Experience the heart and heritage of Tiong Bahru in 4 hours
Whether you’re seeking a quick sojourn in between business meetings or looking for dining options after attending a long conference, Tiong Bahru is the place to go to take in a slice of the local culture, people and heritage.
Just 10 minutes away from the city centre is one of Singapore’s most vibrant neighbourhoods – Tiong Bahru.
Singapore’s first post-war public housing project, Tiong Bahru holds significant cultural, architectural and heritage value. Locals also flock to the estate for its eclectic range of hawker stalls, cafes, restaurants, bars, spas, and boutiques, which have earned Tiong Bahru its reputation as one of Singapore’s trendiest neighbourhoods.
Savour some of Singapore’s best local food (1 hour)
Since it opened in 1955, the Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre has been a magnet for local and foreign foodies alike, due to its vast array of sumptuous local fare.
One of the most popular local favourites to try at the food centre is the chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes) from Jian Bo Shui Kueh, which dates back to 1958. Serving a simple yet satisfying platter of rice cakes topped with chye poh (preserved radish) and sambal chili paste, the food stall has become synonymous with the area due to its heritage and the dish’s unique flavour.
Another popular stall is Tiong Bahru Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted, which draws long queues for its sio bak (crispy roast pork belly). To wash it all down, 238 Coffee delivers an especially aromatic blend of Singapore-style kopi (coffee), drawing long queues despite stiff competition from the other kopi stalls in the area.
Get lost amongst the preserved shophouses and eclectic shops (1 hour)
A number of the shophouses lining Tiong Bahru’s streets date back to nearly a century ago. Their architecture incorporates elements from a mélange of cultures – think eastern exoticism meets western grandeur. Conservation efforts have turned these old buildings into Art-Deco destinations, housing all kinds of retail outlets.
For the artsy, step into Grey Projects to experience an art gallery that is also a workspace, studio and library for creative endeavours. Then there is Degios Art, run by former banker turned art connoisseur Giuseppe de Giosa, with a wide collection of Asian art pieces and antiquities.
Bookworms can visit Books Actually, a tiny and quaint independent bookstore filled to the brim with shelves of local works, classics and contemporary literature. And if you’re on the hunt for some vinyls, Curated Records has over 1,000 records for you to comb through.
Fashionistas looking to create a one-of-a-kind look should pop by Nana & Bird – which carries a curated collection of clothing, bags and accessories from independent designers – and Marilyn Tan Jewellery, home to one of Singapore’s top jewellery designers.
Have a spiritual experience while taking a heritage trail (1 hour)
Tiong Bahru was originally a burial ground. Its name is a combination of two languages – “Tiong” meaning “to die” in Hokkien, while “Bahru” is Malay for “new”.
The grave of a prominent Singaporean philanthropist, Tan Tock Seng, still stands in Tiong Bahru today. He was famous for contributing money to build a hospital for the poor back in the mid-1800s. That hospital still stands and has been bearing Tan’s name for more than 150 years later.
Another prominent spot in Tiong Bahru is the Qi Tian Gong Temple, which is dedicated to the Chinese Monkey God Sun Wukong. Tracing its humble origins in a small attap thatched roof hut in the 1920s, the temple now draws worshippers and the curious alike, particularly on Wukong’s birthday, when mediums take part in ancient rituals to invoke his spirit.
If you don’t have enough time to take in all of Tiong Bahru’s heritage sites such as Singapore’s last remaining civilian air raid shelter, there are apps and online resources that allow you to take a virtual tour of the area.