While you might be tempted to spend all of your time hanging around Marina Bay Sands and the city centre, Singapore is home to a bunch of the hidden gem neighbourhoods that are absolutely worth your time.
Boasting vibrant communities, colourful streets, historical buildings and epic restaurants, we’ve rounded up five ‘hoods you need to get familiar with immediately.
Cancel your plans for the next few days, these are Singapore’s hidden neighbourhoods worth a visit.
Home to Singapore’s oldest housing estate, Tiong Bahru is a charming mix of old meets new. Rich in history, this dynamic ‘hood is filled with independent boutiques, record shops, achingly-hip cafes and iconic wall murals—making it the place where cool creatives converge.
First things first, simply wander the streets of Tiong Bahru and marvel at the architecture. Some of the first government housing here was constructed back in the 1930s and as such was heavily inspired by the art deco movement at the time—making it uniquely different from neighbouring ‘hoods. On your travels keep an eye out for local artist Yip Yew Chong and Australian artist Mike Makatron’s art murals scattered around the area. Keen for more art? Stop by Grey Projects, a non-profit art space or shop up a storm at Nana & Bird, an awesome sustainable fashion boutique with local and international designers. If you’re looking for some local food, head to Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre which is home to nearly 80 stalls. You’ll be spoilt for choice with chwee kueh (steamed rice cake with preserved radish), fried kway teow (stir-fried rice noodles) and roast meats being popular amongst the locals. Tiong Bahru is also a haven of hipster cafes so make sure you come hungry. Head to Tiong Bahru Bakery first for kouign amann—a crusty pastry made with bread dough featuring layers of butter and sugar. Sweet tooths will also want to check out Plain Vanilla for their selection of drool-worthy cupcakes. In the PM, make your way to Bincho, a seven decade-old coffee shop that transforms into a tasty yakitori-inspired eatery at night. Order the miso pork belly with black garlic sauce and thank us later.
If you’re looking for a slice of Europe in Singapore, Holland Village is it. Established in the early 1990s, this uber-cool ‘hood was the former home of British Army personnel and their families, leaving behind a distinctively Euro-influenced village with low-rise buildings and colonial estates. These days it’s become a bohemian enclave with incredible shops, art studios and a vibing food scene. Start your trip here with a visit to Chip Bee Gardens. Once a military estate, the stunning architecture is now home to shops and galleries. Must visits include, TAKSU gallery, where you’ll discover an array of urban art pieces and contemporary works from Southeast Asian artists. Shop local at Le Salon by Ling Wu (her handbags are stunning) or marvel at the incredible clothes in Ong Shunmugam. A visit to Holland Village wouldn’t be complete without eating your way around their eclectic food offerings. Start at the Tai Cheong Bakery and order their famous egg tarts. Think a crumbly, biscuit base and eggy, buttery goodness on top. Then make your way to Kamo Soba Keisuke for their crazy good duck ramen, then mosey on to the award-winning 2am:dessertbar for their next level creations. We’re talking Praline Poprocks Chocolate Cake and Strawberry Caprese (strawberry ice cream topped with raspberry puff, fresh and pickled strawberry, chartreuse jelly, lavender marshmallows and strawberry sauce). If you’re still hungry, head to Holland Drive Market and Food Centre for tasty hawker eats like nasi lemak (coconut milk rice served with dishes), chicken rice, laksa (thick rice noodles in a spicy coconut soup) and claypot rice.
Lush and green, Dempsey Hill is the laid back corner of Singapore you should escape to when you want to chill out. Formerly a nutmeg plantation in the 1850s, then repurposed as a military camp, this special ‘hood has undergone several transformations. The result is a rustic and tranquil oasis home to excellent shops, restaurants and entertainment.
Get a lay of the land with one of their curated walking trails which will see you stroll past St George’s Church, Central ManPower Base (CMPB) Parade Square and Tanglin Military Hospital. For something a little bit different stop by Open Farm Community, a sprawling outdoor space filled with edible gardens, lawn bowls, sculptures and an on-site restaurant. And be sure to check out the Museum of Ice Cream. This enchanting wonderland of sweet surprises is housed in a 60,000 square foot colonial barracks and comprises 14 multisensory interactive installations filled with sweet treats and plenty of photo opps for the gram. Spend a few hours exploring Loewen by Dempsey Hill—a refurbished colonial building that has been transformed into a creative hub boasting a yoga and pilates studio, spa and art studios. And just like all the best hidden ‘hoods, Dempsey Hill is home to some epic foodie spots. Our picks include RedDot Brewhouse for refreshing ales; and Michelin Star restaurants The Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar and Candlenut for mouth-watering Peranakan cuisine.
Joo Chiat And Katong
Once filled with coconut plantations, Joo Chiat And Katong is now synonymous with Peranakan culture and food. Located just a 10-minute drive from the city centre, you’ll want to spend your time soaking up the gorgeous surroundings. Filled with pre-war architecture, the streets here are lined with candy-hued terraces and shop fronts accented with ornate facades, motifs and ceramic tiles—the result is a visual feast. Pro tip: Go for a stroll down Koon Seng Road for a serious wow-factor.
Discover more about Peranakan culture with a visit to Katong Antique House., The perfectly preserved house is filled with heirlooms and artefacts like beaded slippers, furniture, crockery and jewellery from the last 100 years. Treat yourself to some authentic Peranakan food and crafts, at Kim Choo Kueh Chang. The shop was first established in 1945 and sells everything from moorish Nyonya rice dumplings to stunning handcrafted Kebayas (a traditional sarong-style of clothing). Next, go for a walk down Joo Chiat Road, where you’ll find a bunch of street art covering the walls of local shophouses and buildings. In particular, check out 95 Joo Chiat Road where there are 2 murals by Jaxton Su depicting the traditional way of making popiah (a type of spring roll). The mural is next to Kway Guan Huat which has been making popiah “skin” (a soft, thin paper-like crepe) since 1938. For a taste of local cuisine head to 328 Katong Laksa, Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice or Yong Huat Hokkien Mee at Ali Bar Bar. For a tipple stop by The 1925 Brewing Co., then cap off your day by grabbing dessert at Birds Of Paradise for botanically inspired gelato.
Believe it or not but just 30 mins outside of Singapore’s bustling city centre lies a charming countryside that needs to be explored. Filled with sprawling green fields and farms, you won’t find a skyscraper out in Kranji.
Kick off your visit here with a bit of farm hopping. There are around 100 in the area, and 20 of them are open to the public. Hays Dairies should go to the top of your list. As Singapore’s only goat farm, you can feed the baby goats before picking up a carton of fresh goat’s milk—there’s even a chocolate variety on offer. Bollywood Veggies is another fave—the farm is the largest producer of bananas in Singapore so trying their homemade banana bread is a must-do. And for something a little different, you have to stop by Jurong Frog Farm where 10,00 American Bullfrogs reside. Next, explore the natural rugged beauty of Kranji from above at the Krani Marshes Raptor Tower; go hiking in the stunning Kranji forest and scope out birds and crocodiles at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore’s first heritage park. Next, it’s time to chill out and soak up the views at Kranji Reservoir Park, a lush nine-hectare park that offers glimpses of the Malaysian shoreline. Finally, given the abundance of farms in the area, there are a plethora of excellent farm-to-table restaurants that foodies will absolutely want to eat their way around. Be sure to visit Bistro Gardenasia and the Poison Ivy Bistro.
Ready to explore Singapore’s lesser-known ‘hoods? Singapore is full of stunning places where passions and possibilities meet. Head to Singapore Tourism for more info.