Singapore’s Chinatown is a lively area, and if you’re visiting the city, you pretty much have to stroll through this neighborhood. It’s included in all the major tourist maps and books. There are plenty of souvenir shops here, but if that’s not your thing, don’t worry — there’s an abundance of opportunities to explore culture, history, and food.
I actually visited Chinatown twice during my stay in Singapore, and while I was there, admission to the Chinatown Heritage Centre was free. Inside this building you’ll find loads of historical displays depicting how Chinese residents lived and worked in the city.
Once you’re back out on the streets, you can wander by dozens of shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and gifts. The prices are generally the same wherever you look, and I managed to find a few items that would fit nicely in my carry-on luggage for my trip back home.
There are plenty of places to eat in Chinatown, but the guidebooks — and definitely the locals — will tell you to eat at Maxwell Food Centre (also called Maxwell Road Hawker Centre).
It’s the type of dining experience for which Singapore is famous — find a food stall that suits your desires, get in line, and then find a seat and enjoy your meal. Upon arriving in the city, I had not even unpacked before my host told me to visit Maxwell and get a plate of chicken rice from the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall. It’s world famous, and the line is long.
Chinatown is home to several temples, and I’ll only focus on one in this post. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is difficult to miss. (Note: if you click on the web link to go to the temple’s website, an audio file will begin to play on each page you visit. It’s located in the right side column if you would like to turn it off.) Visitors aren’t allowed to take pictures on the fourth floor, where the tooth relic is on display. But the remaining three floors and rooftop garden are camera friendly.
Expect to spend several hours, if not most of the day, exploring Chinatown. There’s much to experience there.
Here’s a nod to my neighborhood Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which I discovered on my first morning in Singapore. They gladly traded their coffee for my money as I leaned on caffeine to get over my jet lag.