Explore Singapore’s cultural neighbourhoods

Singapore is famous – among many things – for its four distinct cultural enclaves, which provide an intoxicating mix of old and new. Each is well worth taking the time to explore as you discover this vibrant, bustling metropolis, but there are other more under-the-radar neighbourhoods that we’d love to share with you and encourage you to seek out too.

Explore Singapore’s cultural neighbourhoods

Chinatown

Whether you’re feasting on a weekend dim sum brunch or watching elderly locals gathered around tables to play games of Chinese chess and checkers, Singapore’s largest heritage neighbourhood merits some serious time in its own right. Still home to the descendants of Singapore’s early Chinese settlers, it brings together cultural treasures, architectural gems, and trendy haunts in one compelling mix – don't miss the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum with its Tang Dynasty-inspired architecture. 

Little India

Just north of Chinatown, this is another lively enclave filled with brightly painted shophouses, colourful street art, temples, and mosques. One of our favourite ways of taking it all in is an art trail walk to see murals that relay the story of the neighbourhood’s proud heritage – including parrot astrologers, dhobi (washermen), and other labourers. Among the Indian specialities to sample here are rotis, fish head curry, and murtabak (a multi-layered Keralan pancake).

Kampong Gelam (also known as Kampong Glam)

Centred on Arab Street, Singapore’s Muslim Quarter stands out for its eclectic combination of Islamic shops, hip boutiques, old-school sundries shops and long-established textile stores where you can have a sari or baju kurung tailor-made for a unique souvenir of your time here. Its cultural venues include the gold-domed Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Centre, and there are plenty of restaurants offering spicy Malaysian and other cuisine.

Joo Chiat-Katong (also known as Katong-Joo Chiat)

This residential conservation area in the east of Singapore has won various architecture and heritage awards from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and others. It’s a Peranakan enclave (the Peranakans being the descendants of the first waves of southern Chinese settlers) and you can see Peranakan artefacts including pots and jewellery in The Intan private museum. This is naturally one of the best places in the city to sample Peranakan cuisine, such as Katong Laksa, a spicy Chinese noodle soup. There are also lots of interesting indie boutiques to peruse.

Tiong Bahru

The traditional food market (one of the very best places for hawker food in the entire city), the trendy cafés, and the independent shops including fashion and music outlets are some the draws of this, one of Singapore’s oldest residential estates. Set in central Singapore, it has a charming blend of classic and new architecture including elegant 1930s Streamline Moderne buildings. 

Other off-the-beaten-track neighbourhoods

There are more fantastic sights, sounds, and dining opportunities in other Singapore neighbourhoods including Balestier, Bukit Timah, Holland Village, Hougang, Jalan Besar, Queenstown, Redhill, Siglap, and Toa Payoh.

To take just one of these, Balestier was named after the first American consul to live in Singapore and now mixes its Chinese-Baroque style shophouses and cultural venues with fashionable eateries and bars serving everything from authentic Singaporean pepper pork-rib soup and old-school coffee to global cuisine.

Or for a green escape, try Bukit Timah with its eponymous Nature Reserve, popular with nature lovers and fitness buffs, and the Green Corridor with its Neram trees.

To book your Singapore holiday or break, call your Travel Counsellor today.

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