Georgetown is a former colonial city on the island of Penang in Malaysia. The old town is lined with colonial-era buildings and and the entire inner city is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Traditional cafes here are kopi tiam style, which offer a simple food menu and a place to chat with friends. They are not cafes you would sit down and write in or crack open a laptop.
Penang has been going through a cafe boom, with the old buildings of Georgetown being ideal for Instagram-friendly cafes. There now cafes that serve espresso coffee and are conducive for working in. With this newfound cafe culture, Penang might yet become a digital nomad hub.
Continuing with my cafe series, here is a list of the best cafes in Penang (mostly in Georgetown).
Mugshot brings a slice of Australian-style cafe life to Georgetown. It’s located in the heart of the backpacker area of Lebuh Chulia so it can be hard to get a seat at peak times.
Location: 302 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown
Macallum Connoisseurs Coffee Company
Macallum is outside of the World Heritage section of Georgetown but well worth the wander here. The cafe is in a purpose-built warehouse that would not fit in any old building in the old town. This is a cool place that has put Malaysian cafe culture on the map.
Location: 1 Gat Lebuh Macallum, Georgetown
In a city filled with cool old buildings that are waiting to be repurposed, this is one of the best examples. Bricklin is set in the old art deco Hin Bus Depot. The coffee is great, and there is a art space and market at the back of the building. The cafe is not far from KOMTAR (the tallest building in Penang).
Location: 31A Jalan Gurdwara, Georgetown.
The Alley is set in an old Chinese goods store (“Kedai Gaharu Keat Seang” on the shopfront) near Kuan Yin Teng (Goddess of Mercy Temple). It’s a small cafe with a nice atmosphere, though it only opens at 12pm.
Location: 5 Lorong Stewart, Georgetown.
This cafe on the edge of Little India serves quality coffee in an artistic setting. Bean Sprout is set in two buildings with different rooms to sit in, as well as the top floor which has views of the Goddess of Mercy Temple.
Location: 35 Pitt Street (Masjid Kapitan Keling), Georgetown.
Black Kettle is in a prominent building on the corner of Beach and Chulia Street and has an impressive bakery.
Location: 105 Beach Street, Georgetown.
The Twelve Cups
The Twelve Cups is a modern cafe in the historic WhiteAways Arcade in the old banking district of Beach St.
Location: 12, The WhiteAways Arcade, Beach St, Georgetown
Narrow Marrow is housed in a long and skinny shophouse and is filled with interesting artwork and recycled furniture. They were playing some cool independent tunes which was a nice break from the usual popular music. Check the hours as it’s not open every day.
Location: 252 Lebuh Carnarvon, Georgetown
SiTigun Micro Coffee Roastery
SiTigun is a coffee roastery previous located at 30 Jalan Nagor.
Location: 28 Jalan Nagor, Georgetown
The Light’s Cafe
The Light’s Cafe is next to the Penang Town Hall, opposite the Padang.
Location: Jalan Padang Kota Lama, Georgetown
Coffee and Friends
Location: 221 Lebuh Kimberley, Georgetown
Meet Up @ Grano De Cafe
Location: 158-160 Hutton Lane, Georgetown
Location: 435 Lebuh Chulia, Georgetown
Location: Logan Heritage Building, 4 Bishop Street, Georgetown.
Location: 72&74 Lebuh China, Georgetown
Beyond Georgetown, if you are staying near Gurney Drive then ECC Coffee is a good option.
Location: Menara Gurney R-G-B1-2, Jalan Kelawai
Cafes that were featured on this list that have since closed.
Budan’s Brew – 2 Lorong Argus, Georgetown.
Kantan Kafe – 4 Lebuh Campbell, Georgetown.
Sugar Honey – 26 Lebuh Campbell, Georgetown.
Lighthouse Coffee – 26 Lebuh Bishop, Georgetown.
Love & Latte – 86 Love Lane, Georgetown.
Moustache Houze – 24 Lebuh Campbell, Georgetown.
Cat Cafe – 53 Jalan Muntri, Georgetown.
Wheeler’s Coffee – 67 Love Lane, Georgetown.
The Morning After @ PIA – Departures Level 2, Penang International Airport.
Julie Danes says
I would definitely go to Sugar Honey, Moustache Houze and Budan’s Brew. Thanks for these interesting locations!
Wow – an amazing array of cafes – i ilke the look of the latte at Lighthouse cafe. Great post.
Thanks for nice cafes… There are cat cafes in Tokyo as well, but I didn’t try it. Personally, Mish Mash attracted me the most.
Ben Cameron says
Holy Smokes James that’s an impressive summary! You’re miles ahead of anyone else as to go-to guy for reviews on Coffee Shop Virtual Offices (Coffices?) keep up the good work.
Mugshot for the win, by the way 🙂
James Clark says
Thanks Ben, glad you liked it! And yay for Mugshot 🙂
Marcello Arrambide says
Gotta love coffee shops wherever you are in the world! I always end up in one when I need to get some things done, and I’m on the other side of the planet. There’s just no fun in staying in at the hotel 😉
James Clark says
Agreed! I like to mix it up with hald the day working at home and the other half in cafes.
Loved your style of writing James… the way you share your perspective is what keeps the magic going… just stumbled on your site today & i must say i m hooked! Looking forward to spending more time here… & i think i like Lighthouse cafe most, gives a very rustic feeling…
In Penang right now hoping to catch up on some freelance work and my own blog — this is perfect and exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for the help James!
Sofia Rhodes says
Me and my husband keep exploring cafe houses to spend our leisure time. And thanks to you, we got some new places. Excited to visit them.
We’re keeping this list handy for when we return to Penang for a longer stay. We’ve been to both Mugshot and Mostache Houze and loved them both. When we went in 2013 both had just opened. Looking forward to exploring the others. I hope you are well.
Chris Schwarz says
James – I was in Penang last month, Mugshot Cafe knocked down a door in their wall and built through into the bakery next door. Best croissants in Malaysia!
James Clark says
Yes the bakery is a great addition to Penang!
Currently in Penang working remotely for about ten days. Mugshot has been my go-to so far. Their yogurt is amazing. Another solid choice nearby is The Alley, but only have a few outlets. Wifi at both is good for the area.
David Cheong says
Thanks, exactly what I was looking for.
I guess they don’t like us sitting there past an hour…do they? Then again I order only a coffee or drink <RM10. Am really looking for the reason WHY they don't like it. Sigh.
WIFI sucks all over Penang, FYI.
Nobody even mentions the Internet speed at any of those places, what kind of digital nomad wannabes are you.
That wasn’t my experience. The wifi at Mugshot was fine back in February, I worked there every day for almost two weeks.
Also you can get a 4G data sim for cheap and just tether your phone, I did that for working at cafes with poor wifi and it was perfect.
I recommend Wheelers cafe on Love Lane. Good quality WiFi, great menu and good coffee. The staff are helpful, although it is a little pricier than other cafes that I’ve been to. I usually stay there for 2hours or more and don’t feel hassled to move on. It’s a little quirky too, with bicycles on the walls.
Nowadays I check your articles about destinations as much as I check WikiTravel or Lonely Planet 🙂
Keep up the good work, will be in Penang next week!
James Clark says
Oh cool, how long will you be there for? I will be passing through at the beginning of April.
Just a week before going to Langkawi, but I may be back beginning of April, on the way back to Singapore!
Are you passing to Langkawi from Thailand?
Jade D'sa says
Such interesting spots! I wish such info was available for every place! It would surely help us digital nomads
It is stunning to see the rise in trendy coffee cafes that have popped up over the world over the last decade. And to think that when Starbucks started taking over the world, I sort of thought ‘well, that’s it, I’ve seen all that can happen in the world of cafes’. Even if it’s just for instagram, they sure are easy on the eyes, aren’t they? Great post and will keep in mind for when we make it back there one day.
You have a really great writing style!! It’s so interesting to see how you’ve been able to live nomadically for this long.
“Coffee because weed is illegal” Haha what a witty sign out front!
We enjoyed “Coffee on the Table” in Lebuh Pantai because of the outstanding 3D artworks they created with the milk froth.
China House, also in Lebuh Pantai deserves a special mention for the fantastic cake bar, in addition to very good coffee.
Mavis Teo says
Budan’s Brew has moved to a new place. But don’t bother finding it, cause i have such a terrible experience with them. Not sure if the guy was the owner, but i have no idea who else has the authority and the guts to be so arrogant and rude to customers. Their coffee is great, but there are so many options of cafes with awesome coffees too!, Minus the unwanted arrogance and attitudes.
Great list, thank you!
A couple of others I found whilst there the past few weeks which I think are well worth checking and great for working:
– Ome by Spacebar
– Coffee Addicts
James Clark says
Thanks, I will check them out on my next visit!