Walking Tour around Chinatown: Heritage Sites You Shouldn’t Miss
At the heart of Singapore’s bustling Chinatown is where the Singaporean identity can truly be felt and heard. Boasting a myriad of multi-religious buildings and structures, it places emphasis on how Singapore celebrates and cherishes diversity in culture and religion. Many of these heritage sites have earned the title of a national monument in their own right. But more importantly, besides being a national monument, these places are a spiritual and cultural home to many. So if you’re prepared to immerse yourself in history and heritage, walk in the footsteps of the pioneers by taking a tour around Chinatown and have an incredibly enlightening and awe-inducing experience.
Thian Hock Keng
This temple is highly regarded as one of the oldest and most important Hokkien temples in Singapore. Built in 1839, its steeped history can also be evinced by a plaque presented by Qing Dynasty Emperor Guang Xu in 1907. Despite its traditional southern Chinese architectural style, the entire structure was built without nails – a true masterpiece of pure stone, tiles and wood. The walls are also decked out in decorative, coloured motifs such as peacocks, roses and the Buddhist swastika. After the renovation was completed in 2002, it received an honourable mention from the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2001.
Address: Telok Ayer Street, 158
Opening hours: Daily 7.30AM-5.30PM
Phone: +65 64234616
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
Built in 2007, this Tang-styled Chinese Buddhist temple is named after what the Buddhists regard as the left canine tooth of Buddha, which has been recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar, India and displayed proudly on the temple’s grounds. The admission and weekly-guided tours of the temple are free, and they cover areas like the Universal Wisdom Hall, where handcrafted Bodhisattva artworks are on display. On the third floor, the museum is home to an array of revered artefacts of the Buddha, such as bone and tongue relics and of course, the temple’s centrepiece, The Buddha Tooth Relic. Another highlight is the Eminent Sangha Museum, a theatre which holds cultural performances, talks and film screenings.
Address: 288 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058840
Opening hours: Daily 7AM-7PM
Phone: +65 62200220
Nagor Durgha Shrine
Originally known as the Shahul Hamid Durgha, this exquisite memorial is dedicated to Shahul Hamid, Saint from India who propagated islam through his noble work and curing the sick. Besides being designated a national monument in 1974, it transformed in May 2011 into the Nagore Dargah Heritage Centre. The centre offers an enlightening and interesting experience for the public as it showcases Indian Muslim culture, diaspro and heritage.
Address: 140 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore
Opening hours: Weekdays 10AM-5.30PM, Saturdays 9AM-1PM
Sri Mariamman Temple
Sri Mariamman Temple is renowned for being the oldest Hindu temple and a national monument in Singapore. Built in the South Indian Dravidian style and richly embellished with six tiers of sculptures of Hindu deities, it was originally dedicated to Goddess Mariamman, known for her power in curing epidemic illnesses and diseases. Located in the heart of bustling Chinatown, the temple was constructed in 1829 for worship by immigrants from the Nagapatnam and Cuddalore districts of South India. Today, in addition to its religious services and functions, the temple promotes various social, cultural and educational activities as well.
Address: 244 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058793
Opening hours: Morning 7AM-11.30AM, Evening 6PM-8.45PM
Phone: +65 62234064
With a longstanding history of almost 200 years, this national monument’s eclectic yet intricate architecture style gives it a unique appearance. The Masjid Jamae of today excels as an ‘educational’ mosque. It facilitates religious activities, prayers, sermons and organises seminars and discussions on religious/social thoughts and beliefs for both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. It showcases their accepting nature and enthusiasm about reaching out to those who might be curious about the Islamic faith.
Address: 218 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058767
Phone: +65 62214165
Al-Abrar Mosque (Masjid Al-Abrar)
Masjid Al-Abrar is one of the earliest mosques in Singapore and is also commonly known as Chulia Mosque. It serves as a reminder of the Chulia immigrants who once lived in the area and played a vital role in developing the budding economy in early colonial Singapore. After major revamps, the mosque allows a capacity of up to 800 worshippers at any one time and even has a prayer hall for females only. Today, it continues to serve a largely Indian Muslim congregation and enables them to relish in their faith and create strong ties with their community.
Address: 192 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068635
Opening hours: Saturday to Thursday 10AM-6PM, Friday 10AM-12PM & 2.30PM-6PM
Phone: +65 62206306
Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church
Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church was the first church to cater exclusively to the spiritual needs of the Chinese Methodist community in Singapore. With its European architectural features and a distinctively Chinese-style roof, its interior is simultaneously charming and comforting. It is the spiritual home of many Methodists in Singapore, and with good reason – their services are dedicated, inclusive and held in English, Mandarin and Hokkien. It fulfilled and continues to fulfil its vision of contributing to the growth and development of the local Methodist Church.
Address: 235 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068656
Opening hours: Refer to their website for their worship hours.
Phone: +65 63244001
Chinatown Heritage Centre
The Chinatown Heritage Centre has been awarded Travellers’ Choice by TripAdvisor for 3 consecutive years, and with good reason – it offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Chinatown’s early residents and is the gateway for the public to trace the footsteps of Singapore’s early pioneers and discover why they called Chinatown home. There are activities galore to attend, from exhibits and tours to special events and workshops; it will definitely be an eye-opening and enriching experience.
Address: 48 Pagoda Street, Singapore 059207
Opening hours: Daily 9AM-8PM
Phone: +65 62243928