Chinatown is Singapore’s largest historic district, nestled close to the bustling business hub. When Raffles announced Singapore as a trading post in 1819, many Chinese flocked to Singapore, and by the end of the 1860s, the Chinese community had grown to encompass 65% of the population in Singapore.
Chinatown is now made up of exotic pre-war shop houses, home to merchants who have been hawking the same wares for years – bales of fine silk, traditional handicrafts, and gold and jade jewellery. Make a visit to the large Chinese emporium Yue Hwa, conveniently located at the junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street. It stocks a wide array of authentic Chinese products such as tea, medicinal herbs, foods, household items, antiques and traditional Chinese costumes such as the cheongsam.
The best time to visit Chinatown is during Chinese New Year, when the Chinatown Food Market is abuzz with activity, from lion dances to Chinese opera performances. This much-anticipated festival enlivens the market even more, and is when you can find a dazzling array of stalls touting paper lanterns, Chinese calligraphy, opera masks, contemporary fashion and festive food. On most days, these stalls begin spilling onto Pagoda, Smith, Trengganu and Sago Streets by late morning.
Many shopping centres can also be found in Chinatown. Some of the more significant ones worth visiting include Chinatown Point, People’s Park Complex and the Chinatown Complex, which was built in 1972 and replaced the death houses that used to line Sago Lane. These malls not only sell a wide selection of Chinese products but also offer affordable electronic goods, textiles and discounted cosmetics and clothes.
If you’re keen on unique curios and interesting souvenirs, don’t miss Ann Siang Road and Club Street, where you can explore chic local boutiques such as The Little Drom Store and egg3. For a shopping experience that blends traditional Chinese heritage with contemporary offerings, the Chinatown stretch is a must-visit on your trip to Singapore.