George Town, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Penang, is located at the northeastern tip of Penang Island. It is Malaysia's second largest city, with 708,127 inhabitants as of 2010, while its metropolitan area, Greater Penang, is the nation's second most populous conurbation with an estimated population of 2.5 million. The historical core of George Town has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.
Established as an entrepôt by Francis Light of the British East India Company in 1786, George Town was one of the first British settlements in Southeast Asia. Together with Singapore and Malacca, George Town was governed under the Straits Settlements, which became a British crown colony in 1867. It was subjugated by Japan during World War II, before being recaptured by the British at war's end. Shortly before Malaya attained independence from the United Kingdom in 1957, George Town was declared a city by Queen Elizabeth II, making it the first city in the country's modern history.
Due to the intermingling of the various ethnicities and religions that arrived on its shores, George Town acquired a large eclectic assortment of colonial and Asian architectural styles. It also gained a reputation as Malaysia's gastronomic capital for its distinct and ubiquitous street food. Moreover, the city hosts unique cultural heritage, such as the Peranakans, a hybrid ethnicity which has left its mark on Penang's architecture and cuisine.
Today, George Town is Malaysia's most vital medical tourism hub, receiving approximately half of Malaysia's medical tourists. The city, home to numerous Malaysian and international banks, has evolved into the financial centre of northern Malaysia. In addition, George Town is logistically well-connected; the Penang International Airport to the south links it with several major regional cities, while a ferry service and the Penang Bridge connects the city with the rest of Peninsular Malaysia. The Port of Penang still links George Town with over 200 ports worldwide and has brought about a thriving cruise tourism industry.