Chinatown Singapore Guide 2022: Best Things to do & eat

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Chinatown was one of my favorite walks in all of Singapore. Away from the skyline, this hub of bustling markets brings a down-to-earth part of Singapore to light. Writing this Chinatown Singapore Guide took me back on a sweet memory lane to the evening here.

As someone who doesn’t like crowds, I was unsure of what to expect here. But the moment I witnessed the colorful lights floating over my head, I was glad! There are tons of places for walking tours (like Marina Bay) in SG and Chinatown is a must!

Self Guided Walking Tour Chinatown Singapore

Most people talk of the must-try foods here which makes up for most of the spot! But with Chinatown’s heritage since the country’s beginnings and lit markets, there’s a lot more. This Chinatown Singapore Guide shall take you through all the things to do here.

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What to expect

I visited Chinatown in the evening and highly recommend you to do the same. The evenings are when the place comes alive; Get a small backpack along with a water bottle. Don’t carry too much luggage as you’ll need to walk around a lot.

Get some comfortable shoes on and begin! Unlike most attractions of Singapore like the Zoo or the National Gallery, you don’t a need a ticket as such to enter or walk around. It’s only part of the city afterall.

But you’ll find paid tours that guide you around the heritage key spots of town. Now, should you get yourself a paid tour? Well, it depends on whether you’d prefer a paid walking tour or a self-guided walk.

Chinatown Walking Tour Guides Singapore

If you wish to make sure not to miss out on anything important here – put in some time beforehand and get your itinerary checklist in place before you get here. But if that’s too much work for you and are willing to pay for a leisure walk, the walking tour guide is highly recommended!

It also avoids the self-guide hustle of holding the maps up every 20 seconds. I took a self-guided walk around the place but I missed out on a few spots. I wished I’d read more about the place beforehand.

The best part of guided tours is that even tours are out-of-the-box here to make history interesting! One is the Trishaw Uncle Guided tours (yes, they take you around with the trishaw). Something like the infamous Singapore River Cruise at Clarke Quay.

Another is the Murder Game tour where you’ll get around Chinatown while playing a history game! Find your preferred tour guide on Klook below and book before you miss out on great deals!

For self-guided explorers like myself, don’t worry! Keep reading this post for all the key spots before you visit. Thus this self guided walking tour Chinatown Singapore.

telok ayer street chinatown sg
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Guide to Chinatown Singapore: See the lights, see the lights!

Guide to Chinatown Singapore: Best Things to do

The moment you land in Chinatown, Singapore, you’ll find yourself wandering away into amazing shops, colorful buildings, and aromatic food around. There’s so much detail you observe when you visit it physically – especially the cozy tiny streets you walk through.

In fact, I didn’t know names of the streets that lured me in with their colorful air. I had to figure them out while writing this article.

Walking through Chinatown, you’ll come across all these places one after the other. Walk through the streets, take pictures, talk to people, enjoy your tour! Here are all the best things to do in Chinatown Singapore Guide.

Visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

This majestic landmark beaming between chinatown’s bustling streets and skyscrapers was my first stop here. There’s no hard and fast on when to visit the temple. But if you’re visiting Chinatown in the evening, get there at least at 4 pm.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple closes at 5 every day. Having an hour (or more if you’re too passionate) to tour the entire temple place is sufficient.

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Walk the Pagoda Street

Pagoda street is where you’ll go back in time to the colorful Chinatown’s markets. Running parallel to Chinatown Temple Street, this 250m stretch paved footpath is filled with shops and restaurants on either sides and it’s ever lively!

Even if you’re broke, I suggest you visit it for the street’s ambience, lightings, and Instagrammable shots. Thank me later. Take a stroll till the end of Pagoda Street towards Shri Mariamman Temple.

Check out the Chinatown Heritage Center museum

Oh, you’re already on Pagoda Street? You might as well snuggle into Chinatown’s Heritage Center – it’s right on the way! I couldn’t visit this museum as it remains closed for the time period as it undergoes review.

But I hope it opens soon for your visit! When you do visit, expect to dive into the lives of early landers of Singapore. The labourers, traders, and immigrants and their stories of victories and struggles. If it opens up, I’ll be sure to visit it!

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Chinatown Singapore Guide: Kampong House footpaths

Eat at the Maxwell Food Centre

A friend suggested me this place, the Maxwell Food Centre. And sure enough, the place is popular to be a landmark around here. The food centre located by Maxwell Road is a large food court with a bunch of hawker stalls.

They serve a range of Chinatown’s delicacies including the popular chicken rice and dim sums! If you’re a foodie and looking to try out every food place out here. I suggest eating to a minimal at Maxwell as there’s still a ton outdoor hawker stalls!

For small street hawker stalls, expect to spend around $3-5 SGD for a dish. But there are also bigger places with nice seating arrangements where it can cost between $6-8 SGD. For an authentic place, it’s worth the money as well.

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Try out hawkers at Complex, 335 Smith Street

For newcomers, it’s tough to figure out where to eat. Going around Chinatown’s Complex on Smith Street with a series of restaurants, it all comes to where you end up. To the end of this street, you’ll also find the infamous Hawker Chan restaurant which previously held a michelin star!

I was too hungry when I arrived at Chinatown. So I plunged to the first hawker spot I found – the Tiong Bahru Chicken Rice. Not to mention, this place was popular among locals and a lot of people came in! I got a medium-sized hainanese chicken rice with soup for myself and it was worth the S$ 3.5!

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Guide to Chinatown Singapore: Falling in love with the Hainanese Chicken Rice :)

Take pictures at the People’s Park Complex

Find this name familiar from social media? Sure, it’s a beautiful picturesque spot. But the People’s Park Complex is worth the sight regardless for its distinguished structure. There’s a lot more to it than its looks.

The People’s Park Complex is very different from the skyscrapers you see in SG today. Built after Chinatown’s market fires in 1966 with millions of dollars in damages, it stood as one of its kind in Southeast Asia back in the days. The 40-year old structure stood as the biggest shopping complex back in the days!

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Guide to Chinatown Singapore: The People’s Park building!

Visit the Shri Mariamman Temple

Though living near Singpore for almost a decade, never had I realized the Hindu Temple – Shri Mariamman Temple was around Chinatown’s corner. Though worlds apart from Chinatown’s streets, it’s a must-visit in Chinatown!

This temple is very similar to many beautiful Dravidian-style builds I’ve come across in India. Built in 1827, it is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple! What I loved most about the Pagoda Street and Mariamman Temple is how so many cultures come in together in a single place.

Right next to it is Masjid Jamae and the Buddha temple isn’t a far walk away either. It’s quite a wonder to see!

Take a stroll on Telok Ayer Street

Another gem of Chinatown’s itinerary that I deeply regret missing out on is the Telok Ayer Street. It’s a 500-meter walk from the Pagoda street. Begin with walking the Telok Ayer Green park with black metal sculptures and Nagore Dargah museum at its corner.

With the series of restaurants similar to the rest here, Telok Ayer street stands apart with its appearance. The place blends of today’s technology and development with remainders of old Singapore with its colorful shophouses. There’s also some places to see here like the Thian Hock Keng Temple and Singapore Musical Box museum.

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kampung houses chinatown sg
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Chinatown Singapore Guide

Shop at the street markets of Chinatown

Remember those fancy lights around Pagoda Street? Right from Buddha Tooth Relic Temple’s Kreta Ayer Square, walk into the alleys of the street markets of Chinatown. It’s best to walk in the evenings. The bright hues comes to life at night over your heads.

The gift shops of all sorts become livelier than ever. Yet, the pavements remain clean and photogenic throughout with so many tourists flocking in. The gift shop items are equally alluring with their curious detailed works. I couldn’t help buying myself a hand fan embroidered with Chinese scripts and Pandas on it!

Mural Paintings around Chinatown Singapore

Another thing to look out for is the street art – Chinatown’s Mural heritage or Chinatown Wall paintings. The picture at the beginning of this article? That’s one of them! Called the Labour of Love murals, you’ll find these amazing paintings in the alleys of Chinatown.

It’s hard to spot them with the bustle. But keep an eye on the alley walls, you’ll find them! These depict the histories of lives in old Chinatown and adds up to the flavor of the place. Keep an eye out for them for I found only one! You can even book a tour just to spot all these amazing wall paintings. Here’s a great tour on Klook for the same:

Taste a pinch of Ya Kun Kaya Toast

People who live in Singapore know of the popular restaurants around here. But there are too many to count for tourists. Ya Kun Kaya Toast is another resto chain with restaurants across over a dozen countries.

However, I put it on this list because the infamous Ya Kun Kaya Toast empire began here – at Telok Ayer Street, Chinatown! Loi Ah Koon started it here at Telok Ayer in 1944 and today it looks to expand to Brunei, India, and Malaysia. It’s ingredients are simple with bread, yet delicious with its kaya.

TailPiece: Singapore Chinatown Guide

That sums up for most of my Singapore Chinatown Guide to the best places to visit. I was glad I could visit most of Chinatown within an evening. Yet, I know I missed on a good deal of stuff like the Ya Kun Kaya Toast and the top floors of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

It’s not tough to fall in love with the place here. If you think you might, you will. Much sooner than you think. Keep half a day for a complete walking tour of the place. Another idea is to spend two evenings here instead and roam Singapore elsewhere during the day. With the MRT, it shouldn’t be hard getting around.

After getting around Chinatown, I sat down at Kreta Ayer Square facing the Buddha temple as dusk fell. It was time to head back to my cozy SpacePod at Lavender. Tired and weary, I needed a break from all the walk. Stall keepers and workers were headed home. One Chinese old man came and sat down on the stairs beside me.

He smiled and I waved hi. We then talked for a good 15 minutes. Where we had come from and how we’d come here. Sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it? Talk to people on your visit. Be friendly. It’ll make the trip worth it all!

Tell me how your self-guided walking tour Chinatown Singapore went in the comment section below. I’ll be happy to hear about it :)

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Chinatown Singapore Guide: A Panaromic shot of Buddha Temple Chinatown
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Manas Patil

Hi there! I'm a 20-year-old dude all the way from India, I love traveling and building itineraries! Sign up and get your FREE COPY of my travel checklist to get the best of your next vacation!


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