A district that blends hip modernity with old-world heritage, Kampong Gelam’s charms are self-evident to the first-time visitor—from the majesty of the Sultan Mosque to the mural-bedecked byway of Haji Lane.
But even if you’re on a repeat visit, there’s still a whole lot to experience in the neighbourhood. Here’s the lowdown on the new activities, hidden troves and exclusive establishments you may have missed on your last trip.
Arts and culture
Malay Art Gallery
Looking to take home an authentic part of Singaporean culture? Go hunting for this charming art gallery, using the majestic golden domes of Sultan Mosque as a landmark.
Located in close proximity to the district’s most iconic place of worship, this quaint space is home to beautiful artefacts, from batik (a cloth patterning technique of wax-resisting dyeing practised widely throughout Southeast Asia and the East) textiles to traditional trinkets. The shop also houses a lovingly-maintained collection of kris (dagger with a distinct, wavy blade), weapons that were traditionally used in both religious ceremony and warfare throughout the Malay Archipelago.
Malay Art Gallery. 31 Bussorah Street, Singapore 199449. +65 6294 8051.
Mon-Sat 10am-7pm; Sun noon-7pm.
While Kampong Gelam is known for its rich history and traditional culture, it’s also locally known to be a melting pot of modern art and creative expression.
Gelam Gallery—Singapore’s first outdoor art gallery — is testament to this artistic diversity. Art lovers should drop by the back alleys of Muscat Street, which is now home to 30 works of art by local and international artists.
Gain a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of graffiti by admiring the work of local pioneer Slacsatu, and admire the vivid beauty of Helene Le Chatelier’s modernist ink artwork. No matter your tastes, you’re bound to find a piece that inspires.
Entrance to the Gelam Gallery is located at Muscat Street, perpendicular to Baghdad Street, Singapore. +65 6292 9329.
Aliwal Arts Centre
If you’re inspired by all things artsy, be sure to drop by this multidisciplinary arts hub. The arts centre is famous for championing Singapore’s budding creatives, from traditional Chinese theatre troupes to musicians inspired by traditional Malay percussion.
Depending on the month you’re visiting, you could find yourself participating in African dance music workshops or watching a play that delves into the communal nature of Singapore’s hawker culture.
The Centre also holds an annual urban art festival in January which merges traditional art with street culture in an intoxicating blend.
Aliwal Arts Centre. 28 Aliwal Street, Singapore 199918. +65 6435 0131.
For more details on performances and events, click here.
Hip haunts and hangouts
The Vintage Camera’s Museum
The perfect hangout location for social media mavens and lovers of old-school culture alike, this charming museum is home to over 1,000 different cameras that hearken back to yesteryear.
The building itself is modelled after an old-school camera, making it a great place to snap a selfie with your friends.
If you’ve always wanted to learn about the history of photography before the smartphone-only phenomena, the collection here is bound to slake your curiosity. Items of interest here include a gigantic, 6-metre long Mammoth camera, and cameras that were mounted on pigeons during World Wars I and II.
The Vintage Camera’s Museum. 8C & 8D Jalan Kledek, Singapore 199263. +65 6291 2278.
Despite its name, you’re likely to have more than just a looksee at this charming reading room and tea salon.
This charming space is a great hangout spot for bookworms and visitors looking to kick back and relax in the heart of the city. Peruse their shelves of art tomes, indie magazines and local titles, while enjoying a signature tea pairing.
Unlike other cafes, there’s no WiFi here, encouraging one to disconnect from social media and connect with the old school paperback instead. That being said, feel free to whip out your phones to snap a photo of their Instagram-worthy interior.
Looksee Looksee. 267 Beach Road Level 1, Singapore 199545. +65 6338 8035.
Mon & Tue, Thu & Fri 11am-5pm.
13% Gastro Wine
To expand your palate with wine-tasting in an unpretentious environment, be sure to drop by 13% Gastro Wine on Aliwal Street. Located on the second floor of a beautiful shophouse, this hidden gem boasts a selection of wine from Spain, France and other parts of Europe.
The vintages here are specially handpicked by the team behind the space, who will be happy to dish out choice knowledge for budding wine connoisseurs. Peckish visitors can pair their wines with a selection of European and Mediterranean dishes, ranging from Iberico pork to camembert cheese.
13% Gastro Wine. 14 Aliwal Street Level 2, Singapore 199907. +65 6291 6816.
Good Luck Beer House
Good vibes abound at this cosy, 25-seater craft beer house along Haji Lane. Half the fun in drinking is indulging in the company, and outgoing extroverts are bound to find a drinking buddy or two at this craft brewhouse.
The establishment has a fantastic range of craft beers, with a dozen on tap every night of the week. These range from refreshing IPAs and Pale Ales to exotic smoked beers and stouts—Feel free to ask for a sample before ordering!
Good Luck Beer House. 9 Haji Lane, Singapore 189202. +65 6391 9942.