HOW TO GET THE BEST FROM CHINATOWN: A DETAILED GUIDE

By LINDA JAMES | Updated June 15, 2023 | AREA GUIDES

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One of my favourite places to spend time when I’m in Singapore, Chinatown has fantastic food as well as cultural and historical experiences. It’s also a very central place to stay. A short MRT ride will get you to many of the other popular activities and places in Singapore such as Marina Bay, the Riverside district and Orchard Rd.

Getting There

There are a couple of MRT stations servicing different areas of Chinatown, which makes it easily accessible from just about anywhere: Telok Ayer MRT (DT18), Chinatown (DT19/NE4) and Outram Park (EW16).

There are also a stack of buses that will get you there: the 143, 147 and 61.

What to See & Do

Al-Abrar Mosque

This mosque has two thin minarets topped by the Crescent and Star.

Address: 192 Telok Ayer St
Open: Saturday to Thursday 10am to 6pm, Friday 10am-noon, 2.30pm-6pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Telok Ayer MRT 
More information: https://chinatown.sg/visit/al-abrar-mosque/

Baba House

The National University of Singapore bought this 1895 three-storey townhouse, which was once the ancestral home of a Peranakan Chinese family. It has been carefully restored and provides visitors with an insight into life in those times.

Address: 157 Neil Rd
Open: Bookings only
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents, others $S10
Getting there: near Outram Park MRT (EW16/NE3), 8 min walk; buses – 143,147,167,400
More information: babahouse@nus.edu.sg

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

One of the most well-known temples in Singapore, it’s an impressive sight with its red and gold four-storey exterior embellished with hundreds of Buddha statues. It has bell and drum towers and a stunning main hall with a high ceiling. There’s also a pagoda on the roof with a large prayer wheel. While it looks very old, it was actually only built in 2007.

On the 4th floor, you’ll find the 2m-high, 318kg solid gold stupa, which holds the sacred relic, a tooth of Lord Buddha, who died more than 2000 years ago.

Busiest time of the year is Vesak Day in May when Buddhists flock to the temple.

Address: 288 South Bridge Rd
Open: Daily 9am-6.30 pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: Near Chinatown MRT station
More information: https://www.facebook.com/BuddhaToothRelicTemple/

Chinatown Heritage Centre

These three beautifully restored shophouses will give you an insight into what life was like for Chinatown’s earliest residents. The six galleries feature a host of artefacts and memorabilia including carefully maintained living spaces. There are multimedia self-guides available in English, Mandarin, French and Japanese.

Address: 48 Pagoda St
Open: Daily 9.30am-6pm, temporarily closed
Cost: $S14
Getting there: near Chinatown MRT (NE4/DT19), 4 min walk, Outram Park (EW16/NE3), 9 min walk; buses – 143, 33
More information: https://chinatown.sg/visit/chinatown-heritage-centre/

Chinatown Street Market

If you’re after some traditional Chinese wares such as fans, tea, decorated chopstick sets, laughing Buddhas and souvenirs, this is the place to visit. The market runs from Pagoda, Trengganu and Sago streets every night.

Address: 29 Smith St 
Open: daily 9am-10pm 
Getting there: near Chinatown MRT station 
More information: www.chinatown.sg

Chinese Theatre Circle

I haven’t yet been able to experience this yet but friends say it’s definitely worth it. The circle gives you the chance to learn about Chinese Opera and enjoy a set Chinese dinner with Chinese tea and dessert. While you eat, you get to view excerpts of opera and then discover more about the historical and artistic context. The evening is capped off with a performance. There are some different options available.

Address: 5 Smith St
Open: Friday and Saturday 7pm–9pm for the dinner show
Cost: $S40 per person, $S25 without dinner
Getting there: near Chinatown MRT station
More information: ctcopera@yahoo.com

City Gallery

If you’re interested in learning about Singapore’s transformation from trading port to thriving global financial hub, this three-storey visitor centre has all of the info. There’s a huge model replica (with light and sound) of Singapore’s Central Area as well as interactive exhibits like the 270-degree panoramic show about daily life in the city-state.

Address: 45 Maxwell Rd
Open: Daily 9am-5pm, closed Sunday
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15), take Exit B, 7 min walk, Telok Ayer MRT (DT18), 10 min walk; buses – 10,143,568,655,80,97E
More information: https://www.ura.gov.sg/Corporate/Singapore-City-Gallery

Musical Box Museum

One of the symbols of European culture, musical boxes were a firm favourite in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This museum is in Thian Hock Keng temple so you can combine the two.

The museum only operates guided tours so bookings are essential.

Address: 168 Telok Ayer St
Open: 10am-5pm
Cost: Adult $S12, student $S6, child 6yrs and under free (includes 45-minute guided tour)
Getting there: near Telok Ayer MRT (DT18), 3 min walk, Chinatown MRT (NE4/DT19), 9 min walk, Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15) 10 min walk, Raffles Place MRT (EW14/NS26), 10 min walk; buses – 10,655,97,97E
More information: smbmbox@gmail.com

Pinnacle@Duxton City

This is one of the places to visit to get a bird’s-eye view of Singapore. There are seven 50-storey towers linked at the 26th and 50th levels by skybridges, which have 500m-long sky gardens. The 50th-storey skybridge is open to the public for just $S6.

Address: 1G Cantonment Rd
Open: daily 9am-9pm
Cost: $S6 per person
Getting there: near Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15), Outram MRT (EW16), 10 min walk; buses – 167,196,75,166,197,61 
More information: http://www.pinnacleduxton.com.sg/

Sri Mariamman Temple

This is one of the most prominent places of worship for Tamil Hindus and honours Goddess Mariamman – the deity of disease and protection.

There’s an elaborate six-tiered grand tower entrance, built in the Dravidian style and decorated with Hindu deities and mythological figures.

The walls and ceilings are covered with colourful murals of Hindu deities and religious motifs. Busiest time is the week before Diwali when it hosts the annual Firewalking Festival, in which devotees prove their faith by walking barefoot over burning embers.

Address: 244 South Bridge Rd
Open: 5am-11.30am, 5pm-8.45pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: Near Chinatown MRT (NE4/DT19), 6 min walk, Outram Park (EW16/NE3), 10 min walk; buses - 143, 568, 61, 80
More information: http://smt.org.sg/

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Also known as the Temple of Heavenly Happiness, this Taoist-Buddhist temple, built around 1820, is dedicated to the Mother of Heavenly Sages and protector of sailors, Ma Zu Po. One of the most fascinating facts about it is that it was built without a single nail!

Its intricately painted doors and elaborately decorated beams and gold-leafed panels feature intricate sculptures of dragons and deities. The roof ridges are also decorated with colourful broken porcelain. Taoist “door gods” decorate the wooden entry door.

During the Chinese New Year festival, worshippers flock to the temple to offer fortune rice buckets to the spirit of the Jade Emperor.

Address: 158 Telok Ayer St
Open: Daily 7.30am-5.30pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Telok Ayer MRT (DT18), 3 min walk, Chinatown MRT (NE4/DT19), 9 min walk, Tanjong Pagar MRT (EW15) 10 min walk, Raffles Place MRT (EW14/NS26), 10 min walk; buses – 10,655,97,97E
More information: https://chinatown.sg/visit/thian-hock-keng-temple/

Where to Stay

Luxury

The Clan

Everything about this hotel reeks of luxury – from the welcome tea ceremony to the soaring ceilings and full height windows of the reception centre over which hangs 150 painted aluminium panels folded in geometric shapes. The 30-storey hotel is in the Far East Square complex and has an infinity pool on the top floor that has stunning views of the city. The 324 deluxe and premier rooms offer a variety of outlooks and bed types.

Address: 10 Cross St
Price: from $S400
Getting there: across the road from Telok Ayer MRT station (DT18); a 5-minute walk from Raffles Place MRT (NS26/EW14). 
More information: www.theclanhotel.com.sg

Mid-range

Hotel Soloha

Housed in a row of shophouses, this hotel features bespoke artwork and a nightly happy hour with $S10 drinks. The rooms are small starting with the standard at 11–16sqm, deluxe 12–14sqm, lofts 16–21sqm and suites from 15–29sqm. The latter have Nespresso machines and separate showers and some – the outdoor suites – even have outdoor bathtubs!

Address: 12 Teck Lim Rd
Price: from $S250
Getting there: a 7-minute walk from Chinatown MRT 
More information: solohahotels.com

KeSa House

Also in a row of colourful shophouses, KēSa House is in the Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area, on the fringe of Chinatown. This means there are a stack of dining options from hawker stalls to Michelin-starred restaurants.

The 60 rooms are all a little different because the 10 shophouses were integrated. They start with the 13sqm standard to the 15-21sqm premier and the 29sqm studio premier, which has a kitchenette and extra living space, perfect for anyone staying a little longer. With these rooms, you also have a choice of a private balcony or an additional sofa/pull-out bed.

Address: 55 Keong Saik Rd
Price: from $S168
Getting there: a six-minute walk from Chinatown MRT
More information: www.oakwood.com/the-unlimited-collection/singapore/singapore/kesa-house

Capri by Fraser China Square

Just a 2-minute walk from Chinatown MRT station and Chinapoint shopping mall, this property is also 6 minutes from Maxwell Food Centre.

There’s a decent-sized rooftop swimming pool with great views of the area as well as a fully equipped gym and self-service laundry with interactive games. There’s also all-day dining at JÙN restaurant.

The 304 rooms come in superior, deluxe (on a higher floor), executive and studio configurations. They’re all 26sqm except for the 29sqm studio deluxe and studio executive rooms, which have a bathtub and cooktop as well as a microwave. I love the fact that all of the rooms have filtered drinking water taps and free wifi.

The executive rooms on high floors also have Nespresso machines and access to The Den, which is the club lounge although it only provides free snacks and drinks and no alcohol aside from beer.

Address: 181 South Bridge Rd
Price: from $S150 
Getting there: also near Raffles Place and Telok Ayer MRT stations  
More information: www.capribyfraser.com

Heritage Collection Chinatown

This property is also in a renovated shophouse. There are studios (from about 10sqm) and lofts (20sqm) but some don’t have windows so check carefully when booking.

However, all rooms have microwaves, fridges, kitchen utensils and crockery as well as TVs, wifi and air conditioning. Some even have washing machines and dryers, and there’s also a self-service laundry.

Address: 227 South Bridge Rd
Price: from $S120 to $S165
Getting there: a 6-minute walk from Chinatown and Telok Ayer MRT stations 
More information: www.hericoll.com

Budget

Wink Capsule Hostel@Downtown

This shophouse hostel is conveniently located, only a 2-minute walk to Amoy Street Food Centre or 5 minutes to Maxwell Food Centre. The dorms are airconditioned, carpeted and include couches. Linen and towels are included – and there’s a free breakfast!

Guests have access to a kitchenette with microwave and refrigerator. There are shared bathrooms, a café, internet stations and a self-service laundry.

Address: 8A Mosque St
Price: from $S35 for a single pod in a 12-pod mixed room to $S75 for two single pods in a private room (all shared bathroom)
Getting there: a 5-minute walk to Telok Ayer MRT
More information: www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g294265-d18906628-Reviews-Wink_Capsule_Hostel_Downtown-Singapore

Where to Eat & Drink

Amoy Street Food Centre

Avoid this one in the middle of the day when it’s packed with office workers! Four of the stalls here have been awarded Michelin Bib Gourmands for “great food at reasonable prices”: A Noodle Story, Hong Kee Beef Noodle, Hoo Kee Bak Chang, and J2 Famous Crispy Curry Puff. There’s a wide variety of food on offer such as mee goreng and rice dumplings. Some stalls here even offer modernised hawker food.

Stalls to try

Hoo Kee Rice Dumplings (#01-18)

Bib Gourmand

Dish: Bak zhang (rice dumpling)

Open: Tuesday to Friday 11am–3pm

Amoy Street Fried Kway Teow (#01-01)

Dish: char kway teow (stir-fried rice noodles)

Open: Monday to Saturday, 9.30am–2.30pm 

Address: 7 Maxwell Rd
Open: Most stalls operate Monday to Friday, some Saturdays and a few Sundays
Getting there: Near Telok Ayer (DT18) and Tanjong Pagar (EW15) MRT stations

Chinatown Complex Food Centre

One of the biggest – and most well-known – hawker centres in Singapore, this has more than 260 stalls. There’s not much you couldn’t find here with stalls selling chicken rice, chilli crab, black pepper crab, satay, carrot cake, char kway teow, BBQ stingray, BBQ chicken wings, Hokkien mee and bak kut teh and desserts such as ice kachang and soya beancurd.

Stalls to try

Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu (#02-88)

Dishes: Fried fish cake, Ikan Bilis bee hoon, brinjal, yong tau fu

Open: Tuesday to Thursday 6am-3pm

China La Mian Xiao Long Bao (#02-135)

Dish: Steamed dumplings

Open: Tuesday to Friday 11am-9pm, weekends 9am–9pm

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodles (#02-127)

Dishes: Soya sauce chicken rice, soya sauce chicken noodles

Open: Daily 10am-8pm, closed Wednesdays

Jia Ji Mei Shi (#02-166)

Dishes: Fried bee hoon, yam cake

Open: Daily 7.30am–10pm (closed Wednesday)

Hong Kong Mongkok Tim Sum (#02-97)

Dish: Hong Kong-style dim sum

Open: Wednesday to Sunday 11am until sold out

Cheng Ji (#02-190)

Dish: Steamed fish head

Open: Monday to Saturday noon-9pm

Hai Sing Ah Balling (#02-59)

Dish: Teochew style dumplings

Open: Tuesday to Sunday noon-9pm

Zhao Ji Clay Pot Rice (#02-53)

Dish: Claypot rice dishes

Open: Daily noon-7pm (closed Wednesday)

Yue Ping (#02-65)

Dish: Fried pumpkin cake

Terry Katong Laksa (#02-04)

Dish: Laksa

Shi Xiang Satay (#02-79)

Dish: Satay

Tian Tian Porridge (#02-185)

Dish: Pork porridge

Address: 335 Smith St
Open: All day
Getting there: Near Chinatown MRT (NE4) – walk 1 minute from Exit B

Hong Lim Market and Food Centre

This centre also has Michelin-awarded eateries and modernised hawker stalls. It also gets busy at lunchtime. Popular dishes include include pork noodles, mushroom minced pork, porridge, fishballs, rice dumplings and Hokkien prawn mee.

Stalls to try

Ji Ji Wanton Noodle Specialist (#02-48/49/50)

Dish: wanton noodles

Open: Daily 7.30am–7pm

Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa (#02-66)

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Dish: laksa

Open: Monday to Saturday 10.15am–3pm, closed Sunday

Heng Kee Curry Chicken Bee Hoon Mee (#01-58)

Dish: curry chicken

Open: Monday to Saturday 10.30am–2.30pm, closed Sunday

Tuck Kee (Ipoh) Sar Hor Fun (#02-39)

Dish: hor fun

Open: Monday to Saturday 11.15am–2.30pm, closed Sunday

Granny’s Pancake (#01-58)

Dish: ban chang kueh

Open: Monday to Saturday 7am–7pm (or till sold out), closed Sunday

Tai Wah Pork Noodle (#02-16)

Dish: pork noodle

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 8am–7.30pm, Sunday 8am-3pm, closed Monday

Ma Bo Lor Mee (#02-04)

Dish: lor mee

Open: daily 8.30am–6.30pm

Outram Park Fried Kway Teow Mee (#02-17)

Dish: char kway teow

Open: Monday to Saturday 6am–3.30pm, closed Sunday

Belly Lucky Noodles (#02-25)

Dish: char siew and dumpling noodles and dumpling soup

Open: weekdays 11.30am–2.30pm, weekends closed

Cantonese Delights (#02-03)

Dish: curry fried chicken

Open: Saturday to Thursday 10.30am–2pm, closed Friday

Dong Fang Hong Sotong Ball Seafood Soup (#01-47)

Dish: sotong ball seafood soup

Open: Monday to Thursday 11am–2pm, closed Friday to Sunday

Eddy’s (#02-52)

Dish: duck confit, mala shrimp spaghetti

Open: Monday to Friday 10.30am–7pm, Saturday 10.30am–3pm, closed Sunday

Address: 531A Upper Cross St
Open: daily
Getting there: Near Chinatown MRT Station (NE4/DT19), walk 2 mins from Exit F

Maxwell Food Centre

This centre, opposite the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, is home to the very well-known Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall (#01-10), which I can definitely say serves one of the best chicken rice dishes I’ve ever eaten. Renowned chef Anthony Bourdain once gave it the thumbs up as did the Michelin Guide. Another very good chicken rice stall is Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice (#7), which was founded by a former Tian Tian chef.

Stalls to try

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (#01-10/11)

Michelin Bib Gourmand

Dish: Hainanese chicken rice

Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11am–8pm or until sold out

Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice (#01-7)

Dish: Hainanese chicken rice

Open: Wednesday to Monday 11am–7.30pm or until sold out

Zhen Zhen Porridge (#01-54)

Dishes: Pork congee, pork intestine congee, slice fish congee, raw fish

Open: daily 5.30am-2.30pm

China Street Fritters (#01-64)

Dishes: Deep fried prawn fritters, ngoh hiang (local sausages), fish cake

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

Marina South Delicious Food (#01-35)

Dish: Char kway teow

Open: Daily 7am-8pm

Hoe Kee Porridge (#01-45)

Dish: Cantonese style congee

Open: 7am-4pm, closed Tuesday

Tong Xin Ju Special Shanghai Tim Sum (#01-92)

Dishes: Fried and steamed dumplings

Open: daily 11am-8pm

Fu Shun Roasted Meat Specialist (#01-71)

Dishes: crispy sio bak and charcoal roasted char siew

Open: Monday to Saturday 11.30am–7.30pm

Address: Cnr South Bridge and Maxwell Rds
Open: weekdays 8am-10pm, weekends 8am-3am
Getting there: near Tanjong Pagar MRT (Take Exit G, walk 6 minutes to Maxwell Rd); near Chinatown MRT Station (NE4) - take Exit A to Pagoda St, walk to South Bridge Rd; buses – 100, 143, 568, 80 (Walk 1 minute from bus stop B05269)
More information: Tian Tian 

Conclusion

Chinatown is one of the best places to stay in Singapore. It’s so central and the MRT makes all of the top attractions just a short ride away. It also has SO MANY hawker centres that you will never be short of delicious – and cheap – food!

More area guides

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Link to Eastern Singapore area guide
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Link to Little India area guide
Link to Marina Bay area guide
Link to Northern Singapore area guide
Link to Orchard Rd area guide
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Link to Sentosa area guide
Link to Western Singapore area guide

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