Once an enclave for Singapore’s Chinese immigrant population, the Chinatown of today is much-beloved for its blend of old and new, with historic temples and traditional medicinal halls sitting alongside bold new bars and trendy lifestyle shops.

You’ll be able to spend an entire day exploring this vibrant district, which encompasses the neighbourhoods of Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Pasoh, Kreta Ayer and Telok Ayer. Whether you’re exploring century-old temples or making new friends at hip watering holes, there’s always a new experience to be had in Chinatown.

A tapestry of cultural diversity

Gain insights into Singapore’s rich, multi-ethnic culture by visiting some of the country’s most fascinating places of worship, located in the heart of Chinatown. This age-old precinct is home to myriad different cultures and is the only Chinatown in the world to boast a Buddhist temple, a mosque and a Hindu temple along a single street.

Culture vultures looking to immerse themselves in Buddhism’s rich art and history should pay a visit to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. The temple’s interior is architecturally designed in the form of a mandala, a central concept in Buddhist and Hindu spirituality that represents universal connection. You’ll be able to find moments of reprieve and tranquillity at the temple’s rooftop garden with its beautiful pagoda.

External facade of Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown

From the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, take a short jaunt down South Bridge Road, and keep an eye out for Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. While the statue of this temple’s patron deity is only unveiled on special occasions, the temple’s interior is a wealth of murals and shrines, dedicated to gods like Shiva and Durga.

Located just a stone’s throw away on Mosque Street is Masjid Jamae, built as a place of worship for Chinatown’s Tamil Muslim population. Colloquially referred to as Periya Palli (‘Big Mosque’ in Tamil), the mosque’s iconic architectural style makes it a must-see for urban explorers.

A taste of old and new
A family enjoying food at Chinatown Food Street Singapore

Whether you’re a foodie exploring the traditional flavours of a country or a gourmand who loves fusion and experimentation, Chinatown’s diverse food offerings are certain to sate your appetite.

To experience Singapore’s multi-ethnic culinary traditions, make Chinatown Food Street your first stop. This open-air stretch of eateries provides visiting foodies a smorgasbord of well-loved Singaporean hawker food. Dishes here range from char kway teow (stir-fried rice noodles in dark soya sauce) and orh luak (fried oyster omelette) to roast duck and South Indian curries.

A beetroot dish by Meta Singapore

Photo by Meta Singapore

Foodies looking for behind-the-scenes insight into the preparation of Japanese dishes should visit Meta at Keong Saik Road. French fare meets Asian influences at this Michelin-starred restaurant, with dishes including grilled langoustine seasoned with seaweed, and Japanese seabass served with razor clams and chorizo. Visitors should reserve a seat at the counter if they’d like to watch the chefs at work.

A noodle story, Michelin Bib-Gourmand Singapore-style Ramen

Alternatively, lovers of culinary invention should visit A Noodle Story, an innovative hawker stall at Amoy Street Food Centre. The establishment draws on local flavours to bring a twist to its ramen dishes, and retained its Michelin Bib Gourmand award in 2018.

Tipples and Bar Talk
Patrons enjoying drinks at Native bar Singapore

Besides being home to culture and tradition, Chinatown is also a neighbourhood filled with a plethora of bustling bars where you can socialise over a tipple.

To discover cocktails inspired by Asia’s diverse flavours, order a drink at Native in Telok Ayer. Ranked 13th on the 2018 World’s 50 Best Bars list, the drinks are made from locally foraged produce and exotic ingredients, which make them great conversation starters. Or pay a visit to Flagship in Bukit Pasoh, an unpretentious watering hole that serves up both whisky-based cocktails and hard rock vibes. Gibson—its sister bar—is located on the second floor of the same building, and their unconventional cocktails have earned them a spot on the 2018 list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

Movie aficionados looking to share silver screen insights can catch a movie at The Screening Room in the evening. As a bar that doubles up as a mini cinema, this drinking establishment along Ann Siang Road gives socialisers a chance to make new friends over a tipple, enjoy the view from the rooftop bar, or head down to the mini-cinema to enjoy a cult classic film.