Colonial mansions in Penang
The amount of heritage buildings that still stand across the island of Penang never fails to amaze us. These colonial mansions in Penang have weathered through many periods in history, and each features authentic architecture and antiques – all with rich stories to tell.
Once the homes of influential ministers and tycoons, these grand manors are now open to the public. Here, you can have a staycay, experience the opulent ambience as you dine, or simply explore different corners of the residences to discover its various secrets.
While the Blue Mansion is a popular spot in Penang, here are seven other colonial mansions in the state where you can do all of the above.
1. Macalister Mansion – all-white, 100-year-old heritage building
Image credit: @macalister.mansion
Along Jalan Macalister stands a pristine building with a grand front garden graced with statuary, manicured greens and a huge pool – which altogether exudes an aura of sedate elegance.
Built over a century ago and restored in 2012, Macalister Mansion is more than just its pretty facade. The gleaming white property is home to a grand boutique hotel with resplendent rooms and facilities, as well as a selection of eateries to dine in.
The guest suites are as opulent as the mansion’s exterior. Decked out in reams of marble and mosaic tiles – as well as immaculate, white furnishings – the rooms aim for comfort while retaining the grandeur and elegance central to the property’s aesthetics.
Guests can choose from three different rooms available – MMesmerich (RM914/night), MMarvel (RM1,146/night), or MMonarch (RM1,340/night).
Macalister Mansion is not short of dining options either. Hotel guests are welcome to chill at the Guest Lounge, which serves light meals and afternoon tea sets. Another in-house dining area, Restaurant Blanc, offers an exquisite French culinary experience in a luxe space with handsome velvet chairs and classic ornaments.
Guests can pick from two menus here – for starters, The Degustation Menu (RM298) features simpler dishes such as Chutoro Tartare, Holland green Asparagus, and Iberico Pork Skewers. And then there’s the Indulgence Menu (RM398) with premium feature ingredients – such as Hamachi Mosaic, Charred Foie Gras, and Maine Lobster pou zai fan.
If you’re craving a pre-dinner drink or a nightcap, head to The Cellar, a classy yet cosy lounge where you can choose from over 300 labels of international wine, champagne, or whiskey.
2. The Edison – fine-dining seafood restaurant in a colonial setting
Image credit: The Edison
The Edison is the perfect example of architecture that masterfully blends past and present aesthetics. Though it was first built in 1906 as a residence of a tycoon, it wasn’t until 2016 when the mansion was completely revamped and opened to the public as a stylish boutique hotel.
The timelessly-charming mansion offers multiple stylish amenities. Among these are the airy central courtyard that fuses colonial and contemporary styles, and the pool area with cabanas where guests can take a refreshing dip and bask in the sun.
The rooms offer an upscale experience with a casual feel – think clean, modern Scandi design, with furnishings in muted hues that’ll help you switch into relaxation mode. Opt for a night’s stay in the Deluxe Room (RM680/night), Deluxe Premium Room (RM780/night), or The Suite (RM950/night).
Image credit: The Edison
Ostrea Oyster And Seafood Bar is the mansion’s new dining haven serving mouthwatering seafood spread. Set in a relaxing al-fresco dining space, the restaurant curates a new menu every month that boasts a myriad of fresh seafood – including oysters, scallops, fish, and prawns – all artfully plated and paired with flavourful condiments.
Image credit: Ostrea Oyster & Seafood Bar
3. Suffolk House – Malaysia’s only Georgian mansion
Image credit: @ameerulamde
Located in an off-beat area that’s almost completely obscured by trees, the Suffolk House stands impressively in a grand landscape of spacious lawns and trees. You’d think you stepped into a Jane Austen novel. The manor – Malaysia’s only Georgian-style mansion – was built in an Anglo-Indian style, with obvious British Renaissance influence and touches of local architecture.
Inside, it is no less classy. The interior’s high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and velvet drapes pay homage to the ornate architectural features of 18th Century manors. The mansion is open to visitors, so you can wander through its glorious halls and be entranced by its grandeur.
Suffolk House is known among Penangites for their sumptuous fine dining. Lunch and dinner are served in a grand ballroom, with both ala-carte or set meals offered. Their afternoon tea set (RM100 for 2pax) is a quintessential British fare comprising classic high tea delicacies served on gilded tiered-stands outdoors, on a terrace or in the garden.
Image credit: @junemay96
An abode known for hosting elite social gatherings and events in the 19th Century, the mansion aims to continue this tradition by providing its ballrooms and gardens as wedding venues and for huge corporate dinners today.
Image credit: @yongzhaofilm
4. 32 Mansion – beach bar & cafe overlooking the sea
Image credit: Google Photos
The elegant Italianate villa, 32 Mansion, was built for a local tin magnate’s son who fell in love with Italy. Inspired by the villas in Regent’s Park in London, this mansion was built in 1926 and meticulously restored in 2000.
Image credit: 32Mansion
Don’t be fooled by the classic all-white exterior of the building. 32 Mansion puts a mischievous twist to the old-world glamour. The grand hallways, full-length colonial shutter windows, and opulent chandeliers give the mansion its timeless charm, but touches of quirkiness – framed paintings and dandy armchairs – add a playful and contemporary flair.
Image credit: 32Mansion
Dining at 32 Mansion is sure to thrill the taste buds and the eyes. Lunch takes place in the outdoor Beach Blanket Babylon – an al-fresco cafe on a beach overlooking the sea, which also doubles as a beach club and bar after 9PM.
The menu is an extensive one, with choices of Western dishes – including Beer Battered Fish & Chips (RM48) and Spaghetti Aglio Olio with Asparagus, Mushroom & Prawns (RM42) – and local Asian favourites such as Crab Laksa Lemak (RM32) and Seafood Fried Rice (RM28).
Image credit: @elinetwl
Dinner is a classier affair. Feast on a fine-dining course set in the main dining area, under lush, whimsical blooms.
The dinner menu offers a tantalising combination of Western dishes – poultries such as Confit Duck & Roasted Pumpkin (RM55) and Baked Salmon with Almond & Cranberry Crust (RM65) for seafood, Lasagna Al Forno (RM45) for some carbs, and Crepe Suzzette (RM25) to finish the meal off on a sweet note.
Image credit: 32Mansion
5. Jawi Peranakan Mansion – architecture with Indian, Malay & Arab influences
Image credit: Jawi Peranakan Mansion
Elaborate doorways, floral motifs, and wooden shutters – Jawi Peranakan Mansion is no doubt a Peranakan architectural marvel. Located on a heritage road in Penang called the Millionaire’s Road, the mansion showcases architecture of a Anglo-Mughal origin – a mix of 18th Century British architecture and Muslim design from the Mughal era, accentuated with ethnic Indian motifs.
The stunning mansion comprises eight beautifully revamped rooms and six family suites, with the essence of Malaysian Straits Chinese elements preserved – an idyllic tribute to the nation’s rich heritage.
Image credit: @jawi_peranakan_mansion
The rooms and suites here each features a different layout. The Mansion Rooms (RM280/night) have king-sized beds and cosy lounge areas, complete with cultural touches like Kelim rugs and wool Kashmir throws.
For a more comfortable stay, guests can opt for the Mansion Villa (RM424/night) which has two-levels of ample space and even a private courtyard. Families will likely prefer the double-storied Mansion Suite (RM530/night), where there is a private loft area, two 4-poster Mughal hardwood beds, and a clawfoot Victorian-style bathtub.
Almost every corner of the mansion offers guest a space to relax. There are lounge areas, a rustic dining hall, and an ornate swimming pool that pays homage to the Peranakan decor.
Image credit: @chiao.meii
As Jawi Peranakan Mansion is within walking distance from famous food spots in Penang, it is recommended for guests who want to sightsee and hunt for local food without having to travel far from their accommodation.
6. East Indies Mansion – traditional Chinese courtyards
Image credit: East Indies Mansion
East Indies Mansion was the former residence of Koh Lay Huan, the founding father of Penang. A carefully remodelled historic Straits-Chinese home nestled in the heart of George Town, the property’s architecture is a nod to the humble origins of the Chinese community in Penang.
Image credit: East Indies Hotel
Tastefully decorated with traditional antiques and relics throughout, the mansion has aesthetic flair with modern essentials. A highlight here are the beautiful courtyards – or ‘hearts of the mansion’ – which are integral characteristics of traditional Chinese residences that play to the feng shui of a place. Guests can stroll through the enclosed green spaces, and bask in the zen-like environment.
East Indies offers four different suite types, each with its own visual themes and views – Cinnamon Suites (RM410/night), Nutmeg Suites (RM280-320/night), Clove Suites (RM250-440/night), and Anistar Suites (RM350-470/night).
The rooms will transport you to a bygone era, as they are each carefully decorated and furnished with Chinese traditional elements.
Image credit: East Indies
7. Botanica Mansion – old English plantation mansion
Image credit: Botanica Mansion
Tucked in a scenic development area away from the hubbub of the island, sits an English plantation house called Botanica Mansion. Enveloped in foliage against a backdrop of mist-blanketed hills, the breathtaking mansion feels almost like a countryside château.
Once dilapidated to the point of ruin, the 150-year-old mansion was refurbished with many of its original features preserved. A tasteful nod to the British colonial era, Botanica Mansion is classy, grand and gilded, with traces of modern styles to elevate its simple interiors.
The mansion serves multiple purposes. It’s a place for guests to spend a night, and also a venue for events. There are four hotel rooms – Smoke House Suite (RM688/night), Garden Suite (RM588/night), Planters Suite (RM488/night), and Orchard Room (RM388/night) – each with luxurious amenities such as bathtubs, private balconies and even a huge public pool, for a comfortable stay.
The mansion’s spacious ballrooms and front lawn are perfect for holding events, weddings, celebrations, and even fitness classes, making it a space constantly filled with vigour and liveliness despite its remote location.
Else, there’s the Pentland restaurant, an in-house restaurant and bar. Serving an elaborate menu of fine-dining English cuisine, this restaurant is the place to drop by if you’re feeling peckish after exploring the property. Here, there are light starters such as Eggplant Parmigiana (RM19), and main courses for a full-on meal that include Squid Risotto (RM51) and Guinness Lamb Shank (RM62).
Image adapted from: Botanica Mansion
Address: 156, Jalan Sungai Air Putih, Botanica. CT, 11000, Balik Pulau, Penang
Opening hours: Tue – Sun 1PM-10PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 019-227 1867
Botanica Mansion’s Facebook
Colonial mansions in Penang
It is enrapturing to walk the streets of Penang and see colonial-era mansions that influential Malaysians and British officers once called home. Start planning a visit or a short stay in one of these grandiose mansions, and be awed by the brilliant architecture and rich history that these manors have to offer.
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