Unmissable Penang Festivals in July

Penang's popular George Town Festival
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Mark your calendar for these terrific community festivals in Penang coming up in July!

If you have an affinity for communal get-togethers that blend colours, cultures, and music, these amazing festivals in Penang do it better than you imagine. Here’s what’s on this July on the island!

Fun for all at the annual George Town Festival


The popular George Town Festival (GTF) is not just an art event, it’s a celebration of life through art and culture. Since its commencement in 2010 to honour George Town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the festival has become a platform for talented multinational artists to collaborate and express their passion for art. This year marks its 15th edition, held from July 19 – 28. Scour the streets and alleys of George Town, particularly at night, because the colourful arts lend an enigmatic charm to the white-washed, colonial architecture. Pop-up food carts and booths loom large in between event locations, too.  

George Town Festival

Theatre performances deservingly make the most of GTF’s calendar, aesthetically combining circus acrobatics, dances and visual crafts. Look out for Time Stone, Our House is on Fire – a live musical theatrical performance that underlines the message of environmental destruction and climate change. Not forgetting House of Mask & Mime, a creative silent comedy that has stretched its wings across the globe since its enactment at France’s Festival Off Avignon in 2022. Fans of puppetry will love to check out traditional Taiwanese glove puppetry techniques by Flying Group Theatre and Sortilegio, an audio-visual puppetry experience for one person at a time.

George Town Festival

Another thing GTF does not lack is workshops. One not to miss is Notes from a Separation Performance Workshop – participants are invited to speculate and draw points in the history of Singapore and Malaysia’s separation around 60 years ago. Locations of the activities are listed on brochures and GTF’s website.


From the 19th to the 21st of July this year, you have more than one string to your bow to visit Penang Hill, thanks to their fifth edition of Penang Hill Festival. This cooling peak is one of the spots where nature gives you a giant bear hug the minute you step off the funicular train. The three-day festival aims to promote and feature the biodiversity of Penang Hill’s nature, history and cultural values. So much so that the hill was certified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve site in 2021.

Funicular train, Penang Hill

Not only do you admire the primitive tempo of the rainforest, but be part of it through educational tours. From beginning the day with Zumba sessions to venturing into deep trails and birdwatching, reconnect your senses in the most soothing ways. Get some hands-on experience at the DIY Honey Workshop, Bird Photography Workshop and Batik Painting Workshop. Moreover, there will be an array of exhibitions to learn about nature and its occupants, like Can We Coexist? – a closer understanding of monkeys.

The most anticipated event has to be ‘Music on the Hill – East Meets West,’ which will be held on the final day. Expect five talented dance and music groups such as BhaavaNarthana Natyalaya, Penang Youth Orchestra, Culture Shot, Wak Long Music and Centre and Sada Borneo to offer a cultural masterpiece on the stage. In short, attendees get a window into Penang Hill’s identity from different perspectives.


Bukit Mertajam is barely a blip on the map when it comes to mass events, but the impression that St Anne’s Feast has left on the suburb is profound. The celebration is held at the Minor Basilica of St. Anne, which was built in the mid-1800s and has gathered the love and faith of Roman Catholics from around the region. St Anne’s Feast is undeniably the second-largest Christian festival in Malaysia after Christmas. This year, it takes place from the 19th to the 28th of July.

The pilgrims would begin the celebration with a nine-day novena, and building to a peak on the 10th day with a mass procession. Right behind would be devotees and tourists bearing candles, lamps, and crosses. Rest your gaze on the wonderful sight and feel the energy humming through the prayers for one of the most venerated saints. Within the church’s spacious premises, you’ll also find food offerings and information booths that further uplift the atmosphere. The air of unity and excitement also extends throughout the town, which makes it one of the best times to explore the pulse of the surroundings.

St Anne’s Feast


If a trip to Japan isn’t in your near future, the Bon Odori Festival should be on your to-do list. This euphoric celebration has been ongoing in Japan for centuries and has found a sweet spot in Penang’s calendar on July 27 at Padang Kota Lama. Get to know the rich Japanese traditions and cultures, encouraged by the Penang State Government, the Consulate General of Japan and other Japanese associations.

Penang Bon Odori Festival

The one-day festival is a treat for the senses, with intricately designed art installations, drum performances and bon odori dance, which has a history of nearly 600 years. Adding to the merriment are authentic Japanese delicacies, souvenirs and games for all ages. Since most of them are clad in yukatas – a casual version of the kimono – you’ll be able to get one for you as well.

Coming up to the main event, there’s an ongoing pre-event named Miss Bon Odori Contest and the final falls on the day itself. And of course, ending like any good festival should, just look up for the evening fireworks show.

Kids love dressing up in kimonos

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