WHY YOU’LL LOVE KAMPONG GLAM: A COMPLETE GUIDE

By LINDA JAMES | Updated June 13, 2023 | AREA GUIDES

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The vibrant colours, heady aromas and the culture are the reasons so many visitors love Kampong Glam, which is one of the oldest areas in the city. Once controlled by Malay and Indonesian kings, Singapore was mostly Islamic and Kampong Glam was home to the headquarters of a Malay Islamic dynasty. The former palace now houses the Malay Heritage Centre, which is almost next door to Singapore’s most important and spectacular mosque, the Sultan Masjid.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles signed the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance in 1819 with Singapore’s Malay rulers, Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong Abdul Rahman. This gave the British East India Company the exclusive right to establish a trading post on Singapore in exchange for financial compensation and British military protection for the Malay rulers.

Here you’ll find outlets selling Persian carpets, leather, perfumes, jewellery and baskets jostling for attention with street art and hip cafes and trendy vintage clothing stores.

Getting There

On the northeast side of the city’s centre, the quickest way to get there is via Bugis MRT station (CC line), however, there are many buses that travel down the main roads, Victoria, Beach, Rochor or Ophir.

From Bugis MRT, take exit E. At the top of the escalator, turn right along Victoria St. A few blocks and you’ll come to Arab St, which is the main thoroughfare.

What to See & Do

Arab St

Once the centre of the materials and textiles trade in Singapore, it’s quieter today but still has stalls that sell rugs and clothing. The retail outlets here focus on selling other goods imported from the Middle East such as honey, dates, frankincense and myrrh.

In 1822, the grand Singapore town plan designated this area for the Arab community and the street was given its name.

Address: Arab St
Open: 24 hours
Getting there: near Bugis MRT station
More information: Arab St

Bali and Haji Lanes

These are highlights for anyone wanting to make an impact on their Instagram accounts with pics of the striking street art and graffiti. If that’s you then make sure you head there early in the morning before the restaurants and bars open and you’ll have it mostly to yourself. You should also venture back in the evening to get a taste of the night life and the artwork also comes a live under the lights.

This is one of the best places to go for happy hour too when the chairs and tables are moved outside and people chill out while bands and DJs make music. Happy hour happens every day until about 8pm.

Address: Bali and Haji Lanes 
Open: 24 hours
Getting there: near Bugis MRT station
More information: https://www.timeout.com/singapore/news/haji-lane-named-one-of-the-top-10-coolest-streets-in-the-world-061021

Cape of Good Hope gallery

If you’d like to check out the work of Singaporean artists, this gallery has some excellent solo and group exhibitions.

Address: Bras Basah Complex #03-17, 231 Bain St
Open: 11am-7pm Tuesday to Sunday
Getting there: near Bras Basah and Bugis MRT stations
More information: www.capeofgoodhope.com.sg

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque

Named after a charitable Malay woman who donated money to build it, this mosque was built in 1846in a mix of Malay and colonial styles. At the back of the mosque, there are old tombstones, including Hajjah Fatimah’s.

Address: 4001 Beach Rd
Open: Daily 9am-9pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Lavender MRT; buses 7,32,51,63,80,82,100,107,107X,145,197,03,61,851,961,980
More information: www.muis.gov.sg/mosque/Our-mosques

Gelam Gallery

And for something out of the ordinary, you should visit this outdoor gallery in the lanes behind a row of shophouses. Murals and mosaic artwork has transformed the alleyways into a kaleidoscope of colours and scenes.

Address: Muscat St
Open: flexible hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near Bugis MRT station
More information: https://www.theadmin.sg/gelam-gallery

Malay Heritage Centre

The Malay Heritage Centre is housed in the former Istana Kampong Glam, (Sultan’s Palace) where Malay royalty lived. The original wooden istana was built in 1819 by Sultan Hussein. It was rebuilt by his son in 1840. The centre has a museum that chronicles the old Malay way of life and how it has changed as the city became the centre of trade. 

Address: 85 Sultan Gate
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10am–6pm, closed Monday
Cost: Singaporean residents free; others – adults $S8, students $S5 and children under 6yrs free
Getting there: near Bugis MRT 
More information: https://www.malayheritage.gov.sg/

Sultan Mosque

For a great view of this golden-domed mosque, stop at the Baghdad St end of Bussorah St. The Sultan Mosque or Masjid Sultan is the cornerstone of the Muslim faith in Singapore. There’s a dark band at the base of the main dome, which is actually the bottoms of thousands of glass bottles donated by the faithful.

Address: 3 Muscat St
Open: Daily 9am-1pm; 2pm-4pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: Near Bugis MRT 
More information: https://sultanmosque.sg/

Where to Stay

Also check out the Bras Basah-Bugis hotels, which are not far away.

Mid-range

PARKROYAL on Beach Rd

The biggest drawcard for the PARKROYAL is its pool, which not only is absolutely huge but has great views of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and the wheel.

After a big day of sight-seeing, I really loved chilling out by the pool and, it’s so big, it never felt crowded.

Another plus here is that most of the 346 rooms are a very spacious 35sqm. Some of the premier rooms and suites are even larger.

There are two restaurants – Lime, the hotel’s signature restaurant, which dishes up an extensive buffet spread featuring international and local fare, and Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant offers authentic Sichuan and Cantonese cuisine. Club 5 serves up cocktails and snacks.

There’s also a fitness centre and a spa.

Prices: from $S300 
Address: 7500 Beach Rd
More information: https://www.hotels-g.com/singapore/

Hotel Traveltine

The Hotel Traveltine is within walking distance of the area’s iconic attractions: the stunning Sultan Mosque, the vibrant Haji Lane with its boutique shops and trendy cafes, and the bustling Arab Street known for its textile and carpet shops.

It’s also next door to the Golden Mile Complex shopping mall and across from the Golden Mile Food Centre, which has some fantastic hawkers, many of which specialise in Thai food so you’ll never go hungry!

There are 300 rooms with HD LCD TVs, mini fridges, complimentary water, free wifi and in-room safes. The rooms are all on the smaller side about 19sqm.

The superior rooms (twin or queen) also have a sofa while the deluxe are on a higher floor and have Nespresso machines. There’s also triple and family rooms, the latter are designed for two adults and two children aged 12 or below and have a queen, sofa bed and pull-out bed.

The hotel also has interconnecting superior rooms with 4 x twin beds but these are more expensive. Cots are also available.

There are panoramic views of Kampong Glam’s vibrant streets from the rooftop pool and a fitness centre on level 2.

700 Café is open from 7am-8.30pm for breakfast and a range of meals throughout the day. The lobby bar is a great place to chill at the end of the day.

There’s also a stack of vending machines for snacks and drinks.

The hotel is a 10-minute walk to Nicholl Highway MRT.

Price: superior rooms from $S200
Address: 700 Beach Rd
More information: www.hoteltraveltine.com

Village Hotel Bugis

This is a great property although the rooms could do with a refresh. This is compensated for by the great amenities, handy location and the price.

It’s very popular with families and has a Village Important Kids (VIK) program, which includes special benefits.

The rooms are a spacious 32sqm and range from deluxe to superior and family rooms with 3 large beds.

There’s also a Kids Themed Room with a king bed and sofa bed, 40-inch LED TV and a set of kid-friendly amenities.

The Landmark restaurant serves a variety of international options and is Halal-certified.

There’s a large swimming pool and a gym. Private parking is available as well as free wifi. The hotel is very close to Bugis MRT and the shopping mall.

Price: from $S206
Address: 390 Victoria St
More information: www.stsignature.com/locations/bugis-beach

Where to Eat & Drink

Golden Mile Complex

This is Singapore’s “Little Thailand” and the place to go if you have a hankering for spicy, sweet and salty flavours. As well as a stack of Thai restaurants, there are pubs and supermarkets. Some of the stalls to try include:

Golden Banana (#02-64)

Dish: banana fritters, sweet potato balls

Open: Tuesday to Sunday 10.30am-8.30pm, closed Monday

Ah Xiao Teochew Braised Duck (#B1-43)

Dish: braised duck rice

Open: Weekdays 9.30am–3.30pm, weekends 9.30am–1.30pm

Golden Mile Special Yong Tau Foo (#B1-44)

Dish: young tau foo

Open: Monday to Saturday 10.45am–3pm, closed Sundays

Shen Bakmie Noodle (#B1-37)

Dish: bakmi noodles

Open: Weekdays 9.30am–7.30pm, Saturday 9.30am–5pm, closed Sunday

The Original Vadai (#B1-32)

Dish: vadai

Open: Tuesday to Sunday noon–7pm, closed Monday

Yew Chuan Claypot Rice (#01-73)

Dish: claypot rice

Open: Monday-Wednesday and Friday noon–8.30pm, weekends 4pm–8.30pm, closed Thursdays

91 Fried Kway Teow Mee (#01-91)

Dish: char kway teow

Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11am–2.30pm, closed Monday

Wedang (#B1-19)

Dishes: tahu goreng, gado gado, nasi ayam

Open: Tuesday to Saturday noon–5pm, closed Sunday and Monday

Hainan Hokkien Mee (#B1-34)

Dish: hokkien mee

Open: Monday 10am–3pm, Tuesday, Thursday to Sunday 10am–5pm, closed Wednesday

Chung Cheng Chilli Mee Prawn Laksa (#01-59)

Dishes: chilli mee, prawn mee, laksa

Open: Monday, Wednesday to Sunday 9.30am–6.30pm, closed Tuesday

Address: 5001 Beach Rd
Open: Daily 11am-9.30pm
Getting there: Near Nicoll Highway Station (via Circle Line). Exit station, turn right onto Beach Rd and the complex is on your right; buses – 100, 961 and 980
More information: https://www.goldenmilecomplex.sg/

Conclusion

Three of the key reasons to love Kampong Glam are the street art, the exotic smells and the culture. From Sultan Mosque to Arab St and Haji Lane, there’s so much to do here, it’s definitely one area that is a “must-see”.

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