Singapore's Chinatown is the traditional Chinese quarters of town, and while the entire city is largely Chinese these days the area does retain some of its own charm. The area is also known as Niu Che Shui in Chinese and Kreta Ayer in Malay, both names meaning "bullock cart water", a reference to the carts that used to haul in drinking water.
The area between Pagoda Street and Smith Street has been tarted up considerably for tourists, but workaday Chinatown continues south and east, merging seamlessly into the Central Business District. Tanjong Pagar is the unofficial home of Singapore's gay community, with many watering holes in restored shop houses, while Club Street caters more to the expat and yuppie crowd with small, intimate eateries offering excellent (if pricey) Western fare.
. Chinatown's primary attraction is the town itself, composed as it is of restored shop houses full of strange little shops selling everything from plastic Buddha’s to dried seahorses. Wander at random and see what you can find! As an old Chinese told me, “IF you haven’t seen China town, you haven’t seen Singapore”. And that my friends are absolutely true.
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Towering above southern Chinatown, this four-story temple was completed only in 2007. The imposing main hall hosts a 27-foot statue of Maitreya Buddha, and the scared relic itself, reputedly one of Buddha Shakyamuni's teeth,
- Chinatown Heritage Centre, 48 Pagoda St, An excellent museum chronicling how Chinatown came to be and the privation suffered by early migrants.
- Jamae Mosque. One of Singapore's oldest mosques, built in the 1830s by Tamil Muslims in an Indian style. Note the stepped minarets outside.
- Pinnacle@Duxton Skybridge, Singapore's tallest public housing project has a 50th story viewing deck that offers some of the best city views around at a fraction of the cost of the Singapore Flyer.
- Red Dot Design Museum,
- Singapore Coin and Notes Museum, Tiny little museum tucked away across the Chinatown Heritage Centre. Managed by the Singapore Mint, it features local currency, commerative coins, a history of coinage, and the coin-making process. Not exactly a must-see, but a nice little distraction if you're in the area.
- Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore's oldest and most important Hindu temple and worth a visit for the intricately carved gopuram (statuary above the entrance), which gave adjacent "Pagoda Street" its name. This is an active temple, so take off your shoes and don't disturb the worshippers. The Thimithi fire-walking festival is held here one week before Deepavali, usually Oct/Nov.
- Thian Hock Keng Temple, The oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore, dating back to 1821, although the structure was thoroughly refurbished in 2000. The brightly colored, elaborate facade was constructed with ironwork from Scotland, tiles from England and the Netherlands, and dragon-ornamented granite pillars from China.
- Singapore City Gallery (URA Gallery), 3-storey visitor gallery with large scaled models of the entire country (ground floor) as well as the city centre (incredibly life-like), which provide good orientation of the country for first-timers. The gallery tells the history of Singapore's urban planning, various planning, design, and conservation strategies adopted to create a good living environment, sustainable development, and many others. Learn the story of Singapore's transformation from 3rd to 1st world, play games on land planning, and the expanse of land reclamation done on the island country. There are also wonderful images of old-new Singapore to browse, free walking maps to unique districts like Joo Chiat to pick up.