GET A TASTE OF LITTLE INDIA: COMPLETE GUIDE

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

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Little India is one of the most charismatic neighbourhoods in Singapore. Walking down the streets here is a sensory experience – bright saris, incense, spices and Indian pop music swirl around along with street stalls selling delicious curries.

This area was once home to Europeans who built country houses and many of the roads are named after them. You’ll also find one of the island’s oldest roads here – Serangoon – which was constructed in 1822 and also forms the main thoroughfare.

One of the most popular – and busy – times to visit here is for the Hindu festival of Deepavali (Diwali/Festival of Light) in October or November. It marks the triumph of light over darkness – and good over evil – which happened when Lord Krishna slayed the demon Narakasura, who ruled the Pradyoshapuram kingdom by terror, torturing his subjects, and kidnapping the women and imprisoning them in his palace.

Lord Krishna destroyed the demon, and Hindus have given praise ever since. Hindus dress in colourful clothes, decorate their houses and prepare festive delicacies.

Getting There

Take the subway to Little India MRT station (DT12/NE7), which is on the Downtown and North-East lines. Head to Serangood Rd from there. You can also take buses 131, 139,147 and 64.

What to See & Do

Abdul Gaffoor Mosque

Originally built in 1859 by a southern Indian lawyer’s clerk named Shaik Abdul Gafoor Shaik Hyder for Indian Muslim merchants, this mosque has many arches and a central onion dome in a range of different styles – Arabian, South Indian and Roman. A 25-ray sundial with the names of the 25 chosen prophets of Islam written in Arabic script takes pride of place inside and the genealogy of these prophets is chronicled on a large family tree on one side of the prayer hall.

Address: 41 Dunlop St
Open: Daily 7am-noon and 2.30pm-4.30pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: Near Jalan Besar MRT (DT22) take Exit E, Rochor MRT (DT13), Little India MRT (NE7), Bugis (EW12) MRT; buses – 64,65,130,139,147,147A,857,2N,4N, 48,56,57,131,131A,960,960E,980
More information: https://www.roots.gov.sg/places/places-landing/Places/national-monuments/abdul-gafoor-mosque

Central Sikh Temple

This white marble temple is popular with Singapore’s 15,000 Sikhs. Built to mark the 518th birthday of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru, it houses the Granth Sahih, or holy book.

Address: 2 Towner Road
Open: daily 6am-8pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Bendemeer MRT (DT23) walk 11 mins, Farrer Park MRT (NE8) walk 14 mins; buses – 133,23,31,64,65.
More information: https://sikhs.org.sg/about-cst/

House of Tan Teng Niah

One of the most popular places in Singapore for Instagrammers, this house was built in 1900 by a local businessman named Tan Teng Niah.

It has survived despite the development of the area and was fully restored in the 1980s. It has landmark status from the National Heritage Board and now houses retail and commercial businesses.

Address: 37 Kerbau Rd
Open: 24 hours to see exterior
Cost: Free
Getting there: a minute’s walk from Little India MRT (DT12/NE7) station
More information: https://www.roots.gov.sg/places/places-landing/Places/landmarks/little-india-heritage-trail-serangoon-in-the-1900s/former-house-of-tan-teng-niah

Indian Heritage Centre

This four-storey building houses a wealth of information and artefacts about the history of the Indian and South Asian communities. The shimmering façade was inspired by the baoli (or Indian stepwell) and was designed to present the centre as a “shining jewel” in the day and a “glowing lantern” at night. Behind it are five permanent galleries, a museum shop and activity spaces.

There are guided tours available.

Address: 5 Campbell Ln
Open: Tuesday to Thursday 10am-7pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-8pm, Sundays/Public Holidays 10am-4pm, closed Monday
Cost: Free for Singaporean residents, $S8 adults, $S5 students and under 6yrs free
Getting there: near Rochor MRT (DT13), 4 min walk, Little India MRT (NE7/DT12), 6 min walk, Bugis MRT (EW12/DT14), 11 min walk; buses – 131,139,147
More information: https://www.indianheritage.gov.sg/en/visit/visit-1

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA Singapore)

There are five galleries focusing on innovative and experimental art.

Address: 1 McNally St
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, noon-7pm
Cost: free
Getting there: near Rochor MRT Station
More information: https://www.lasalle.edu.sg/institute-of-contemporary-arts-sg/

Kult Studio and Gallery

If you’re after street smart art that’s full of character and humour, this multi-disciplinary art studio, gallery and publisher is the place to go.

Address: 409 Race Course Rd #03-01A
Open: check website
Cost: free
Getting there: near Farrer Rd MRT station
More information: https://www.kult.online/

Leong San See Temple

Resembling a Chinese palace, this Taoist temple honours Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.

Address: 371 Race Course Rd
Open: Daily 6am-6pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Farrer Park MRT (NE8) 6 min walk; buses – 130,145,147,23,64,65

Mustafa Centre

Stepping into this centre is a bit like being Alice going the rabbit hole – there seems to be no end! It’s open 24 hours and has everything from textiles to watches and electronics, souvenirs and supermarket items on sale.

The store is also very popular for jewellery and accessories. Prepare yourself though for very narrow aisles and shelves jam-packed with goods. It can be difficult and frustrating to navigate.

Also be especially careful with your personal goods as pickpockets have been known to target this centre.

There’s a café on the ground floor (also open 24 hours) with a mix of Western and Asian food such as burgers, curry, biryani, and Singapore-style noodles.

Address 145 Syed Alwi Rd (cnr Serangoon Rd)
Open: 24 hours
Cost: free to browse
Getting there: near Farrer Park MRT (NE8)

Petain Road Terraces

If you want to see classic examples of the Chinese Baroque style, then don’t miss these 1930s houses. They’re some of the most beautiful and well-preserved in the city.

Address: Pertain Rd
Open: exterior 24 hours
Cost: free
Getting there: near Farrer Park MRT(NE8), 8 min walk, Bendemeer MRT (DT23) 10 min walk, Lavender MRT (EW11), 12 min walk; buses – 130,131,147,23,64
More information: https://remembersingapore.org/2019/12/29/petain-road-terrace-houses/

Shopping

The sights, sounds and smells will surround you as you walk down Serangoon Rd. There are a wide variety of shops selling electronics, colourful saris and clothing. Don’t forget to venture down some of the side streets – they’re full of surprises.

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Dedicated to Perumal (or Vishnu), this temple was built in 1955. It was declared a national monument in 1978. The gopuram features the legend of Vishnu’s nine reincarnations.

Address: 397 Serangoon Rd
Open: Daily 6.30am-midday; 6pm-9pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Farrer Park MRT (NE8), 5 min walk, Bendemeer MRT (DT23), 14 min walk, Lavender MRT (EW11), 16 min walk; buses – 130, 131, 23, 65
More information: http://sspt.org.sg/

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

This is the most prominent temple on Serangoon Rd. It was built in 1881 to honour the Hindu goddess of power and energy Kali and features bold colour and intricate reliefs. There are several depictions of her in the mandapam (worship hall) with 10 arms, some have blue skin and fangs.

Address: 141 Serangoon Rd
Open: Daily 8am-noon, 4pm-8.30pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Jalan Besar MRT (DT22) 8 min walk, Little India MRT (NE7/DT12) 8 min walk, Bugis MRT (EW12/DT14) 15 min walk; buses - 131, 139,147,64
More information: https://srivkt.org/

Temple of 1000 Lights (Sakyamuni Buddha Gaya Temple)

Established by a Thai monk, Vuthisara, in 1927, the temple features a 15m-high Buddha statue surrounded by light bulbs along with a range of smaller images.

Address: Serangoon Rd
Open: daily hours vary
Getting there: near Little India MRT station

Where to Stay

Luxury

Address: 366 Race Course Rd
Open: Daily 8am-4.45pm
Cost: Free
Getting there: near Farrer Park MRT (NE8), 6 min walk, Bendemeer (DT23), 13 min walk; buses - 130,145,147,23,65
More information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakya_Muni_Buddha_Gaya_Temple

One Farrer Hotel

This is actually three different hotels under one roof in a complex that has a hospital and medical centre! In reality, though, the three hotels – Mint Hotel, Loft Apartments and Skyline Hotel and Villas – are more like different room categories.

The Mint has 176 rooms on floors 11 to 15 while the Loft apartments are on 16 and the Skyline is on 18 to 20. This is the hotel’s “club” category with an 18th-floor lounge, offering five meals a day. Guests here also have their own swimming pool and gym (on the 19th floor). There’s a pool on level 6 for other guests as well as another gym.

There are a range of dining options: Escape, Socieaty, the Sunset Bar and Nest at One Farrer (a private dining experience).

Address: 1 Farrer Park Station Rd
Price: from $S240 for a Mint room
Getting there: connected to Farrer Park MRT (take Exit A) 
More information: www.onefarrer.com

Mid-range

Hilton Garden Inn Singapore Serangoon

Garden Inn guests know what to expect because the accommodation is pretty consistent around the world.

The guest amenities on the 8th floor are impressive and include the Garden Grille restaurant (international cuisine) with great views of the city as well as an outdoor swimming pool and gym.

There’s a 24-hour Pavilion Pantry where guests can pick up snacks and drinks.

Guest and deluxe rooms are from 18sqm to 22sqm and come with a variety of views. All offer free wifi.

A word of warning though – Sri Veeramakaliamman temple is close by and the bells start early in the morning!

Address: 3 Belilios Rd
Price: from $S124
Getting there: a 6-minute walk from Little India MRT 
More information: www.hilton.com/en/hotels/singigi-hilton-garden-inn-singapore-serangoon/

Holiday Inn Express Singapore Serangoon

A free breakfast, complimentary bottled water and wifi are some of the freebies on offer here. There’s also self-service laundry facilities and a 24-hour gym.

The breakfast includes fruit, cereal, pastries and up to five hot dishes, including eggs and sausage and there’s even a Grab and Go option for guests in a hurry. Kids eat for free.

The 119 rooms have complimentary coffee and tea supplies.

Address: 270 Jalan Besar
Prices: from $S200
Getting there: Farrer Park MRT is an 8-minute walk; Bendemeer MRT is 11 minutes
More information: https://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/singapore/sinsg/hoteldetail

PARKROYAL on Kitchener Rd

This family-friendly hotel has a children’s pool and an outdoor swimming pool on level 6. Also here is the executive lounge, which comes complimentary with the executive suite but can be chosen as an option by all guests when booking or checking in. This provides breakfast, all-day non-alcoholic beverages and complimentary evening drinks with hors d’oeuvres.

The two restaurants – Spice Brasserie, which provides Asian street food, and the Cantonese Si Chuan Dou Hua Restaurant – provide a range of options and room service is also available.

King and twin rooms range from 26 to 28sqm. The deluxe rooms are on higher floors with better views. You could also go all out and book the 52sqm executive king suite that has a living room and executive lounge privileges. There is a variety of family rooms ranging from 40sqm triple and quadruple rooms to a 78sqm premier family room, which sleeps six, and has a lounge area, walk-in-wardrobe and direct pool access.

Address: 181 Kitchener Rd
Prices: from $S200
Getting there: 3-minute walk from Farrer Park MRT 
More information: https://www.panpacific.com/en/hotels-and-resorts/pr-kitchener

Where to Eat & Drink

Tekka Centre

This landmark hawker centre is on the first floor and has stalls selling Indian and Chinese vegetarian meals as well as North Indian and Malay food. It’s also popular  and is well-known for fans of biryani (spiced rice with slow-cooked meats), thosai, and murtabak.

Stalls to try

Allauddin’s Briyani (#01-232)

Dish: biryani

Open: daily 8am–8pm

Temasek Indian Rojak (#01-254)

Dish: rojak

Open: Tuesday to Thursday 9am–5pm, Friday–Sunday 24hrs

Address: 666 Buffalo Rd
Open: Daily from 6.30am–9pm
Getting there: near Little India MRT (NE7|DT12); buses – 131,139,147,166,65
More information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tekka_Centre

Conclusion

Little India is a sensory explosion – the sights, smells and sounds make it a very unique experience and a must-see in your Singapore itinerary.

More area guides

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