A trip to Chinatown is necessary step towards any attempt at unravelling the most exciting and culturally-rich places in Singapore. Existing where the Chinese immigrants came and settled during the British rule in Singapore, Chinatown now is a place thriving with great food, creative art scene, bustling hawker stalls and curious tourists. There’s so much to do here that you will find our list of top things to do pretty handy while looking to engage with the best that the place has to offer.
Chinatown Heritage Centre
There’s no better place to know about the history and contribution of the Chinese culture to Singapore. The Chinatown Heritage Centre is located on the Pagoda Street and tracks the steps of the early Chinese settlers from 1950s to the present day Singapore. The heritage centre itself exists within three restored houses that aim to create cramped and difficult living quarters of some of the pioneers of the Singaporean history. The museum remains open between 9am-8pm.
A preserved-Peranakan house from the 1980s, Baba House is a beautiful and old-fashioned bright-blue property that catches immediate attention of the passerby’s as well as those who come specifically looking for it. Believed to be the closest representation of Peranakan lives in the 19th and 20th centuries courtesy its furniture and artefacts that have been preserved over all these years, the Baba House is one of the best places to click photographs in Singapore. The house, however, can only be explored on a free guided tour that runs on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Pre-booking is essential.
Thian Hock Keng Temple
Built in the traditional southern Chinese architectural style, Thian Hock Keng Temple is one of the oldest and most historically significant temples in Singapore. Dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, the temple was built by Hokkien immigrants in the 19th century. Though it remains open from 7.30 am-5.30pm, one of the best times to visit this magnificent temple is during one of the festivals or events important to the Chinese culture and the ensuing celebrations.
Sri Mariamman Temple
Singapore is an exemplary example of a country thriving despite its cultural and religious diversity and the presence of Sri Mariamman Temple, the first Hindu temple in Singapore, in close proximity to Chinese temples in the Chinatown is a testament to the fact. Dedicated to goddess Mariamman, the temple is fashioned after the Dravidian style of architecture and is distinguished by a towering gopuram (entrance tower) decorated by six tiers filled with ornate sculptures of figures from Hindu mythology and culture. The temple remains open from 7am – 12pm, 6pm – 9pm; visiting around the evening ‘aarti’ ritual is the most recommended.
Chinatown Street Markets
The biggest draws for a majority of tourists visiting Singapore, Chinatown Street markets remain profuse with hustle and bustle every day of the week, all weeks of the year. The most popular spot in Singapore for souvenir shopping, these markets are excellent to buy everything from generic tourist t-shirts, to weird and pretty trinkets, quirky key chains, bags and much more. Lined with hawker stalls selling lip-smacking street food, Chinatown street markets are great for grabbing anything from a quick bite to a loaded authentic Chinese, Indian or American meal. The place is especially attractive during major Chinese festivals when special decorations are put up and there is a general verve in the atmosphere. The Chinatown street markets remain open from 10am-10pm.