05 May THIS WAS HERE BEFORE THE FAMOUS BICYCLE MURAL IN ARMENIAN STREET
Armenian Street, perhaps the most popular tourist spot within George Town’s historical Heritage Core Zone, is a quintessential George Town location. The street houses numerous museums, eateries, and vintage accommodations for both locals and tourists alike determined to soak in everything and anything Penang.
Branching Westwards from Carnavon Lane towards Beach Street, Armenian Street got its name from an Armenian family who once took up residence at the corner of Armenian and Beach Streets during the early 19th century. Before the murals popularized the street into its current tourist hotspot status, the Armenian Church of St. Gregory was the point of interest here, being built by the Armenians in 1822 and frequented by them until 1937, when the church was demolished. By then, most of the Armenians had packed up and left Penang.
Even before then, the street was once known as Malay Lane, having been labeled as such in an 1803 map belonging to Governor George Leith. The street is named as such due to the heavy presence of both Malay and Achehese races in the area before the arrivals of the Armenians, a presence which still continues on today due to monuments such as the Acheen Street Mosque and the Penang Islamic Museum being built in the vicinity. The street’s Chinese appearance owes itself to the presence of Chinese traders who moved into the area from the turn of the 20th century, with clan temples such as Cheah, Yap and Khoo Kongsi being established around that area as well.
Today, Armenian Street is primarily renowned for its various Street Art scattered throughout since George Town’s classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Tourists and filmmakers alike have endlessly photographed some of these street art works, such as Ernest Zacharevic’s popular “Little Children on a Bicycle” mural. Museums such as the Sun Yat Sen museum, the aforementioned Penang Islamic Museum, and the Batik Painting Museum are also located on the street, offering visitors a glimpse into Penang’s past during its development. Various old trade shop houses have also since been converted into tourist souvenir shops that sells nostalgic memorabilia such as vintage magazines and key chains, as well as eateries that sell novelty snacks and dessert such as durian ice cream. Entrances to the Hock Teik Cheng Sin and the Kongsi temples are also located here.
Every Saturday evening, the weekly Armenian Street Fair takes place on the street. It serves as a venue for local talents, such as artists, street performers, and musicians, to showcase their craft. It is the ultimate blend of traditional heritage influences and modern-day sensibilities, a place where time stands still so both the ghosts of old and the winds of the new can celebrate George Town’s historic legacy together.