A trip to Singapore’s Chinatown is an unique experience, where past and present meet. It was once an important enclave for new Chinese immigrants during the colonial times, where it was a centre of trade and commerce within the Chinese community. However, as Singapore progressed and modernized, much of Chinatown’s old time charm was lost, making way for new shopping malls, and tourist attractions. That being said, a stroll through its alleyways, there are still pockets that are reminiscent of its marvelous past. Adding on to Zhu’s post on Singapore’s Chinatown of her first impression of the place, here is a more detailed look around the main market area of Singapore’s Chinatown.
The Markets Around Pagoda St
The easiest way to get to Chinatown is to take the MRT subway train to Chinatown station on the North East Line (purple line). Once off the train at Chinatown station, head towards Exit A, which will bring you right in the heart of Chinatown at Pagoda St. This is probably the first place most people explore in Chinatown.
The first thing you will see once you get out of Chinatown station is a whole stretch of touristy stalls selling souvenirs. This is the street markets surrounding Pagoda St. The market is definetly less lively than the ones you see in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or even Kuala Lumpur. The only time I think it will get rowdy is during Chinese New Year, which is quite an interesting experience where thousands of people will line up the streets to celebrate the Chinese New Year festivities.
The souvenir stalls sells your typical “I visited Singapore” goods, plus your “I visited Chinatown” goods, such as Chinese style fans, lanterns, and shirts, and iPhone cases. Yes iPhone cases…its not a typo =)
After browsing the endless stalls of souvenir stands, turn right from Pagoda St on to Trengganu St, a walk that pasts by a few more souvenir stalls, and some electronic shops. I don’t really recommend stopping by at the electronic shops here; there are better places in Singapore to shop for electronics. However, if you look above the shops, you will notice the colourful colonial buildings, a quaint and gentle reminder of its beautiful past.
Finally, as you walk to the intersection of Trengganu St and Temple St, on the left you will see the financial district marked by the skyscrappers in the background, and on the right you will see the strikingly lime green People’s Park Complex (look out for my post on this soon). Quite a unique contrast just by simply looking at the different ends of Temple St. Continue forward on Trengganu St, you will end up in at the Chinatown Food Street.
Chinatown Food Street
At the intersection of Trengganu St and Smith St, on the left along Smith St, you will see the famous Chinatown Food Street, which becomes a pedestrian only street after 6pm on weekdays, and 12pm on weekends and public holidays. It is a street that is lined up with street food serving some of Singapore’s most popular local dishes. However it is quite geared towards the tourist crowd with prices slightly higher, and regrettably over the years seen many of the stalls shut down, probably because of the operator’s struggle to keep up with the increase in rent. That being said, it is still a nice place to grab a beer, and just do some people watching.
As you make your way around the Chinatown Food Street, there are also restaurants in the shophouses serving various cuisines from China, such as Sichuan hot pot. Also, nearby are the hawker centres where many of the locals frequent, such as the Maxwell Food Centre and the Chinatown Complex, which guarantees the most authenic Singaporean dishes. So there are plenty of choices when it comes to food in Chinatown!
Exploring the street market and the Chinatown Food Street can probably be covered within 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on how much time you spend on shopping around in the street market area. So this is quite an easy itineary for everyone to enjoy!
Visitor Information to Singapore Chinatown Street Market, and Chinatown Food Street
Opening hours: All day until midnight
To get there: Take the MRT to Chinatown Station, and take Exit A
Have you been to Singapore Chinatown before? How was your experiences there? Drop us a few lines in the comments to share!