Singapore Neighborhoods Guide - A Melting Pot of Cultures and Tastes
Culture photography, a vibrant food scene, interesting architecture, cool neighborhoods, colourful street art – these are some of our favourite things in the whole world. To our delight, we’ve found all of these and more in Singapore. We had the best time exploring the trendy neighborhoods in Singapore and the different cuisines. With its cultural diversity, a blend of old and new, some of the most colourful neighborhoods in the world, a never-ending list of attractions, a fascinating mixture of skyscrapers and green parks – there are so many things to see and do in Singapore. We will try to make you fall in love with Singapore and see it through our eyes in our guide to Singapore’s best neighborhoods and best areas to stay in Singapore.
Singapore Neighborhoods Guide - The Best Areas to Explore and Stay in Singapore
Getting to Singapore's Neighborhoods
Before we actually start talking about these neighborhoods, let’s talk about getting to these different neighborhoods, some of which are located far from the city center. Getting around Singapore is easy, you can use the city’s public transportation, the buses and the very efficient MRT system or take a taxi (affordable prices if you are not on a very tight budget). We have mentioned the closest MRT station to each of these neighborhoods and you can also check out this map of Singapore’s MRT stations.
Best Neighborhood in Singapore for Culture Lovers
Strolling around Singapore’s Little India, we felt as if we took a flight to a completely different country. From the shops in the streets and the Hindu and Buddhist Temples to the beautiful women who were wearing colourful saris, we couldn’t get enough of this lovely neighborhood. It is one of the best places to wander around if you love culture photography as we do!
Things to Do in Little India
Stroll around the Colourful Streets
Explore some of Singapore’s most colourful streets, from the facades of the houses to the temples and street art, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to capture the local lively scene. Our best advice is to get lost in the vibrant streets of Little India and look for its hidden gems. Don’t forget to visit the House of Tan Teng Niah. It is one of the last Chinese villas that can be found in Little India nowadays. Tan Teng Niah, a Chinese businessman, built this house for his wife in the 1900s and it was restored in 1980. It is one of the most colourful houses in Singapore and a great place for some selfie shots worthy of your Instagram feed.
Insider tip: Some of our favourite streets to find Little India’s street art and murals are: Kerbau Road, Race Course Road and Clive street.
Explore Little India's Markets and Shops
Wandering around Little India’s streets you’ll find a mixture of gold shops, places to buy a colourful sari, hippie bags or Indian spices. Making your way through Little India’s streets, there’s a unique aroma in the air – a blend of incense, spices and curry. It’s a buzzing area both in the morning and at night that is a pleasure to discover.
Visit a Hindu Temple
There are a few Hindu temples in the neighborhood. We visited Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple at 141 Serangoon Rd and loved it. The temple was built by Indian pioneers who came to work and live in the area and it is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. We discovered it by chance while we were walking down the street and decided to have a look inside. Wandering around amongst the dozens of believers who were praying, lighting candles and waiting in line to get a blessing, was fascinating. The atmosphere was very festive and relaxed at the same time. Walking around with a camera in a religious compound is not always welcomed but here most people smiled or paid no attention at all, so it was such a pleasure to walk around and admire the intricate artwork and carvings. It was one of our Little India’s highlights!
Eat Some Indian Food
There’s really no need to elaborate here… Indian cuisine is one of the best cuisines in the world. Just try any of these Indian restaurants in the area to satisfy your dosa and paneer cravings.
Insider Tip: Little India is always a pleasure to discover but during Deepavali or any other local celebration, it is an even more unique experience so check out the festivities calendar prior to your visit.
Best Time to Visit Little India
Why Stay in Singapore's Little India?
Little India is the best area to stay in Singapore if you love culture and street photography or if you are on a budget because there are many options here. Here are our top recommendations:
Kampong Glam and Bugis
Best Neighborhood in Singapore for Culture Lovers and Street Art
Within a walking distance from Little India, you’ll find Kampong Glam and the adjacent Bugis. Even though not many miles separate Little India and Kampong Glam, it seems like they are a world away. The golden dome of Masjid Sultan, the Turkish food and Persian carpet shops will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world. In addition, there are great murals in the area and the hipster Haji Lane.
What to Do in Kampong Glam
Discover Some of the Coolest Graffiti in Singapore
This area is filled with amazing graffiti and colourful murals, you just need to know where to look. There are a few murals along Victoria Street and in Sultan Arts Village. Sultan Arts Village is a small compound with some galleries and shops and we’ve found some of our favourite street art there. You can also visit the alley behind Aliwal Arts Centre where you’ll find ever-changing murals.
Stroll Down Haji Lane
Haji Lane has turned into one of the coolest areas in Kampong Glam. Wherever you look, you’ll see a charming little corner and the atmosphere is vibrant and fun. There are great places to eat and shop as well as lots of amazing street art. Haji Lane is pretty tiny but you can easily spend a couple of hours here. Try and come here early to avoid the crowds but not too early if you want a chance to shop at the fashionable boutiques.
Visit Masjid Sultan Mosque
Towering above everything else, there’s the majestic gold dome of Masjid Sultan Mosque. Located at Muscat street, at the heart of the Arab neighborhood and surrounded by souvenirs shops, coffee shops and little eateries, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kampong Glam. The mosque is very impressive with the golden dome and surrounding vegetation and it’s a great place to snap some pictures for your Instagram feed.
Why Stay in Kampong Glam and Bugis?
You can find many types of accommodation options in the area of Kampong Glam and the nearby Bugis, from pod hostels to boutique hotels. The area is filled with amazing street art and cool coffee shops and restaurants. In the evenings, check out the bars and live performances in Haji Lane. Bugis is basically the area between Kampung Glam and Marina Bay. There is not a lot to do in the area other than shopping, however, it’s very convenient to stay here if you want to be close to everything else. Depending on your hotel’s location, it’s a 10-20 minute walk to Little India, Kampong Glam and Marina Bay.
Most Famous Neighborhood in Singapore
When you think of Singapore, What’s the first image that comes to mind? Probably the famous skyline with the unusual structure of Marina Bay Sands Hotel. In Marina Bay, you’ll find some of Singapore’s most famous attractions from the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome of Gardens by the Bay to the unique architecture of the ArtScience Museum and the infinity pool of Marina Bay Sands.
What to Do in Marina Bay
There are so many attractions in the area, and we’ve detailed most of them in our Singapore 4-day itinerary. Other than the famous Garden by the Bay attractions and Merlion Park, you can also walk the Marina Bay Art Trail (follow this trail to admire the work of renowned artists and sculptures that you can find in the area), or catch a concert or a dance performance in the Esplanade. This unique compound is located right at the waterfront and it offers different shows, family activities and art exhibits.
Why Stay in Singapore's Marina Bay
Marina Bay is in the center of everything. You’ll find here plenty of activities during the day and during the night. It’s probably the most famous area in Singapore and there are lots of activities for families with kids. However, this neighborhood is also one of the most expensive areas to stay in town.
Best Neighborhood in Singapore for Central Location and Authenticity
Chinatown is always a fascinating place to stroll around and there’s no other neighborhood in Singapore that demonstrates so well the cultural melting pot of the city. Within a very short walking distance from Chinatown Heritage Center, you’ll find a mosque, a Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple. This neighborhood has a different look during the day and during the night so the best time to visit would be in the afternoon when you’ll capture the best of both worlds.
Things to Do in Chinatown
Get Lost in Chinatown’s Streets
Follow the colourful lanterns and try to find your own hidden gems. There are plenty of opportunities to buy some souvenirs and find some colourful street corners.
Visit Chinatown Heritage Center
Chinatown Heritage Centre is set within three restored shophouses and inside you’ll get a glimpse into the early days of the original Chinese settlers. A visit to this extraordinary museum provides a unique perspective into the lives and houses of the people who helped shape the history of Singapore.
Visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
You can’t miss this four-story temple which is located in the heart of Chinatown. Inside you’ll find a golden stupa (2-meter-high) and the Buddhist Culture Museum which holds more than 300 artifacts from all over Asia. Ceremonies are still held in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple on a daily basis so respect the customs and cover your shoulders and knees.
Insider Tip: There is a free tour every Tuesday and Thursday and you’d better reserve a place in advance if you are interested. For information about opening hours and more.
Eat Delicious Chinese Food
There’s no better place to devour some authentic Chinese food. You can visit the local hawker centre at the Maxwell Food Centre, or if you are not into hawker centres, stroll along Duxton Hill where you can find many restaurants in the little quaint shophouses. Another street to find some upscale dining spots (not necessarily Chinese) is Pasoh Road. Here are some recommendations for Chinese fare in the area.
Insider Tip: This area is especially lovely during the Chinese New Year and Autumn Festival so check the dates in advance
Why Stay in Singapore's Chinatown?
Chinatown has special vibes and is one of the most hectic areas in the city, especially during the evening. If you love to be in the center of attention and you prefer a more authentic atmosphere, this is the neighborhood for you. Furthermore, there is a great selection of accommodation for every budget and taste.
Ann Siang Hill
Best Central Singapore Neighborhood with Peaceful Vibes
If you cross the street from Chinatown at South Bridge Road, you’ll find yourself yet again, at another Singapore neighborhood with a completely different atmosphere than the ones you’ve already been to. Ann Siang Hill used to be a Chinese migrant settlement but nowadays it is truly one of the hippest areas in Singapore. We stumbled upon it by chance and fell in love with the restored shophouses and unique atmosphere.
What to Do in Ann Siang Hill
Enjoy the Lively Dining and Drinking Scene
Ann Siang Hill is known for its foodie and bar scene. On Friday and Saturday night the roads are closed for traffic and the area is filled with a mixture of locals and tourists alike. Just stroll around the area and go bar hopping after eating dinner at one of the many trendy restaurants in the area.
Admire the Colorful Houses at Club Street
Strolling around club street is a must, the rows of restored shophouses are beautiful and the atmosphere is relaxed during the day. There are a few boutiques in the area and many places to have a drink or a bite to eat.
Learn About the History and Visit Ann Siang Hill Park
To learn more about the history of Ann Siang Hill you can take this Heritage Trail that will lead you through the important historical landmarks of the area and through Ann Siang Hill Park, another spot of leafy haven in Singapore.
Insider Tip: Opening hours for some of the restaurants and bars in the area are in the afternoon (some are opened for a limited time during lunchtime) and on Sundays, most of the places are closed. For street art lovers, there are a few amazing murals at the side of 227 South Bridge Rd.
Why Stay at Singapore's Ann Siang Hill?
If you are looking for a central location, close to the best nightlife in Singapore, this is the place for you. Although it is close in proximity to Chinatown and the Financial District, it’s miles away in terms of atmosphere. Other than on Fridays’ and Saturdays’ nights when young locals and tourists flock to this trendy Singapore neighborhood, most of the time the vibes are quite relaxed.
Clarke Quay & Robertson Quay
Best Neighborhood in Singapore for Nightlife
Just near the river, you’ll find the three quays (pronounced ‘keys’) of Singapore, Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay. Once the center of trading, these bustling areas were filled with warehouses and bumboats. The quays used to be the commercial heart of Singapore. Nowadays, these are the best areas to spend a night out in town bar hopping, taking a walk near the river or going on a foodie tour. There are not many tourist attractions in the Quays themselves, but this area is perfect to enjoy the evenings in Singapore since there are great restaurants, bars and nightclubs in this cool Singapore neighborhood.
Why Stay in The Quays?
This was our favourite area to spend the evenings in Singapore. You can walk along the promenade and enjoy the river views and the vibes here are just wonderful. It is also close to Chinatown and the historic center and situated quite close to Orchard Road for shopping lovers.
Best Neighborhood for Shopping
Why Stay at Singapore's Orchard Road
This is the mecca for shopping lovers. We are talking about 2.2 km of malls and restaurants that would be perfect for shopaholics. The famous Fort Canning Park is close by and the Botanical Gardens of Singapore are also not far away. However, there isn’t much to do in the area other than shopping and exploring the food scene, so take this into account.
Best Neighborhood in Singapore for a Longer Stay
This neighborhood isn’t located at the heart of the city, but it is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Singapore, and it’s especially busy during the weekend when the hip crowd comes here for brunch. There are not a lot of attractions here, however, it’s a great area to wander around that showcases the mixture of traditional and modern in Singapore.
Things to Do in Tiong Bahru
Wander around the Small Streets
You’ll find many interesting places and hidden gems here. A great book store, an old record store, trendy boutiques, one of the greatest bakeries in Singapore and many coffee shops and restaurants. It’s a great area to stroll around and admire the wonderful art deco architecture,
Insider Tip: Stroll along Yong Siak street where you’ll find some boutiques and speciality shops.
Discover the History behind Tiong Bahru
For history lovers, follow this free heritage walking guide to uncover the past of this trendy Singapore neighborhood that started as a burial ground and metamorphosed into one of the hippest neighborhoods in the area.
Visit the Local Market
A great market to visit in Singapore is the Tiong Bahru market where you’ll find a traditional market (wet market) combined with one of the best hawker centres in Singapore (renovated recently). It’s a great place to buy fresh produce, flowers and vegetables or to grab a delicious meal at the hawker food centre.
Opening hours: Wet Market: Daily from early morning till 1 pm. Food Center: daily 9 am – 8 pm.
Insider Tip: Check out Tiong Bahru Hawker Center’s website for detailed information about the food stalls you can find there.
Go on a Mural Treasure Hunt
There are some really great murals in Tiong Bahru, very different than the ones we’ve seen in Little India or Kampong Glam. The artist behind them is Yip Yew Chong, who grew up in this neighborhoods and through his stunning and detailed murals tried capturing the everyday lives of the local residents as he remembered them from his childhood memories. Check out this guide for the unique murals in the neighborhoods.
Why Stay in Singapore's Tiong Bahru?
To be honest, this is not the most recommended area to stay in Singapore. There aren’t a lot of attractions and it’s located quite further away from the city center. On the other hand, if you’d like some peace and quiet and love smaller neighborhoods, you’d love this area.
Katong and Joo Chiat
Best Neighborhood to Learn about the Peranakan Culture
The area of Katong was once filled with coconut plantations and served as a popular weekend retreat for the wealthy residents of Singapore. Nowadays, it is one of the trendiest areas in Singapore which combines traditional eateries and stores with modern chic boutiques and restaurants. This neighbourhood is also the place to visit if you’d like to learn more about the unique Peranakan culture.
Things to Do in Katong and Joo Chiat
Learn More about the Unique Peranakan Culture
The Peranakan Chinese or Straits-born Chinese (that were born in the straits settlements) are the local residents who have Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage. Nowadays the area of Katong and Joo Chiat is a mixture of old and new, traditional and conservative but it is still the heart of the Peranakan culture. To learn more about the traditional customs and unique culture of the local Peranakans you can visit the Peranakan Museum. For opening hours, admission fee and guided tours check their website. Afterwards, you can visit the Joo Chiat Mall where you’ll find an array of textiles and fabrics, traditional Malay garments and various knick-knacks.
Admire the Colourful Peranakan Shophouses
You’ve probably seen these pastel-coloured houses all over Instagram. One of THE places to pose for your Instagram feed. Well, if you want to tick it off your list stroll along Koon Seng Road where you’ll have plenty of opportunities to strike a pose. Along Joo Chiat Rd. there are other well-preserved Peranakan houses with shops and small restaurants.
Look for Treasures in the Unique Shops
The shops in the area are an eclectic mix you can’t find elsewhere. You’ll find here a mixture of fashion boutiques, antique shops, shops for Peranakan artifacts, and small indie style shops that offer a variety of knick-knacks. Visit Cat Socrates for books, artisanal stationery paper and tasteful accessories, stop by Rumah Kim Choo for Peranakan clothing, artifacts and even food sampling. For some trendy finds visit MOX at Katong Point for local designer clothing and accessories, have a look at Egg3, a concept store where you’ll find an eclectic mix of artifacts for your house and unique clothes
Eat at the Delicious Local Eateries
This area has become one of the best places for foodies and you’ll find here great places for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Taste the local Popiah (a local spring roll originally from Fujian, China) at Kway Guan Huat, try the delicious muffins and pastries at Baker’s Well, have a taste of the famous laksa (noodles in a coconut milk-based curry) at 328 Katong Laksa and chocolate lovers must pay a visit to Ninethirty for unique chocolate drinks and truffles. There are so many more great places for foodies in this Singaporean neighborhood.
Getting to Joo Chiat
Nearest MRT station: Paya Lebar or Eunos but you’ll need to walk for a while or take a bus from there. To be honest, we would just grab a taxi. This is exactly the reason why we only recommend a visit to this Singaporean neighborhood rather than actually staying here.
You should visit this last neighborhood only if you have enough time on your itinerary. This hip neighborhood which is situated very close to Singapore’s Botanic Gardens offers many shops and restaurants. This area was once covered with nutmeg plantations in the area and then the British army established its headquarters here. Nowadays, it’s a compound filled with restaurants, shops and art galleries. If you‘d like to learn more about the history, check out these various walking trails. We arrived here in late afternoon hours/early evening when a lot of shops and galleries were closed, so learn from our mistake and arrive early. We had a great dinner at the Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar but there are many more options to choose from.
Getting to Dempsey Hill: To get here you’ll need to take a taxi or take the MRT to Holland Village or the Botanic Gardens, from both of which you can catch a free shuttle bus to Dempsey Hill.
For tourists, we wouldn’t recommend staying in this area since it’s quite far from everything else.
Singapore is a wonderful destination with so many attractions for every taste. Hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the best neighborhoods in Singapore and have a better idea of what to do in each of these Singapore neighborhoods. Don’t forget to check out our 4-day itinerary and our upcoming Foodie Guide to find the best healthy food in Singapore!