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Tour of Chinatown – Rediscovering Singapore’s Chinese District

Singapore Chinatown photo via Pixabay

What is Chinatown in Singapore best known for?

Where are we going? I asked Jan and Wilson, then they replied, “Chinatown.” I’m not obviously reading our itinerary, LOL!, I replied. I seriously got excited when I heard we were heading to Chinatown since this place is one of my favorite tourist spots in Singapore. It’s the place where you can find a great bargain, good food, astonishing shophouses, and a unique cultural experience that will draw your attention instantly.

Singapore Chinatown photo via Pixabay
Singapore Chinatown photo via Pixabay

We first visited the Hindu Temple located right in the center of Chinatown. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find it strange to see a Hindu Temple in a Chinese district, but this exciting architecture marvel became one of Chinatown’s most popular tourist stops.

Sri Mariamman Temple
Sri Mariamman Temple

The Hindu temple is called Sri Mariammam Temple, and its the oldest and most important Hindu temple in Singapore.

This colorful and well-designed temple has a pagoda-shaped entrance, and it has the most ornate gopurams (pyramidal gateway towers) in all of Singapore.

The Sri Mariamman Temple, built in the Dravidian style, is Singapore's oldest Hindu temple. It was founded in 1827 and is located in the Chinatown district. by Pascal Riben via Unsplash
The Sri Mariamman Temple, built in the Dravidian style, is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. It was founded in 1827 and is located in the Chinatown district. by Pascal Riben via Unsplash

This is an active temple and well-visited temple by worshipers, and everyone is required to take off their shoes before entering the temple. Also, as a courtesy, everyone is requested to observe silence. It is a must for each tourist to ask permission before taking photos inside the temple.

One thing unique in Singapore is its well-preserved Shophouses. I love how they conserve most of the Two-story Shophouses and maintain them as colorful as their history. According to Wikipedia, a shophouse is a vernacular architectural building type commonly seen in urban Southeast Asia. This hybrid building form characterizes the historical centers of most towns and cities in the region.

Typically, shophouses consist of shops on the ground floor that opens up to a public arcade or “five-foot way” and have residential accommodation upstairs. The shophouses would abut each other to form rows with a traditional facade, firewalls, and adherence to street alignment.

Chinese Herbs and Spices at Singapore Chinatown
Chinese Herbs and Spices at Singapore Chinatown

Chinatown’s busiest street is Pagoda Street; it got its name from the Sri Mariamman Temple, a Pagoda-shaped entrance. While roaming around Chinatown, we chanced upon a street vendor who sells and customizes reverse hand-painted glass ornament – Imagine a glass ball with a circular hole in the middle that is being used as a canvass. The inside painting ornaments, also known as li Bien ornaments, is one of the leading treasure arts of China.

Shopping in Smith Street may sometimes require a little bit of haggling, but I find most of the prices in the area relatively cheap.

While wrapping up our short tour, we visited a shophouse that sells all types of tea, and that shop was probably one of the best tea shops I have seen.

Barbeque Sliced Pork Singapore Chinatown
Barbeque Sliced Pork Singapore Chinatown

They have a vast collection of tea from white, black, green, and even teas aged for more than a decade. Before we left the tea house, the owner let us sample their best jasmine tea, and she gave us a complimentary loose jasmine tea for us to enjoy:)

From a historical and cultural point of view tour of Chinatown can bring you more fun, and you can learn several things about the Chinese culture. The Chinatown in Singapore showcases Chinese cultural and traditional elements. For a first-time visitor, touring the place provides you feel of the Chinese way of life.

If you want to discover more about the history of Chinese settlement in Singapore, then you should visit the Chinatown heritage center, which is a museum that showcases Chinese artifacts, samples of their houses, porcelains, and traditional Chinese home-based business like tailoring and dressmaking. The heritage center is on the left if you walk straight from the Sri Mariammam Temple in Pagoda Street.

Busy Streets of Chinatown in Singapore by Ilham Wicaksono via Unsplash
Busy Streets of Chinatown in Singapore by Ilham Wicaksono via Unsplash

Singapore is going high in demand among tourists from across the globe due to several factors. The cleanliness, modern approach, and the great conservation efforts to preserve their unique culture and fantastic structures.

Indeed, there are so many places in this small yet beautiful city-state that you need to explore. The best way to see and enjoy Singapore’s Chinatown is to walk its streets, so go ahead and burn the extra calories!!

How to get there

You can reach Chinatown by using the Subway system, MRT, bus, or taking a cab.

  • Via MRT: There is a Chinatown Station on the North-East MRT Line.
  • Via Bus: These Bus lines stop near Chinatown: 143, 147, 526, 80.

Next Stop: Singapore’s Little India

Singapore Tour Packages

Searching for the best hotels and affordable flights? Check out our complete list of inexpensive hotels and resorts via Agoda, or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

Want more updates about new tourist attractions in Singapore? Please follow #TeamOutofTown, on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest for more travel ideas.

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Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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