Singapore Urban Trail: Chinatown Less Trodden

Many tourists associate Chinatown with the crowded maze of Kreta Ayer’s narrow roads flanked by souvenir shops and Chinese restaurants greeting you immediately as soon as you exit the Chinatown MRT.

This guide helps you discover Chinatown from a slightly less conventional trail along Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar, Duxton and Keong Saik where trendy eateries, indie boutiques and beautiful shophouses can be fully appreciated with only a fifth of the usual crowd.

Upper Cross Street, Kreta Ayer, Chinatown, Singapore

[Image Credit: William Cho]

Upper Cross Street

Take Exit E from Chinatown MRT towards Chinatown Point. Take a walk from the shopping mall side to appreciate the glorious outer façades of Chinatown from the other side of road. While this street may see vehicle traffic, we personally find this stretch of four-story shophouses to be one of the most beautiful and unusual compared to the more ubiquitous two- or three-story structures.

Note: The most touristy Kreta Ayer stretch near Exit A does have some interesting stops. If you are into it, you may want to consider Chinatown Heritage Centre which replicates the interior of a traditional Chinese home, Peranakan Tiles Gallery to appreciate the intricate floorworks, or Tintin Shop for a dose of childhood nostalgia before heading to Upper Cross Street.

South Bridge Road

If you are a first-timer in Chinatown, you may still want to pass by the religious heritage of Masjid Jamae (Islam) and Sri Mariamman Temple (Hindu) just to tick them off your bucket list.

And of course, not forgetting the landmark Buddha Tooth Relic Temple with its immediately eye-catching giant stupa made from 320 kilograms of gold and said to house an actual tooth of the Buddha. Touristy, but essential!

But one of the reasons why we recommend you to walk along this road is to pay attention to some of the corner alleys where you can spot Instagram-worthy murals on the alleys from both sides of the road!

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Kreta Ayer, Chinatown, Singapore

[Image Credit: Choo Yut Shing]

Ann Siang Hill Park

Make a turn towards the hilly Ann Siang Road. This area and the adjacent Club Street’s rooftop bars usually turn into a bustling drinking scene at night, but during daytime it is a peaceful walk with some chic eateries to grab a quick bite or a caffeine fix in. A standout eatery is the leafy and tastefully decorated PS.Cafe at Ann Siang Hill.

Continue through the upwards hilly path and then downwards the stair into Amoy Street at the Telok Ayer area.

Amoy Street

For PMEBs looking for a true lifestyle experience, Amoy Street is really where the impressive dining scene of Singapore shows itself. Highlights include delectable Israeli food at North Miznon, exotic Argentinian fares at Bochinche and the Michelin-starred, cross-cultural Nouri. For hawker lovers, the Amoy Street Food Centre simply never fail to impress.

Telok Ayer Street

For lovers of heritage and arts, this is the street that you want to find yourself in.

Telok Ayer Green is a relatively small park, but is fully of character with sculptures narrating the lives of Singapore’s immigrants trading baskets of rice, fishing and celebrating traditional festival circa the 1800s.

Heritage truly shines in its quite glory here. Dating back to the 1800s, Thian Hock Keng Temple is Singapore’s oldest temple and it is dedicated to Mazu, the Goddess of Sea—as well as the adjacent Former Keng Teck Whay Building.

There is also the Nagore Durgha shrine built by Muslims from Southern India, most notable for its two arched windows flanking an arched doorway followed by a “miniature palace” on top of it. Check out Masjid Al-Abrar, one of Singapore’s earliest mosques. Else, drop by Beng Kong Ee Seah to experience chi-based acupuncture healing believed to bring health benefits.

Museum lovers can check out Fuk Tak Chi Museum, once Singapore’s oldest temple dedicated to the Confucianist and Taoist deity Tua Pek Kong, but has now turned into a quaint boutique hotel. Or check out Singapore Musical Box Museum which exhibits more than 40 antique instruments courtesy of the in-house curators.

Shoppers can find vintage memorabilia at Odds ‘N’ Collectables or shop for the latest fashion in womenswear (Perk by Kate), bespoke men’s shoes (Ed Et Al Shoemakers), as well as suits and shirts (Q Menswear)

Thian Hock Keng Temple, Telok Ayer, Chinatown, Singapore

[Image Credit: Zairon]

Kreams Krafthouse

Walk past Telok Ayer Park and rest your leg as you resettle into the perpetual autumn experience akin to living the life of your favorite Korean dramas! Even better, you get to enjoy delicious sweet treats, Kreamy Krafts and fruit-infused soju while doing so. This eatery is housed at the colonial architecture of Custom House, worth its own Tik Tok moment.

Tanjong Pagar Road (Little Korea Town)

Formerly a fishing village, this stretch of road has rejuvenated itself as a Little Korea Town, housing at least 15 different Korean food outlets and even Korean bridal shops.

You will also notice the fabulously pink exterior of Cake Spade, worthy of a quick sip of designer tea paired with sinful dessert bite. At the very end of the road is Jinrikisha Station, notable for its colonial architecture.

Singapore City Gallery

Housed in the Urban Redevelopment Authority, observe how Singapore has transformed in the last 50 years over a range of interactive and experiential exhibits.

Tea Chapter

As Singapore’s largest and oldest teahouse, this quaint stop is an excellent entry point into the profound world of Chinese tea appeciation courtesy of Grand Tea Master Patrick Kang.

Pinnacle@Duxton, Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown, Singapore

[Image Credit: William Cho]

Duxton Hill

The conserved shophouses along the Duxton Hill and Craig Road preserve much of its original features, while at the same time repurposed for upscale dining and shopping. For a moment, you feel like you have stepped into Asia’s own version of small-town Europe.

Shop for indie publications (Littered With Books), exclusive menswear (Monument Lifestyle), bewildering curios (Tong Mern Sern), vinyls (Retrophonic), Japanese crafts (HULS Gallery) or experience perfumery workshop (Maison 21G).

Cheese lovers should check out the al fresco Latteria Mozzarella Bar while craft beer aficionados can bask in SG Taps.


The seven connected towers that form this 50-storey residence is without a doubt a key landmark of the area. We absolutely recommend to check out the 50th floor viewpoint for a bird’s eye panorama of the beautiful shophouses down below.

As you exit the Pinnacle@Duxton, walk towards the junction of Neil Road and Keong Saik. Here, you will find two gorgeous colonial buildings, now a home for Shake Shack and The Working Capitol.

Potato Head, Keong Saik, Chinatown, Singapore

[Image Credit: Choo Yut Shing]

Keong Saik

Keong Saik has come a long way, turning from a red-light district into homes for the high-end Straits Clan and a world-class dining spot.

Dining experience is outstandingly eclectic, ranging from African (Kafe Utu), Carribbean (Lime House), Barcelonian (Olivia Restaurant & Lounge) to Burgundian (Gaston). There are also the Michelin-starred Burnt Ends, Thevar and Meta.

Drinkers should definitely check out the rooftop den of Potato Head which has turned into an icon of Keong Saik with its eye-catching architecture. Else, grab a Vietnamese craft beer at Heart of Darkness or uncover why The Old Man is listed inside World’s 50 Best Bars.

Unique buys include retro-inspired dresses (Dustbunny Vintage), indie Chinese reads (Grassroots Book Room) and exotic leather (Kaiyo Reptile Products).

Heritage buildings worth checking are Cundhi Gong temple, Poon Yue Association and the Chettiars’ Temple Society-administered Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple.

Make a turn to Bukit Pasoh known for the clan houses, especially the Gan Heritage Centre housed in an 80-year-old building. Learn about the 2,500 years of the Gan clan, with its heritage traceable to prominent Chinese historical figures such as a Chinese Emperor and Confucius’ mother.

NUS Baba House

Built in the 1890s, this terrace house showcases domestic Peranakan interiors and lavish furnitures collected from the heritage families in Singapore and Malacca. All visits are by appointment only, so make sure you call +65 6227 5731 or email beforehand.

Blair Plain Conservation Area

These shophouses are unique for blending Chinese, Malay and European design elements, with single window openings. The conservation area includes both Blair Road and Everton Road. Near to residential area, these shophouses are relatively quieter compared to the rest of the shophouses, so it is perfect for those looking to escape completely from the crowd.

What are your favorite less trodden spots at Chinatown?

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