Prior to the 1920s, Tiong Bahru was an area dotted with cemeteries (its name means “new cemetery” in a blend of Malay and Hokkien dialect). This neighborhood became the first project undertaken by the Singapore Improvement Trust to build mass public housing in the area in the 1920s, with the old cemeteries relocated (phew!) and the land filled in and levelled to pave way for residential blocks.
Tiong Bahru became an affluent area that not many people could afford to live in. It was home to the middle class and upper echelons of society, as well as being where the rich kept their mistresses. As time passed to the economic boom of the 1970s and 1980s, the population at Tiong Bahru steadily declined as new generations of Singaporeans grew affluent and yearned for the newer townships and modern private condominiums being developed. Consequently, Tiong Bahru largely became an estate for the elderly. But in recent years, more Westerners and young Singaporeans have been drawn to the charms of the area and are beginning to see its appeal once more.
Today, Tiong Bahru is a neighborhood that exudes historical charm and hipster vibes. You’ll find art galleries housed in conservation shophouses, cozy record stores catering to hardcore vinyl heads and music lovers, delicious French pastries sold out of neighborhood bakeries, and cafes with split personalities serving local Yong Tao Foo in the day and transforming into trendy bars/restaurants at night.
The area is served by Tiong Bahru MRT and several bus lines. With a choice of HDB (Housing Development Board) apartments or newer condominium apartments, the area is suitable for those looking for more affordable options. While the estate is still home to many elderly Singaporeans, young couples, professionals and families have since moved into the area and fallen in love with its neighborhood charms.
Tiong Bahru is bordered on the north by Bukit Ho Swee, on the east by Everton Park, on the south by Telok Blangah, and on the west by Bukit Merah and Henderson Hill.
CBD: 3.4 km / 5-20 minutes by car / 15-30 minutes by transit
Changi Business Park: 20.8 km / 20-40 minutes by car / 60 minutes by transit
Jurong International Business Park: 12.8 km / 15-60 minutes by car / 35-40 minutes by transit
One North Buona Vista: 7 km / 10-30 minutes by car / 15-20 minutes by transit
Tuas: 30.8 km / 35-75 minutes by car / 90 minutes by transit
The origins of this market started out with two little shophouses being converted into a wet market pre-1945. With the market attracting many more stall vendors to the area, the market was due an upgrade. The old market was demolished and after 2 years of building work, it was re-opened in a two-storey building, which now features a large wet market on the first floor, and a haven of mouth-watering local hawker fare on the second.
No hipster neighbourhood is complete without an old school record store. One for the hardcore vinyl fans, Curated Records’ modest store packs rows and rows of records, including indie labels as well as more mainstream albums. With friendly service and staff being music lovers themselves, you’ll find a totally relaxed atmosphere for you to browse through your favourite tracks and even discover new music.
Helmed by French baker Gontran Cherrier, Tiong Bahru Bakery is a true celebration of the local neighbourhood. Serving up some of the best French pastries in town, many travel from far and wide (as far and wide as you can get in Singapore) to satiate their sweet tooth and pastry cravings.
Dating back to the 1920s, the present day Qi Tian Gong Temple was officially established in 1993 after several refurbishments and preservation efforts. Dedicated to the Monkey God (known in popular context as the “Monkey King” in the “Journey of the West” story), more than 10 monkey god statues are housed in the temple, with the oldest one being over 100 years old.
This cosy indie bookstore located in the midst of a trendy neighbourhood sure has a character of its own. A favourite haunt of students and avid readers, BooksActually has a large collection of English literature titles, including some rarer titles from the likes of Sweeney, Murakami, Nabokov, and Salinger, as well as some features on local authors.
Yong Tau Foo kopitiam stall by day and trendy hipster bar by night, Day & Night Bistro’s unique split personality has drawn much attention since their opening in 2012. The bistro serves up a range of pizzas, tapas and gourmet burgers at night, with premium beers and ciders at the ready. In keeping with their “kopitiam” personality, this establishment does not charge GST and service tax. Day & Night Bistro sure has the charms to keep their patrons coming back for more.
Photo Credits: Thanks to @devinjeyathurai, @xtinod, @pond_perapong, @jeff8303, @kumwai, @blogalag, @elvinedwinyio, @peachvscherry, @hy_o_zii22, @jccake0321, @seansandydevotional, @anna_htmt, @nasruldanish, @dyharnoko, @cheza_ananda, @melissatanlh, @lankhanh.lp, @seezedcue, @sulinlau for your great photos of this neighborhood!