A quick walking tour of Singapore's Chinatown

What we say: 3.5 stars

With its bustling markets, unique architecture and mouth-watering food, Singapore’s Chinatown neighbourhood is not to be missed. It’s possible to rush through this walking tour of Chinatown’s highlights in one hour, or you could spend half a day exploring the museums and temples, shopping for souvenirs, and feasting on noodles and dim sum.

Welcome to Chinatown!

Welcome to Chinatown!

The easiest way to get to Chinatown is by subway, and Exit A from Chinatown MRT Station will spit you into the thick of it on Pagoda Street. Named for the temple at the end of the road (we’ll get to that later), it is now a pedestrianised street market with small shops selling everything from bak kwa (sweet barbecue pork) to digital cameras. If you have some souvenir shopping to do, this is the perfect place to pick up cheap mementos like fridge magnets, T-shirts and synthetic silk versions of traditional Chinese clothing.

Continuing down Pagoda Street, building #48 on the left hand side is the Chinatown Heritage Centre. With the aid of antiques and old photographs, the museum tells the story of the Chinese immigrants who flocked to Singapore in the 19th century and settled in the area now known as Chinatown. Admission is S$10 for adults and S$6 for children, but only recommended if you’re a history buff.

Make a quick detour to India.

Make a quick detour to India.

As you approach the end of Pagoda Street, keep your eyes to the sky to see the ornately carved roof of the Sri Mariamman Temple. Founded in 1827, this is by far the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore and is the source of Pagoda Street’s name. Visitors are welcome to take off their shoes and explore the inner prayer areas.

The Tooth Relic Temple is worth exploring from top to bottom.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is worth exploring from top to bottom.

Next, take a right at South Bridge Road and follow it until you see the multi-tiered Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Inside this Tang Dynasty-inspired building you’ll find chanting monks, a museum of Southeast Asian religious art, rooftop orchid garden and a sanctum containing a tooth said to be from the Buddha himself.

Hopefully you’ve worked up an appetite by now, because one of Singapore’s best hawker centres is just across the street. For S$3-5 per plate, at Maxwell Food Centre you can feast on char kway teow, chicken rice, pig organ soup, oyster omelettes, and Singapore-style fried carrot cake, just to name a few of the offerings.

Hungry? All this walking definitely deserves a meal.

Hungry? All this walking definitely deserves a meal.

If this is the last stop of your day, they also sell big bottles of Tiger Beer.

Last updated: 15th November, 2014

About the author:
Tanya Procyshyn is a Singapore-based freelance writer and photographer. With a passion for unusual destinations, she has camped alongside Komodo dragons and shook hands with soldiers in North Korea. She blogs at www.idreamofdurian.com.
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