Hotels

Historical Mansions that Double Up as Hotels in Penang

When ordinary hotel rooms don’t make the cut, perhaps a night or two in these mansions sound more like it? Holding heritage and history close to heart, these postcard-perfect homes will give you a hard time when checking out.

1. Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion

Image credit: Malaysia Tatler

There are volumes written and endless pictures posted about this iconic house, which is regarded as one of Penang’s most lauded architectural gems. Tucked in the heart of Georgetown, the restored 19th-century mansion is easily identified with its vivid blue walls and ornate designs. However, the property has more than what meets the eye. For a true-blue experience, book a suite and soak up yesteryear’s opulence.

Image credit: Cheong Fatt Tze Blue Mansion

The residence was commissioned by Cheong Fatt Tze, a self-made tycoon with mansions across Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China yet this blue masterpiece is a league apart. With over 100 years of history, it is labelled as a 19th Century Grade 1 Heritage Building since all original items and materials have been restored. The antiques and furniture are mainly from China, but you’ll also find cast-iron works from Scotland and English Art Nouveau stained glasses. All these individual elements are carefully tied together with traditional Feng Shui from experts. Learn more about anything that evokes your curiosity during the daily guided tour.

The rooms are filled with personal antique collections and artworks inherited from the original occupants, and expect a service that’s second-to-none. Don’t leave without dining at the renowned Indigo Restaurant on the first floor. Both the setting and the cuisine are inspired by Cheong Fatt Tze himself, offering a delectable blend of East and West.

2. East Indies Mansion

When it comes to a hotel stay, there are two types of preferences: those eyeing a unique experience and those seeking nothing but relaxation. This gorgeous mansion, which dates back to 1846, guarantees to please both parties. What was once home to famous merchants and honourable Kapitan Cina (leaders of the overseas Chinese enclaves), is now a mansion bound with charm and character.

Upon stepping in, you’ll first be carried away by the sense of tranquillity, then layers of the building’s captivating past will gradually grow on you. The architectural features, artistic murals and green ceramic tiles authenticate the taste of luxe life of the previous owners, and their fondness for Feng Shui is observed through open courtyards and high ceilings. Perhaps the most eye-catching feature of the property would be the original panels with two long-tailed Phoenix and a central scene revealing the 8 Immortals.

Daytime is perfect to explore the home and its neighbouring historical attractions but as the evening wears on, the mellow lightings, breezy courtyards, and cosy rooms foster an air of intimacy. There are 10 rooms spread across two floors, each painstakingly restored and tastefully decorated to be in line with the mansion’s rich history. Excellent service and delicious breakfast complete the equation of a great stay.

3. Macalister Mansion

To visit Macalister Mansion is to fall in love with it. Built in the early 1900s, the restored mansion is named after Sir Norman Macalister, one of the first British Governors of Penang, whose name is also set on the road the property is located.

Despite the backbreaking restoration process, the white-washed facade, intricate trellises, a repainted cannon with cannonballs, a wooden double-leaf doorway, spiral stairs and other architectural marvels have remained intact. While the addition of a fine-dining restaurant, a wine lounge, a cigar den and new-age art pieces balance a colonial past and a contemporary future.

The hotel section is named the Eight Rooms, highlighting the number of rooms available. Every suite has its own unique specialities and commissioned work from artists. For instance, Room No.3 has an original wrought-iron balcony, and an alcove with a wrought-iron spiral staircase leading to the top of the turret in Room No.4. When not taking photos and tracing the mansion’s celebrated past, just plop onto the king-sized bed to relish the plushness of your stay.

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Cap off your visit at the French-inspired Blanc restaurant, for a memorable wine and dine experience.

4. Botanica Mansion

Located within Botanica CT, both this imposing mansion and its surrounding grounds will have you feeling like stepping back into the golden days of the colonial era. The property was built in early 1881 but was left in a deplorable condition until the recent takeover by Botanica CT.

The preserved British-inspired archways, door frames and French-style windows would recall guests of its original roots while the custom-made art pieces and murals add a fresh spin of splendour to the interior. Along the stairway, you’ll find old pictures of the building before the restoration, which helps deepen the appreciation for the makeover.

The mansion consists of a clubhouse, a restaurant, and four suites. Each spacious room impresses with a different concept, yet the most revered suite is the Smoke House. Located on the second floor of a former rubber smokehouse, the intricate designs, original brick walls, and a balcony that opens up to sweeping views of the lush plantations and distant mountains may still your breath for a moment.

Don’t miss their afternoon high tea and if time permits, visit the nearby durian orchards too.

5. The Edison George Town

Having stocked up a history of over a century, this restored heritage mansion is now open to anyone who wants to experience its tale-telling past and eye-catching present. Sited on Leith Street, a street once thriving with the wealthy Hakka enclaves, the house was built in 1906 and had seen many chapters. From being home to a prosperous businessman to an administrative centre by the Japanese during World War II, an opium den, and finally a hotel before it was permanently closed in 2013. In late 2014, the mansion was salvaged from decay and saw its rebirth as the luxurious hotel it is today.

Though historically influenced, the modern trimmings here and there would make guests do a double-take as they stroll past. From the dragon fountain at the entrance to the restored pillars, emerald green shutters to cast-iron columns and funky figurines, everything begs to be photographed.

The rooms follow suit with the theme of the mansion and have slight variations from one another. Design and detail impress at every turn, while the use of wooden furniture, comfy beds, and posh linens cocoon guests in comfort. Create fun moments at the airy courtyard, chill in the outdoor pool with a glass of wine or simply munch to your heart’s content at the all-day lounge.

6. Jawi Peranakan Mansion

Jawi Peranakan Mansion has a very distinct look compared to other colonial-era homes in Penang because it was originally occupied by Muslims from the Middle East, Pakistan, and Central Asia who came to the island as traders and workers in the mid-19th century. The property is the brainchild of hotelier Christopher Ong, who purchased it through public auction in 2012. After three years, the Anglo-Indian mansion was finally brought back to its glory days. The wooden lattices, lime plaster walls, plantation shutters, arched windows with Mughal and Indian motifs paint a picture of its elaborate past.

The eight rooms are outfitted with king-sized hardwood beds, daybeds, and sitting areas. The addition of Kilim rugs, brass Mughal mirrors, indigo printed textiles, roll top writing desks and furniture from Rajasthan and Bengal stay true to the heritage script. On the outside, the Mughal-inspired fountain ringed by scented plants bring to mind the lawns owned by Rajasthan kings.

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Breakfast is a hit, not only because of its local food selection but also the way it’s served at the long communal marble-topped table. Rub shoulders with like-minded travellers from around the world and plan your next trip together.

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