Chinatown is a melting pot of cultures and traditions. Here, the chanting of sutras and the muezzin’s call to prayer blend together in seamless harmony, and hip new enterprises sit alongside traditional emporiums—selling everything from artisanal teas to Taoist effigies.
Take a stroll through the district’s narrow alleys and winding streets, and you’re bound to find inspiring sights, sounds and activities. Here’s a small sample of Chinatown’s cultural treasures.
Temples and tradition
Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre
Built by Muslims from South India who migrated to Singapore in the 19th century, the national monument houses exhibits, artefacts and a gallery that focuses on the history of Singapore’s Indian-Muslim community.
Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre. 140 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068604. +65 8591 5724.
Mon-Fri 10am-5.30pm; Sat 9am-1pm.
Cundhi Gong Temple
Nestled between two shophouses along Keong Saik Road, Cundhi Temple is easy to overlook. Nonetheless, this tranquil place of worship holds fascinating insights into Chinese spiritual beliefs and traditional architecture.
Dedicated to Cundhi Gong, a bodhisattva venerated in Mahayana Buddhism, this temple is rich with unique architectural details that incorporate both Eastern and Western influences. The interior and exterior columns of the temple possess a mix of Chinese and European features, while the circular windows are a mix of traditional and modern styles.
Cundhi Gong Temple. 13 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089120.
NUS Baba House
Take a step back in time, and gain inspiration from the past at the NUS Baba House. Located within a traditional townhouse that dates back to the 1890s, this establishment is now a repository of Peranakan* culture and heritage. Visitors will be able to learn about the preservation of local cultures through the establishment’s talks, programmes and collection of artefacts. Visits are by appointment only, and you’ll be able to take a tour or explore the site at your leisure.
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
NUS Baba House. 157 Neil Road, Singapore 088883. +65 6227 5731.
By appointment only, book your visit here.
Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple
Built in 1925, and dedicated to Ganesha—the elephant-headed Hindu god of learning and the removal of obstacles—the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple is a bustling place of worship that’s well worth a visit for travellers inspired by religious practices and customs.
A testament to Singapore’s multicultural diversity, the devotees of this temple come from various races and walks of life. Prayer sessions commence at 7.30am every day, and visitors from all faiths are welcome to the temple, although they should refrain from entering the inner sanctum or touching the statues.
If you’re visiting on Thursday to Sunday, you’ll be able to observe worshippers, engaging in the act of pragaram (circling the temple’s inner sanctum), as a mark of their faith.
Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple. 73 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089167. +65 6221 4853.
Daily 7.30am-noon, 5.30pm-8.30pm.
Craftsmanship and creative vibes
Chinatown’s many restaurants and purveyors of food offer more than just sublime tastes—they often provide windows into culture and tradition. To hone your skills, pay a visit to Tea Chapter, where you’ll learn about various elements of traditional Chinese tea creation. You’ll also gain a deeper appreciation of Chinese tea culture, with deep dives into the history, philosophy and different strains of tea.
Tea Chapter. 9 Neil Road, Singapore 088808. +65 6226 1175.
Mon-Thu & Sun 11am-9pm; Fri & Sat 11am-10.30pm.
Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop
Despite its name, Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop creates effigies of deities from the Taoist traditions. The proprietors of this family-run establishment have been in the business of carving religious icons for over 120 years, and their dedication to their painstaking craft is bound to inspire.
You can embark on a two-hour group session that will deepen your understanding of Chinese mythologies and spiritual practices, and give you the opportunity to sketch, thread and plate the parts of a figurine for yourself.
Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop. 35 Neil Road, Singapore 088821. +65 6221 1042.
The Potters’ Guilt
Straddling the lines between art and utility, pottery is a great way to deepen both creativity and craftmanship. The Potters’ Guilt—located atop Pearl’s Hill Terrace—is a tranquil studio dedicated to the creation of ceramics.
While the studio does offer comprehensive, 8-week long courses, we recommend signing up for their Pottery-Do-It-All course, which offers a 3-hour introductory session to the world of pottery.
The Potters’ Guilt. 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace #01-03, Singapore 168976.
Book your pottery course here.
Interactions to inspire
The Working Capitol
Looking to engage in dialogue and discussion with entrepreneurs, creators and other insomniacs? Pay a visit to The Working Capitol, a co-working space in the neighbourhood of Keong Saik. Soak in the buzzing energy, rub shoulders with local creatives over a cup of coffee at 1KS by Park Bench Deli and check out the space’s events calendar for monthly public talks and events.
If you’re a fan of street art, be sure to hunt for the arresting wall mural—painted by dynamic local art duo RIPPLE ROOT—that adorns the outside of the building.
The Working Capitol. 1 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089109. +65 6805 4050.
Telok Ayer Arts Club
If you’re hunting for a collaborator to help you accomplish your latest creative endeavour, Telok Ayer Arts Club is your best bet. Located in the bustling neighbourhood of Telok Ayer, the space is a hotbed of creativity, with a host of performances, exhibitions and installations from some of our island’s most idiosyncratic minds.
Telok Ayer Arts Club. 2 McCallum Street, Singapore 069043. +65 6221 0712.
Chinatown’s sheer array of activities may be overwhelming for new visitors. To get your bearing and experience the district’s culture, food and shopping experiences, check out our 7-hour itinerary.