A newbie’s guide to the ethnic quarters of Singapore

Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India are testimony to the island-nation’s rich ethnic, cultural and historical heritage. The districts are home to religious monuments as well as quaint shophouses selling ethnic goods and cuisine. They provide an insight into the cultural fabric of Singapore and are perhaps the country’s truest attractions, having stood the test of time.


Just behind the soaring skyscrapers of Singapore’s financial district lies Chinatown. The easiest way to get to Chinatown is by the MRT.

Top 4 sights to check out:

1. Pagoda Street Markets – After departing from the Chinatown MRT station the first clue that you will have that you have arrived in this shopping district is the many street market stalls that line both sides of the street.

2. World’s Largest Coin – I was greeted by the “World’s Largest Coin” at the entrance to the Singapore Coins and Notes Museum.  It left me in bewilderment.  Please read the description on the photo.

Singapore World Largest Coin - Copyrigh Travelosio

3. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple – Inside this Tang Dynasty-inspired building you’ll find chanting monks, a museum of Southeast Asian religious art, a rooftop orchid garden and a sanctum containing a tooth said to be from the Buddha himself. Allow an hour to fully explore the temple — be sure to visit the upper floors.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple 2 - Copyright Travelosio

4. Sri Mariamman Temple – It is the last building on Temple Street – navigate your way there by looking for its ornately carved roof. In addition to being the street’s namesake, this is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple with its roots traced back to 1827. Though it’s far from Little India, the temple plays an important role in the Indian community with weddings, cultural events, and religious rituals taking place every day. Visitors are welcome to enter – just remember to take off your shoes.


In Malay, the word “Kampung” means “village or settlement” and “Glam” is the name of a particular tree, which grew in abundance in the area in early Singapore. The little streets in this area form the historical focal point of Muslim life in Singapore.

Singapore Kampong Glam - Copyright Travelosio

The closes MRT station is Bugis. Its major landmark, the Sultan Mosque, sits in the heart of this enclave and is open to all visitors, as is the nearby Malay Heritage Centre, where you’ll learn about Malay history and culture.

Singapore Sultan Mosque - Copyright Travelosio


Today, Little India is the focal point of Singapore’s Indian community. The neighborhood is very easy to reach from both Downtown Singapore and Orchard Road by MRT, and the area is relatively small so you won’t need much time to explore it. Possibly Singapore’s most colourful building, the House of Tan Teng Niah sits proudly at the centre of Little India.

Singapore Little India - Copyright Travelosio

Walking through these ethnic quarters is a fascinating activity for me. Walking in these areas is perfectly safe for everyone including female solo travelers.

If you like my walking tours, you might be interested with my post on Marina bay a few days ago. And if you are on a budget, check out 25 fun and FREE things to do in Singapore to help you maximize your time and money.

15 thoughts on “A newbie’s guide to the ethnic quarters of Singapore

    1. Travelosio Post author

      Thank you! I had basic photography training. I’m glad it’s paying off 🙂

      Yeah, I decided to make some changes (again) because I am trying to be more serious about this. This could be my gig, full time maybe someday 🙂


      1. grow it, catch it, make it

        Silk air just started flights into Cairns, Australia this week. Try the Cairns Post (Google them) and see if you can write a travel story for them. They did a story on Singapore today, but maybe they would be interested in something from another destination Silk air flies to – like Cebu. Email them with an idea, you never know your luck.


  1. Pingback: Singapore: 25 Fun and FREE Things To Do Without Spending a Cent | Travelosio

  2. Pingback: Singapore: 25 Fun Things To Do Without Spending a Cent | Travelosio

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  4. erikastravels

    I’m planning on visiting Singapore in two weeks and have bookmarked your post! I love the pictures of the different neighborhoods–especially Little India. So colorful!

    Liked by 1 person


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