So you’ve stumbled onto an enclave of restaurants and bars in the middle of the city. Except that it’s quite different from the usual mall or restored shophouses.

Formerly a girls school known as the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School, CHIJMES (pronounced ‘chimes’) harks back to a bygone age. While school is no longer in session, this lifestyle complex’s green lawns, marble waterfalls, courtyards and neoclassical buildings makes it a great spot to unwind.

Once a school and chapel
Exterior of Caldwell House at CHIJMES

Photo by Sanjay Kewlani –

CHIJMES began with one building—Caldwell House—which was designed by prominent colonial architect George Coleman (who also designed Old Parliament House) as a home for a Senior Magistrate’s clerk.

The property was bought over by Father Beurel in 1853, in addition to surrounding parcels of land, for the purpose of building a girls’ school. Singapore’s St Nicholas Girls' School was established within this compound, alongside an orphanage for children and a boarding house.

Other structures slowly sprung up around Caldwell House, most notably a grand Anglo-French Gothic chapel in 1904. One of the most elaborate places of worship in Singapore, its intricate plasterwork, wall frescoes and Belgian stained glass windows still inspire wonder today.

Peaceful oasis
Exterior view of CHIJMES

Photo by Sanjay Kewlani –

Check out the capitals at the top of each chapel column—each one bears a unique impression of tropical flora or birds.

The complex also used to house an orphanage. Look out for The Gate of Hope, which still stands on Victoria Street, where unwanted babies were left for the nuns to take care of.

In the daytime, CHIJMES retains a sense of tranquillity and harmony, making it a peaceful oasis amid the bustle of the city. At night, its exciting dining and nightlife options spring to life, with buzzing bars that offer live music and restaurants serving up everything from Spanish fare to Indian delicacies.