Georgetown Streets

Georgetown Streets

The streets of Georgetown are not only famous for their cultural heritage but also for plain old-fashioned fun.

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The best way to experience Georgetown is to walk through its streets. Nearly every street in Georgetown is named after a prominent person or place, and most usually have an interesting story or two behind their name. Although Georgetown is a relatively young city, it has seen quite a bit of history since its founding in the late 18th century.

Old City HallGeorgetown's old city hall, restored to its full glory. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century at the cost of a hundred thousand Spanish dollars.

It is undeniable that the streets and their buildings were instrumental in the city's efforts in getting listed as a UNESCO World Heritage City. The layout of most of the streets, especially in what is now known as the heritage district of the city, has remained unchanged, having only been widened and tarred as development set in. Most of the streets are lined with shophouses built in a distinct style combining both Eastern and Western sensibilities. Built with sturdy brick foundations, these shophouses usually had two storeys, and were typically long. The front of the shophouse was used as the storefront, while the back portion was for personal use. Some even featured inner courtyards. The upper floor would at times have a small living area and, of course, bedrooms. This particular shophouse design was perfect for traders and family businesses, and proved to be a hit among the locals at that time. Another distinctive feature was a sheltered pathway running through the front of the shophouses. Measuring five feet in width, this pathway was a mandatory condition of all house designs in the city, imposed by the British after a fire ravaged much of Kuala Lumpur in the late 19th century. The pathway was to be used by emergency services and became known as the 'five footway'.

As the city prospered, other more impressive buildings were added to various parts of the city. Georgetown became a regional financial and commercial centre, and a large number of banks established their headquarters within the city. Most were located at Beach Street, near the jetty at Weld Quay. The banks, perhaps in an effort to project the image of financial stability, built impressive and stately looking structures, built along Western architectural designs. They were not alone in this choice, as the wealthy Straits Chinese businessmen who ventured into banking also chose similar designs. Some of these beautiful buildings are still used by the respective banks, including Standard Chartered Bank, while others have changed owners and undergone renovations through the years.

Interest in conservation has led to many restoration projects in the city, as well as laws that regulate and assist in conservation efforts. Rows of restored shophouses have undergone adaptive reuse, with some roads now becoming popular and trendy areas filled with businesses and eateries. Nagore Road, Krian Road and Chong Thye Road are but a few of these unique and fun spots. The trendiest area at night in Georgetown is a stretch of road known as the Upper Penang Road. Buildings that once were warehouses and garages during the colonial era now are hives of activity, especially when the sun goes down. Electrifying dance clubs, trendy pubs, cafes and restaurants offer fun filled evenings every single night of the year.

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