Door and blue wall, Penang, Malaysia

Getty Images

Blue Mansion

Top choice in George Town

The most photographed building in George Town, this magnificent 38-room, 220-window mansion was built in the 1880s and rescued from ruin in the 1990s. Today a lavish, antique-filled hotel, its distinctive blue-hued exterior is the result of an indigo-based limewash. Slightly theatrical hour-long guided tours (included in the admission fee) explain the building's feng shui and unique features, and relate stories about Cheong Fatt Tze, the rags-to-riches Hakka merchant-trader who commissioned the mansion for his seventh (and favourite) wife.

Cheong Fatt Tze left China as a penniless teenager and eventually established a vast financial empire throughout East Asia, earning himself the dual sobriquets 'Rockefeller of the East' and the 'Last Mandarin'. Yet despite this, his lavish home was a faded shell within a few years of his death in 1916, rented out at penny rates to extended Chinese families.

A six-year restoration returned the mansion to its original glory, an eclectic fusion of Eastern and Western architectural styles, blending Chinese porcelain tile-work with art nouveau stained glass and British encaustic floor tiles. It's the finest surviving example of the eclectic architectural style preferred by wealthy Straits Chinese. Appropriately, the mansion had a cameo in the 2018 blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians.

To enjoy the regal mansion after the crowds leave, consider staying overnight.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby George Town attractions

1. Hainan Temple

0.09 MILES

Dedicated to Mar Chor Poh, the patron saint of seafarers, this temple was founded in 1870 but not completed until 1895. A thorough remodelling for its…

2. E&O Gallery

0.14 MILES

Originally built in 1884, the E&O was the archetypal 19th-century colonial grand hotel. It was established by two of the Armenian Sarkies brothers, Tigram…

3. Protestant Cemetery

0.15 MILES

Under a canopy of magnolia trees you’ll find the graves of Captain Francis Light, the founder of the British colony of Penang, and many others, including…

4. Church of the Assumption


The Catholic Church of the Assumption was founded in 1786, not long after the foundation of Penang, but the present building was constructed in 1861.

5. St George's Church

0.32 MILES

The oldest Anglican church in Southeast Asia, St George's was constructed in 1816, with backing from the East India Company. In the grounds is a memorial…

6. High Court

0.32 MILES

This impressive 1903 building, with rows of columns holding up balconies and shaded exterior corridors, is Malaysia's oldest high court. Outside is a…

7. Kuan Yin Teng

0.33 MILES

Dedicated to Kuan Yin, goddess of mercy, this temple is the liveliest place of worship in George Town. The current temple was built in the early 19th…

8. The Star Pitt St

0.34 MILES

The 1906 offices of The Star newspaper have been transformed into this arts, culture and heritage centre, used for various exhibitions as well as hosting…