Singapore: Chinatown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Singapore

The Chinese make up a majority of the population in Singapore. Chinatown is, therefore, a district full of valuable historical and architectural monuments. There are Chinese, Hindu and Moslem places of worship in this locality. There are also many wonderful shop-houses that sell exotic items to be found nowhere else. This self-guided tour will take you through the most popular places in Singapore's Chinatown.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

Singapore: Chinatown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Singapore: Chinatown Walking Tour
Guide Location: Singapore » Singapore (See other walking tours in Singapore)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Smith Street
  • Chinatown Heritage Center
  • Jamae Mosque
  • Sri Mariamman Temple
  • Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall
  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
  • Thian Hock Keng Temple
Smith Street

1) Smith Street

Singapore's Chinatown abounds in eateries of various sort which are particularly diverse in the heart of the area, right on and around South Bridge Road. A few touts on Smith Street will try to lure you into some foreigner-friendly restaurants, all decent enough if not the best in their class, and varied enough to eat something different every day for a few weeks. So if you want a great selection of different Asian cuisines, head to Smith Street and dine your way around South East Asia with ease. Give the hawker stalls along the road a miss if looking for genuine local food, even though they're also quite delicious and relatively cheap.

You could start off the day with a Michelin-star hawker lunch at Liao Fan Hawker Chan; next, you could leave the restaurant and roam the streets for unique souvenirs that are much cheaper and affordable, compared to other places. There are several tea shops, craft beer stalls, and many other Chinese shops set in the historical shop-houses, and you will also be able to buy a Durian fruit here or taste Durian ice cream if you're feeling adventurous.

Wherever you choose to go, you won't feel intimidated or pressurized to buy unlike in many other countries. Curiously enough for a street with so much authentic fare, Smith Street is the only street in Chinatown with an English name.
Chinatown Heritage Center

2) Chinatown Heritage Center

In Chinatown's Heritage Center, you can learn everything about the Chinese migration to Singapore in the hope of a better life. It is situated among amazing and authentic shop-houses. You will see here artefacts from the golden as well as the dark period of Chinese history.
Jamae Mosque

3) Jamae Mosque

Like the Chinese and the Hindus, Muslims also have their place of worship in Singapore. Jamae Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the city. It was founded in 1826 and has some other names, one of them being Big Mosque. Its architecture is eclectic but there are strong traces of Indian influence.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Sri Mariamman Temple

4) Sri Mariamman Temple (must see)

Singapore’s oldest Hindu shrine, the Sri Mariamman Temple, is easily identified by the superb entrance “gopura” bristling with brightly colored deities. Located in the Chinatown district, the temple serves the majority Hindu Singaporeans, known as Tamilians.

Once inside, look up at the roof and you will see splendid friezes depicting a host of Hindu deities, including the three manifestations of the supreme being: Brahma the creator, with three of his four heads showing; Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer, the latter holding one of his sons. The main sanctum, facing you as you walk inside the temple, is devoted to Mariamman, a goddess worshiped for her healing powers. Smaller sanctums dotted all around the temple's walkway honor a number of other deities. In the one dedicated to the goddess Periachi Amman, a sculpture portrays her with a queen lying on her lap, whose evil child she has ripped from her womb, which is most interesting given that Periachi Amman is the protector of children, to whom babies are brought when they're only one month old. Sri Aravan, with his bushy mustache and big ears, is far less intimidating and his sanctum is at the back of the complex.

To the left of the main sanctum is a patch of sand which once a year, during the festival of Thimithi (in October or November), is covered in red-hot coals that male Hindus run across to prove the strength of their faith. The participants, who line up all the way along South Bridge Road waiting for their turn, are supposedly protected from the heat of the coals by the power of prayer.

Why You Should Visit:
If you go during certain times you will see different interesting rituals almost every day.
Visiting here is guaranteed to be a great, culturally-enlightening experience.
Free to enter though there's a small charge for tourists – called a "camera fee".

As in any place of worship, you must be respectful toward locals and follow their lead. Lowered voices, covered shoulders, and removed shoes are generally required, but bringing a pair of socks would probably help the more sensitive, as the floors can be scorching hot due to the sun and burn the feet.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 5am-11:30am / 5pm-8:45pm
Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall

5) Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall

First opened in the early 20th century and now very tastefully refurbished, this is Singapore’s most famous traditional Chinese medicine center where tourists can discover ancient Chinese methods of treatment across a wide range of products and an inventory of more than a thousand herbs.

The peculiar herbal smell is the first thing one notices upon entering; the second, is the strange assortment of ingredients on the shelves, which to the uninitiated appear rather alienating. Besides the usual herbs and roots favored by the Chinese, there are various dubious remedies derived from exotic and endangered species. Blood circulation problems and wounds are eased with centipedes and insects crushed into a “rubbing liquor”; the gall bladders of snakes or bears apparently work wonders on pimples, while deer penis is supposed to provide a lift to any sexual problem.

Above the hall is the small but engaging Birds' Nest Gallery, which casts light on this famous Chinese “delicacy”. Produced by birds known as swiftlets, the nests are a mixture of saliva, moss and grass, and emerged as a prized supplement among China’s royal and noble classes during the Ming Dynasty. Today they are still valued for their supposed efficacy in boosting the immune system and curing bronchial ailments. The swiftlets live high up in the caves of Southeast Asia, and you may be shown a video of men scaling long bamboo poles to get the nests.

Just a few doors down at no. 285, the egg tarts, walnut cookies, buns and other Chinese cakes at the Tong Heng Delicacies shop offer a great way to top up your blood sugar level before pressing on to other sights.

[Eu Yan Sang Medical Hall] Mon-Sat: 8:30am–6pm
[Birds' Nest Gallery] Mon-Sat: 10am–5:30pm
[Tong Heng Delicacies] Daily: 9am–9pm
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

6) Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum (must see)

Located in Singapore's Chinatown, this opulent cultural monument is cherished by the local Chinese who make up the overwhelming majority of the city-state's population. The temple's majestic outside appearance is equally matched on the inside.

Always lit up at night, it is open to visitors 24 hours a day. The dress code is strict and demands women to cover their shoulders, with a conservative dress or slacks advised for the lower part. Likewise, men are prohibited from wearing shorts or tank-tops, but oddly enough shoes are permitted for all, as are non-flash photos in some places.

Locals go in to pray regularly and you may find here a monk conducting a prayer or chanting in a microphone quite often. Set in the rear are the statues of Buddhas each overseeing a certain astrological sign, but the key figure in the main hall is Maitreya, a Buddha that is yet to come to Earth, the wooden statue of which here is believed to be 1,000 years old.

One of the temple's floors is fully filled with statues, among which is that of Guan Yin – Chinese Bodhisattva, Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. Further up, in the mezzanine, there are life-sized wax sculptures of present and past leaders of the Temple – quite rich in detail actually (even showing wrinkles on hands!) and fit to rival any wax museum in the world. Also here is a balcony from which one can observe, through the drapes, the huge main prayer room down below, on the 1st floor.

Finally, the 4th floor is where the ultimate treasure of the temple is found – the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Stupa reportedly containing a tooth of Gautama Buddha himself, discovered in 1980 at a Burmese monastery. Now encased in a golden chamber behind glass panels, it can't be inspected up close, but there is an accompanying scale model at the front which can be viewed at any time.

Another must-see within the temple is the orchid garden on the rooftop featuring an enormous “prayer wheel” inside a pavilion of 10,000 small Buddhas lining the walls. Most people aren't aware of this garden, so it is very quiet and relaxing up here – an ideal setting for reflection prior to hitting the streets of Singapore's Chinatown once again.

Non-flash-photos are permitted in some places, but not in the relic chamber.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-7pm
Thian Hock Keng Temple

7) Thian Hock Keng Temple (must see)

To get a glimpse of a culture that is absolutely out of the ordinary, visit Thian Hock Keng, the oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore whose name literally translates to the "Palace of Heavenly Happiness". Now skillfully restored, the temple was constructed in the 19th century in the Southern Chinese architectural style, without any use of nails and with all the materials imported from China. It stands on the site of a small house where immigrants made offerings to Ma Cho Po, aslo known as Mazu [Ma-tsu] in Mandarin, regarded by her worshipers as a powerful and benevolent Queen of Heaven whose statue, also shipped in from China, was set here in time for the temple’s inauguration in 1842. It now stands in the center of the main hall, flanked by the God of War on the right and the Protector of Life on the left.

From the street, the temple looks quite spectacular, with dragons stalking its broad roofs, and the entrance to the temple compound bristling with ceramic flowers, foliage and figures. Specifically, the side entrance gates feature brightly colored tiles portraying peacocks, roses and the Buddhist swastika motif symbolizing good luck, eternity and immortality. Two stone lions, traditional sentinels of any Taoist temple, stand guard at the entrance while the door gods, painted on the front doors, prevent evil spirits from entering.

Beyond this elaborate entrance are two courtyards, straddling which is the temple proper, comprising the shrine of Ma Cho Po. On either side of the temple are pagodas – the one on the left is a shrine of Confucius, and the one on the right houses ancestral tablets of immigrants who founded the temple. Look out for signboards to better understand the significance of various motifs found in all parts of the temple. Look out, too, for the huge ovens, always lit, in which offerings to either gods or ancestors are burnt.

The story of the Chinese immigrants who, in the early 1900s, left their hometowns in Southern China for Singapore in search of a better life is very nicely painted as a wall mural that runs the entire length of the temple's back wall along Amoy Street, so don't forget to check it out before leaving.

Why You Should Visit:
Very peaceful atmosphere and a wonderful piece of Asian architecture.
A photographer's dream, with ornate and colorful carvings everywhere.

Make sure that you respect the privacy of those praying and only take photos in the front area.
Located literally next door to the temple is an Indian Muslim Mosque – the Nagore Dargah.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-5:30pm

Walking Tours in Singapore, Singapore

Create Your Own Walk in Singapore

Create Your Own Walk in Singapore

Creating your own self-guided walk in Singapore is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Singapore Museums Walking Tour

Singapore Museums Walking Tour

Singapore's crazy population mix means that there are museums dedicated to the culture of each community that makes up the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nature of this island state. This self-guided tour will take you through museums that display the Asian way of life, art and religion.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 Km or 3.4 Miles
Singapore Landmarks Walking Tour

Singapore Landmarks Walking Tour

Singapore is an island, a city and a state. Its population is a melting pot of all Asian people. The Chinese, the Hindu, the Arab, each has his own historical monuments and landmarks that represent his culture. Visiting this city you will be left with the impression of having visited China, India and Arabia. This self-guided tour will lead you through the following cultural monuments as well as...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Singapore: Colonial District Cultural Walking Tour

Singapore: Colonial District Cultural Walking Tour

Singapore's culture is a combination of Chinese, Hindu, Arab and other cultures. People living in Singapore are immigrants from different parts of the world. This self-guided tour will lead you through the Colonial District also known as the Civic District, where you can see how these different cultures were integrated to make up this city-state's culture.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Singapore: Colonial District National Monuments Walking Tour

Singapore: Colonial District National Monuments Walking Tour

The Colonial District was founded by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles on the east bank of the Singapore River. There are monuments that are recognized all over the world as symbols of Singapore and they evoke the city-state's rich historical past. This self-guided tour will lead you to the most famous national monuments of the Colonial District:

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Romantic Singapore Walking Tour

Romantic Singapore Walking Tour

Singapore is both romantic and exotic. With its multicultural population it offers great cuisine. Due to its location, its seascape and cityscape are unique and make Singapore an absolutely romantic place. Enjoy romantic and intimate moments by visiting the places mentioned in this self-guided tour:

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Singapore without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Singapore, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.7 Km or 3.5 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Traveler's Guide to Singapore: 15 Souvenirs to Bring Home

Traveler's Guide to Singapore: 15 Souvenirs to Bring Home

Known as one of the Four Asian Tigers (or Dragons), Singapore is a thriving metropolis and one of the most fascinating tourist destinations in Asia. Home to multi-ethnic community, the city carefully preserves and proudly exhibits its colorful identity, manifested - among other forms - in the...
12 Singapore Foods You Should Not Miss

12 Singapore Foods You Should Not Miss

Food is a national passion for Singaporeans. Locals think and talk about food incessantly, often thinking nothing of travelling for miles across the island and queuing for hours just to taste one of their favourite dishes. Singaporeans abroad will bemoan being parted from their favourite foods,...