The Best Things To See & Do In Singapore's Chinatown

Angela Koblitz / © Culture Trip
Photo of Prianka Ghosh
23 January 2018

Chinatown is one of Singapore’s most popular neighbourhoods for tourists and locals alike. From corporate-friendly Nankin Road to tourist-mecca Pagoda Street, there is something for everyone. The neighbourhood is easily accessible, located in the Central Business District and with service from two subway lines as well as many affordable hotels and hostels.

If you’re visiting Singapore from out of town, it can be intimidating to look at the extensive list of hotels in the area. For budget accommodations, head to one of the Beary Hostel locations, or if you’re looking for something slightly more upmarket, check out the Porcelain Hotel on Mosque Street. The rooms are tiny but modern, immaculately clean and you’ll have a private bathroom.

Angela Koblitz / | © Culture Trip

Chinatown has a seemingly endless number of places to eat; it would take a long time to eat at every single one of the restaurants, cafes and hawker stands that are in the neighbourhood. To experience Singapore hawker fare, visit Chinatown Food Street on Smith Street. This large outdoor hawker serves traditional hawker food and the street is covered so you don’t have to worry about rain. Recently, the Michelin guide visited Singapore and in a move that shocked the culinary world, awarded stars to two hawker centres of which one is located in the Chinatown Food Complex. Expect to queue for an hour or more, and with rumours that the owner is canvassing for buyers of his Michelin-worthy recipe, those queues are not likely to get shorter anytime soon.

Visit the Tea Houses | Angela Koblitz / © Culture Trip

If you are after a slightly more upscale meal, head to Yum Cha, a dim sum restaurant located on the second floor of a shophouse on Trengganu. They have a standard dim sum menu but it’s all very fresh and delicious.

Angela Koblitz / | © Culture Trip

When you’re ready for some sightseeing, you don’t even have to leave the neighbourhood. Chinatown is the epitome of the racial harmony that Singapore is recognised for. Within a few square blocks, there is a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple and Muslim mosque. On Mosque Street you’ll find the Masjid Jamae, which stands out because of its beautiful teal colour as much as its eclectic architecture. Established in 1826 by Tamil Muslims, Masjid Jamae was one of the earliest mosques to be built in Singapore. Down the street on South Bridge Road you’ll find Singapore’s oldest Hindu Temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple, which was founded originally in 1827. Much of what is seen today was built later, including the eye-catching gopuram (entrance tower) built in 1925. The newest of the three, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, was opened in 2002. You can view the relic from the fourth floor of the temple, just be sure to grab a sarong on your way inside to cover your legs.

Angela Koblitz / © Culture Trip | Angela Koblitz / © Culture Trip
Angela Koblitz / | © Culture Trip
Angela Koblitz / | © Culture Trip

Once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing and eating for the day, be sure to check out Chinatown’s thriving bar scene. In this small neighbourhood you’ll find an upmarket speakeasy that claimed first prize as Asia’s Best Bar, a grungy karaoke dive bar and a hawker stall serving craft beer.

Angela Koblitz / | © Culture Trip

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