Singapore culture is shaped by its history. Being the famous free trading port in the 18th century, Singapore attracted so many immigrants coming from China, India, and the Malay peninsular. They came into the city-state to work, to trade and later to settle down. Thus Singapore culture to date has a strong influence of Chinese, Indian, and Malay culture. These ethnic races are still evident in Singapore today. These three races have their own neighborhood back then (and some up until today). You can tell by its name. You can find India culture in Little India, Malay culture in Bugis area, and Chinese in Chinatown area.
So, what to explore in those areas?
What we love about Little India is its atmosphere, so lively and vibrant. The neighborhood almost never sleeps. The first time we visited Little India, I was fascinated by the temples’ beautiful structure. There are two temples along Serangoon road: Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.
Speaking about never sleeps, there is one shopping center that never sleeps too within the neighborhood. It’s Mustafa Center. Yes, they open 24-hours. You can find almost everything there I would say. Groceries, clothes, car accessories, sports equipment, baby stuff, jewelry, and much more. Literally everything! You can get authentic products with a good bargain.
I would recommend you to buy watches, perfumes, electronics, and chocolate products there. Please note that the some of the electronic products’ warranty is only a local warranty. Just make sure of it before you make a transaction.
Just a little tips, the best time to visit Mustafa Center is at night or very early in the morning. Try to avoid Saturday night and Sunday, as it will be very crowded along Little India.
Other than temples and shopping center, make sure not to miss Indian food there. Our favorite is Briyani rice at A&B Mohammed restaurant. I don’t really like spicy food. But for me, the Briyani rice there is perfect, as it’s not too spicy but still very good.
- Nearest MRT station to Little India: Little India & Farrer Park
- Nearest mosque: Angullia mosque (on Serangoon Road)
Bugis (Kampong Glam) is famous for being the center of Malay heritage and the headquarters of halal food. Walking around Kampong Glam, you should visit Sultan Mosque with its golden domes and huge praying hall.
Just a walking distance from the mosque, you may also want to visit Malay Heritage Center. It displays the rich heritage and culture of Singapore’s Malay community.
There are several streets that are full of eclectic shops and cafés in Kampong Glam: Haji Lane, Bali Lane, Arab street, and Muscat street. There’re sure not to be missed.
Try authentic Padang food at Warung Nasi Pariaman just a few steps from the mosque and Warung Jawa Timur for authentic Indonesian food. Also, try Zam Zam restaurant, for the best Briyani rice in town according to TripAdvisor. Oh, for cat lovers, there’s also cat cafe on Victoria street.
- Nearest MRT station: Bugis
- Nearest mosque: Sultan mosque
Like what its name said, this is the center of Chinese cultural heritage. Within the neighborhood, you can visit The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. The temple exhibits Buddhist art and history that tell stories of culture over hundreds of years old.
Besides the temple, another cultural place that you can visit is Chinatown Heritage Center. At this place, you will experience how Singapore’s early Chinese migrants once lived and learn more about local Chinese culture.
As for me, I would say this place is shopping heaven for those looking for cheap Singapore souvenirs. From Chinatown MRT, take exit A to Pagoda street. Taking the escalator up, you will directly see rows of souvenirs shops there.
- Nearest MRT station: Chinatown
- Nearest mosque: Masjid Jamie Chulia
Besides these cultural places, you can also enjoy Singapore free tourist destination.