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TOP THINGS TO DO IN CHINATOWN SINGAPORE

Veins of cramped market stalls, eclectic souvenir stores and age-old temples huddled between narrow streets strung with red lanterns: Yep, this is Singapore’s Chinatown – and easily one of the world’s most fascinating. Before you soak in the precinct’s rich history, get a hold on your must-knows. 
Chinatown Streets

Haggle for a Singapore souvenir

There’s little doubt you’ll cave and buy a souvenir, even if you weren’t planning to – and we won’t blame you. At Chinatown Street Market, stuffed toy puppets (occasionally rip-offs of popular characters), keychains, wooden fans, chopsticks, ceramic plates and other wares sit alongside kitschy magnets and paperweights – some of which feature the iconic Merlion, Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and Singapore’s national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim. Don’t be afraid to haggle or walk away if prices seem unreasonable. Most stores sell similar items, so always browse before you make an impulse purchase. 

 
Chicken Rice

Feast on local hawker cuisine (or get your handicraft fix) 

‘Satay’ (barbecued skewered meat) with peanut sauce, Hokkien prawn mee, ‘roti prata’ (Indian-influenced flatbread) and chicken rice: if there’s one thing Singaporeans fiercely guard, it’s local hawker food (and each dish’s origins, but that’s a whole other story). You’ll spot outdoor stalls just past the Chinatown Street Market, but we’re bigger fans of the area’s surrounding hawker centres like Chinatown Complex, People’s Park Complex and Amoy Food Centre. Our guide to Singapore food’s an excellent primer before you embark on your trip to Chinatown. If you appreciate quality fabrics and handicrafts, People’s Park Centre (not to be confused with People’s Park Complex) is home to the well-loved Golden Dragon Store.

 
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & museum

Explore the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

The Tang Dynasty-styled Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum is five stories high and houses the so-called Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic, itself kept in a massive 3,500kg stupa made from 320kg of gold. For a quiet escape, head to the roof garden that’s set with a pagoda and Buddha prayer wheel. Or hop on a monthly guided tour for insights into the stories behind the Hundred Dragons Hall, Universal Wisdom Hall and Eminent Sangha Museum. Game for more? Hit up some of the best museums in Singapore here.

244 South Bridge Rd. Daily 5.30am-12pm; 6pm-9pm. Free. More details here.


Sri Mariamman Temple

Drop by the Sri Mariamman Temple 

Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple is just nine years short of two centuries old – and, yes, Sri Mariamman is that exact place of worship. Built eight years after the East India Company established its trading settlement in Singapore, the temple’s been standing since 1827. But you’d hardly guess it, given the temple’s well-kept, ornate statues of deities and their animals that line the façade of this impressive structure. As with all religious sites, be respectful of the rules set out at the entrance.

244 South Bridge Rd. Daily 5.30am-12pm; 6pm-9pm. Free. More details here.


CHinatown Heritage Centre

Revel in the past at the Chinatown Heritage Centre 

Spread across three restored shophouses is Chinatown Heritage Centre, a step into Singapore’s (rather depressing) past. And it starts with early migrants’ journeys from China to the Singapore River, which eventually paved the way for their living quarters in Chinatown – of which you’ll get to admired detailed sets of, alongside bedrooms, kitchens and street scenes. Then move into the ’60s with the Kongs, a family who once resided in the very same building.

48 Pagoda St. Daily 9am-8pm; closed every first Monday of each month. Free-$20. More details here. 


Chinese Theatre Circle

Catch a dying art form in the Chinese Opera Tea House 

Musicals and big-budget plays dominate today’s theatre scene, but one of the oldest forms of entertainment was Chinese opera – harking back to over a thousand years ago. Only a handful of opera theatre troupes remain in Singapore, including the Chinese Theatre Circle. On Fridays and Saturdays, huddle in the tea house for Sights & Sounds of Chinese Opera (with English surtitles). Your entry fee includes brewed Chinese tea, snacks and dessert. If you’ve time after, hop on the train to Bayfront MRT and catch Marina Bay Sands’ Spectra, a nightly immersive light and water show unlike any other.

5 Smith St. Tue-Sat 12pm-5pm; Sun 2pm-6pm. Sights & Sounds of Chinese Opera Fri & Sat 7pm-9pm, $25-$40. More details here.

 
The Tintin Shop

Peruse The Tintin Shop 

Once one of Europe’s most well-loved comics of the 20th Century, The Adventures of Tintin continues to attract clusters of fans. And no matter if you aren’t one yourself – a visit to Singapore’s The Tintin Shop is a must, if not for the hardcover books, resin figurines and jigsaw puzzles, then for the postcards or homeware. You’ll even find a glass cabinet proudly displaying the owner’s private collection, although these sadly aren’t for sale.

28 Pagoda St. Daily 10am-9pm. More details here. 


Sri Mariamman Temple

Getting there:

Chinatown is accessible by train, bus or car.

We recommend taking the Downtown Line (blue line) or Northeast Line (purple line) – familiarise yourself with Singapore’s MRT map here. Looking for nearby accommodation? Book a stay at Marina Bay Sands: it’s a quick five-minute ride to Chinatown from from Bayfront MRT.