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!

You can either get to the top by hiking or taking the Penang Hill train, which also happens to be one of the steepest railways in the world!

It’s a pretty popular attraction, so be ready for a crowd and read all about Penang Hill in our guide down below!

Table of Contents:

History Of Penang Hill

The development of Penang Hill began in the late 1700s when the British made it into a colonial hill retreat (with several bungalows) due to cooler surroundings.

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)

While a notable retreat, getting to the hill was pretty cumbersome; the only way up were either going on foot, horseback, or being carried on a sedan chair.

It was only during the 1900s, when the first Penang Hill Funicular Railway was finished, that traveling up Penang Hill became more accessible.

Of course, even that railway didn’t come without complications, so a second one was built later on 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 coincided with an increase in ticket prices for non-Malaysians!

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

Penang Hill Map

Whilst called Penang Hill, the area comprises of several different hills namely:

  • Bukit Laksamana (Malay for Admiral Hill)
  • Tiger Hill
  • Flagstaff Hill
  • Haliburton’s Hill
  • Fern Hill
  • Strawberry Hill
  • Government Hill

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 Ayer Itam is the starting point if you want to take the funicular up to Penang Hill.

If you’re driving there, there’s a paid multi-story car park (with a lift) just across from the station.

Multi-Story Carpark Seen From The Penang Hill Lower Station
Multi-Story Carpark Seen From The Penang Hill Lower Station – Photo by Travelswithsun
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 are no longer at regular and frequent intervals that vary between 15 minutes to 30 minutes.

The trains now come hourly (except for the first train at 6:30am) from 7am to 10pm. Where 10pm is the last trip from the upper station to the lower station.

Ticket Counter At The Penang Hill Lower Station
Ticket Counter At The Penang Hill Lower Station – Photo by Travelswithsun

During busier hours, weekends and public holidays, however, you could be waiting for up to several trains before being able to board, although fast lane tickets can circumvent this!

Penang Hill Lower Station On An Off Peak Day
Penang Hill Lower Station On An Off Peak Day – Photo by Travelswithsun

Funicular Service Operating Hours:

Daily from 6:30am to 10:00pm

Ticket Counter Operating Hours:

Daily from 6:15am to 7:45pm

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

Penang Hill Train Ticket Price

Tram tickets may be purchased either online or straight from ticket counters 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/ OthersPrice (Malaysian)Price (Non-Malaysian)
Sunrise & Sunset Rates (Round trip)*RM3N/A
Disabled PersonFreeN/A
Monthly Season PassRM40RM120
Monthly Season Pass (6 Months)RM220RM660
Annual Season PassRM440RM1,320
Private Compartment*N/AN/A
Train Chart*N/AN/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 (and one-way tickets) can only be purchased at the Lower Station ticket counter between 6:30am to 8am
  • For the private compartment and train charter, email [email protected] for requests and further information

Penang Hill Train Duration

Taking the tram up to the top of Penang Hill takes considerably less time than hiking up.

Penang Hill Funicular At The Upper Station
Penang Hill Funicular At The Upper Station – Photo by Travelswithsun
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)

If you still wish to enjoy the hiking trails (or save some money), you do have the option of buying a one-way ticket up, before hiking back down yourself!

Funicular travel duration: around 10 to 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, so whether you want the exercise or to save some money, check the routes out below:

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 non-Malaysian adults:

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. And the jeeps will drop you off at the Cliff Café on Penang Hill.

Contact this number for bookings: 019-572 0543

Price Range: ~RM120 to RM160 for a return trip

Jeep Duration: ~20 to 30 Minutes

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

Penang Hill Attractions

There are plenty of things to do whilst on Penang Hill, with the scenic environment providing a perfect backdrop.

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, with plenty of time for picture taking!

You might spot more local wildlife too.

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

If you plan on visiting The Habitat for the night-time nature walk, arriving during sunset is a popular option.

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 10pm!

Note: Sunset tours for The Habitat are only available on weekends

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!

View Of Penang From Atop Penang Hill
View Of Penang From Atop Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

Other lookout points:

  • Skydeck East
  • Skydeck West

Just be aware that these areas can get crowded, so try arriving earlier if you can.

There are some binoculars (coin-operated) and signs to help you spot major landmarks.

Cash Operated Binoculars On Penang Hill
Cash Operated Binoculars On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun
Remark: Free admission

3. Go On A Nature Trail

The nature trails here are easy enough; see if you can spot flora (like monkey cups/ pitcher plants) that aren’t usually seen in the lower (and warmer) mainland.

Monkey Cup Garden From A Distance
Monkey Cup Garden From A Distance – Photo by Travelswithsun

Just don’t forget to pick up a map from the funicular station to get started! You can also scan a QR code and download the map at the queuing area before entering the train.

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 (and if you keep quiet enough), there are some rare animals to be seen at Penang Hill typically during midday!

Silver Leaf Monkey And Baby On The Fence At Penang Hill
Silver Leaf Monkey And Baby On The Fence At Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun
  • Giant black squirrel
  • Dusky leaf monkey
  • Greater racket-tailed drongo (very unusual black bird with long tail feathers)

We did in fact see all of these during a weekday afternoon without even trying, just look up at the trees.

Silver Leaf Monkeys And Their Babies On Penang Hill
Silver Leaf Monkeys And Their Babies On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

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.

Old Funicular Train On Penang Hill
Old Funicular Train On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

Visitors can still have a look at one of these wooden carriages that were in operation for ~50 years before the current train.

7. Check Out The 32-Pounder Cannon

It might seem out of place, but Penang Hill has a 32-pounder cannon that weighs almost 3 tons!

Large Cannon On Penang Hill
Large Cannon On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

With a striking range of 1,000 feet, the cannon most likely served as a warning for approaching pirates, although it’s currently used as a great photo opportunity.

You can see this cannon right at the top of the hill where the mosque and Hindu temple are.

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.

Masjid, Bukit Bendera - The Mosque On Penang Hill
Masjid, Bukit Bendera – The Mosque On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

Sri Aruloli Trirumurugan Temple

Like other Hindu temples in Penang, Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan is a colorful place of worship dating back to the early 19th Century.

Sri Aruloli Trirumurugan Temple - A Hindu Temple On Penang Hill
Sri Aruloli Trirumurugan Temple – A Hindu Temple On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

Expanding from just a shrine to the deity Lord Murugan, this elaborate temple has since grown in both size and visitor numbers!

This Hindu temple is close to Penang Hill Mosque.

9. Admire Bel Retigo Gate House

Bel Retiro is at the highest point of Penang Hill. But while it is 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, there’s a bit of heritage and history with this post box!

Based on the insignia, you can see that the box is actually over a century old!

12. Pitcher Plant Lover? There Is A 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, alongside other flora such as orchids and moss!

Kopi Hutan - Onsite Cafe At Monkey Cup Garden
Kopi Hutan – Onsite Cafe At Monkey Cup Garden – Photo by Travelswithsun

This garden has a café on site (Kopi Hutan). And it’s possible to walk to Monkey Cup Garden from the exit of The Habitat (~1.2km away).

Note: Mosquito repellent is recommended!

13. Visit Some Museums

Toy Museum & 5D Cinema

Open from 9am to 6pm, the first floor of this space holds figurines and larger statues of various superheroes and animated film characters.

You’ll find the 5D cinema on the lower floor, offering a fun experience for all ages, but especially children!

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

Teddyville Museum

Entrance Fee: RM15 (Adult), RM10 (Child, Student, Senior)

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

14. Love Lock

As 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 also 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! Or go on your own to save on tour fees.

Langur Way Canopy Bridge At The Habitat On Penang Hill
Langur Way Canopy Bridge At The Habitat On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

See our separate post on The Habitat.

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 an assortment of stalls and photo backdrops, such as a heart-shaped archway!

Heart Archways At The Little Village @ Bukit Bendera
Heart Archways At The Little Village @ Bukit Bendera – Photo by Travelswithsun

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 is an English tea house that has a pleasant terrace for some outdoor dining. It’s also a marvellous spot for afternoon tea!

David Brown's Hilltop Garden Restaurant On Penang Hill (Side View)
David Brown’s Hilltop Garden Restaurant On Penang Hill (Side View) – Photo by Travelswithsun

This restaurant has been on Penang Hill for many years.

Contact: +604-828 8337

Opening Hours: Mondays 12-3pm, Wednesday to Sunday 12 – 9pm, Closed on Tuesdays

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. Cliff Café (Astaka Bukit Bendera)

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

Cliff Cafe On Penang Hill
Cliff Cafe On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

There are a number of hawker stalls to choose from, so you’ll be spoiled for choice! The lower level is where all the drinks and desserts are. While the second level is for local and Western food.

Vendors do not delivery directly to your table (i.e., self collect basis).

Contact: +604-828 8880

Opening Hours: Daily 9am–6pm

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

Located on 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 at Lily Penang Hill Ice Kacang are the namesake homemade shaved ice desserts (ais kacang) topped with fresh fruit and creative toppings!

They also use fresh juice is used instead of artificial syrup, which makes it that little bit healthier! The portions are large and up to 4 kids can share one serving.

Opening Hours:
Monday – Wednesday and Friday: 10:30am – 7pm

 

Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday: 9am – 7pm

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

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

Muslim-run Kak Nor Café serves delightful mixed fruit desserts and other beverages. Although be aware that there might be a queue to get them.

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.

They serve some local mains like maggi goreng too.

Contact: +604-828 9585

Opening Hours: Daily 8am–7pm

4. Kopi Hutan (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!

It’s a very Instagram-friendly spot and sitting close to the ground on stools under the shade of large ferns makes for a novel experience for city folk.

Even if the beverages and cakes in general are nothing to rave home about.

Despite the relatively remote location of Monkey Cup Garden and Kopi Hutan, they do have their own convenient transportation service if you want to go back to the upper station.

If you plan to walk here from the upper station, it takes ~25 minutes.

You can buy tickets with your drinks and food or separately at the counter of Kopi Hutan.

Notes:

  • Expect mosquitoes
  • Service can be very slow on weekends and public holidays

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.

Sign And Directions To Bellevue Hotel On Penang Hill
Sign And Directions To Bellevue Hotel On Penang Hill – Photo by Travelswithsun

Facilities and interiors of the building are all dated with visible signs of age but if you don’t mind, it’s makes for an acceptable and convenient one-night stay since it’s not far from the Penang Hill upper station.

Price Range: RM300-500 per room per night. Check the price on Agoda.

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!

PS: You can’t drive all the way up and will have to make your way here on foot

Price Range: ~RM180-660 depending on the room type. Check the price on Agoda or Booking.com.

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
  • Some unusual wildlife to spot
  • Sky Walk is free to access
  • The funicular train gets you to the top quickly
  • Refreshingly cool in the early morning and evenings
  • Plenty of places to get refreshments
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!
  • Expect long queues for everything during school holidays and public holidays (e.g. CNY)
  • The 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:

Visit Penang Hill as part of a private tour in Penang with RayTheTour!

Penang Tour - RayTheTour & Travelswithsun
  • Local experienced English-speaking or Chinese-speaking guides
  • Offer tours 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 them 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 (use the code GRAB2PGHILL for RM5 off) to drop you off at the Penang Hill Lower Station in Ayer Itam 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 AM11.00 AM
12.00 PM01.00 PM
02.00 PM03.00 PM
 05.00 PM

Further reading:

Conclusion

Penang Hill is one of the most iconic places to visit while you’re in Penang, especially if you’re a fan of nature and scenic views.

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 while enjoying the cooler climate!

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