Get the most out of Chinatown in just four hours
You’re done with business and have half a day free before your flight out of Singapore. Instead of staying put in your hotel room, head to historic Chinatown and explore Singapore’s unique Chinese heritage in all its glorious forms – food, architecture, history, and more! To cover all the bases on your whistle-stop tour, here’s a list of recommended spots for you to check out.
Spend an hour tracing the footsteps of Singapore’s early Chinese pioneers
When Singapore was still a British colony, Chinatown was home to the island’s early Chinese immigrants who arrived from Southern China by sea. To get a glimpse into their daily lives, stop by the Chinatown Heritage Centre at 48 Pagoda Street.
Located within three beautifully preserved shophouses, the heritage centre is an interactive museum that recreates the lives of Chinese migrants with painstaking attention to detail. Inside the museum, visitors can experience the simple, almost spartan, lives of these early migrants, who lived and toiled for a meagre living. Measuring just 8ft by 8ft, the cubicles were reconstructed from memory of those who had lived in such cramped quarters previously, along with the objects inside, which together tell a story of love, loss, sacrifice and longing.
Dig into delicious local fare (approximately one hour)
In Singapore, it is easy to eat well and not bust your budget. After all, the city-state boasts the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred eatery, located close to Chinatown Heritage Centre, at 78 Smith Street. For the price of a burger meal, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle will dish up tender chicken and springy noodles dressed in an aromatic sauce.
For dessert, stroll around the corner to Mei Heong Yuan Dessert at 63 Temple Street. This stall is famous for serving up a mix of delicious hot and cold desserts. For a traditional sweet treat, try the Almond with Egg White. If beating the heat is what you’re after, cool off with a Banana Chocolate Snow Ice.
Take an hour to visit beautiful places of worship
No trip to Chinatown is complete without a stop (or more) at the precinct’s many temples. For starters, head for the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum on 288 South Bridge Road.
It might not be the oldest place of worship in Chinatown, but it’s certainly the most beautiful – the exquisitely-designed exterior and bold, striking colours have been wowing visitors since 2007. The highlight of this temple is the Sacred Light Hall on the fourth floor, which contains the Buddha’s left canine tooth, housed within a stupa made with 320 kilograms of gold.
When you’re done admiring the Buddhist relics, walk to neighbouring 244 South Bridge Road, where you’ll find Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. Built in 1827 by South Indian immigrants, the Sri Mariamman Temple is dedicated to the worship of Mariamman, a goddess known for curing diseases. The temple’s most instantly-recognisable feature is the gopuram or entrance tower, which contains five tiers of looming sculptures.
Further up and down the street are the Jamae mosque, one of Singapore’s earliest Muslim mosques, and Fairfield Methodist Church, a prominent church housed in a former cinema. Within this short stretch of road, one can visit places of worship of the four major religions in Singapore, bearing testimony to the multiethnic, multicultural harmony of the society here.