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
- Penang Hill Map
- Penang Hill Lower Station
- Train Opening Hours
- Train Ticket Price
- Penang Hill Train Duration
- Other Ways To Get Up To Penang Hill
- Penang Hill Attractions
- Restaurant & Cafe
- Penang Hill Hotel
- Penang Hill Review
- Getting To Penang Hill
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!
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
*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|
|Monthly Season Pass||RM40||RM120|
|Monthly Season Pass (6 Months)||RM220||RM660|
|Annual Season Pass||RM440||RM1,320|
Penang Hill Train Duration
Taking the tram up to the top of Penang Hill takes considerably less time than hiking up.
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!
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.
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
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.
If you plan on visiting The Habitat for the night-time nature walk, arriving during sunset is a popular option.
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!
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.
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.
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!
- 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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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).
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!
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!
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!
Take a guided nature walk and relish the surrounding scenery from the canopy walk! Or go on your own to save on tour fees.
See our separate post on The Habitat.
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!
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!
This restaurant has been on Penang Hill for many years.
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!
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).
2. Lily Penang Hill Ice Kacang (At Astaka Cliff Café)
Located on the lower floor of Cliff Café:
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.
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.
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.
4. Kopi Hutan (Monkey Cup @ Penang Hill)
Monkey Cup Garden runs a café under the name of Kopi Hutan.
It’s a very Instagram-friendly spot. 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.
And 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.
Read more about Kopi Hutan at Penang Hill.
Note: Service can be very slow on weekends and public holidays
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.
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
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!
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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
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)
Getting To Penang Hill
1. Private Tour:
Visit Penang Hill as part of a private tour in Penang with RayTheTour!
- 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
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!
Just be aware that you may have to wait quite long for an evening return bus during weekends!
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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|
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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!