The evening bar crowd along Haji Lane

Kampong Gelam is an eclectic blend of history and culture with a trendy lifestyle scene. Start from the landmark Sultan Mosque, and explore the many side streets of this vibrant district.

A Malay enclave
Friends souvenir shopping in a store along Arab Street

Kampong Gelam has its origins as a thriving port town and is Singapore's oldest urban quarter. In Malay, the word kampong means "compound", while "gelam" is often attributed to the long-leaved paperbark tree, which was commonly found in the area and used for boat-making, medicine and even as a seasoning for food.

In 1822, Sir Stamford Raffles allocated the area to the Malay, Arab and Bugis communities. The area subsequently became one of the seats of Malay royalty in Singapore.

Delights aplenty

Today, the grounds of the Istana (palace) is home to the Malay Heritage Centre, where you’ll get many insights into Malay history and culture.

You’ll love the culinary delights here, from local delicacies such as nasi padang (steamed rice served with various dishes) and Malay kueh (bite-sized desserts) to Middle Eastern, Japanese, Swedish and even Mexican fare.

Shopaholics, head to colourful Haji Lane—a row of multi-label stores, quirky boutiques as well as hip bars and cafes. Or pick up traditional wares such as Persian carpets, kebaya (traditional nonya dress) dresses and handmade perfumes from Arab Street and Bussorah Street.

Kampong Gelam truly comes alive during Ramadan (Muslim fasting month) leading up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Join in the iftar (breaking of fast) in the evenings, or stroll through the bustling night markets.