All you need to know about Chinatown
While the majority of the Singaporean population is Chinese, Chinatown still retains its charm as the traditional Chinese quarters of the city.
While certain streets like Pagoda Street and Smith Street have been spruced up considerably to cater to tourists, working Chinatown remains and extends towards the south and the east until it merges with the Central Business District. The predominant dialect is Cantonese, differing from the Hokkien-dominant Singapore.
Things to do in Chinatown
The main attraction has to be simply wandering around the small streets and soaking in the atmosphere. There are numerous small and quaint stores selling just about anything from religious figurines to exotic foodstuffs such as seahorses and pig’s organs.
While you are in the area, it will be worthwhile to pay visits to the Chinatown Heritage Centre (A) and the Sri Mariamman Temple (B). The latter is Singapore’s oldest and most important Hindu temple still active. You will have to be mindful so as not to disturb the worshippers. Footwear is also not permitted within the temple premises. This temple has been sited here since 1827, however odd it might seem.
Wander further down South Bridge Road, past Smith Street and Sago Street and you’ll arrive at the magnificent Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (C). This commonly overlooked museum cum temple boasts intricate design and architecture reminiscent of the Tang Dynasty. This temple is dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha, or the Compassionate One. Do spend a significant amount of time exploring the temple’s artefacts and learning about Buddhism in general. A guaranteed excellent experience!
On the opposite side of the road is the famous Maxwell Road Food Centre (D). It might look like a shabby place from the exterior, but the range and quality of hawker food here is one of the best in Singapore. What’s more, it’s cheap! This is a great place to have a hearty meal and tuck into the local food. This food centre is most well-known for the dim sum and porridge dishes.
Best time to visit Chinatown
Chinatown is at its most colourful in the month preceding and during Chinese New Year. Hence the best times to visit would be in late December through January. This is due to the Chinese New Year usually falling anytime from mid-January to late February. There will be street shows, New Year goodies sold at numerous makeshift bazaars and best of all, huge crowds thronging the streets, especially on the weekends.
How to get to Chinatown
Take a train to Chinatown MRT station. Once you exit the station, you’ll be right in the heart of Chinatown.