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Penang is one of my favourite places in Malaysia, in part due to all the amazing Penang cafes!
The island of Penang off the west coast of Malaysia is known for its nature, culture and lively capital, George Town. This diverse city has thriving Indian, Chinese and Malay communities, as well as bustling markets and quirky street art. The Penang coffee and food scene is fantastic whether you’re looking for authentic fare or world cuisine.
E-sim data plan
Copy of Lonely Planet Malaysia
Getting there: flight, bus, train (12GoAsia)
Pre-book your Penang airport to city transfer
Accommodation: Booking.com // Hostelworld
Tours: GetYourGuide / Viator
More George Town blogs:
- The best street food in George Town Penang
- 10 unmissable things to do in George Town
- Where to find street art in Penang
- Digital nomad guide to Penang
- How to get to Kek Lok Si + Penang Hill
Since there are so many things to do in Penang, you’ll want to know the best cafes in Penang to relax in between sightseeing. When I visited in October, the weather was hot and sticky and there were several thunderstorms.
As a result, I spent lots of time hiding over iced coffee in Penang which was not time wasted!
Best cafes in Penang
To help with your quest to find the best coffee in Penang, I’ve put together all my favourite cafes and coffee shops. Here you’ll find a mix of hipster coffee roasters, historical coffee shops, modern cafes and quirky, cosy venues. I hope that’s something for everyone!
Let’s begin with the coolest cafes and coffee shops in Penang…
This cafe isn’t about hipster flat whites or modern quirks. It’s set inside a Straits Heritage building and prides itself on being the longest cafe in Penang.
Indeed, it seems to go on forever but I was more preoccupied with the cake. Usually, the cake in Asia doesn’t blow me away but after one round with the salted caramel cheesecake, I was sold. The ginormous cake table is overflowing with all kinds of sponges, brownies, cupcakes, cheesecakes and more.
For your Penang coffee and cake fix, don’t miss this iconic cafe. I washed down my cheesecake with a refreshing iced coffee, just what I needed on a hot summer day. The aesthetics of Chinahouse are also worth a visit with lots of artwork and trinkets lining the long, thin cafe which is more like a corridor.
Address: 153 Beach St.
Undoubtedly one of the most famous cafes in Penang, enter Mugshot. Everyone will have heard of Mugshot even if they’re visiting just for a day.
Instagrammers will want to swing by Mugshot to take their photo against the black and white police board at the back. Even if you visit solo, the friendly staff will help you get a photo; it must be part of their job description!
The coffee is really tasty at Mugshot Cafe Penang, plus the bagels will satisfy your cravings for home comforts. They’re only 13 MYR with high-quality ingredients like smoked salmon and cream cheese. These were my vice during two weeks in Penang when I didn’t feel like oily street food.
Other bagel fillings include bacon & egg, ham & cranberry or nutella & banana.
Because of Mugshot’s popularity, it’s a busy and lively cafe where you share tables with strangers. I loved the friendly vibe of this sunny Penang coffee shop with lots of scope for people-watching and making new friends.
It’s right beside Chulia Street Night Hawker Stalls so I would recommend hanging out in the cafe until 6pm then grabbing a delicious dinner on the way out. Read my Penang street food guide for everything to eat.
Address: 302 Chulia Street.
Situated on iconic Love Lane, Wheelers is a popular spot serving avo brunches and delicious pasta. Also on the menu are a selection of inventive cold brew coffees and my favourite, ‘freddos’ (pronounced frey-does). These smooth and creamy drinks come in flavours such as matcha lavender and dirty chai. I believe they’re a Greek concept rather than a Malaysian one but either way, they’re delish!
Recently refurbished, the interior is all trendy exposed brick and bamboo lamps: very different from its previous rustic look with old bicycles suspended from the ceiling. Perhaps it’s lost a little of its unique character but the modern vibe is no doubt aesthetically pleasing, while the buzzy atmosphere and friendly service give it personality.
A brunch dish and drink will cost around 40MYR which isn’t the cheapest but the standard is high and portions are generous. They offer a set lunch for around the same price which includes a dessert and green tea. You can always offset the cost by having $2 street food for your next meal!
Address: 67 Lorong Love.
Nook Books & Coffee
A short walk from the famous Jettys lies the Nook. Probably the most peaceful of all the Penang cafes mentioned, this is a paradise for book lovers and the perfect place to recoup from sightseeing in Penang. Once you’ve ordered at the counter, explore the literal nooks and crannies of the cafe and find a quiet space to read.
The cafe is made up of a network of little rooms and seating areas lined with bookshelves containing second-hand fiction and non-fiction texts from Asia and the rest of the world. It’s like a relaxed library with the aroma of great coffee!
On the counter, you’ll find sweet treats like taro cheesecake. I opted for the coffee tonic as you don’t see it on many menus. Although I enjoyed it, some tastebuds may find it a little bitter.
Address: 4 Halaman Khoo Cheow Teong, George Town.
The Beansprout is one of my favourite cafes in Penang. While others are very hectic and busy, this is a great place to escape the crowds or catch up on some work.
Not only was the coffee fantastic and very aesthetically pleasing with a heart drizzled on top, but the brunch dishes were delicious and affordable. The ‘toast three ways’ was one of my favourite Penang breakfasts topped with avocado, salmon, eggs and bacon.
This was only 15 MYR and my coffee was a further 10 MYR. Unlike other coffee shops in Penang, they don’t charge tax. Woop.
The shabby chic interior is very ‘Penang’ making it a laidback cafe to start your day before sightseeing. Begin just across the road in Penang Little India, a vibrant place to work up an appetite before an authentic lunchtime curry on a banana leaf.
Address: 35 Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling.
More by Arang
This shiny cafe in George Town Penang is quite the opposite to the rustic coffee houses in ancient heritage buildings. More by Arang is a chilled, modern spot with all your home comforts.
For more authenticity, head to any of the other cafes mentioned above.
As well as coffee and tea, they serve excellent matcha lattes. You can also find lots of hearty comfort foods like indulgent nachos absolutely slathered in cheese. You probably won’t find anything healthy on the menu but who cares, you’re on holiday!
More by Arang is a bright, open-plan cafe with comfy sofas and full-length windows. You can soak up the sunshine (or watch the rain while feeling smug inside) while sipping coffee. More stays open until 11pm, unlike other Penang coffee shops like Coffee Addict that only serve food until 3pm.
You’ll only pay 9 MYR for coffee and 12 MYR upwards for main dishes.
Address: 170G-2 Livingston Tower, Argyll Road.
Meet Up Cafe
The penultimate entry is Meet Up Bar and Cafe. I liked this pretty coffee shop in Penang as a work base because it was usually quiet with just some tinkling background music. If you’re looking for a busy atmospheric cafe in Penang, it might not be the one, but if you need some solitude, it fits the bill.
Meet Up is an old-fashioned Italian-themed venue with exposed brick walls, marble tables, sepia photos and a well-stocked wine rack. There are a few local Malay breakfast dishes on the menu like nasi lemak for 3.5 MYR but otherwise, it’s quite pricey. I had a salmon salad which was tasty but didn’t fill me up for 20 MYR.
The coffees cost 10-12 MYR and were passable but nothing amazing. However, they have so many flavourings including matcha, mint, rose, matcha, caramel, butterscotch and more. I considered a rose latte but the last one I tried in Ubud was gross so I stuck to a flat white.
Address: 158 & 160, Jalan Hutton.
In refurbished warehouse style with a quirky rustic look, Awesome Canteen couldn’t be more ‘Malaysia’ if it tried. This aesthetic is popular from the Melaka cafes to the Kuala Lumpur cafes and I wholeheartedly approve. With high ceilings and indoor plants, this coffee shop is light, bright and welcoming.
You could easily while away an afternoon people-watching and drinking excellent coffee made by the skilled baristas. I hope you do!
Address: 19, Jalan 20/13, Taman Paramount.
Yin’s Sourdough Bakery
Conveniently located near the street art trail, Yin’s is an excellent choice for breakfast on the way. Owner, Su Yin, opened this small chain of bakeries in a bid to offer Malaysians a healthier alternative to sweet commercial bread.
The sourdough here is the perfect light, airy texture. As well as loaves, they bake croissants and bagels with a number of delicious-sounding fillings. Continuing the fermentation theme, they also serve a wide range of kombuchas.
Kaya toast is a traditional Malaysian breakfast and a must while in Penang. At Yin’s, you can have a posh sourdough version which isn’t a substitute for the original but is certainly tasty and healthier!
For some reason, they took the breakfast set off the menu but you can still order it as sourdough toast with kaya and an egg on the side. I opted for a fried egg to mix it up. This is a good option if you can’t stomach the very runny ‘half-cooked’ traditional way of serving it.
Address: 11, Pesara Claimant, George Town.
If beautiful surroundings and decadent desserts are your thing, look no further than this charming Penang cafe. Emily Darling is a plant-filled oasis offering up affordable indulgence. EMILY stands for ‘every minute I love you darling’ which is typical of the cute quirky vibe of Penang.
The first thing that catches your eye might be the fancy decor: velvet chairs, chandeliers, plants and flowers. For me, it was of course the incredible display of beautiful pastries and cakes, baked fresh every morning. They also offer a couple of savoury options like filled croissants or an unusual combo of salmon and pear on toast.
They do decent coffee, but tea is the star of the show. Offering a selection of fresh flower teas brewed in glass teapots, they look spectacular and the taste does not disappoint. A pot for two costs 24 MYR. Annoyingly for solo travellers in Malaysia, they don’t do a pot for one which means paying double and having a LOT of tea, but it all helps with staying hydrated in the muggy Malaysian heat!
Address: 186, Jln Penang, George Town.
Tucked away on a quiet street, this small neighbourhood coffee shop would be easy to miss. A new addition to the George Town cafe scene since opening in 2022, AE hits the sweet spot between minimalist and modern and cosy and friendly.
It’s all about the coffee here. The pastries and bagels are divine but merely an accessory to coffee this good! You can choose house blend espresso with or without milk or a platter which gives you one black and one white. However, I recommend you pick from their selection of filter coffees from around the world. I had the Ethiopian with notes of citrus and lime and it was to die for.
The menu here will satisfy even the biggest of coffee snobs and, if coffee is not for you, they also do a tasty matcha latte. Everything can be enjoyed in their sunny courtyard… bliss!
Address: 11, Lebuh Clarke, George Town.
Where to stay in Penang
- EZ Social – with a co-working space, lively bar and laundry facilities, this is a fantastic and sociable place to stay. Book from $10 a night.
- The Frame – in a well-preserved heritage house with a TV lounge, spacious lockers and individual reading lamps and electrical plugs, this is the comfiest base for budget travellers. Book from $10 a night.
- Carnarvon House – in central Georgetown with great reviews, this is a fantastic budget hotel. Book from $30 a night.
- Savv Hotel – a wonderful mid-range base with an outdoor swimming pool, free parking, garden, shared lounge, a bar and terrace. Book from $60 a night.
- Blue Mansion – for the ultimate treat, this 4-star heritage property has boutique rooms with antique fittings. Book from $120 a night.
Getting to and from Penang
You can fly directly into Penang International Airport but if you’re travelling between Penang and Kuala Lumpur, you may be coming by bus or train. I caught the bus from KL to Butterworth where you can hop on a quick ferry over the water to George Town. For buses in Asia, use 12GoAsia.
Thanks for reading!
Kuala Lumpur posts:
- The perfect Kuala Lumpur 2 day itinerary
- 5 cute cafes in Kuala Lumpur
- KL street food guide: Chinatown
- The best things to do in Melaka
- The best food in Melaka
- 10 cute cafes in Melaka
- Melaka street art guide
Southeast Asia travel planning:
- The ultimate Southeast Asia bucket list
- 101 Asia travel tips
- The perfect 3 month Southeast Asia itinerary
See you next time for more adventures,
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