Take a stroll through the colourful enclaves of Katong-Joo Chiat, home to hipster cafés, historical shophouses and vibrant culture.
One of Singapore’s liveliest neighbourhoods, Katong-Joo Chiat is a heady blend of old and new. Family businesses and quaint shophouses sit alongside cool cafés, hip boutiques and specialty stores. Take a walking tour through this charming enclave to discover a melting pot of tradition and modernity.
1. Cat Socrates
Upon stepping into 1 Cat Socrates, you’ll be greeted by the welcoming meows of the store’s in-house cat, Zoo-zoo. As its name suggests, this charming store stocks a hotchpotch of feline-related gifts, cutlery and home décor items.
Many of the knick-knacks here are designed by artists from Singapore and across Asia, making it a great way to express your love for local and regional creativity. Be sure to check out their Peranakan*-themed postcards, floor mats and books if you’re looking to bring home a small piece of nonya (a term specifically referring to Peranakan women but also a general reference to the culture at large) culture.
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
2. Sinpopo Brand
Fuel up for the day by sampling mouth-watering local delicacies with a Western twist at 2 Sinpopo Brand. With its scissor-grill gates and retro-themed menu, the store exudes old school vibes, making it a great way to experience Singapore’s heritage and traditional cuisine in air-conditioned surroundings.
Best-selling dishes include the har jeong kai (deep-fried prawn paste chicken) wings, tacos stuffed with beef rendang (braised meat cooked in coconut milk and spices) and their durian-flavoured crème brulee.
3. Rumah Bebe
Next, head to 3 Rumah Bebe, located on the street adjacent to Sinpopo Brand. This heritage site is impossible to miss with its gilded gates, turquoise storefront and pristinely detailed Peranakan tiles.
Besides its trove of kebayas (a traditional blouse-dress incorporating Malay and Chinese motifs), beaded shoes and other Peranakan wares, the establishment also offers a whole range of activities that are bound to inspire and teach you the fundamentals of Peranakan craftsmanship.
Beading—a key tradition that involves threading apparel with hundreds of tiny, multicoloured beads to form intricate patterns—is just one of the many skills taught here.
4. Ambling Turtle
Before exploring the rest of the neighbourhood, take reprieve from the midday heat at 4 Ambling Turtle.
The café takes its whimsical name from the neighbourhood’s history, with Katong being the name for an extinct species of sea turtle.
If you’re feeling peckish, dig into the dishes on their menu. The comfort food here includes locally-inspired comfort food like croissants stuffed with curry chicken and pandan-infused buttermilk waffles topped with a coconut soft serve and palm sugar.
5. Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple
Besides being a Peranakan enclave, Katong-Joo Chiat is also home to various other strands of Singapore’s rich cultural tapestry.
Just a stone’s throw away Ambling Turtle lies Singapore’s second-oldest Hindu temple—5 Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple.
First established in the 19th century, the temple was given a new lease of life after being rebuilt in 2003. The present structure was conceived by Chinese architect Priscilla Chow, and is a testament to Singapore’s diverse multicultural landscape.
Culture lovers can find a new form of artistry to express their inspired natures at the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Music & Dance Academy. Housed with the temple, the school teaches the fundamentals of Bharatanatyam dance, as well as various traditional Indian instruments.
6. Awfully Chocolate Bakery & Cafe
Originally founded in 1998 as an indie bakery selling just one item (their signature All Chocolate Cake), Awfully Chocolate has since expanded into a popular chain of shops, cafés and restaurants.
6 Awfully Chocolate Bakery & Cafe—the brand’s flagship store—serves up a whole range of fresh bakes and decadent desserts. Indulge in a slice of their All Chocolate Cake or Nutella Tart, which you can pair with a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream.
7. Iconic shophouses at Koon Seng Road
Take your Instagram game to the next level with the iconic shophouses along 7 Koon Seng Road. Originally built in the 1920s, these pastel-coloured structures were once inhabited by a diverse community, including the Peranakan Chinese.
Known to feature some of Singapore’s prettiest houses, this street has attracted an international audience, and you may get the chance to rub shoulders with other photographers and tourists alike while you’re there. The pastel hues and intricate detailing of each house makes this an ideal setting to feed your Instagram.
8. Kim Choo Kueh Chang
Don’t leave Katong-Joo Chiat empty-handed: bring morsels of Peranakan culture back with you from 8 Kim Choo Kueh Chang. Since 1945, this beloved establishment has been serving up chewy rice dumplings—a staple dish in Peranakan culture.
Those looking for a more long-lasting keepsake to wrap this tour up can check out their plethora of batik (a cloth patterning technique of wax-resisting dyeing practised widely throughout Southeast Asia and the East) fabrics.
These fabrics can be customised into a sarong (a length of fabric tied around the waist, traditionally worn in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent) of your own. There are also free kebaya (a light, loose tunic worn by women in Malaysia, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries) fitting sessions.