We spill the beans on where to take foreign friends searching for a real dose of Singapore.
Once filled with coconut plantations and used as a weekend retreat by wealthy city dwellers, Katong developed into a residential suburb by the early 20th century. It became populated by a growing English-educated middle class, including Peranakans and Eurasians.
The neighbouring Joo Chiat area is named after Chew Joo Chiat, a wealthy Chinese landowner in the early 20th-century. The area’s identity is especially shaped by its unique pre-war architecture – colourful two-storey shophouses and terrace houses with ornate facades, intricate motifs and ceramic tiles.
The plantations have since gone, but you can still admire this vibrant neighbourhood’s many well-preserved Peranakan shophouses and a scattering of colonial bungalows. The area is just a quick 10-minute drive from the city centre.
As one of the country’s best foodie destinations, Joo Chiat/Katong is also well-loved by many Singaporeans. Your culinary choices are endless: explore cool cafes that sit next to old-world coffeeshops selling the famous Katong 'laksa', 'kueh chang' (dumplings) and other Nonya delicacies.
Keen on shopping? Snap up a traditional Nonya outfit – 'kebaya' and 'sarong', beaded slippers and accessories, or poke about in the little shops offering Peranakan wares and handicraft.
To fully appreciate Joo Chiat/Katong, you’ll need more than a few hours to fully enjoy the area – so for a leisurely experience, why not stay at one of several hotels there? Choose from refurbished hotels decked out in Peranakan-inspired decor, or comfortable budget stays.