Chinatown in Singapore is a sharp contrast to the rest of the city, with low rise buildings and culture bursting out onto the streets, from the fragrant smells of traditional cuisine to the bold red and gold tones that run through the neighbourhood. This is an area that’s proud of its heritage, and has it very much on display. There are ornate Chinese, Buddhist and Hindu temples, museums galore and plenty of opportunities to soak up the bustling streets lined with old shophouses. Here’s our list of the Top 12 Things to Do in Chinatown Singapore.
- The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
One of the top 10 things to do in chinatown singapore is visiting this remarkable four-story temple. When entering the gate, you’ll immediately notice the stunning main hall with its high ceiling. The bell tower and drum tower are on the same floor. However, the main focus for most visitors is the solid gold two-metre stupa on the fourth floor which is the place where the sacred relic is kept. Continuing up to the roof, there is a pagoda that has a large prayer wheel. The temple is built in a style based on the Buddhist mandala and integrated with the Buddhism of the Tang dynasty.
- Sri Mariamman Temple
The oldest shrine in Singapore – Sri Mariamman Temple is one of the most prominent places of worship for Tamil Hindus in the country. It was built to honour Goddess Mariamman – the deity of disease and protection. Originally erected by Naraina Pillai – an Indian trader from Penang – in 1827, the temple was modified to its present structure in 1862, although it has undergone several renovations since. Apart from being a place of worship, the temple has also acted as an asylum for new immigrants that belong to South Indian Tamil Hindu community.
- Pinnace @ Duxton Skybridge:
There are plenty of sky-high views in the city, but this one is a little different. Located on top of the world’s tallest residential building, it costs only 5 SGD to admire the vista and is usually very quiet, especially as there is a cap on the number of people who can visit daily (200, so as to not disturb those who live there). This is the tallest building around, so you can see far and wide, across Chinatown and towards Sentosa Island. To climb to the viewing platform you need an EZ-Link card, which is used for public transport around the city. The skybridge is usually quite quiet, except when there are fireworks on.
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- Red Dot Design Museum
It will make you look at everyday objects in a different light. Taking the mystery out of innovations that make our life easier and exploring some of the more unusual gizmos and gadgets, it is easy to spend an hour or so here. Although it’s a fairly small gallery, the spectrum of design is large and varied; everything from advertising posters, packaging, computers to household appliances.
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- Chinatown Street Market:
These busy streets encapsulate all the sights and sounds visitors expect of Chinatown, with hundreds of stalls selling everything from silk robes to lucky cats. There are plenty of ‘Made in China’ goods on display and lanterns swaying in the breeze above your head. There’s also a fantastic range of street food carts amongst the shopping, with fresh dim sum and crispy duck. Remember to haggle with a smile if you want the best price. This is one of the best things to do in chinatown singapore.
- Thian Hock Keng
Also known as the Temple of Heavenly Happiness, is the oldest and probably most interesting Chinese temple in Singapore. Built circa 1820, this Taoist-Buddhist temple was dedicated to to Ma Zu Po, the Mother of Heavenly Sages and the protector of sailors. You can find this colourful temple along Telok Ayer Street, in the middle of Chinatown. Formerly at the waterfront before Singapore embarked on its land reclamation, was where many sailors and early settlers came to offer thanks for a safe journey by sea. The temple boasts elaborately painted doors, as well as highly-decorated beams and gold-leafed panels. This is one of the best places to visit in china town singapore.
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- Hong Lim Park:
This is one of the most romantic places to visit in chinatown. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Singapore. If you want to know a little more about how the government manage to squeeze all these people onto one tiny island without ending on top of each other, this is the place to go. Opened in 1999, it aims to teach visitors how modern Singapore came to be, and how the city planners continue to plan sustainably. The most impressive part of the gallery is the Central Area Model. With a scale of 1:400 it is a miniature version of the centre of Singapore in 3D.
- Baba House:
You won’t have any problem finding Baba House. Even in an area filled with shophouses that have ornate facades, the blue house stands out on Neil Road, thanks to an ornate entrance door covered in golden leaf. In the 19th century this house was owned by a Chinese shipping tycoon, and has now become a museum dedicated to Peranakan culture. Most of the furniture inside belongs to the house, and it’s really interesting to get the opportunity to see the house as it would have been a hundred years ago. Call the number below to arrange a visit, as guided tours are by appointment only.
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- The Singapore Mint
This isn’t going to be on the top of most people’s to do list in Chinatown, but the museum has definitely done its best to open up a niche interest to the general public. Not only can you marvel at some of the beautiful coins that make up Singapore’s past and present currency, but you can also get your hands on the materials used to make them. Kids will love the colourful rubbings table and Harry Potter coin and adults will be impressed with the vintage machinery that you can manually press your own dollar with.
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- Maxwell Food Centre
Hawker centres are the best place to experience the authentic flavour of Singapore as locals do, and Maxwell Food Centre is one of the more popular with both Singaporeans and tourists. If there’s one thing you do in Singapore’s Chinatown, it’s grab a meal at this place. The Hainanese Chicken Rice at Tian Tian Chicken Rice is a Michelin Bib-Gourmand recipient and a must-try dish at this hawker centre, but if you’d rather skip the perpetually long queue, there are plenty of other stalls that serve cheap and good food from cultures all around Asia.
- Chinatown Complex
It is home to the largest hawker centre on its second level with over 260 food stalls offering a generous variety of Singaporean street food fare, from traditional Hainanese chicken rice and Char Kway Teow, to craft beer on tap and even some Michelin-Starred stalls, mostly at very budget-friendly prices. Over 470 wet market and sundry stalls fill up the other levels of this unassuming building, and you will often see groups of older residents sitting around the sheltered areas nearby chit-chatting or playing intense games of Chinese chess.
- Keong Saik Road
This has a shady past as a former red-light district lined with brothels and the homes of rich businessmen’s mistresses, alongside a mishmash of clan houses, coffee shops and other sundry businesses. This gentrified area with its quaint row of narrow shophouses has gradually given away to cool food outlets, trendy boutique hotels and co-working spaces, becoming a bonafide hipster hangout in Chinatown today.
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