For many visitors, Singapore’s Chinatown is the sightseeing focus of the city, home to traditional shophouses, temples, and cultural heritage. Take a wander down the atmospheric streets, dropping into shophouses to see what’s for sale. Admire the rooftop dragons of Thian Hock Keng Temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, and the festively gaudy Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, covered with colorful cows and depictions of the gods. Of course, Chinatown is also the place to go to for great food, especially along Smith Street.
When Sir Stamford Raffles divided up Singapore among its ethnic groups, the Chinese immigrants received the largest portion of land. Today Chinatown remains one of the city’s most vibrant and popular neighborhoods, and visitors have a wealth of options for experiencing it. Catch the highlights—including Thian Hock Keng Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple—on an evening trishaw, riverboat, and walking tour of the neighborhood, or treat your tastebuds to a food tour of Chinatown’s best bites. The neighborhood is included in many Singapore sightseeing tours, and it’s also a stop on the hop-on hop-off bus.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Singapore’s Chinatown is a must for first-time visitors and foodies.
- Experience the neighborhood as part of a city-wide sightseeing tour or dive deep on a dedicated Chinatown food tour or trishaw ride.
- There’s a lot to see (and buy, and eat) in Chinatown, so don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes.
How to Get There
The easiest way to reach Chinatown is to take the MRT to Chinatown Station and exit toward Pagoda Street.
When to Get There
Shopping the markets of Chinatown is best during the late afternoon or early evening, to see the major attractions before the neighborhood’s night market and nightlife scene begins to pick up. The district is particularly lively in the months leading up to Chinese New Year, with decorations and lights adorning the streets and stalls.
Understanding Singapore’s Chinese Heritage
To truly understand Singapore you have to understand its many ethnic influences, including that of its sizable Chinese population. One of the best places to do so is at the Chinatown Heritage Centre. This museum comprises re-created scenes depicting day-to-day life of Singapore’s Chinese immigrants from the 1950s onward, with stories of how they went from being mere visitors to the largest ethnic group in the country.