The neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru is unlike anywhere else in Singapore. Tiong Bahru is an Art Deco oasis hidden amongst Singapore’s many high rise condos and tower blocks. Though fairly small in size there are plenty of things to do in Tiong Bahru to fill a few leisurely hours.
Arguably the trendiest neighbourhood in Singapore, Tiong Bahru oozes character and charm. Tiong Bahru’s beautiful low-rise apartments were amongst the first public housing projects to be built in Singapore following the Second World War.
This thriving yet laid back neighbourhood hosts a harmonious mix of aunties and uncles, younger Singaporeans and international expats.
Today Tiong Bahru is a perfect blend of one-of-a-kind architecture, ultra-chic cafes, independent shops and some of the best food in Singapore.
Tiong Bahru is just on the edge of the main sights of downtown Singapore.
A stone’s throw from Chinatown and the Central Business District, Tiong Bahru is only three stops on the East West Line from Raffles Place in the centre of the city.
There are a number of excellent independent shops in Tiong Bahru that will make you a little lighter in the wallet, especially if you love arty souvenirs and books.
Here are the best shops in Tiong Bahru.
Cat Socrates is a much loved Singaporean craft and lifestyle store recently relocated from Bras Basah to Yong Siak Street.
Located opposite Woods in the Books and sandwiched between two of Tiong Bahru’s most popular cafes, they couldn’t have chosen a better new home.
Cat Socrates‘ wide range of funky homewares, fashion accessories, stationery and books places a huge emphasis on great design and all with a strong local flavour. Keep an eye out for the store’s resident cats too.
The whimsical Woods in the Books has been in Tiong Bahru since 2009 and specialises in books for children.
From early learning books for toddlers to young fiction and educational books on topics such as science, history and nature, Woods in the Books has something for children of all ages.
On Tiong Bahru Road is Curated Records, a paradise for vinyl collectors. This tiny shop is crammed with a huge range of records, with everything from jazz to metal and almost everything in between.
All of the records are brand new (rather than secondhand), reflecting vinyl’s resurgence and growing popularity in Singapore.
Sweet tempting treats at Galicier Pastry and vinyl for sale at Curated Records
Anyone with a sweet tooth will love Galicier Pastry, also on Tiong Bahru Road. This much-loved old school bakery serves delicious homemade traditional Nonya kueh – sweet and savoury pastries, cakes and biscuits.
The most popular pastries tends to sell out quickly so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
The post war architecture of Tiong Bahru
For many Singaporeans eating is at the very top of the list of things to do in Tiong Bahru. This little neighbourhood is synonymous with food and it’s best to arrive on an empty stomach.
Crammed into Tiong Bahru is a bewildering number of trendy cafes, bakeries, traditional Singaporean eateries and mid-range to pricier international restaurants.
Here are the best places to eat in Tiong Bahru.
Tiong Bahru’s hipster tag is partly down to the number of swish cafes that have popped up in the neighbourhood over recent years. Tiong Bahru Bakery on Eng Hoon Street is one of the most well established.
A truly authentic French bakery, the baguettes, croissants and sweet pastries makes Tiong Bahru Bakery enormously popular. Expect to queue for a table on weekends.
Plain Vanilla Bakery and Tiong Bahru Bakery
Tiny Yong Siak Street also offers up plenty of food choices. So laid back that it’s practically lying down, Plain Vanilla Bakery’s collection of cookies, cupcakes and coffees more than a match for anywhere else in the neighbourhood.
The old fashioned bikes and outdoor swing make it a hit with those for whom Instagram is everything.
40 Hands is now well established as a Tiong Bahru staple, having been a part of the neighbourhood since 2010. The name is inspired by the number of people it supposedly takes to create a single cup of coffee from bean to cup.
Featuring a small but varied Aussie-inspired menu of beautifully prepared meals and an industrial chic interior, 40 Hands is always popular. Again, expect to have to wait for a table on weekends.
Waffles and ice cream and the stylish interior at Creamier, Tiong Bahru
Around the corner on Moh Guan Terrace is the excellent Flock. With an extensive menu and a lovely laid back atmosphere Flock is well worth a visit on its own merits, but especially if you can’t get a seat at 40 Hands. Any of Flock’s generous breakfast’s will set you up for the day.
If you have a craving for something sweet, pop into Creamier and take your pick from a mouthwatering selection of handmade ice cream.
Enjoy a couple of scoops on homemade waffles along with a perfectly brewed coffee whilst relaxing amongst the typically Tiong Bahru shabby chic interior.
It’s not all avocado on sourdough in Tiong Bahru. There are plenty of places that offer up fantastic traditional Singaporean food in the neighbourhood.
If you’re heading to Tiong Bahru for lunch or later in the evening here are the best places to tuck into some local (and more substantial) dishes.
For some of the best traditional food in Tiong Bahru the first port of call has to be the Tiong Bahru Food Centre.
Located one floor above Tiong Bahru wet market is a typical Singaporean hawker centre filled with delicious local classics for just a few dollars a dish.
There’s every kind of Singaporean staple that you could wish for here, from lor mee to chicken rice, char kway teow to carrot cake and popiah.
A family run Hainanese restaurant, Chengs is a Tiong Bahru stalwart, having relocated here from Chinatown in 1989. Laid back and welcoming, Chengs is hugely popular with local residents.
The food at Chengs is unpretentious home-style cooking and packed full of flavour; the ginger crispy chicken is a must, as is the pandan cake.
On Seng Poh Road are two of Tiong Bahru’s long running staples, Old Tiong Bahru Bak Kut Teh and Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice.
These two very popular street corner restaurants often have a queue of customers snaking down the street. Tiong Bahru Bak Kut Teh specialises in a traditional peppery pork rib broth, whilst Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice are known for their deep and rich flavours.
Old Tiong Bahru Bak Kut Teh restaurant and a pasted goat on the side of Tiong Bahru market
Sin Hoi Sai claims to be the oldest restaurant in Tiong Bahru. A traditional Singaporean seafood restaurant with an extensive menu set in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, Sin Hoi Sai is famous for its sumptuous fresh crab dishes.
If you’re looking for delicious Singaporean chili crab at an affordable price then Sin Hoi San is the place to come.
For another authentic local feast, book a table at House of Peranakan Petit.
Peranakan cuisine is a rich fusion of Chinese and Malay cooking, using a combination of strong, fresh flavours and spices. The House of Peranakan Petit dishes up much loved Nonya classics such as duck soup and black nut chicken.
A touch pricier than the traditional local restaurants, there’s a great range of Western and international restaurants in Tiong Bahru. Here are some of the best in the neighbourhood.
A recent addition to Tiong Bahru is Little Elephant, a Thai bistro just next door to Tiong Bahru Bakery that serves big portions of authentic and flavourful Thai dishes.
Friendly staff, an extensive menu, a large outdoor seating area and very reasonable prices have made Little Elephant an instant hit.
A few doors away is another new addition to the street, Merci Marcel, which, as it’s name suggests, is a French cafe and restaurant. Featuring a large menu of classic French dishes and a beautifully decorated interior Merci Marcel has quickly become a neighbourhood favourite.
The streets of Tiong Bahru
Just around the corner on Tiong Bahru Road is Chapter 55. Specialising in mostly Mediterranean dishes with an occasional south east Asian twist, Chapter 55 is much loved by local Singaporeans.
The food is full of flavour and the portions are generous, though the huge tantalising tubs of gelato displayed at the front counter make skipping desert practically impossible.
Just on the edge of the Tiong Bahru estate at the bottom of Seng Poh Road is Bakalaki, a superb Greek restaurant where the level of service matches the incredible quality of the food.
For a long time Bakalaki was rated as the best restaurant in Singapore on TripAdvisor, which is quite an achievement considering the quality and quantity of the competition. Booking a table in advance may be required.
Back on Moh Guan Terrace is Bincho, one of the neighbourhood’s most unique dining experiences. By day the restaurant is a traditional kopi tiam called Hua Bee serving typical Singaporean staples, such as kaya toast with soft boiled eggs and noodles with fish ball soup.
At lunchtime the rear of Hua Bee is taken over by Bincho, a Japanese fine dining restaurant. At night the front doors close, and come evening Bincho reopens at the rear for dinner.
Entrance for the dinner service is through the back door in the car park at the rear of the shop. The next morning Hua Bee reopens and normal service resumes.
Besides shopping and eating there are a few local landmarks to add to the list of things to do in Tiong Bahru.
On the corner of Tiong Poh Road and Eng Hoon Street is Qi Tian Gong Temple. This small temple is dedicated to Sun Wukong, known as the monkey god, who is the main character from the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.
The temple dates from the 1930s and claims to be the first to be dedicated to the monkey god in Singapore.
Around Tiong Bahru’s streets and alleyways are several murals by the renowned Singaporean artist Yip Yew Chong.
Yip specialises in playful and sentimental depictions of Singaporean heritage scenes, and Tiong Bahru is a fitting location for his work.
There are three of his murals in Tiong Bahru; a group of men listen to their singing birds on Seng Poh Lane, whilst a fortune teller predicts a customer’s future next to a street food stall in an alley off Eng Watt Street. An uncle relaxes with the paper and a cat in his living room on Eu Chin Street.
Yip Yew Chong’s street art murals in Tiong Bahru
Tiong Bahru is easily reached by MRT on the East West line. It’s only three stops from Raffles Place to Tiong Bahru, and it’s around a 5 minute walk to the heritage estate from Tiong Bahru MRT station.
Just on the edge of Chinatown and with Orchard Road within easy reach, Tiong Bahru is a very good place to stay if you’re spending a few nights in Singapore.
There are a handful of very good hotels around Tiong Bahru Road, just a few minutes’ walk from Tiong Bahru and Outram Park MRT stations.
Hotel 81 Osaka: Tucked away on Eng Hoon Street opposite Qi Tian Gong temple, Hotel 81 Osaka is a Japanese inspired chain hotel. This is one of the more reasonably priced hotels in the area and a great place to stay for anyone on a budget.
Link Hotel: Occupying two buildings on either side of Tiong Bahru Road, the Link Hotel is a boutique hotel that occupies some of Tiong Bahru’s original Art Deco housing blocks. The hotel also has Korean and Japanese restaurants on site, as well as a rooftop bar.
Nostalgia Hotel: Another boutique hotel, Nostalgia Hotel is perfectly located right in the heart of Tiong Bahru, right next to Tiong Bahru market and the bars and restaurants along Eng Hoon Street.
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