Singapore’s historic Chinatown is a bustling mix of old and new, filled with traditional shops and markets as well as cool stores and cafes.
Between the charming shophouses, amongst the piquant aromas of street food and alongside the grand prayer calls from temples, you’ll find plenty in Chinatown the kids will fawn over, too.
The Tintin Shop
Even if you’re not a fan, there’s more than enough to marvel at in this gift and novelty store devoted to the timeless Belgian comic book series. Shelves are stocked with figurines, plush toys, and busts of the beloved characters from the books, while posters occupy every inch of wall space. You can even bring home — or at least take a photo of — a life-sized statue of Captain Haddock. Don’t forget to gawk at the large glass display cabinet at the back of the space. It houses the owner’s personal collection of ultra-rare Tintin memorabilia.
The Tintin Shop is located at 28 Pagoda Street.
Opening hours: Sun-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri & Sat 10am-10pm.
Littered with Books
How do you spark the love of reading in your little ones? Reading books with lots of photos in them is one way, and you’ll find plenty of those in this charming two-storey bookshop. The children’s section is on the first level, where you’ll find plenty of Enid Blyton classics and new editions of Carol Ann Duffy alike. But head upstairs, and you can browse your titles while lounging on rugs or in plush armchairs. The colourful mobiles, soft toys, and quirky trinkets that comprise the décor here will keep even the antsiest child occupied.
Littered with Books is located at 20 Duxton Road.
Opening hours: Mon-Thu 12-8pm, Fri 12-9pm, Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-8pm.
Singapore City Gallery
City planning is certainly not child’s play, but props to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for making the topic more fun than it actually sounds. The Singapore City Gallery, housed in the URA headquarters, lets visitors embark on a journey filled with interactive maps, videos, and photos that tell the story of the Little Red Dot’s evolution from colonial settlement into global powerhouse. The intricate wooden models of the city’s skyscrapers, arranged on an aerial map of Singapore, give kids a bird’s-eye view of the island — and the chance to pretend they’re Godzilla.
Singapore City Gallery is located at 45 Maxwell Road.
Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily, except Sunday.
Don’t just bring back memories of local kopitiam (a traditional coffee shop) fare — learn how to replicate those dishes at home with Food Playground’s Cultural Cooking Classes. Designed so the whole family (yes, even the kids) can try their hand at mastering the wok, each three-hour class runs through the basics of preparing laksa, satay, chicken rice or other Singaporean favourites. In a city where even the hawkers are awarded Michelin stars, eating and cooking like a local is the best, and most delicious, way to experience the culture.
Food Playground is located at 24 Sago Street.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat 9.30am-12.30pm, closed on Sunday.
Naumi Liora Hotel
With its Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese) façade painted a deep orange, and featuring distinct architectural touches from the pre-war era, this boutique hotel is one of the island’s most charming. The guest rooms are as beautifully appointed, with works of art and quirky knick-knacks giving the little ones plenty to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at while you recline in one of the designer armchairs. Naumi Liora’s location is perhaps its strongest suit: it is a few minutes’ stroll away to several tourist attractions, including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple.
Naumi Liora Hotel is located at 55 Keong Saik Road.
Chinatown Heritage Centre
Your ship has just docked, you disembark and lose yourself in a bustle of labourers, hawkers, and tradesmen of all creeds and colours. A common scene of Singapore’s early days, and one that you can experience for yourself here. The Chinatown Heritage Centre recreates the interiors of a shophouse circa 1950s, where simple furniture, cherished objects from the homeland and tools used in bygone trades speak volumes of these pioneers’ hopes and dreams.
Chinatown Heritage Centre is located at 48 Pagoda Street.
Opening hours: 9am-8pm daily.