Singapore is a city with many faces: monuments and tradition, skyscrapers and busy streets, and cute neighborhoods that all have an original look. Tiong Bahru is one such neighborhood. It’s especially interesting for architecture geeks, food lovers and history buffs. The neighborhood was built in the 1920’s as a housing estate consisting of over 30 residential buildings. There are high-rises and lower buildings. The style is minimalist with rounded balconies and pastel colors. It gives out a bit of an art deco vibe.

40 Hands banana bread © Soile Vaukonen
40 Hands banana bread © Soile Vaukonen

Start your walk by picking up a cup of hand brewed coffee at 40 Hands. It’s a local specialty coffee roaster with a cozy cafe at the beginning of Yong Siak Street. The banana bread is a must try, its thick slices are moist and not too sweet – just like a banana bread should be.

Grab your coffee to go and stroll around the corner towards Seng Poh Street and the Seng Poh Tea Garden. It’s a small park with tables, benches and local art. Admire the gardens centerpiece statue which is designed by the same sculptor as the famous lion headed Merlion, Mr Lim Nang Seng.

Seng Poh Tea Garden © Soile Vauhkonen
Seng Poh Tea Garden © Soile Vauhkonen

Continue down Seng Poh Road to Tiong Bahru Market. Its Singapore’s first modern neighborhood hawker center. Known back in the day as the notorious Seng Poh Market, the new building was a solution to the semi-legal street hawker problem that plagued Singapore’s streets in the past. The market was rebuilt from scratch in 2004 to clean up the area.

Tiong Bahru Market is a must visit © Soile Vauhkonen
Tiong Bahru Market is a must visit © Soile Vauhkonen

Tiong Bahru market has a wide array of yummy local foods. Try out traditional Chwee kueh, a type of steamed rice cake in the Michelin-recommended hawker stand Jian Bo Shui Kueh, or grab a vegetarian glutinous rice at Harriann’s Delight. Observe how there are a lot of elderly people sitting around, enjoying each other company and picking snacks to eat from the stands. The presence of the elderly is appreciated, and they have their own marked seating. There is also a playground in the center court for children. The market is not only a food court, it’s a meeting place for all ages and generations.

Tiong Bahru Bakery offers the best french pastries in town © Soile Vauhkonen
Tiong Bahru Bakery offers the best french pastries in town © Soile Vauhkonen

Even though the food market is full of tempting dishes, make sure to leave a space for dessert because you should not miss out on the French style pastries at Tiong Bahru Bakery on Eng Hoon Street. The cafe has some amazing almond croissants and cinnamon buns – the Swedes would be jealous. I recommend sitting on the terrace to see how locals go about their day in the neighborhood. If you are not in the mood for French goodies, stroll back to Yong Siak Street for delicious cupcakes at Plain Vanilla.

Before heading for sundowners at Omakase style Bincho, stop by Books Actually, a shop that sells literature by Singaporean authors.

And one more thing – don’t forget to download our Tripsteri App! It will be your mobile guide through Tiong Bahru in a day.