Making up over three quarters of Singapore’s population, nowhere else is the city’s Chinese diaspora best represented than in Chinatown. Here are 10 awesome things to do in this cultural treasure.
No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to Chinatown. While it is historically the area of settlement for many Chinese immigrants who arrived in the then-British colony, don’t be surprised to find other cultural gems in this district. With good cheap food in abundance, proximity to tourist hotspots, and some of the hippest neighbourhoods in Singapore, here are some of the top reasons you need to check out Chinatown.
The Thian Hock Keng Temple is one of the oldest Chinese temples in Singapore, built in 1840 by the Hokkiens who hailed from the Fuzhou province. The temple is a showcase of southern Chinese architectural styles and assembled without the use of a single nail, with elaborate carvings covering the walls and roofs. Thian Hock Keng Temple was originally located along the coastline before land reclamation took place (now located in Chinatown) and was the first port of call for new immigrants entering Singapore – giving thanks to their deities for helping them make the trip safely. The main deity is Mazu, the Goddess of the Seas, but the temple also encompasses Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism and ancestral worship.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple stands proudly along South Bridge Road. A relatively young temple first conceived in 1989 and only built in its current form and location in 2007, this traditional Tang-style design with its red lacquered walls is a colourful addition to the architecture in diverse Chinatown. As its name suggests, the temple houses the sacred Buddha tooth relic that the public can view, though only monks can actually enter the relic’s chambers. The temple is also a museum that is home to other revered Buddhist artefacts.
Keong Saik Road has a shady past as a former red-light district lined with brothels and the homes of rich businessmen’s mistresses, alongside a mishmash of clan houses, coffee shops and other sundry businesses. This gentrified area with its quaint row of narrow shophouses has gradually given away to cool food outlets, trendy boutique hotels and co-working spaces, becoming a bonafide hipster hangout in Chinatown today.
The narrow lanes of Ann Siang Road and Club Street are bustling most nights, but on Friday and Saturday nights the roads are closed off to traffic and weekend revellers and relieved office workers spill out of the many restaurants and bars onto the streets – transforming this quiet, hilly neighbourhood into an extra lively nightlife district. Take your pick from a range of breezy rooftop spots, intimate hole-in-the-wall diners, sports bars and trendy restaurants in this Chinatown treasure.
On the edge of the busy Chinatown district is Everton Park, a motley collection of some of the oldest shophouses in Singapore amidst a quiet residential district. This neighbourhood is a favourite for coffee enthusiasts and serious bean lovers, and you will find various hipster cafes and retail outlets popping up amidst the more traditional sundry shops. Also popular in this area are the growing number of heritage murals and other street art.