Penang vs. Melaka – Which One to Visit?

Penang vs. Melaka – Which One to Visit?

If you are to choose between Penang and Melaka, where would you go? Can't decide? Let this guide help you!

Penang or Melaka – which is the preferred destination? This question has been asked to me so many times, that I thought of penning down my answer from my point of view. Malaysia is a beautiful country where every city has its own charm. Each city is quite different from the other in terms of things to do, food, festivals and more. Before we choose out of Penang or Melaka, let’s take a quick rundown of the elements that lure us into each city, in the first place. These points will help you in decision-making.


penang vs melaka

Image credit: Ah Wei (Lung Wei)

Penang is a very diverse city in terms of the line-up of activities. The city literally has something in store for everyone, right from art in the old town, sea-view pubs, local food and drinks, stretches for adventure sports and hiking to spots for witnessing the best sunset views. The vibrant city is widespread and offers a lot every day of the week and every season of the year. With art and music festivals picking up year on year, besides a lot of street food fiesta and cycling competitions, marathons and more, Penang has become the melting pot of tradition and culture. Here, you will find a lot of different things to do, be it touristy zones, quiet spots or roads less travelled.


penang vs melaka

Image credit: Ah Wei (Lung Wei)

Call Melaka ‘Mini-Penang’ or its ‘smaller counterpart’, the beauty lies in exploring the history of the city and hopping along the street art, while sipping your favourite drink at a bench by the river, enjoying the river cruise. The city is relatively smaller and can be covered in a shorter span of time. It totally depends upon what you want to do. You can chill by the river, admire the street art adorning the buildings and properties along the river cruise or simply spend your weekend evening walking along Jonker Walk, eating all that you can. With major celebrations around Chinese New Year and Christmas, it is also renowned for its lantern festival.

Let’s compare…

While Penang is a food haven and is very diverse in nature, Melaka is like a small capsule bursting with energy and colours in a small space.

View Of Penang Bridge From Penang Hill | Image credit: Schristia

Penang is a family-friendly place as there are so many crazy museums and interactive installations on the street, as well as Escape Adventureplay with climbing towers, zip-line, etc, whereas Melaka does not have too many children-specific activities or zones.

Penang offers a changing skyline and cityscape as you head to the hill, drive to the beach of Batu Ferringhi or spend a day at the old town, but Melaka’s scape remains more or less the same, unless you head to the ruins of the famous A-Famosa uphill or take the observation tower aka Menara Taming Sari for a bird’s eye view of the city.

So, here’s what you can do. Head to…

Penang if you want to:

Georgetown, Penang | Image credit: Phalinn Ooi

  • Try food the Malaysian way
  • Imbibe the rustic flavours of the old town
  • Watch magnificent street art spread across George Town
  • Chill by the beach of Batu Ferringhi and explore the night market
  • Spend time with family and friends, seeking everyone’s points of interest
  • Take a lavish cruise holiday to a neighbouring city or country like Phuket, Langkawi, etc.
  • Save time if you’re flying out from international destinations and land at Penang airport

Also read: 20 Fun Things to Do in Penang On Your First Trip

Melaka if you want to:

Jonker Street, Melaka | Image credit: Ah Wei (Lung Wei)

  • Experience a flavour of its history
  • Try the local food + Nyonya cuisine and dumplings
  • Enjoy a Venice-like ethereal experience by Melaka River
  • Walk along Jonker Walk for the best Southeast Asian snacks
  • Walk amidst the ruins of a glorious bygone era and appreciate the art
  • Take an overwhelming 360-degree view of the city through a trip up the revolving tower
  • Save time and money by travelling by road – it’s a 2.5-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur one way

Points to remember


Penang Bridge | Image credit: Ah Wei (Lung Wei)

  • It is a haven for local Malaysian food
  • Activities can be chosen in accordance to your interest
  • It is a huge city and needs at least 5-6 days to be covered
  • It has more of a British influence evident in its architecture


Melaka Cruise Art | Image credit: Phalinn Ooi

  • It is a compact shell of tourism
  • The activities are highly touristy in nature
  • It is a small city that can easily be covered in 2 full days
  • It has more of a Portuguese influence evident in its architecture

After learning all these, what would you choose or recommend – Penang or Melaka? Why?

About Author

Aditi Shukla
Aditi Shukla

Aditi Shukla is a blogger, content writer and editor, and an avid traveller, foodie and music fanatic. She believes travel helps to communicate with the world, broaden your horizon and simply have fun! Her motto is to travel and eat as much as she can around the globe and share her experiences to inspire others. She runs her blog Lyf&Spice to share her travel experiences, gourmet journeys and lifestyle tips.


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