In the latter half of the 19th century, many early Chinese migrants fleeing famine, drought, or unrest in their homelands navigated their way through the South China Seas to seek a better life on the burgeoning island of Singapore. Many of those migrants settled in the south of Singapore and populated the area known as Chinatown today.
This is one of the most fascinating and mysterious enclaves of Singapore. Old traditional medicine houses, likened to the ancient apothecaries in Western worlds, can still be found dispensing Chinese roots and herbs to cure a variety of ailments. Chinese massages and acupuncturists offer traditional methods to restore physical health, whilst temples offer the same for spiritual health. And be prepared to be greeted by the intoxicating smells wafting out of the shops selling spices, herbs, and street food.
Chinatown is where you will discover the history of some of Singapore’s earliest pioneers, where you will see Singapore’s pledge for racial harmony displayed on a street where Hindu temples and mosques sit right next to Chinese temples, and where you will find the old world juxtaposed with the new.
There is no shortage of food options in Chinatown, with multiple food-focused streets lined with restaurants and building complexes (e.g. Chinatown complex) housing hundreds of local food stalls to whet your appetite. New, modern artisanal concepts have also opened up shop in old Chinese complexes, and you'll be able to enjoy a bottle of imported craft beer out of a local “kopitiam” (coffee shop) stall. Popular trendy nightspots for dinner and drinks include Ann Siang Hill, Keong Saik Street and Club Street, located just a few minutes away from Chinatown.
The recent development of the Downtown MRT line puts Chinatown station at a convenient junction, only a few minutes away from the city center. Cheaper residential properties are available in older complexes (e.g. People’s Park Complex), however most people prefer to look to the newer condominium developments in the surrounding areas for an added touch of comfort, while being in the vicinity of the vibrant Chinese neighbourhood. Due to the central location, it is suitable for individuals or families who need to travel to the city centre, and who enjoy being amongst this cultural and touristy district.
Chinatown is bordered on the north by Pearl's Hill and China Square, on the east by Maxwell and Cecil, on the south by Tanjong Pagar and Anson, and on the west by Everton Park.
CBD: 12.7 km / 15-40 minutes by car / 40-50 minutes by transit
Changi Business Park: 19.6 km / 25-55 minutes by car / 85 minutes by transit
Jurong International Business Park: 16.9 km / 20-50 minutes by car / 70 minutes by transit
One North Buona Vista: 12.2 km / 20-45 minutes by car / 45 minutes by transit
Tuas: 35.6 km / 40-75 minutes by car / 120 minutes by transit
Take a journey back in time at the Chinatown Heritage Centre – the only place in Singapore that has recreated the original interiors of its early shop house tenants, giving you a rare glimpse of what life was like in 1950s Singapore. Discover the stories of some of Singapore’s earliest pioneers, and follow their journeys from leaving their homelands in search of better lives.
Built in 2007, this Tang-styled Chinese Buddhist temple houses the Buddha Tooth Relic, said to be the actual remnants of the left canine tooth of Buddha. The temple’s interiors are rich and ornate, with construction costs estimated to be around $75 million. Guided tours and workshops are available.
Chinatown Food Street houses an array of local hawker fares under one roof, ranging from the main Chinese dialects to other ethnic groups in Singapore. Aiming to provide an a authentic street style dining experience to locals and tourists alike, you can now get your favourite local dishes from the hawker street stalls, food kiosks or shop house restaurants that line this street.
Built in 1826 by Chulia migrants from the South Indian coast, Jamae Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Singapore. In addition to being a place of worship, Jamae Mosque serves as an “educational” mosque, organizing seminars and discussions on social/religious topics for both Muslim and non-Muslims. With an eclectic blend of South Indian and neo-classical architectural styles in its façade, Jamae Mosque has a uniquely distinct look that has been heavily photographed over the years and can be found on postcards dating back to the 19th century. Along with the Sri Mariammam temple located on the same street, the Jamae Mosque is one of the oldest landmarks in Chinatown.
Yue Hwa is the leading Chinese emporium in Singapore specializing in Chinese silk, foods, tea, traditional Chinese clothing, antiques, and gifts. The flagship store of this chain is located in Chinatown, with three other outlets located in other parts of Singapore. Have a wander through the multiple floors in this expansive building, and uncover the many wonders of the Orient.
Dating back to 1827, the Sri Mariammam Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. Built by immigrants from the Nagapatnam and Cuddalore districts of South India, the temple is dedicated to the goddess Mariammam, who is known for her power to cure illnesses and diseases. The temple’s ornamental tower entrance, guarded by deities and other mythological creatures, has been a persevering and iconic landmark in the Chinatown landscape.
Photo Credits: Thanks to @chinatownsingapore, @loemongga, @dannyaugustinus, @aviebrifki, @confession.of.a.foodaddict, @trinaroque, @tohaiyen, @wibowonoviyanti, @whoiselijah, @exploresingapore, @johnson_lam, @sai_hsai_luen, @bimilloveand, @renatasr, @julikc, @brendalin23, @metro_paul, and @xiaomei80 for your great photos of this neighborhood!
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