was built later on. With the official opening in 1924!

Funicular For Penang Hill
Funicular For Penang Hill – photo credits to teetoolah (Instagram)

The ~2,000m railway last went through a total upgrade in 2011. Which did result in a significant increase in the ticket prices for non-Malaysians!

Today, the funicular still holds the regional record for being the fastest, longest and steepest funicular!

Penang Hill Map

Here’s a map so you can see where most of the attractions are. And plan your day accordingly!

Penang Hill Lower Station

Penang Hill Lower Station at Air Itam is the starting point if you want to take the funicular up to Penang hill!

Penang Hill Lower Station
Penang Hill Lower Station – photo credits to azezi_wahab (Instagram)
Address: Bukit Bendera, Jalan Stesen, 11500 Ayer Itam, Pulau Pinang

Penang Hill Train Opening Hours

If you refer to the Penang Hill train schedule, trains have regular intervals that vary between 15 minutes to 30 minutes depending on the hour.

In the early morning before 8am and later after 8pm, the trains start to run at intervals of 30 minutes rather than 15 minutes.

Ticket Counter for Penang Hill
Ticket Counter For Penang Hill – photo credits to norsyuhadaaliothman (Instagram)

On busy days however, you could be waiting for several trains before you are able to board! Fast lane tickets can overcome this inconvenience.

Funicular Service Operating Hours:

Daily from 6:30am to 11:00pm

Ticket Counter Operating Hours:

Daily from 6:30am to 9:45pm

Note: There are bi-annual scheduled maintenances usually in Jan/Feb and Jun/July.

Penang Hill Train Ticket Price

Tram tickets may be purchased either online or straight from ticket counter at the Lower Station.

For those who do not want to waste time jostling with others to get into the train, Penang Hill Funicular Service Fast lane tickets offer a dedicated lane.

Going Up Penang Hill With The Funicular
Going Up Penang Hill With The Funicular – photo credits to liesrusman (Instagram)

Normal Pricing:

Ticket Type One-way Two-way
Children Adult Children Adult Senior*
Citizen Normal RM3 RM6 RM6 RM12 RM6
Fast Lane RM10 RM25 RM20 RM40 RM6
Tourists Normal RM8 RM15 RM15 RM30 RM30
Fast Lane RM20 RM45 RM40 RM80 RM60

*Seniors are classified as being 60 years old & above

Special Pricing/ Ticket Promotion:

Special Rates/ Others Price (Malaysian) Price (Non-Malaysian)
Sunrise & Sunset Rates (Round trip)* RM3 N/A
Disabled Person Free N/A
Monthly Season Pass RM40 RM120
Monthly Season Pass (6 Months) RM220 RM660
Annual Season Pass RM440 RM1,320
Private Compartment* RM800 N/A
Train Chart* RM4,000 N/A

Notes:

  • Sunrise/ Sunset rates are only applicable to Malaysians (MyKad and MyKid holders only).
  • Sunrise/ Sunset rates, train charter and compartment booking are not available during long weekends, festive seasons, school holidays and peak seasons.
  • Sunset/Sunrise tickets can only be purchased at the Lower Station ticket counter

Penang Hill Train Duration

Taking the tram up to the top of Penang Hill is considerably shorter than hiking up!

Visitors Alighting From The Funicular At Penang Hill - photo credits to jadewwinks (Instagram)
Visitors Alighting From The Funicular At Penang Hill – photo credits to jadewwinks (Instagram)

Which gives you the option of taking the train up one-way to save time and energy and hiking back down if you still wish to enjoy the hiking trails!

Funicular travel duration: around 15 minutes

Other Ways To Get Up To Penang Hill

Before you buy those tram tickets, you may want to consider the following options too!

1. Hiking Trails From Botanical Gardens

There are heaps of hiking trails that will take you to the top of Penang Hill.

Route 1 – Via Main Road

Firstly, there’s the main road that goes up the hill. Enter this road on the left of the Botanic Gardens.

It’s steep at the initial 1km, but gets easier for the remaining 4km. Duration: 2-3 hours.

One Of The Hiking Trails To Penang Hill
One Of The Hiking Trails To Penang Hill – photo credits to blocker226 (Instagram)

Route 2 – Via Botanic Gardens

Find the side path into the forest somewhere in the trees after you enter the Botanic Gardens keeping to the left until you pass the admin building.

You may need to stop a local for directions at this point, just to be sure!

Some challenging steep steps will take you back to the main road in Route 1 where you continue the rest of the trek for another ~3.5km.

An alternate trail is the Moongate trail which does involve more jungle-trekking.

2. Jeep Service From The Botanical Gardens

Although it may wind up costing the same as 4 two-way Fast lane tram tickets for adults who are non-Malaysians:

There is a private jeep service that you can charter from the Botanical Gardens. It takes the same winding road that hikers use to ascend Penang Hill.

Price Range: ~RM160 for a return trip for 4 pax

Jeep Duration: ~30 Minutes

Fun fact: During the renovation of the funicular railway, this was the temporary mode of transport!

Penang Hill Attractions

You might not expect that there are so many things to do in Penang Hill!

1. Take In The Sunrise (Or Sunset) At Penang Hill

Going early in the morning for sunrise means you’ll have Penang Hill to yourself!

Early Morning At Penang Hill
Early Morning At Penang Hill – photo credits to creative.photography.my (Instagram)

While staying until sunset would be more convenient if you plan to visit The Habitat for a night-time nature walk!

Sunset At Curtis Crest, The Habitat
Sunset At Curtis Crest, The Habitat – photo credits to tintinvino (Instagram)

Just make sure not to stay too long as the last train down the hill is at 11pm!

Read more: Penang Nightlife – 23 Best Things To Do In Penang At Night

2. Have 180 Degree Views Of George Town At Penang Hill Skywalk

Make the most of a clear sunny day to have panoramic views of the city at the Penang Hill Sky Walk and Sky Deck!

Penang Hill Sky Deck And Sky Walk At dusk
Penang Hill Sky Deck And Sky Walk At dusk – photo credits to sweet_vengence (Instagram)

Other lookout points:

  • Skydeck East
  • Skydeck West

Understandably, there will be loads of other people flocking here!

Remark: Free admission

3. Go On A Nature Trail

Walking trails here are easy enough. See if you can spot flora (like monkey cups/ pitcher plants) that aren’t usually seen in the warmer mainland!

Don’t forget to pick up a map from the funicular station to get started!

4. Take Relief From The Cooler Environment Of Penang Hill

Ranging between 18 to 26 degree Celsius, visitors will appreciate the change of temperature from the mainland!

5. Spot Some Rare Animals

If luck is with you, there are a number of rare animals to be seen at Penang Hill! And typically during midday!

A Pair Of Dusky Leaf Monkeys At Penang Hill
A Pair Of Dusky Leaf Monkeys At Penang Hill – photo credits to sayan.d20 (Instagram)
  • Giant black squirrel
  • Dusky leaf monkey
  • Greater racket-tailed drongo (very unusual black bird with long tail feathers)

6. See The Old Train Coach

Before the modern blue and white train, there was the original wooden coach! Which operated on a 2-section railway with a mid-station between the upper and lower stations.

Visitors can have a look at one of these wooden carriages that were in operation for ~50 years!

7. Check Out The 32-Pounder Cannon

It might seem out of place, but Penang Hill has a 32-pounder cannon. That’s almost 3 tons!

With a striking range of 1,000 feet, the cannon most likely served as a warning for approaching pirates. But now it’s just a photo opportunity!

8. Visit Some Temples

Penang Hill Mosque (Masjid Bukit Bendara)

Among the colonial structures on Penang Hill, sits a humble and tidy mosque built for the ease of Islamic visitors to conduct their daily prayers.

Sri Aruloli Trirumurugan Temple

Like other hindu temples in Penang, Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan is very colorful and dates back to the early 19th century!

Expanding from just a shrine to the deity Lord Murugan, this elaborate temple has since grown!

9. Admire Bel Retigo Gate House

At the highest point of Penang Hill, is Bel Retiro. While closed to the general public, visitors can still approach the gate to admire the beautiful gate house!

Originally built in 1789 for the Governor of Penang, this bungalow is a resort reserved for high-level government officials.

10. Take A Walk At EL Walk

This is a covered walkway between the upper station and up to Astaka. Visitors can partake in valley views while traversing this walkway!

11. Find The Heritage Post Box

Bright red and quintessentially British, this post box has significant heritage value! From the insignia itself, you can see the box is actually over a century-old!

12. Pitcher Plant Lover? There Is Monkey Cup Garden Up Here

For a fee of RM12 per person, you can access this high-elevation garden with more than 100 different varieties of pitcher plants!

And other plants like orchids ad moss!

Note: Mosquito repellent is recommended!

13. Visit Some Museums

Owl Museum

Regardless of the name, it’s the antique cameras that make a trip to this tiny gallery worthwhile if you have time to spare!

Owl Figurines At The Owl Musuem
Owl Figurines At The Owl Musuem – photo credits to cyin_kiew (Instagram)

The “owls” are just owl-themed decorative sculptures.

Entrance Fee: RM10

Toy Museum & 5D Cinema

The first floor holds the figurines and larger statues of superheroes and many animation film characters.

While the lower floor is where the 5D cinema is. A fun new experience for kids!

Entrance Fee: RM10 (Adult), RM8 (Child)

Read more: Top 21 Penang Museum To Pop Into (Especially Items 8 & 13)

14. Love Lock

Cheesy as it sounds, you can leave a lock at this fence as a romantic gesture of affection for your loved ones!

Locks Of Love At Penang Hill
Locks Of Love At Penang Hill – photo credits to mhliong1 (Instagram)

The colorful locks make a good photo backdrop too!

15. Curtis Crest Treetop Walk – The Habitat

Many have yet to visit Penang Hill’s latest attraction, the Curtis Crest!

The Habitat - Penang Hill's Newest Attraction
The Habitat – Penang Hill’s Newest Attraction – photo credits to azrenkarim (Instagram)

Take a guided nature walk and relish the surrounding scenery from the canopy walk!

Canopy Walk At The Habitat
Canopy Walk At The Habitat – photo credits to khairul_iz84 (Instagram)

Contact: +604-826 7677

Opening Hours: Daily 9am–7pm

16. Little Village @ Bukit Bendera

If you have nothing else to do at Penang Hill, you can pay RM10 to access this touristy area with some stalls (one selling honey) and photo backdrops like a heart-shaped archway!

Heart-Shaped Arch With Penang City In The Background
Heart-Shaped Arch With Penang City In The Background – photo credits to boujee_a_ (Instagram)

Read more: Fort Cornwallis Penang – UNESCO Heritage Site In George Town

Penang Hill Restaurants

1. David Brown’s Restaurant

David Brown’s Restaurant and Tea Terraces offers a pleasant terrace for some outdoor dining. The English tea house is a marvelous spot for afternoon tea!

Contact: +604-828 8337

Opening Hours: Daily 11am–10pm

Penang Hill Café

Don’t worry about having to bring food up to Penang Hill as there are cafes up here and they are open throughout the day (~9.00am to 7.00pm)!

1. Astaka Cliff Café

In the place of the former Penang Hill Hawker Centre, Astaka Bukit Bendera or Cliff Café is a spacious multi-storey pavilion with generous views of the city below!

There are ~30 hawker stalls to choose from!

Contact: +604-828 8880

Opening Hours: Daily 9am–6pm

Remark: The Owl Museum is on the lower floor.

2. Lily Penang Hill Ice Kacang (At Astaka Cliff Café)

Lily Penang Hill Ice Kacang is at the lower floor of Cliff Café.

Mixed Fruit And Shaved Ice Desserts By Lily Penang Hill Ice Kacang
Mixed Fruit And Shaved Ice Desserts By Lily Penang Hill Ice Kacang – photo credits to lyneatsss (Instagram)

The specialty here is the homemade shaved ice desserts topped with fresh fruit and creative toppings! Fresh juice is used instead of artificial syrup!

Opening Hours:
11am-8pm (Tues-Fri)
8am-8pm (Sat-Sun)
10.30am-8pm (Mon)

Read more: 17 Best Cafe In Penang With Great Coffee (Includes New Cafes)

3. Kak Nor Cafe, Penang Hill (At Astaka Cliff Café)

Kak Nor Café serves delightful mixed fruit desserts too.

Mixed Fruit Dessert
Mixed Fruit Dessert – photo credits to niniling85 (Instagram)

If you do see many people waiting at and around this stall though, you might want to move on to avoid slow service!

Contact: +6017-469 9650

Opening Hours: Daily 8am–7pm

4. Monkey Cup @ Penang Hill

Monkey Cup Garden runs a café under the name of Kopi Hutan.

Coffee And Cakes At Kopi Hutan On Penang Hill
Coffee And Cakes At Kopi Hutan On Penang Hill – phoot credits to queenteoh (Instagram)

An appropriate name given that you can savor a cup of aromatic coffee, a slice or two of cheesecake and all the natural greenery around you!

Contact: +6012-428 9585

Opening Hours: Daily 9am–6pm

Read more: Entopia By Penang Butterfly Farm – Walk Among Hundreds Of Live Butterflies!

Penang Hill Hotel

Fancy staying at one of the bungalows left behind by the British? A couple of them have been renovated to cater for guests wanting to stay overnight at Penang Hill!

1. Bellevue Hotel

There are only 12 rooms at this heritage British-colonial retreat with an on-site restaurant overlooking the city of Penang and the Straits of Malacca.

Price Range: RM300-500 per room per night

2. Hickory On Penang Hill

Hickory is a grand hillside heritage colonial bungalow with 15 rooms that now serves as an elegant guesthouse on lovely grounds surrounded by jungle greenery!

Price Range: ~RM180-660 depending on the room type

3. Hillside Retreat Penang

Hillside Retreat Penang is a refurbished century-old bungalow that sits by the ancient rainforest.

Try some rustic activities like an outdoor BBQ, stargazing and hiking without forsaking modern comforts!

Price Range: RM68-300 depending on the accommodation type – you can bring your own tent!

Read more:

Penang Hill Review

What You’ll Like:

  • Fantastic views (day or night) when the sky is clear
  • Many historical landmarks to see
  • Sky Walk is free to access
  • Funicular train takes very little time to get to the top
  • Refreshingly cooler in the early morning and evenings
The Habitat Gift Store At Bukit Bendera, Penang Hill
The Habitat Gift Store At Bukit Bendera, Penang Hill – photo credits to zuhairi_mz3 (Instagram)

Good To Know:

  • Without a Fast lane ticket, you might be waiting up to 2 hours for a spot on the train on a busy day!
  • Long queues for everything during school holidays and public holidays (e.g. CNY)
  • Popular time to go is late afternoon to evening (sunset and nighttime views of the city)

Read more: Kek Lok Si Temple – If You Only Have Time For 1 Temple In Penang, Let It Be This One!

Getting To Penang Hill

1. Private Tour:

Have a private tour in Penang with RayTheTour!

Penang Tour - RayTheTour & Travelswithsun

  • Local experienced English-speaking or Chinese-speaking guides
  • We go to Ipoh, Cameron Highlands and Taiping too!
  • MPV or van transport
  • Pick up and drop off anywhere in Penang during your tour!
  • Fully customize-able Penang itinerary from morning to evening

WhatsApp us or contact us on Facebook to book a tour!

Read more: Best Time To Visit Penang: When Not To Go & Special Events To Look Out For

2. Taxi/Car:

Of course, if you’re staying in Green Town, you can always get a taxi or Grab to drop you off at the Air Itam station to take the funicular!

If you’re driving your own car, there is covered paid parking at the lower station but it is often full on weekends and other busy periods!

3. Rapid Bus: 204 (From Jetty / Komtar To Penang Hill)

It can take you 40-60 minutes for a bus ride from George Town to Penang Hill but this is a very affordable option nonetheless!

Rapid Penang Bus Making A Turn At Chulia Street, George Town, Penang
Rapid Penang Bus Making A Turn At Chulia Street, George Town, Penang – photo credits to len_j_p (Instagram)

Just be aware that you may have to wait quite long for an evening return bus during weekends!

Further reading:

4. Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus: City Route (Stop 05)

You can take the city shuttle from Chowrasta (Stop 05 in the shuttle’s route) to Penang Hill. The shuttle is punctual so don’t be late!

Penang Hill Shuttle Schedule:

From Stop 05, Chowrasta: From Penang Hill:
10.00 AM 11.00 AM
12.00 PM 01.00 PM
02.00 PM 03.00 PM
05.00 PM

Further reading:

Conclusion

Penang Hill is one of the most iconic places to visit while you’re in Penang!

Aside from the mesmerizing city views from the Sky Walk, you can have a go at riding the funicular train up and see all the attractions like temples, historic landmarks and The Habitat (new)!

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