Check out our Joo Chiat guide to see where to eat, shop and play in Singapore’s coolest heritage neighbourhood
Designated as Singapore’s first “heritage town” in 2011, Joo Chiat is a mix of gorgeous Peranakan shophouses (no buildings in the area can be taller than five storeys high), yummy local eats, and up-and-coming shops and bakeries.
By night, Joo Chiat Road becomes ever-so-slightly gritty (by Singapore standards, anyway) with its hourly love motels, KTV Bars and the working gals who frequent them, while by day you’ll find uncles pedaling their junk carts down the street or Malay families decked out in wedding finery for an event at Lagun Sari. It so perfectly represents multicultural Singapore’s unique combination of old and new, and is just bursting with charm mamas (given that our editor lives there, we’re not at all biased).
Read more: Ultimate Guide to East Coast Road
Joo Chiat can easily be covered on foot in an hour or two. We recommend starting in the Malay neighbourhood at the top of Joo Chiat Road at Changi Road – about an 8-minute walk from either Paya Lebar or Eunos MRT stations – then working your way down to Peranakan-flavoured East Coast Road. You can also take the 33 or 16 buses to Joo Chiat Road from Dakota MRT. Parking is available in public lots at Joo Chiat Place and across from Marshall Lane.
Everything below is listed from north to south; Joo Chiat Road and Joo Chiat Place are the neighbourhood’s main thoroughfares but you’ll find a few shops tucked into the quieter side streets.
Eat: Geylang Serai Market: Quite possibly Singapore’s Malay cuisine capital! The ground floor wet market purveys fantastic Halal meats and produce, while the upstairs hawker centre features a number of notable Nasi Lemak and Biryani stalls.
1 Geylang Serai, Singapore 402001
Shop: Joo Chiat Complex: Head to this old-school mall at the base of an HDB for all sorts of affordable textiles and fabrics, as well as traditional Malay clothing, crafts and jewellery. Around Hari Raya heaps of specialty tents and yummy snack vendors will also pop up!
1 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 420001
Play: Joo Chiat Terrace Park & Ernest Zacharevic Mural: A brand new playground opened up in early 2015 at this cute little green space that’s also got shaded benches and exercise equipment. Across the street is a cheeky mural painted by infamous Penang street artist Ernest Zacharevic, whom the BBC calls “Malaysia’s answer to Banksy”.
Corner of Joo Chiat Terrace and Everitt Road
Eat: Chilli Padi: Serving some of Singapore’s finest Peranakan cuisine in a comfy, cosy setting. Our faves are the Beef Rendang and Signature Laksa!
11 Joo Chiat Place, #01-03, Singapore 427744, (+65) 6275 1002
Eat: Fei Fei Wanton Noodles: This family-run noodle stall’s been around since the 1940s. It’s open 24 hours and always buzzing, and you can’t knock a meal that sets you back less than $5!
72 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427789
Eat: Smokey’s BBQ: Almost any American in Singapore has found their way to this barbecue joint that serves up ribs, brisket, corn bread, and a wide array of American craft beers and wines. The big screen TVs almost make it feel like a stateside sports bar.
73 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427790, (+65) 6345 6914
Eat: Eng Seng Crab: Specialising in black pepper crab, this open-air spot is known for its delicious food, lengthy lines and surly service in equal measure. Get there early to queue, as they’re known to run out and close early.
247 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427935, (+65) 6440 5560
Eat: Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata: Recently ranked the #1 prata in Singapore among a field of 72 (!), this literal mom & pop stall (they are super sweet!) serves breakfast to Joo Chiat’s hungry hordes starting at dawn, and the lengthy queues soon follow. Doughy, delicious, and made fresh on the premises; get there early because they close by 1pm, mama!
300 Joo Chiat Road (beside Dunman Food Centre), Singapore 429356
Eat: Enjoué Bakery: This local artisan bakery specialises in handmade breads, pastries and cakes, with a special emphasis on authentic sourdough levain. Pastries are baked fresh and hand-rolled daily using only French sheet butter (ooh la la!), while cakes are made from scratch without any emulsifiers or stabilisers.
174 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427445
Eat: Long Phung: The best of the neighbourhood’s many Vietnamese restaurants (just ask the working girls who hang out at the tables in between jobs); the pho is straightforward but delicious.
159 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427436, (+65) 6344 2005
See: Kwan Im Tng Temple: A major destination that takes on a carnival-like atmosphere on holidays (care to get your fortune read?), this temple blends Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, and is home to a number of gorgeous statues.
62 Tembeling Road, Singapore 423586, (+65) 6348 0967
Shop: HIEW Floral.Gifts.Home: The neighbourhood’s go-to spot for high-quality bouquets and floral arrangements, plus they’ve got a fab range of Peranakan ceramics (perfect Singapore souvenirs) and cute plush toys from Sassy baby fave Jellycat.
136 Tembeling Road, Singapore 423645, (+65) 9816 0957
Play: Carpmael Road Open Space: A lovely little park if you’ve got tinies in tow, especially if you’re a fan of old school swing sets. Newly-renovated in late 2015, it’s also got some rad climbing structures.
99 Carpmael Road, Singapore 429834
Eat: Dunman Road Food Centre: It pales in comparison to behemoth Old Airport Road Hawker Centre down the street, but Dunman’s got some solid stalls on offer including Ah Eng Wanton Mee, insane fried chicken wings at Jia Hui BBQ (stall 02-21) and, for the adventurous, Dragon City Frog Porridge.
271 Onan Road, Singapore 424768
See: Koon Seng Road: Joo Chiat’s most famous block is home to a cluster of pastel heritage shophouses decorated with super pretty Peranakan tiles. Watch out for tourists and wedding photographers!
Koon Seng Road between Joo Chiat Road and Tembeling Road
Shop: Jarrod Lim Design: Like any cool ‘hood, Joo Chiat is chockers with design firms, but we’re partial to this award-winning, European-inspired furniture shop.
324 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427581, (+65) 6440 0067
Eat: Thunder Tea Rice: This Hakka detox dish is as healthy as you can get with hawker food; a mix of herbs, vegetables and tofu, it’s meant to relieve colds, flu, coughs, and even stomach wind. And it happens to be pretty tasty!
328 Joo Chiat Road, #01-04, Singapore 427585, (+65) 6342 0223
Drink: The Cider Pit: Owned and run by an Englishman (as you might gather from the hilariously dry Facebook page), this cosy spot has dozens of delicious ciders (Toffee Apple, yum!) and beers on offer, at totally-reasonable-for-Singapore prices.
328 Joo Chiat Road, #01-03, Singapore 427585, (+65) 6440 0504
Play: Mosaic Workshop: In a neighbourhood renowned for its tiles, this place lets kids and grownups alike get in on the action with fun activities perfect for individuals or outside-the-box birthday parties.
NB: This has now moved to 55 Telok Kurau Lorong L, Bright Centre Unit #02-55, Singapore 425500
Shop: The WYLD Shop: The WYLD Shop was founded by Aussie mama Kara Bensley-Austin, who wanted to introduce more Singaporeans to Australian High Street chic. Defined by the fashionista herself as a “laid back, sun-drenched aesthetic inspired by Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane”, they stock over 26 of our fave fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands like Le Specs, Quay Australia, MINKPINK, W.ANT Skincare and more. And they even have a handy kids’ play corner so mamas can shop in peace!
412 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427637
Shop: The Attaby Collective (AC): In the words of our super stylish fashion contributor Annabel, the Attaby Collective brands itself as a ‘boutique department store’, selling independent labels from fashion, accessories and lifestyle, all under one very stylish roof. The curated labels within The AC all stand in their own right, but compliment each other as a whole. The labels’ designers all work within the boutique, selling across brands; more small independents are what we need in Singapore, so show your support and head East to check it out! Click here to see her full write-up!
420 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427641, (+65) 8200 8437
Shop: Expat Hair Studio: We’ve sung their praises already, but scoring a coveted appointment with talented mamas Jacky & Kat has only added to Joo Chiat’s so-hot-right-now status.
422 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427642, (+65) 6444 7929
Shop: Cat Socrates: The Katong outpost of this perfectly twee shop carries unique and unusual souvenirs and home décor. One of everything, please!
448 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore, (+65) 6348 0863
In our opinion Joo Chiat definitely warrants multiple visits, mama, especially when you’ve got East Coast Road, Tanjong Katong and Siglap to explore nearby.
Read more: The Best Gourmet Shops on the East Coast