On our first trip to Singapore, we stayed at the stunning little art deco hotel in Keong Saik Road. So we explored every nook and corner of the Keong Saik Road and the nearby Chinatown to put together this colorful neighborhood guide to the historic and vibrant Keong Saik road.
I didn’t come across this neighbourhood on the interwebz while planning our trip so it’s quite a hidden gem and has an interesting history, not to mention the numerous eating, drinking, and shopping joints.
This road is named after, Tan Keong Saik, a prominent Singaporean businessman, and community leader. It used to be a red light district, also known as the “hiding place of businessmen and their mistresses” before slowly transforming into a residential area and then to the vibrant neighbourhood it is today.
In 1926, before it got its official name, it used to house brothels in the shop houses, with incense sellers and charcoal vendors lining the sides of the streets. In 1990, the street was given conservation status by the government and work began to preserve the beautiful shophouses. Today it is a wonderful juxtaposition of the old and the new, ancient temples; family owned stores and eateries hold their place among the hip new cafes and bars, boutiques and even a co-working space. Everything a traveler could want in a neighbourhood.
WHERE TO STAY
The Hotel 1929
This beautiful and luxurious award winning boutique hotel is housed in the traditional heritage triangle-shaped building. Their breakfast service is to die for and they have round the clock traditional snacks! Read a detailed experience and see pictures of our stay in hotel 1929 here.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Chinatown food street
If you’re short on time, the best thing to do is to eat your way quickly through the Chinatown food street, which is two minutes away from Keong Saik Road. Guide to Chinatown Neighborhood (Coming Soon)
Maxwell Food Centre
A few minutes away Keong Saik Road is the Maxwell Food Centre. It is my favorite hawker center in Singapore. There are a huge variety of local food and drinks, including the best chicken rice in town.
This place is special. It used to be a little street stall that got awarded the prestigious Michelin star. The stall is the first place in all of Asia to get the star. Since then, the owner decided to expand into a small restaurant. The chicken rice and chicken with noodles are top notch. I could travel to Singapore just to eat this dish. I tried both the rice and noodles, along with pork chops and I so wish I could eat this every week! The noodles are perfectly cooked and the meat is beyond amazing. Do not miss this place no matter what else you do in Singapore!
The library is probably one of the coolest bars you will go to. It’s super secret. They have a new password that you need to enter, and it changes every week! The doors to the bar are hidden behind a large bookshelf.
The Library, 47 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089151. Open p. 6221 8338. Open Mon-Sat 6pm-1am.
The Lime House
Classic Caribbean fare like jerk Carpaccio, Caribbean fish cakes in the restaurant on the bottom, a rum bar of the rooftop! This place is great for whiling an afternoon away.
WHERE TO HANG
Once you’re done exploring and eating your way through the area, pop in here for a relaxing massage and reflexive foot therapy. The massages are 30 minutes and are a great pick me up if you don’t like being soaked in spas for hours.
Tong Ah Eating House
This is a 4th generation kopitam (coffee house). The tea here is the best you’ll ever have, as the owner knows the exact amount of time the leaves have to age for that perfect flavor. The kaya toast, one of Singapore food icons, is made with soft white bread and homemade coconut jam and melted butter. So delicious!
Tong Ah Eating House, 35 Keong Saik Road, Singapore; daily, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5:30-10:30 p.m. (to 11 p.m. on weekends), closed alternate Wednesdays
Pinnacle @ Duxton
An amazing panoramic view of the city that is off the tourist trail. Head to Pinnacle @Duxton, Singapore’s tallest housing project. Head up to the 5oth story to enjoy an impressive and inexpensive view of the city’s skyline.
Potato Head Folk
We were told that is where the cool people hang! They have a great selection of gourmet burgers, a lounge at a reservation only bar, and a rooftop bar where you can get some amazing views of Chinatown. Head there early because their waiting list gets very very long.
WHERE TO EXPLORE THE CULTURE
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
This is a beautiful temple dedicated to a single tooth relic of Buddha which was found in Myanmar. The temple is beautifully lit up every evening. The premises also have a museum that features exhibitions of various facets or religious arts and culture of Singapore.
Thian Hock Keng Temple
This Hokkien temple is one of the oldest temples in Singapore. It was visited by Chinese immigrants giving thanks to Ma Zu (Goddess of the Sea) for their safe voyage. It was gazetted as a national monument in 1973.
Sri Mariamman Temple
This is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple with historical and architectural significance. The main feature of this temple is the entrance tower or gopuram that rises above the main entrance and is carved with sculptures of Hindu deities.
Kong Tee Peng Temple
Kong Tee Peng is another one of the oldest temples in Singapore. It was built in 1928. One of the beautiful features of this temple are the intricately decorated tiles.
Shrine of Sharifah Rogayah
This mysterious coffin-shaped shrine located along Duxton Plain Park is believed to be the shrine of a direct descent of the Prophet Muhammad. The tomb is inscribed with the words “Shrine of Sharifah Rogayah, 1891” and while no official literature confirms or rejects this theory, it has not stopped devotees from regular visitation and offerings of fresh flowers.
WHERE TO SHOP
Tong Sern Antiques Arts & Crafts
At the end of Keong Saik Road, lies a treasure trove of everything you can imagine – from old video cameras to Chinese furniture to porcelain bowls, old jewelry, to figurines, lamps and vintage clothing. A hidden gem indeed, this three-storey shophouse is the place to buy something unique on your travels that no one else has.
Home of the local hipsters and tucked within an old housing estate, this is indeed a hidden gem where one can find Singapore-made trinkets and whatnots. Its laid-back vibe is perfect for those who want to get away from the crowd.
A charming old neighbourhood, Tiong Bahru is go-to for specialty shops such as black-rimmed glasses, crates of eggs, sewing shops and now quirky lifestyle stores selling indie books and designer wares.
WHERE TO WORK
The Working Capitol
The working capitol is a quaint coworking space in case you were looking for some quiet time to get some work done. This office space is spread out over 5 traditional shop houses. This building used to be a traditional biscuit factory in the 1920s. They also have an amazing café called the daily round up which serves up some amazing coffee and French crepes. They also provide event spaces, private meeting rooms, and 5 other eateries.