Things to do in Chinatown Singapore

The Best Things to Do in Chinatown Singapore

A Complete Guide to Singapore's Chinatown

No visit to Singapore is complete without a trip to ChinatownThough the area is small in size, there’s plenty of things to do in Chinatown to fill a day.

A bustling and vibrant neighbourhood, there is much more to Singapore’s Chinatown than first meets the eye.  

Things to Do in Chinatown: Table of Contents

Is Chinatown in Singapore Worth Visiting?

Yes, as one of the most colourful and historic areas in Singapore, Chinatown is definitely worth visiting.

Chinatown is home to iconic temples, gorgeous shophouses in a range of rainbow colours, and the inescapable aroma of some of the best food in Singapore.

A wonderful place to explore, many visitors to Chinatown don’t venture much further than a handful of streets that make up a well worn tourist trail. 

If you go beyond the kitsch shops around the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple you’ll discover a historic neighbourhood that is buzzing with a youthful energy

Chinatown Singapore Highlights Map

Here’s a map with all of the best things to do in Chinatown Singapore, including the best places to eat and to drink.

What to See and Do in Chinatown Singapore

Taking several detours off the tourist trail and including the best places to eat and drink, here are the best things to do in Chinatown Singapore.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre

Chinatown Heritage Centre in Singapore

To fully appreciate how Chinatown once was, start at the Chinatown Heritage Centre on Pagoda Street. 

The Chinatown Heritage Centre faithfully recreates the cramped and frighteningly overcrowded interior of a traditional shophouse as it would have looked in Singapore’s Chinatown in the early and mid 20th century.

In times gone by shophouses were carved up and subdivided by landlords, keen to squeeze in as many tenants as possible. 

It was perfectly normal to find over a hundred people living under one roof. Over several decades these tiny units were home to a variety of immigrants to Singapore, from lowly labourers to tailors and doctors.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre is an eye-opening exhibition of a bygone era, when the neighbourhood was plagued by overpopulation, prostitution and a dependency on opium.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the Symbol of Chinatown

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, one of the best things to do in Chinatown Singapore
The iconic Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, one of the most popular things to do in Chinatown Singapore

One of Singapore’s most iconic and recognisable landmarks, a visit to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is one of the most essential things to do in Chinatown.

Much more than just a temple, the enormous complex stretches over several floors, and contains museums documenting the history of Buddhism in Singapore and wider Buddhist culture.

The main hall of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a spectacular display of Buddhist iconography. A gleaming golden Buddha sits flanked by two Bodhisattvas in the hall, known as the Hundred Dragons Hall.

The walls of the Hundred Dragons Hall are filled with smaller statues of Buddha in various different poses and forms. The Buddha tooth relic, from which the temple gets its name, is enshrined in a stupa in the dazzling Sacred Light Hall on the fourth floor.

Fire deity inside the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Chinatown Singapore
Prayer wheel at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown Singapore
Roof terrace at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown Singapore
A fiery deity inside the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple; and temple's roof garden and prayer wheel

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple’s roof garden is a wonderful spot for a moment’s sanctuary.

At the centre of the roof garden is a huge prayer wheel housed inside a pagoda, alongside thousands of small Buddha statues. There are free guided tours of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple every Saturday at 2.00pm. 

The Sri Mariamman Temple

Less than 200 metres away from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple on South Bridge Road is another of Singapore’s most iconic temples, the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple

The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman temple was built in 1827 as a place of worship for migrants from southern India. 

The entrance tower at Sri Mariamman temple, one of the things to do in Chinatown Singapore
Sri Mariamman temple in Chinatown, Singapore

The entrance of the temple is marked by the spectacular gopuram tower, beautifully decorated with colourful deities and fantastic mythical creatures. Inside. the temple is adorned by many more vibrant statues and dioramas of Hindu deities. 

If you’re in Singapore in October or November you might be able to catch the famous fire walking ceremony that takes place at Sri Mariamman temple each year.

Jamae Mosque

Jamae Mosque in Chinatown Singapore

Pratically next door to Sri Mariamman Temple, on the corner of South Bridge Street and Mosque Street is Jamae Mosque

Also known as Masjid Chulia, Jamae Mosque was one of the first mosques to be built in Singapore by early Muslim settlers from India in the 1830s. 

Hardly altered since it was first built, Jamae Mosque’s pale green minarets are typically Islamic in style, though the inner halls are designed in the Neo-Classical style popular in Singapore in the early 19th century.

Admire Chinatown's Playful Murals

Throughout Chinatown there are several playful murals created by the Singaporean artist Yip Yew Chong

The murals depict moments and memories from Chong’s childhood growing up in Chinatown. Each mural portrays classic scenes of daily life from a generation ago.

The murals artistically celebrate many of Chinatown’s traditional crafts and foods, as well as the city’s heritage and culture.

One of Yip Yew Chong's murals in Mohamed Ali Lane Chinatown Singapore

The most prominent mural in Chinatown can be found on Temple Street, which depicts an audience watching a traditional street performance of a Cantonese opera. 

A short walk away on Mohamed Ali Lane on the opposite side of Southern Bridge Road are more of Yip Yew Chong’s murals. These show Singapore’s history of multiculturalism, with various families of different ethnicities living and celebrating their cultures side by side.

Other murals include the Letter Writer mural on Smith Street and a celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival in an alley between Pagoda Street and Temple Street.

Wander Along Ann Siang Road and Club Street

On the opposite side of South Bridge Road follow the narrow side street of Ann Siang Hill to the colourful streets of Club Street and Ann Siang Road

These two historic streets are lined with gorgeous old shophouses decorated in a kaleidoscope of colours. Most are now home to a variety of plush bars and well established international restaurants. 

Ann Siang Road in Chinatown, Singapore
Club Street in Chinatown, Singapore

Ann Siang Road and Club Street in Singapore’s Chinatown

Fairly quiet during the day, both streets come alive at night, when workers from the office towers in the neighbouring Central Business District clock off for the day. 

Attracting a younger and less touristy crowd than the likes of Clarke Quay, Club Street and Ann Siang Road typify modern Chinatown.

Visit Historic Amoy Street

Follow Ann Siang Road to the narrow walkway that leads out onto Amoy Street. One of the oldest streets in Singapore, Amoy Street is named after the region in mainland China that many of the first settlers in Singapore arrived from.

Amoy Street in Chinatown Singapore

Before land reclamation reshaped Singapore, this area would have been right on the sea and a first stop for new arrivals. Once notorious for its opium dens, Amoy Street is now more reflective of modern Singapore. 

Today the grand colourful shophouses that line the street are now occupied by fashionable bars, restaurants, gyms and offices.

Also on Amoy Street is another huge mural by Yip Yew Chong

Part of the Amoy Street mural in Chinatown, Singapore
Amoy Street Mural in Chinatown Singapore
Amoy Street mural, one of the things to see in Chinatown Singapore

This wonderful mural portrays Singapore’s history whilst also contemplating the future. The mural ponders the uncertain journeys of the migrants who left their home nations and essentially created Singapore. 

Yip depicts the place the migrants found when they arrived, and the traditions and customs that they brought with them to Singapore that make up the diverse cultures that embody the country today.

Nagore Dargah

The beautiful pale pink Nagore Dargah on Telok Ayer Street was built as a shrine in the late 1820s by Indian Muslims. 

Today the Nagore Dargah is home to the Indian Muslim Heritage Centre, a mini museum which details the history, culture and heritage of Indian Muslim community in Singapore.

Similar to Jamae Mosque, Nagore Dargah is a wonderful mix of eastern and western architectural design. Neoclassical columns decorate the entrance, whilst more traditional Islamic minarets tower over each corner.

See Thian Hock Keng Temple - One of Singapore's Oldest Temples

Thian Hock Teng Temple, one of the essential things to do in Chinatown Singapore
Thian Hock Keng Temple

Immediately next door to Nagore Daragah is Thian Hock Keng Temple. The oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore, Thian Hock Keng Temple is also one of the most beautiful. 

Built in a striking traditional Chinese design, the Thian Hock Teng temple dates from 1840 and is one of Chinatown’s most significant landmarks.

Thian Hock Keng Temple is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and fine detail. A pair of stone lions guard the entrance, alongside the beautifully painted Door Gods.

Things to do in Chinatown Singapore
Things to do in Chinatown Singapore
Confucious at Thian Hock Keng Temple in Chinatown, Singapore

Guanyin, one of the Door Gods and Confucius at Thian Hock Keng Temple in Chinatown, Singapore 

Exquisite hand carved scenes fill the wooden beams of the entrance and main hall, decorated in spectacular gold leaf. An army of decorative dragons stand guard from the temple’s magnificent curved roof.

Thian Hock Keng’s spectacular main hall is dedicated to Mazu, the sea Goddess. In the 19th century, following an arduous journey across the sea, new arrivals from China would have come to Thian Hock Keng temple to give thanks to Mazu for their safe arrival.

See How Singapore Works at the Singapore City Gallery

The Singapore City Gallery documents Singapore’s phenomenal transformation from a tropical island into a densely populated and highly urbanised city-state. 

Run by the planning authority that is responsible for ensuring that Singapore’s finite supply of land is used most effectively, the exhibition essentially explains how Singapore works.

Model of Singapore in the Singapore City Gallery

The Singapore City Gallery also looks at future plans for further growth and development. The exhibition explores the many challenges Singapore faces when considering future development, and how it overcomes the serious obstacle of a very limited supply of land.

At the centre of the gallery is an enormous scale model of the centre of Singapore which also displays some of the proposed developments scheduled for Singapore in the future.

Admire the Hand-Made Deities at Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop

Sandwiched between the karaoke bars of Neil Road is Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop.

Established in 1896, Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop is the last remaining workshop making statues of Taoist deities by hand in Singapore.

The shop is the proud legacy of one family and is currently run by the grandson of the founder, who first moved to Singapore from China in the late 19th century. 

The shop is filled with bold, heroic Buddhist deities said to bring their owners protection, prosperity, good health and good luck.

Deity statues at Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop in Chinatown, Singapore
A deity statue made at Say Tian Hng Buddha Shop in Chinatown, Singapore

The deities are meticulously hand carved, a dying skill in the modern age. Once a month the shop runs highly recommended tours that delves in to the long history of the shop and explains the meaning and significance of several of the deities. 

There’s also the chance to try your hand at some of the intricate techniques involved in creating a deity statue, led by 90 year old Chwee Lian, who began working in the shop when she married into the family at the age of 19.

See the Colourful Old Streets of Keong Saik Road and Bukit Pasoh Road

Keong Saik Road and Bukit Pasoh Road are two of Chinatown’s most beautiful streets. As with much of Chinatown, both streets were once synonymous with vice. 

Yet just like Club Street and Ann Siang Street, these two colourful streets are now amongst the most stylish in Singapore.

Keong Saik Road in Chinatown, Singapore

Both Keong Saik Road and Bukit Pasoh Road consist of beautifully restored grand old shophouses, rich with intricate architectural details and Art Deco inspired balconies. 

Both streets are a blend of old and new Chinatown; upmarket modern eateries, bars and a growing number of chic hotels mingle with Chinese clan houses and long established traditional local restaurants. 

Stunning Views From the Skybridge at Pinnacle @ Duxton

Things to do in Chinatown Singapore

The western end of Chinatown is dominated by one gargantuan tower block. This is the Pinnacle@Duxton, the largest public housing building in the world.

The block actually consists of seven connected 50 storey towers. At the very top is a sky bridge, a huge viewing platform which is open to the public.

Needless to say, the views across Chinatown and the Central Business District are pretty spectacular.

The entrance for the sky garden is towards the southern end of Cantonment Road, close to the junction with Yan Kit Road.

Look for the easy-to-miss kiosk hidden down a narrow entrance between a convenience store and beauty saloon. There you’ll find a small window where you can pay the $6 (cash only) to access the sky garden.

Duxton Pinnacle skybridge, one of the best things to do in Chinatown Singapore
The view from the skybridge at the top of Duxton Pinnacle.

You will need some kind of EZ-Link card to get into the sky bridge – either a Singapore Tourist Pass or a regular travel card used on public transport around Singapore. The Singapore Tourist Pass can be bought from these stations,  while a regular travel card can be bought any MRT station.

The EZ-Link card is registered with the access system at the entrance to the sky garden on the 50th floor. Without an EZ-Link card you won’t be able to get in to the sky bridge.

Viewing deck at the roof garden of Duxton Pinnacle in Chinatown Singapore
The view from Duxton Pinnacle in Singapore

The sky garden is the longest in the world, and from the top there are sensational views across Singapore in every direction. 

It’s a lovely place to relax and spend some time after a long day in Chinatown. The best time to visit is around 6.00pm on a sunny day, just before a dazzling, jaw-dropping sunset kicks in.

Where to Eat in Chinatown Singapore

Some of the best food in Singapore can be found in Chinatown, ranging from classic Singaporean dishes to cuisine from all over the world. 

And there’s plenty of choice to suit every budget, ranging from a just a few dollars in Chinatown’s hawker markets to a few hundred at the swankier restaurants around Ann Siang Road and Club Lane

However, we recommend avoiding Food Street, the rather joyless covered stretch of restaurants at the top of Smith Street. Whilst the food here is okay, it’s aimed squarely at tourists – you won’t find many Singaporeans eating here.

Instead, here are our suggestions for the best places to eat traditional Chinese and Singaporean dishes in Chinatown:

Chinatown Complex Food Centre

Head up to the second floor of the Chinatown Complex for a real slice of Singaporean life. Singapore is filled with hawker markets, and the Chinatown Complex Food Centre is a sight to behold. 

There are over 200 hawker stalls here dishing up authentic Chinese and Singaporean classic dishes for just a few dollars. 

Chinatown Complex Food Centre - things to do in Chinatown Singapore
Hawker stall at Chinatown Complex Food Centre

In Singapore, where there’s food there’s usually a queue. Chinatown Complex Food Centre.

One of the two of Singapore’s hawker stalls to have been awarded a Michelin Star can be found in the Chinatown Complex Food Centre. 

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle is often cited as the cheapest Michelin starred meal in the world – prices start at just $3 – though queues regularly begin to form up to an hour before the stall opens. 

If you can’t wait that long there’s plenty of other places to fill up on food. Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao specialises in delicious Chinese dumplings – at just $6 for 10 pieces they have a loyal fanbase. 

Alternatively, try the fried wonton, prawn noodles and laksa from Woo Ji Cooked Food, a steal at just $2 a dish.

Maxwell Food Centre

A stone’s throw from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Maxwell Food Centre has a reputation as one of the best hawker markets in Singapore. 

With a huge variety of traditional Singaporean food available it’s another great place to fill up on food for next to nothing.

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is consistently voted as one of the best hawker stalls in Singapore, a mighty accolade considering the volume and quality of the competition. They’ve even been graced by Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey during their visits to Singapore.

Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown, Singapore
Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown, Singapore

Two other stalls that dish up delicious versions of this Singaporean staple are Tong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice and Ah Tai Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice

Head to Marina South Delicious Food for local stir-fry classics such as Hokkien mee and char kway teow from as little as $4. 

China Street Hainanese Curry Rice is also hugely popular, their signature dish consisting of pork chop, stewed cabbage, rice and a rich curry gravy sauce.

Jing Hua Xiao Chi

Nearby on Neil Road is Jing Hua Xiao Chi. Jing Hua Xiao Chi has been serving mouthwatering xiao long bao, succulent crispy dumplings and original recipe Chinese pizzas for thirty years. This is the original store, though there is now a second in Bugis and six in Japan.

Tong Heng

To sample the finest traditional Chinese pastries pop in to Tong Heng opposite the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple on South Bridge Road. Freshly baked throughout the day, Tong Heng’s menu includes a huge variety of tasty traditional pastries, cookies and  cakes.

Museum Cafe

Next door to Thian Hock Keng Temple on Telok Ayer Street, located inside a former school, is Museum Cafe

Museum Cafe specialises in Peranakan food, dishing up huge bowls of rich and delicious curries and mee siam as well as traditional sweets. An authentic taste of Singapore, the food here is simply sublime.

The Blue Ginger

On Tanjong Pagar road, sandwiched between a number of Japanese and Korean restaurants is Blue Ginger, another excellent Peranakan restaurant. Blue Ginger’s specialities include traditional dishes such as Nonya fish head curry and beef rendang.

The Best Places to Drink in Chinatown Singapore

Though a night on the tiles is certainly one of the most expensive things to do in Chinatown, the area is also a great place to quench your thirst. Some of the most fashionable bars in Singapore can be found in Chinatown.

Club Street and Ann Siang Road are perhaps the most obvious spots to head for a drink. Fry Rooftop Bar has one of the best views in the neighbourhood, as well as great cocktails, good food and a wallet-friendly happy hour.

For a bit more glamour head to Employees Only, a sultry speakeasy-style cocktail bar just behind Thian Hock Keng Temple on Amoy Street.  

Potato Head, housed in an iconic building on Keong Saik Road, is another of Chinatown’s famous roof terraces, a great place to sip on cocktails and watch the sun set.

How to Get to Chinatown Singapore

Chinatown is easily reached by Singapore’s MRT system. Download an MRT map here.

Chinatown station is on two MRT lines, the Downtown Line and the North East Line. 
Telok Ayer MRT station is also on the Downtown line and closer to the Thian Hock Keng Temple. 
Outram Park station is on the North East Line and the East West Line, and closer to Duxton Pinnacle and Keong Saik Road.

Accommodation in Chinatown

Within easy reach of all of Singapore’s main sights, Chinatown is a great place to stay whilst visiting Singapore. There’s something for every budget here too, from backpacker hostels and capsule hotels to plush 5 star hotels.

» To find the best deals on accommodation in Chinatown click here.

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Things to do in Chinatown Singapore on Where You're Between
Things to do in Chinatown Singapore on Where You're Between

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