Singapore is a city of contrasts, where fairy-tale temples stand beside skyscrapers and cityscapes blend into community gardens. This colourful city is filled with an enchanting mix of neighbourhoods – each offering its own particular charm.
On your Singapore vacation, you can step out of your comfort zone (and your shoes) inside the holy walls of Chinese or Hindu temples, savour the tastes and aromas of crispy duck and dim sum, and perfect your bartering skills at a local street market. This city-state has got it all.
An Explosion of Colour and Culture in Chinatown
The fusion of Hindu and Chinese architecture, the smell of traditional cuisine, and the sound of hawkers chanting their wares. This is Chinatown. Spend time exploring Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest temple in Singapore. This national monument towers six floors, and is adorned with mystical stone deities. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is another memorable sight with a two metre gold stupa and a prayer wheel.
Chinatown is a fantastic spot for traditional Chinese cuisine. Visit the Maxwell Food Centre and try crispy duck or Tian Tian Chicken Rice, recommended by Gordon Ramsey. If you’d prefer sit-down meals to street food takeaways, head to Majestic Restaurant for Cantonese cuisine, try shark fin soup at Yum Cha, and taste the finest Chinese tea at Yixing Xuan Teahouse. Barter for souvenirs at the Chinatown Street Market, enjoy incredible views from the sky bridge at [email protected], or press your own bank notes at the Singapore Coin and Notes Museum.
A Taste of the Exotic in Little India
The colourful suburb of Little India offers plenty of culture and a bohemian atmosphere. Explore Little India’s oldest and busiest temple, the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, or get your fortune told at Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple. As its name implies, Little India has southern and northern Indian cuisines, but generous portions of Malay and Chinese food are available. Try roti prata (round pancakes) and watch brewers skilfully make teh tarik (pulled tea). Sample fish head curry at Banana Leaf Apolo, enjoy spicy Malay curries at Mustard, or sample free tapas with a drink at Zsofi Tapas Bar.
Little India is one of the best places for retail therapy. Pick up Indian headwear at Verge Shopping Mall, purchase brass oil lamps or jasmine garlands (the signature aroma of Little India) at the 24 hour Tekka Centre, and browse the saris at Little India Arcade.
A Touch of Glamour in Kampong Glam
With a proud heritage as a thriving fishing village, Kampong Glam is one of the more glamorous suburbs and the core of Singapore’s Muslim life. While browsing trendy side streets for Persian carpets, handmade perfumes, and traditional clothing, you’ll likely be serenaded by Islamic call to prayer. Learn about Malay culture at the Malay Heritage Centre and try local favourites like Malay kuih (sweet cakes) at local cafés.
Seafood and Sunsets in Changi Village
Changi Village is one of Singapore’s more infamous suburbs, known for its brothels and seedy hotels. But apart from the red light district, the village is known for its wide range of both Chinese and Western cafés, pubs, and restaurants. Pay a visit to a hawker centre known for its tasty local foods, from fried hokkien prawn mee to nasi lemak.
The Changi boardwalk is an enjoyable way to work off a full belly, offering spectacular sunset views over Changi Point. Boat trips leave from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal and run to Pengarang for fresh seafood and Pulau Ubin Island, where bikes can be hired to tour the island. Make sure you seek out a tropical fruit stall and try a durian – a prickly fruit regarded as “the king of fruits” by the people in Southeast Asia. Local fruit stall holders can arrange a visit to a durian plantation during fruit season.
Destination Dining in Katong
Katong is an unassuming suburb, once scattered with coconut plantations and serving as a luxurious weekend escape for the wealthy. Just a short drive from the city centre, this village is a great spot for a bite to eat. Try the famous katong laksa dumplings and peranakan laksa noodle soup. Before you leave, pick up a traditional Nonya outfit – a kebaya, sarong, and beaded slippers to match.
Today, the village offers the remainders of Peranakan culture, in its charming eateries and ancient architecture. While the plantations are no longer, you can find well-preserved Peranakan storefronts, filled with motifs and ceramic tiles, as well as several colonial bungalows.