When talking about the Penang’s atmospheric street with most coveted in terms of heritage, Beach Street undoubtedly tops the list. As one of the oldest streets in Georgetown, it have amassed an impressive history: the street are lined with heritage buildings with Neoclassical architecture and facade, which will give you a feel of how it was like back in the British colonial era. Beach Street is best explored on foot; let’s make this wistful walkway part of your daily Penang routine and discover the fascinating stories behind it.
The Glory of the Past
Beach Street also known as “Lebuh Pantai” in Malay; it is well-placed around the eastern shoreline of George Town, that’s why the beach-related name comes from. This 1.4km-long street has once flourished as the commercial & financial heart and being regarded as one of the most important thoroughfare in Penang back to 200 years of history. By taking the geographical advantages of coastal road, it became the center for international trade. Especially the mid-19th Century – around 1880s, was a prosperous time for Beach Street; a lot of mercantile firms, major banks, wholesalers, importers, exporters and freight ship companies were set-up here. The European traders and merchants were concentrated around the northernmost part of the street; the buildings fronting street acted as shop-fronts, while extending behind them were used as warehouses. Hence, it also named as “Jalan Gudang” (Gudang means warehouse in Malay) by locals.
Beach street is packed to the brim with Malaysian and International Banks – another specialties that deserves mention here. During that time, the bank branches can rarely seen in other areas thus this street became the central point for handling banking affairs. The scene of crowd line up was common during weekday, but was the busiest during the office hours.
History has passed, but legacy leaving behind; the heritage buildings and signature structures on the street, although has undergone restoration, but still reflects the face of old Penang with the history of track and evolution. For instance, The Whiteaways Arcade that currently used as the space to host for art events and exhibition, was formerly known as Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co that originally build in 1903. It was initially a department store that sold primarily imported European goods but the building continued to house business as rented units to port operator and foreign companies in 1914 after the relocation of department store. The India House that once stands for the highest assessment payer along Beach Street is now occupied by tour & travel agency. The Logan Heritage Building that now serves as an arcade housing various retail outlets and eateries, was unveiled in 1880 as the first Commercial Centre in Georgetown, Penang. Beach Street is one of those rare frozen-in-time alleyways which mingle with today’s modern lifestyle lusts. What’s charming is, with every step you take on this road, there always seems to be new discovery.
Project Occupy Beach Street
Want having more fun exploring the Beach Street? Not to miss the the Project Occupy Beach Street! Thanks to this project, Beach Street will temporarily close from traffic every Sunday from 7am to 1pm to host for family-friendly, carnival-like activities. This is in conjunction with the state government’s initiative for Penang Car Free Day, thus there are only two ways to get into Beach Street during this time: brisk walking or rent a bicycle to get around in breeze. Immerse yourself in this bustling open-air market and you’ll find dozens of stalls selling art & handicrafts, cute trinkets, local food and street snacks. Besides, there are also performances, live sketching, skateboarding, games corner (giant snake & ladder board games, bubble games etc) and more activities that will filled you with never-ending excitement! This car-free program is not only allow tourists to visit the historic site under the premise of safety, but also to promote a healthy lifestyle and social interaction. It’s like a social affair that thrive off relationships, rather than just being seen as a common pop-up market.
Whether you want to stroll on the street with nostalgic charms, or to indulge in happening & chill Sunday market, Beach Street is definitely worth a visit.
Occupy Beach Street
Operation Hour: 07:00am – 01:00pm (Every Sunday)
Address: 10200, 8-16, Beach St, Georgetown, 10200 George Town, Penang