While you’re currently keeping safe at home, you might already be thinking about travelling when the borders are open. If Singapore is on your list for your future trip, you’d want to bookmark the Chinatown neighbourhood! Known for its historic shophouses and temples, Chinatown is a fascinating place with a stunning blend of old and new. The next time you visit Chinatown, you’d want to uncover more of its hidden gems and halal food too! To help you out in planning your next trip, we’ve got this Muslim-friendly guide to Chinatown. While you might be familiar with the streets around Chinatown MRT Station, you’d want to venture out to the other areas of Chinatown like Keong Saik Road, Maxwell Road, Neil Road and Tanjong Pagar for your next trip.
Safe distancing and hygiene tips in Singapore
For your future visit to Singapore, do ensure that you adhere to these essential hygiene and safety tips when exploring the city:
- Travel in smaller groups and maintain at least a 1-metre distance from other groups while you’re out and about. The maximum number of people allowed in social gatherings in Singapore is currently 8 people. Do check for latest updates as this might change in future.
- Pre-book your attraction tickets and make reservations for eateries if possible. Due to safe distancing measures, attractions and eateries in Singapore are operating at a limited capacity so do book in advance so you won’t have to wait in line.
- Wear a mask at all times when you’re in public and ensure that it is covering your mouth and nose. You may remove your mask only when eating or drinking but remember to put it back on immediately after you’re done.
- Travelling with kids in future? Children under 6 years of age are not required to wear a mask. Children 12 years and below are allowed to wear a face shield in place of a mask if they have difficulty keeping a face mask on for prolonged periods of time.
- Download and activate the TraceTogether appwhen you’re out and about. Switch it on when you leave your accommodation as this will help with contact tracing if you come into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. The app is similar to the tracing app in Malaysia - you can just leave it on in the background of your phone!
- Scan the SafeEntry QR codesat attractions, eateries, and MRT stations to enable contact tracing. Compared to the tracing app in Malaysia, there’s one extra step - you’ll need to check-out when you leave!
- Look out for the SG Clean mark at attractions, eateries and accommodations. The mark certifies that they have met the stringent standards for hygiene and cleanliness, including increased cleaning frequency, enforcement of safe distancing measures, and use of contactless entry methods.
1. Admire the grandeur of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is one of the highlights of Chinatown and a must-visit for travellers! While you might have walked past it on your previous trip to Singapore, why not enter the temple the next time you visit? Built in 2007, the temple houses various artefacts and relics that are important to Buddhists. The temple’s amazing architecture makes it a sight to behold. What’s interesting is that the temple gets its name from what Buddhists believe to be the “left canine tooth of Buddha” and it was recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar, India. The next time you’re there, don’t miss out on other artefacts too like the bone and tongue relics at the museum. It will surely be an eye-opening experience for any traveller. Before entering the temple, remember to scan the SafeEntry check-in using the TraceTogether app!
Opening hours: Daily; 9AM-5PM
Address: 288 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058840
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P.S. Visiting other heritage neighbourhoods in Singapore instead? Check out our guide to Kampong Gelam and Little India!
2. Snap photos with Chinatown’s IG-worthy murals
When the borders are open, we know you’d want to snap some Insta-worthy pictures for your travel memories. Chinatown’s bright and colourful murals are the perfect photo opportunity! Painted by local artists and students, these murals reflect life in Chinatown back in the day. If you haven’t finished exploring all the murals in Chinatown on your last trip, why not go on a mural hunt next time? With this guide on the Visit Singapore page, you’ll be able to tick all the murals off your list! One of the most interesting murals is Letter Writer at the sidewall of New Bridge Centre which depicts the important role of letter writers in conveying the messages of Singapore’s migrant forefathers to their loved ones in China.
Another mural you shouldn’t miss is a 40-metre mural at the back wall of Thian Hock Keng Temple. It’s the oldest temple in Singapore and the mural highlights the lives of Singapore’s early Hokkien immigrants, a dialect group who came from China’s southeastern Fujian province. Head inside the temple to appreciate the Chinese architecture - it was built in 1839 and no nails were used in its construction!
#HHWT Tip: Don’t miss out on the hipster murals along Keong Saik Road and Bukit Pasoh Road. These murals were painted by local artists Ripple Root and they are inspired by wildlife and nature.
3. Savour authentic Chinese food and other yummy eats
Credit: Restaurant Aisyah on Facebook
Your trip to Chinatown won’t be complete without trying authentic Chinese cuisine! One of the newest Muslim-owned eateries to open in the area is Aisyah Restaurant which specialises in food from the Xinjiang region. Sink your teeth in their hand-pulled noodles with meat options like stewed mutton, beef shank or spicy beef. You’d also want to get their beef/mutton dumplings and grilled meat skewers to accompany your meal when you visit in future. Do make reservations in advance when planning your trip so you won’t have to wait in line.
For a taste of local Chinese cuisine instead, Segar Restaurant at Chinatown Point should be on your list! Segar specialises in halal zi char which is Chinese homecooked-style dishes meant for sharing. Zi char is a way of eating that’s unique to Singapore’s Chinese community. At Segar Restaurant, you’ll be able to feast on fish head curry, sambal kangkong, salted egg prawns and other seafood options. Remember to keep your mask on at all times except when you’re eating and keep to a maximum of 8 people per table. Do note that intermingling between tables is not allowed.
Just like the hawker stalls in Malaysia, you can enjoy affordable food from Singapore’s hawker centres too. But did you know that Singapore’s early hawkers started selling their food on the streets? For a peek into this nostalgic street-style dining, Chinatown Food Street is where you should go next. The street hawker stalls there serve an array of tantalising food. Be sure to bookmark the 2 Muslim-owned stalls - Sultan of Satay serves juicy chicken, mutton and beef satay while Ministry of Crab serves Chilli Crab, Black Pepper Crab and more! As these are hawkers stalls, you won’t be able to make reservations in advance. So, when you’re queuing for your food, do make sure that you maintain at least a 1-metre distance from others.
#HHWT Tip: If you want to experience more of Singapore’s hawker centres, make your way to Maxwell Food Centre for more food options. Don’t miss Aspirasi Chicken Rice while you’re at Maxwell! Their chicken is fried to a perfect crisp and topped with crispy crumbs, making the dish even yummier ? You can also choose a variety of sauces to go with your chicken from sambal to lemon, sweet & sour and black pepper.
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Address: 176 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068624
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Halal status: Halal-certified
Address: 133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point, #B2-39/40/41, Singapore 059413
Contact: +65 6444 1778
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Sultan of Satay & Ministry of Crab, Chinatown Food Street
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Address: Stall 17-18, 41 Smith St, Singapore 058953
Aspirasi Chicken Rice
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Address: 1 Kadayanallur St, #01-63 Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore 069184
P.S. Check out more halal food options with our Chinatown halal food guide!
4. Soak in the atmosphere of the Chinatown Street Market and shop for souvenirs
The Chinatown Street Market is the most bustling and vibrant part of the Chinatown neighbourhood! Consisting of pedestrianised streets like Pagoda St and Trengganu St, here’s where you can soak in the atmosphere of Chinatown. The shophouses here are full of colour and if you’re visiting during festive seasons like Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival on your next trip, you can expect the area to be adorned with lanterns and other decor. Don’t miss out on a photo opportunity in the middle of the walking street! While you’re walking in the area in future, do remember to keep a safe distance of at least 1-metre from others.
Planning to bring back some Singapore-themed souvenirs from your next trip? The Chinatown Street Market is also an awesome spot to get affordable souvenirs which are usually sold in bulk. If you’re fascinated with Chinese culture, you can also get chopsticks, tea, tea sets, fans and more. Check out the full list of shops at the Chinatown Street Market here.
P.S. Planning your future trip to Singapore? Check out our Muslim-friendly guide to Marina Bay!
5. Cosy up with a book at The Moon
Credit: @themoonsg on Instagram
If you’re the type of traveller who looks for bookstores when they travel, you’d want to save The Moon to your Singapore travel list! Beyond the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, The Moon is a charming bookstore and cafe which makes for the perfect hideout if you need a break from exploring the area. The Moon is different from other bookstores as they focus on books written by female writers and people of colour. If unique souvenirs are your cup of tea, you’d want to get their merchandise, from tote bags to candles and soaps. There’s also a comfortable seating area on the second floor of The Moon where you can unwind with a book or just hang out with your travel buddies. Just ensure that you keep to a maximum number of 8 people in your group and don’t intermingle with other groups.
Halal status:The cafe area of The Moon serves only beverages, pastries and desserts, with vegan and gluten-free options. However, as it's not halal-certified, we recommend that you dine at your own discretion.
Opening hours: Mon-Thu; 11AM-6PM, Fri-Sun; 9.30AM-8.30PM
Address: 37 Mosque St, Singapore 059515
6. Immerse yourself in Chinese tea culture at Enjoy Tea
For your next trip to Chinatown, be sure to immerse yourself in Chinese culture by going for a tea appreciation session at one of the many tea houses in the neighbourhood! One of them is Enjoy Tea, which is conveniently located near the Chinatown Street Market. Besides browsing through their range of Chinese teas, floral teas and teapots, you can also enjoy drinking tea with the owner of Enjoy Tea. He will go through with you the art of tea-drinking. It’s fascinating how the way you make tea and the teapot you use can affect its taste and aroma. As you enjoy the tea, be sure to keep your mask on at all times except when you are drinking tea and put it back on immediately after you’re done.
The Tea Appreciation session costs $40 for a 45-min session and you can select your preferred choice of tea. To book a session, you can send them a direct message via Facebook.
Address: 32 Sago St, Singapore 059025
7. Uncover Singapore’s cultural diversity at Chinatown
While Chinatown is a great spot to learn about Singapore’s Chinese heritage and culture, the neighbourhood also highlights Singapore’s cultural diversity. The next time you’re in Chinatown, you’d be surprised to find out that besides the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple along South Bridge Road, the same road is also home to Sri Mariamman Temple and Jamae Chulia Mosque.
Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple and an important site for worshippers as well. The most striking feature of the temple is its majestic gopuram (grand tower entrance) which is adorned with sculptures of deities and mythological figures.
You can also find some of the oldest mosques in Singapore in Chinatown. Both the Jamae Chulia Mosque and Al-Abrar Mosque trace their histories back to the 1800s. They were both set up by the Chulias, a group of Tamil Muslims from South India. You can easily spot the Jamae Chulia Mosque by its pastel-green exterior while Al-Abrar Mosque has two tall minarets at its entrance. When visiting the places of worship in Chinatown during your next visit, make sure you scan the SafeEntry check-in using the TraceTogether app. If you’re planning to do your prayers at the two mosques, do bring your own prayer mats and garments. Do note that you’ll also need to bring a plastic bag to store your footwear as you’ll need to keep it with you when you pray. You’ll also need to pray at the demarcated prayer zones, keep your masks on at all times and ensure a safe distance of at least 1-metre from others.
If you’re looking to explore off the beaten path, the Duxton Hill Park near Keong Saik Road is a great place to see the diversity of cultures in the neighbourhood. There, you can see a Muslim shrine and a Hindu temple side by side too. The shrine belongs to Sharifah Rogayah, the granddaughter of Habib Noh, one of Singapore’s most famous religious figures who is also a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad.
Credit: NUS Baba House on Facebook
Head over to Neil Road to explore the fringes of Chinatown and you’ll find the NUS Baba House! With a stunning blue exterior, this was the home of a prominent Peranakan family in the early 20th century. It’s also a pre-war house and one of the few in Singapore that has retained its original interior decor.
The next time you’re travelling to Singapore, don’t forget to explore the multicultural facet of Chinatown ?
8. Check out Chinatown’s up-and-coming Muslim-owned cafes and eateries
Even though Chinatown is full of heritage spots, there’s been a rise of new shops and cafes owned by Singapore’s younger generation. Since your last Singapore trip, a number of new cafes and eateries have opened up in the neighbourhood, so make sure you tick them off your list the next time you’re there.
If you’re an adventurous foodie, Picanhas is perfect for you. The Muslim-owned eatery specialises in halal picanha steaks, a type of meat cut that was made popular in Brazil. It is known for its thick fatty layer that’ll instantly melt in your mouth. Have your steak with their creative mocktails or yummy sodas for a delicious treat!
If you’re planning to start your day in Chinatown with a cup of coffee and a hearty brunch meal, The Bravery Cafe is your go-to spot! This newly-opened cafe has a beautiful modern interior. Some of the dishes that you should try are the Guac & Eggs served on sourdough (made in-house), the Pancakes Stack and Wholesome Breakfast. Make sure you have their signature drinks on your list too, such as Lavender Latte and Matcha Latte. For light bites, get their freshly-baked assortment of brownies and cakes. As many eateries in Singapore are operating at a limited capacity due to safe distancing measures, do make reservations (by calling them or through social media) so you won’t have to wait in line.
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Opening hours: Tues-Thu; 12PM-3PM, 5.30PM-10PM, Fri-Sat; 11.30AM-3.30PM, 5.30PM-10PM (Closed on Mon)
Address: 90 Club St, Singapore 069458
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The Bravery Cafe
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Opening status: Tue-Sun; 8AM-9PM (closed on Mon)
Address: 50 Amoy St, Singapore 069876
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9. Snap a picture of the stunning view at [email protected]
Credit: Dimitris Argyris on Flickr
For a bird’s eye view of Singapore’s Central Business District, head over to the [email protected], the world’s tallest public housing development located in the Tanjong Pagar area of Chinatown. The towering block of flats sticks out amidst the heritage shophouses in the neighbourhood. To get a breathtaking view of Singapore’s skyline, you’d want to head up to the 50th floor the next time you’re there! You’ll find a skybridge and rooftop garden as well as a panoramic view of the sea and downtown Singapore. Entry is $6 and you’ll need to pay using EZ-link card.
Note: According to their website, the skybridge on the 50th floor is closed temporarily due to COVID-19. Do check for updates before planning your future trip!
Address: 1G Cantonment Rd, Singapore 08530
We know that many of you are probably already dreaming about your next trip to Singapore! When the borders open, be sure to add Singapore’s Chinatown neighbourhood in your itinerary. Beyond its Chinese heritage and culture, the neighbourhood’s vibrant murals, yummy halal food options and hidden gems make it worth exploring. It’ll also be interesting to venture off the beaten path and uncover another side of Chinatown like Keong Saik Road, Tanjong Pagar and more. Get ready to uncover more of Singapore’s Chinatown precinct on your future trip!
This article is brought to you by the Singapore Tourism Board.