Coming to Penang felt like a breath of fresh air.
After three intense weeks travelling Manila, Taipei and Seoul, I needed to slow down and chill out.
Getting sick was all the affirmation I needed of this being the case.
I spent my first two days in Penang barely able to get out of bed. Good thing the king size bed in my Airbnb was seriously comfy, the air-con was strong, the giant bedroom TV was connected to Netflix, and I had all the hot tea I needed at my disposal.
Fortunately, the rest of my trip, I started to feel better and was able to venture out and explore the city. With a long list of life admin tasks piling up from the past few weeks, I was keen to find a few cafes I could work from while in Penang.
Fortunately, Penangites love coffee. Small, traditional shops can be found on just about every corner. At these shops, you’ll find kopi tiam style coffee. Best to visit these if you’re just looking for a morning cup of joe. Not the kind of place you’d necessarily crack open a laptop.
Fear not, because with a more modern coffee culture emerging in George Town, there are plenty of modern cafes to also visit.
It’ll feel like your options for a good cuppa (and usually decent wifi) are endless.
Eight Cafes You Can’t Miss While Visiting George Town, Penang
All of these spots are great for your coffee fix, but some have better WiFi than others. I only visited most of these spots once, and consider it unfair to include note of the WiFi situation in my notes because I know it can be better some days or weeks than others.
If you’re looking for somewhere to work while in Penang, and want to ensure there’s strong WiFi, read the cafe’s reviews on Foursquare or TripAdvisor before visiting.
Or, Google something like, ‘cafes for digital nomads in Penang’. People are usually pretty honest about things that make a cafe a great place to work repeatedly – think: Wifi speed, number of plugs, seats, busyness, menu variety, etc.
China House: No list of cafes in Penang can overlook this institution. It’s one of the oldest and most visited cafes in Penang. Walk through the cafe, all the way to the back to check out the art gallery. With old school music pumping and a seriously impressive selection of cakes, this place is great for catching up with a friend or just taking a break from sightseeing.
Black Kettle: The bright, yellow exterior is what drew me in, but the hip interior and expansive menu convinced me to stay for breakfast. The menu has a fun, Western twist to it. A nice reprieve from the Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisine the rest of Penage offers.
Macallum Connoisseurs Coffee Company: A bit outside of the historic George Town centre, Macallum is worth the Grab ride. In fact, I loved this modern warehouse-style cafe so much, I came twice. The breakfast sandwiches were insanely delicious, and the coffee and tea menu is long enough to please just about anyone. Don’t sleep on the smoothie options- I tried a fresh jackfruit smoothie at Macallum, and instantly understood why so many people love this exotic, SE Asian fruit.
Lunabar Coffee: The stuff quiet weekend mornings are made of. At first, I had a tough time finding this cafe because of all the plants out front- an excellent problem to have. Come here for good coffee, slow vibes and plant bebe heaven.
Secawan ‘n’ Such: Hidden on Hutton Lane, Secawan was one of my favourite cafes in Penang. There were fewer tourists, and the WiFi was so strong, I would have definitely come back if I had time. Also loved the cafe’s interior design- the giant murals and rustic touches helped create a relaxed vibe that kept me centered while plowing my way through to-do lists.
The Alley: Set in an old Chinese goods store near Little India, The Alley may be small but the atmosphere is quite lovely- the word, charming, comes to mind. Here, I enjoyed a chai latte and order of piping, hot churros. There’s a game console in the back, so this seems like it would be a cool place to meet a few friends and catch up.
Lavish Fusion Bakery: An Aussie I met in Vietnam raved about Lavish’s souffle pancakes, so much so, that when I was finally hungry after spending a few days sick, all I could think about was trying them. Pleased to inform they do not disappoint- fluffy, a bit wobbly and full of flavour, the pancakes are the star at this bright, modern, plant draped cafe.
Coffee Affairs: Sous vide cold brew? Yes, please. Concerned it may be too hip to be good, I was overjoyed to discover the cold brew tasted just as good as some of my long-steeped favourites. This cafe was also a nice spot to lounge- indoor and outdoor seating, and close to Little India for wandering.
The Mugshot: With a prime location near historic Love Lane, The Mugshot is loved by many visitors to Penang. The bagels are pretty good, and wooden details lend to the cafe’s lovely ambiance. Oh, and per the name, you can have a ‘mugshot’ taken with wall art here as well.
Twelve Cups: Recently renovated and perfectly positioned at the cusp of town. A great place to stop while searching for street art, or to take a break from roaming the jetties.
Five cafes I didn’t get around to checking out, but that came highly recommend: Wheeler’s, Bricklin, Grano de Cafe, Gao Coffee and Bean Sprout.
Like other places appealing to digital nomads in SE Asia, Penang’s growing number of cute cafes makes it easy to work and play.
And, if you’re just in Penang to visit, find comfort in the fact there are plenty of places for you to take a break from sightseeing and relax with a cup of coffee, a freshly brewed tea or sweet treat.
Have you ever been somewhere like Penang, that surprised you with its amount of seriously cool and chill cafes?