Traditional glower garlands draped outside a shopfront for sale

You may not know that Little India once had a racecourse, cattle herders and brick kilns.

But while these places and people are gone, time stands still in pockets of this historic district.

Olden-day trades sit next to newer businesses: flower-garland vendors, modern eateries, boutique hotels, as well as arts groups.

A colourful past
Street view of a bustling and vibrant Little India

In the 1840s, Europeans lived here mainly for the racecourse, where they met and mingled.

When cattle trading took root, it became a mostly Indian trade as traders hired Indian migrant workers. Certain goods and services took off, and mosques and Hindu temples were built.

Buzzing culture

Little India today is one of Singapore’s most vibrant districts. As you walk down Serangoon Road and neighbouring streets, explore their mix of Hindu and Chinese temples, mosques and churches.

Fill your tummy with South Indian vegetarian food, North Indian tandoori dishes and local fare like roti prata (round pancakes) and teh tarik (pulled tea in Malay). Try to spot the brewers ‘pull’ the hot milk tea—it’s amazing showmanship.

Don’t forget to shop. The 24-hour shopping mall Mustafa Centre offers everything from electronics to groceries, or take your pick from open-air Tekka Centre, goldsmith shops and sari stores.

With its close proximity to the city and a bohemian vibe, many artists also call Little India home.

Do visit during Deepavali (usually October or November) and Pongal (mid-January)—the joyous celebrations are wonderful to observe.