Christmas in Penang

Penangites love a good Christmas.

What we say: 3.5 stars

Penangites love a good festival, and Christmas is no exception. There are plenty of opportunities to catch some tropical Yuletide cheer in Penang; here are some of the best places to shop, worship, eat, drink and be merry over the festive season.

Christmas bling at Straits Quay.

It’s not just about the big day itself but also the build-up, so for a good fix of tinned Christmas hits, twinkling lights, in-your-face decorations and rampant consumerism, one of the best places to head is Gurney Plaza (Persiaran Gurney; T: (04) 222 8111). This year, Santa and his North Pole Express Train hit the mall between December 13 and 20, with daily appearances by the man himself (Mon-Fri, 17:00 and 19:00; Sat & Sun, 17:00, 19:00 and 21:00). Children will also love the all-singing, all-dancing stage shows in the central atrium, featuring the train conductor and his elves (Mon-Thurs, 14:00 and 18:30, Fri-Sun, 14:00, 16:00 and 18:30).

For something a little more traditional, the forecourt at Straits Quay Retail Marina (Jalan Seran Tanjung Pinang; T: (04) 891 8000) has one of the biggest Christmas trees in Penang. Carollers and strolling minstrels entertain shoppers and diners every Sunday during December, as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while Santa makes special appearances every weekend until Christmas. Straits Quay also plays host to the Penang Performing Arts Centre (Floor 3, Quay 1; T: (04) 899 1722), where you can catch vocal group Six2Eight performing traditional and modern songs for the festive season (December 21 & 22December, 20:30; 22 & 23, 15:00; 60 ringgit/40 ringgit concession).

As Christmas Day dawns, celebrate the spiritual side of Christmas by joining the congregation at St George’s Anglican Church at 1 Lebuh Farquar (T: (04) 261 2739) for the Christmas Eve Service at 22:00 and Eucharist at 09:30 on Christmas Day (both services in English). Meanwhile, the best place to head for Catholic Mass is the Church of the Assumption (8 Lebuh Farquar, on the corner of Love Lane; T: (04) 656 6681) at 18:30 on Christmas Eve and at 10:00 the following day (again, both services in English).

St George’s Church.

If Christmas morning isn’t complete without a hangover from the night before, check out Upper Penang Road from 20:00 on Christmas Eve, when the street party gets in full swing. This pedestrianised strip caters to every taste with a wide range of cafes, bars and clubs, which come together to offer street entertainment and live performances to get you in the mood for the big day.

For those in a more contemplative and sentimental frame of mind, check out the Canteen & Bar at China House (153-155 Lebuh Pantai; T: (04) 263 7299) from 21:00 for Christmas-themed cabaret in a relaxed, hip setting. There is no cover charge and this is one of the most popular venues in town, so get there early to bag yourself a table.

Cabaret at China House.

If you are craving a full-on, gluttonous Christmas feast on the evenings of the 24th or 25th, or a long, lazy lunch on Christmas Day, there are limited, though very good, options on the island. For a real treat, the 1885 restaurant at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel (10 Lebuh Farquar; T: (04) 222 2000) offers fine dining, including traditional turkey and Christmas pudding, set in colonial splendour (dinner on both days at 348/248 ringgit ++ per person with/without wine; lunch at 168/78 ringgit ++ for adults/children).

Meanwhile, China House (153-155 Lebuh Pantai; T: 04 263 7299) does turkey with all the trimmings at four different price levels, from a simple buffet (88 ringgit ++ per person) to a four-course extravaganza (155 ringgit ++ per person) in their popular bistro restaurant.

For something unusual, take the funicular railway to the top of Penang Hill and celebrate at David Brown’s (T: (04) 828 8337), an English-style hill station bungalow with beautiful gardens overlooking the island. The restaurant’s quaint, cottage-like interior will really put you in the festive mood, and the traditional Christmas Day menu, including a glass of house wine and tea/coffee, is 108 ringgit ++ per head. As it’s a holiday, there may be queues for the ascent up the hill, so allow a bit of extra time for this. Return tickets are 30 ringgit, and trains depart every five to 10 minutes from the lower station (Jalan Stesen Bukit Bendera, Ayer Itam; (04) 828 8880).

If you have children, you really can’t go wrong with the Christmas buffet at the Lone Pine Hotel, up the coast in Batu Ferringhi (97, Jalan Batu Ferringhi; T: (04) 886 8686). Just a stone’s throw from the beach, there is plenty of space for the kids to run around and let off steam, and for adults the buffet – featuring traditional Christmas fare and foods from across Asia – will more than satisfy those festive cravings. The dinner buffets on the 24th and 25th are 138/69 ringgit ++ for adults/children, including unlimited non-alcoholic fruit punch, and the Christmas lunch buffet is 88/44 ringgit ++ for adults/children.

Last updated: 29th August, 2014

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