Ethnic Barrios of Singapore

Being Singapore a city formed by a mix of cultures, it is also reflected in the composition of the city, thus appearing three main neighborhoods, named ethnic neighborhoods:

  • Little Italy
  • Chinatown
  • Kampong Glam

In each of them you will find one of the three main cultures in the country. Marked in each neighborhood mainly in the architecture of the buildings, the temples and the food, apart from the people who mostly live in them.

My recommendation here, is to take a Free Tour that shows you each neighborhood, not only for the fact of not missing anything, but also to tell you the history of each one and how they do to live together in harmony. Here I will leave you with a small summary, without going too deep, of some of the things I learned on the free tours.

Cultural Integration

A city with so many cultures has had to take some actions to be able to make an integration and avoid conflicts. One of the actions was the creation of the Tekka Centre in Little India in 1915. The Tekka Center is a market of Indian food and clothing, with a food court in the center where you can eat at a good price. This center has made all the cultures of the city go there to eat and buy, creating a good atmosphere.

This idea was later extended to the other two neighborhoods, where you can also find a shopping center of the style, further promoting that connection between cultures. In addition, you as a tourist, thanks to these centers you will have the possibility to taste the real food of each culture without having to leave the city.

This Cultural Integration takes it to many levels, like in schools, where they teach them each culture and there is one day a year where children have to dress in folkloric costumes from a culture that is not their own. This is where the centers we talked about before go well, being able to go there to buy clothes from another culture. Just as well they go for when Singaporeans have a wedding, it is said that a Singaporean in his or her closet has an outfit from each culture for when there is a wedding to go dressed appropriately.

Obviously, it must also be said that everything has not been a bed of roses, and they have had some difficulties to overcome.

Little India

Little India was the neighborhood where our hostel was located, it’s a cheaper place and with the subway, which we had next door, it doesn’t take long to get to the center. And it was the first neighborhood where we started our tour of the ethnic neighborhoods. In this neighborhood we took a Free Tour in the morning, which was not bad at all and I recommend it very much (I warn you that it is in English).

In this neighborhood the two main points to visit are: the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and the Tan Teng Niah House. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is an impressive Hindu temple with free entrance, built by the first Indians who came to Singapore to work.

You will have to take off your shoes to enter and cover your legs with a handkerchief or go with long pants, you can’t wear your shoulders uncovered either. It is worth it, it is very colorful, full of statues, and it is dedicated to the goddess Kali. But definitely the most impressive part is on the outside, on its roof totally covered with colorful sculptures.

Then there is the Tan Teng Niah House, which belonged to a Chinese silk merchant, and is one of the last Chinese buildings left in Little India. It is a very colorful house surrounded by palm trees, perfect for your instagram photos. It’s also next to the Tekka center, which I talked about earlier.

Finally, around the whole neighborhood there are several murals painted on some buildings. They were painted to tell the story of the Indians in Singapore, very interesting to find and see.


As in many cities in the world, and being the Chinese community the majority in Singapore, a Chinatown could not be missing. In this case we didn’t do a free tour for this neighborhood because we didn’t have time, but we still had the chance to walk around, eat and see the main attractions.

As we went at noon, we stopped to eat at the mall / food court which is like the Tekka center of Little Italy, where you will find all kinds of Chinese dishes. And then we went for a walk on the famous Pagoda st., a street with a lot of atmosphere, between restaurants and shops, you could say that is the heart of the neighborhood and one of the points that you can not miss.