Lined with pastel-hued shophouses, traditional eateries and hip boutiques, Joo Chiat/Katong is one of Singapore’s most iconic and storied neighbourhoods. Much of the district’s colourful charm from its days as a Peranakan (Straits-born people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage) enclave has been retained, yet fresh tenants have injected a dose of cool into the cobweb of five-foot ways and narrow lanes. To find out more about the Peranakan community, hop on this walking trail through Joo Chiat/Katong that’s perfect for the whole family.
All venues are near the Eunos MRT station
Relive the 1950s with old-school snacks and coffee
1 Chin Mee Chin Confectionery
Begin the day by fuelling up at Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, a Hainanese eatery that specialises in traditional snacks such as kaya (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs) toast, cream puffs and muffins, as well as coffee that’s made the old-school way: with a sock. The small bites may look humble, but they taste as handmade and authentic as anything that comes out of grandma’s oven. Even the eatery’s interiors are a throwback to a bygone decade. The mosaic floor tiles, pencil leg tables, wooden chairs and no-frills décor make for a quaint backdrop to snap that perfect Instagram shot.
Revive traditional Peranakan crafts
2 Rumah Bebe
The turquoise façade, gold-gilded doors and intricate Peranakan tiles that mark Rumah Bebe’s entrance make the heritage boutique impossible to miss. Sign up for the beading classes here and you’ll walk away a Peranakan craftsman. Beading is a proud artistic tradition of the community that involves embroidering hundreds of tiny, coloured beads onto shoes, bags and other accessories—and you’ll have the expert hands of owner Bebe Seet to guide you. Besides these workshops, bring home a slice of the culture with Rumah Bebe’s wide range of kebaya (traditional Malay dresses) and homeware.
Sift through records and show off your music cred
3 Choice Cuts Goods + Coffee
After your traditional Peranakan experience, head to Choice Cuts Goods + Coffee, just around the corner from Rumah Bebe, for some modern fun. The part-café, part-record store stocks crates of funk and soul vinyl records that you can rummage through, but if you’re more adventurous, you can flaunt your music cred with a ‘listening session’ that lets you be a DJ for the day. On Sunday afternoons, Choice Cuts hands over the reins to other selectors as they spin an eclectic repertoire of tunes.
Immerse yourself in local Hindu culture
4 Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple
A short stroll away from Choice Cuts brings you back to tradition—in this case Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple. That the Hindu temple is smack in the middle of a Peranakan enclave only speaks of the city’s diversity: You’ll find its majestic gold-gilded cupolas the perfect counterpoint to the neighbourhood’s low-slung shophouses and intricate Peranakan motifs. The best time to visit is in the early mornings or after 5.30pm, as those are when the prayers are in full swing. The temple is also home to the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Music & Dance Academy, where you can flex your chops while learning traditional Bharatanatyam dance or Indian instruments.
Snap postcard-perfect photographs
5 Koon Seng Road
Get your cameras ready and head northwards from the temple to the corner of Tembeling and Koon Seng Roads. Along the stretch, you’ll find some of Singapore’s prettiest heritage shophouses. The ones here are painted in elegant pastel hues, and bear reliefs, motifs and other intricate flourishes upon their façades. After admiring and learning about their traditional architectural styles, pose for a stunning photo to show off to your friends and family back home.
Tuck into authentic Peranakan nosh
6 Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant
By now your stomach’s probably rumbling. And what better way to complement heritage Peranakan architecture than with authentic food from the community? Guan Hoe Soon is Singapore’s oldest Peranakan restaurant, having whipped up authentic nonya dishes since 1953. Peranakan cuisine is fiery, complex and brimming with Chinese and Malay flavours—to really experience the community’s traditions through your taste buds, order the ayam buah keluak (chicken cooked with black nuts that are indigenous to Southeast Asia) and the babi pongteh (stewed pork belly).
Learn everything you need to know about the Peranakans
7 The Intan
You’ve sampled their food, practised their handicraft and admired their aesthetics—so dedicate the final stop of your trail to The Intan, a home-museum that will fill in all the other gaps about Peranakan culture. Owner Alvin Yapp is a true-blue Peranakan who has devoted his life to documenting the traditions and artefacts of his community, and The Intan is a treasure trove in that regard. From furniture to tiffin carriers to jewellery, everything in the museum is an antique with stories to tell, which Alvin will gladly do.