Chinatown in Singapore is a sharp contrast to the rest of the city, with low rise buildings and culture bursting out onto the streets, from the fragrant smells of traditional cuisine to the bold red and gold tones that run through the neighbourhood.
This is an area that’s proud of its heritage and has it very much on display. There are ornate Chinese, Buddhist and Hindu temples, museums galore and plenty of opportunities to soak up the bustling streets lined with old shophouses.
What are the best things to do in Singapore Chinatown?
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a remarkable 4-storey temple. When entering the gate, you’ll immediately notice the stunning main hall with its high ceiling. The bell tower and drum tower are on the same floor.
The main focus for most visitors is the solid gold 2-metre stupa on the 4th floor which is the place where the sacred relic is kept. Continuing up to the roof, there is a pagoda that has a large prayer wheel. The temple is built in a style based on the Buddhist mandala and integrated with the Buddhism of the Tang dynasty.
Location: 288 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058840, Singapore
Open: Daily from 9am to 6.30pm
Phone: +65 6220 0220
Sri Mariamman Temple
As the oldest shrine in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple is also one of the most prominent places of worship for Tamil Hindus in the country. It was built to honour Goddess Mariamman – the deity of disease and protection.
Originally erected by Naraina Pillai – an Indian trader from Penang – in 1827, the temple was modified to its present structure in 1862, although it has undergone several renovations since. Apart from being a place of worship, the temple has also acted as an asylum for new immigrants that belong to South Indian Tamil Hindu community.
Location: 244 S Bridge Road, Singapore 058793, Singapore
Open: Daily from 7am to midday and from 6pm to 9pm
Phone: +65 6223 4064
There are plenty of sky-high views in the city, but The Pinnacle @Duxton is a little different. Located on top of the world’s tallest residential building, it costs only S$5 to admire the vista which is usually very quiet, especially as there is a cap on the number of people who can visit daily (200, so as to not disturb those who live there).
This is the tallest building around, so you can see far and wide, across Chinatown and towards Sentosa Island. To climb to the viewing platform you need an EZ-Link card, which is used for public transport around the city.
Location: 1G Cantonment Rd, Singapore 085301, Singapore
Open: Daily from 8am to 5pm (Saturdays until 1pm)
Phone: +65 8683 7760
NUS Baba House
Built in the 1890s, the National University of Singapore (NUS) Baba House was once the ancestral home of the Wee family who are descended from shipping tycoon Wee Bin. This heritage house offers visitors the chance to explore Peranakan (Straits-born people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage) culture from the early 20th century to the present. It is one of the few townhouses that have remained intact architecturally and features Peranakan antiques like porcelain, furniture and art on the first two floors. The third floor has been adapted as a gallery for exhibitions and projects that explore the community and neighbourhood from different perspectives.
Visits to NUS Baba House are strictly by appointment only. Visitors are advised to sign up in advance for the hour-long tours via their website: babahouse.nus.edu.sg.
By Appointment only.
Heritage Tours in English: 10am, Tuesday to Friday.
Mandarin Heritage Tour: 10am (first Monday of the month).
Self-guided visits: 1.30pm, 2.15pm, 3.15pm and 4pm on Saturday.
Closed on Sunday and public holidays
Location: 157 Neil Rd, Singapore 088883, Singapore
Phone: +65 6227 5731
Singapore City Gallery
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Singapore. If you would like to know how this small island manages to squeeze everything relating to work, live and play that both a city & country needs for its 5.8 million people, this Gallery is a good place to start!
Opened in 1999 and conveniently located within the vicinity of historic districts, the Singapore City Gallery aims to teach visitors how modern Singapore came to be, and how the city planners continue to plan sustainably. With more than 50 interactive exhibits spread over 3 floors, it will also be a wonderful visitor experience to explore Singapore past, present and future, and to “make decisions” to help shape our city and home of the future. The most impressive part is the Central Area Model. With a scale of 1:400, it’s a miniature version of the centre of Singapore in 3D.
Location: 45 Maxwell Rd, The URA Centre, Singapore 069118, Singapore
Open: Monday–Saturday from 9am to 5pm (closed on Sundays)
Red Dot Design Museum
Red Dot Design Museum will make you look at everyday objects in a different light. Taking the mystery out of innovations that make our life easier and exploring some of the more unusual gizmos and gadgets, it is easy to spend an hour or so here.
Although it’s a fairly small gallery, the spectrum of design is large and varied; everything from advertising posters, packaging, computers to household appliances.
Location: 11 Marina Blvd, Singapore 018940, Singapore
Open: Monday–Thursday from 10am to 8pm, Friday–Sunday from 10am to 11pm
Phone: +65 6514 0111
Chinatown Street Market
These busy streets encapsulate all the sights and sounds that visitors expect of Chinatown, with hundreds of stalls selling everything from silk robes to lucky cats. There are plenty of ‘Made in China’ goods on display and lanterns swaying in the breeze above your head. There’s also a fantastic range of street food carts amongst the shopping, with fresh dim sum and crispy duck.
Remember to haggle with a smile if you want the best price. The market is open during the day, but it looks its most picturesque at dusk, with the lights shining brightly and the sound of hawkers tempting you to check out their wares.
Location: 335 Smith Street, Chinatown, Singapore
Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm
Thian Hock Keng Temple
Thian Hock Keng, or the Temple of Heavenly Happiness, is the oldest and probably most interesting Chinese temple in Singapore. Built circa 1820, this Taoist-Buddhist temple was dedicated to Ma Zu Po, the Mother of Heavenly Sages and the protector of sailors. You can find this colourful temple along Telok Ayer Street, in the middle of Chinatown.
Formerly at the waterfront, before Singapore embarked on its land reclamation, was where many sailors and early settlers came to offer thanks for a safe journey by sea. The temple boasts elaborately painted doors, as well as highly-decorated beams and gold-leafed panels.
Location: 158 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068613, Singapore
Open: Daily from 7.30am to 5.30pm
Phone: +65 6423 4616
Hong Lim Park (Speakers Corner)
Hong Lim Park is a small park in the centre of Chinatown that is famous for being the only place in Singapore where you can openly speak your mind. Well, as you long you stick to all the rules, which include: being Singaporean, not mentioning religion and making sure you have told the police you plan to speak.
Protests often take place here too. There’s usually not much going on during the week, although it is a nice spot to relax outside in the shade. Come at the weekends to see the cheery debates.
Location: New Bridge Rd, Singapore 059299, Singapore
This mosque was built in 1827. At that time was just a small building so many people took to calling it the ‘hut mosque’ as its nickname. The present building was erected in the 1850s and went through a major renovation in 1980s.
Location: 192 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068635, Singapore
Phone: +65 6220 6306
Chinatown Heritage Centre
Singapore offers many excellent museums. Visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre if you want to learn more about the rich history of old Chinatown and the life of its migrants in Singapore. Admission is S$15 for adults and S$11 for children (7-12 years of age).
Location: 48 Pagoda St, Singapore 059207, Singapore
Open: Daily from 9am to 8pm
Phone: +65 6221 9556
Chinese Methodist Church
Chinatown is home to many cultural buildings including Singapore’s first Methodist church. You can find the church on Telok Ayer Street, and admire its features such as art deco styling with a Chinese roof.
Sunday worship services at the Chinese Methodist Church are held from 9am, 11am, and 1.30pm – held in English, Hokkien, and Bahasa Indonesia.
Location: 235 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068656, Singapore
Phone: +65 6324 4001
Eu Yan Sang Chinese Medical Hall
As the name suggests, Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall is where most of the Singaporean Chinese community source their traditional medicines. the store was built by Chinese millionaire Eu Tong Sen in 1910 and has become an important centre for the community ever since. Other products sold include Chinese teas and herbs.
Location: 273 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058822, Singapore
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday from 8.30am to 6pm. Wednesday and Friday from 8.30am to 8pm, Saturday from 8.30am to 7.30pm (closed on Sundays)
Phone: +65 6223 5085
G-Max Reverse Bungy Singapore
G-Max Reverse Bungy is Singapore’s very own bungy facility where you can get your dose of adrenaline rush. You can find it at the popular nightlife hub of Clarke Quay. Helpful staff strap you into the capsule while on the ground, which will then catapult you 60 metres into the air at the press of a button.
Location: 3 River Valley Rd, Clarke Quay, Singapore 179024, Singapore
Open: Daily from 5pm until late
Phone: +65 6338 1766
Jamae Mosque is one of the many different holy places to visit in Singapore’s Chinatown area. The mosque was built in the 1830s by Chulia Indians (Muslim merchants and moneylenders from India’s Coromandel Coast). It is considered one of Singapore’s oldest mosques.
Location: 218 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058767, Singapore
Phone: +65 6221 4165
Maxwell Food Centre
Chinatown has a few hawker centres to offer, one being the Maxwell Road Food Centre. It is a fun experience to learn about the original style hawkers food which is not sold around on the streets any more.
The hawker foods are influenced by three main national cuisines, similar to the way Singapore is made up from; the Chinese, Indian and Malay. Many visitors are fascinating with the items offering here such as noodles with dumplings and roast pork, pork rib soup with rice, BBQ stingray with sambal sauce, satay, nasi goreng fried noodles in soya sauce with cockles and eggs. They are usually authentic and inexpensive.
Location: 1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184, Singapore
Open: Daily from 8am to 2am
Phone: +65 6225 5632
Nagore Durgha Shrine
The Nagore Durgha (also referred to as Nagore Dargah) is a major Hindu shrine and landmark on Singapore Chinatown’s Telok Ayer Street. The shrine has a unique blend of classical moulded arches and columns as well as Indian Muslim motifs.
Nagore Durgha was built by Muslim immigrants from southern India and dates back to 1828, making it one of Singapore’s important historical landmarks. You can easily find it at the corner of Telok Ayer Street and Boon Tat Street.
Location: 140 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068604, Singapore
Phone: +65 6256 8188