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Top Things to Do in Kampong Gelam: Places, Food, Souvenirs


Kampong Gelam (Credit Paradox Hotel)
Kampong Gelam (Credit Paradox Hotel)

Welcome to Kampong Gelam, a captivating pocket of Singapore pulsating with history, culture, and a touch of modern vibrancy. This fascinating neighborhood, once the heart of Singapore's Malay community, is a treasure trove waiting to be explored.


A Journey Through Time: Kampong Gelam's Rich Tapestry

Kampong Gelam's past is as rich as the spices that once filled the air here. Originally a settlement for the Bugis, a seafaring people from Sulawesi, it became the seat of the Malay Sultanate in the 1800s. Today, it's a harmonious blend of cultures, with Malay, Arab, and European influences evident in its architecture, cuisine, and traditions.


Unveiling Cultural Gems

The Sultan Mosque

A majestic landmark, the golden-domed Sultan Mosque is a stunning symbol of Islamic architecture. Take a moment to admire its intricate details and learn about its significance.

Kampong Gelam Sultan Mosque (Credit Hotels.com)
Kampong Gelam Sultan Mosque (Credit Hotels.com)

Arab Street

Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Arab Street. Browse through shops overflowing with silks, carpets, and exotic perfumes, experiencing a slice of Arabian heritage.

Arab Street (Credit Confirm Good)
Arab Street (Credit Confirm Good)

Malay Heritage Centre

Delve deeper into the Malay community's rich history at the Malay Heritage Centre. Through interactive exhibits and cultural performances, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for their traditions.

Malay Heritage Centre (Credit Visit Kampong Gelam)
Malay Heritage Centre (Credit Visit Kampong Gelam)

A Culinary Adventure Awaits

Malaysian Delights

Indulge in fragrant curries, satays (skewered meats), and flavorful rice dishes, staples of Malay cuisine. Be sure to try Nasi Lemak, a fragrant coconut rice dish often served with fried chicken and sambal.


You can head to Zam Zam Restaurant, a Kampong Gelam institution since 1908. Order a plate of murtabak (savory stuffed pancake) or nasi biryani (fragrant rice with spiced meat). The flavors will transport you to another era.

Zam Zam Restaurant (Credit MustShareNews)
Zam Zam Restaurant (Credit MustShareNews)

Fusion Flavors on Arab Street

Arab Street is a haven for foodies. Explore cafes and restaurants offering an exciting mix of Arab, Mediterranean, and local flavors. Try the fusion cuisine at Artichoke or indulge in Middle Eastern sweets at Maison Ikkoku. For a unique experience, visit the Halal-certified cafes that blend tradition with modernity.


Shopping for Local Treasures

Bussorah Street Bazaar

Bussorah Street comes alive during weekends with its bustling bazaar. Browse through stalls selling handmade jewelry, batik prints, colorful textiles and quirky souvenirs. It’s the perfect spot to find a memento of your Kampong Gelam adventure.

Traditional Craft Shop in Bussorah Street Kampong Gelam (Credit Visit Kampong Gelam)
Traditional Craft Shop in Bussorah Street Kampong Gelam (Credit Visit Kampong Gelam)

Batik Boutiques

Kampong Gelam is famous for Batik, a traditional wax-resist dyeing technique. Explore boutiques showcasing stunning Batik fabrics and clothing, perfect keepsakes or gifts.

Batik at Kiah's Gallery (Credit Roots.sg)
Batik at Kiah's Gallery (Credit Roots.sg)

Art and Culture Come Alive

Street Murals

Keep your eyes peeled for vibrant street murals that adorn the walls of Kampong Gelam. These artworks by local and international artists add a contemporary touch to the neighborhood.

Kampong Gelam Mural Art by Yip Yew Chong (Credit Yipyc.com)
Kampong Gelam Mural Art by Yip Yew Chong (Credit Yipyc.com)

Nightlife Buzz

Bars and Pubs

As the sun sets, Kampong Gelam transforms into a lively hub. Enjoy a drink with friends at a trendy bar or pub, soaking in the neighborhood's electric atmosphere. Sip on craft cocktails at Blu Jaz Cafe or groove to live music at Piedra Negra. The energy is contagious!

Blu Jaz Cafe (Credit Blu Jaz Cafe)
Blu Jaz Cafe (Credit Blu Jaz Cafe)

Night Markets and Events

Catch a night market or cultural event for a truly immersive experience. Savor delicious street food, browse through stalls selling local crafts, and enjoy the festive atmosphere. The annual Hari Raya Bazaar during Ramadan is a must-visit, offering delicious street food and festive vibes.

Annual Ramadam Bazaar at Kampong Gelam (Credit CNA lifestyle)
Annual Ramadam Bazaar at Kampong Gelam (Credit CNA lifestyle)

Singapore Heritage Fest 2024

In 2024, the Singapore HeritageFest is shining a spotlight on Kampong Gelam as a vibrant cultural neighborhood. This year's festival is all about celebrating Singapore's rich tapestry of buildings, sites, people, and stories. One of the highlights is a captivating photo walk titled "Architecture on Film" led by Syahmi Hashim and Julina Khusaini. This stroll will delve into the Ubin Orang Pulau community and introduce participants to Wan, a descendant of Pulau Ubin islanders and a vital part of Singapore's Malay heritage.


But wait, there's more! Visitors can also hop on board the Hop-On, Hop-Off (HOHO) Bus Experience, a unique journey through Kampong Gelam and other cultural hubs like Chinatown and Little India. It's a chance to immerse oneself in the vibrant soul of Singapore's diverse heritage.

Kampong Gelam Photo Walk  "Architecture on Film" (Credit SG HeritageFest)
Kampong Gelam Photo Walk  "Architecture on Film" (Credit SG HeritageFest)

Discovering Kampong Glam’s Neighboring Districts: Bugis and Bras Basah

Extend your adventure beyond Kampong Gelam by venturing into the neighboring districts of Bugis and Bras Basah. These areas seamlessly blend history, culture, and modernity.


Bugis

A lively district known for its vibrant street markets, Bugis offers a delightful mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment. Here are some highlights:

  • Bugis Street Market: Once a notorious red-light district, Bugis Street has transformed into a bustling market. Explore the maze of stalls selling trendy fashion, accessories, and souvenirs. Don’t forget to haggle for the best deals!

  • Bugis Junction: This shopping complex seamlessly connects Bugis Street with Bugis+ (formerly known as Iluma). Browse through international brands, catch a movie, or savor local delicacies at the food court.

  • Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho Temple: Seek blessings at this historic temple dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. The intricate architecture and serene atmosphere make it a hidden gem.

  • Haji Lane: While technically part of Kampong Gelam, Haji Lane spills over into Bugis. Known for its colorful murals, quirky boutiques, and hip cafes, it’s a must-visit for Instagram-worthy photos.


Bras Basah

Named after the fragrant basil plants that once grew here, Bras Basah is an arts and cultural hub. Immerse yourself in creativity and heritage:

  • National Museum of Singapore: Dive into Singapore’s past at this impressive museum. From ancient artifacts to interactive exhibits, it’s a captivating journey through time.

  • Singapore Art Museum (SAM): SAM houses contemporary Southeast Asian art. Explore thought-provoking installations and discover emerging artists.

  • Peranakan Museum: If you’re fascinated by Peranakan culture, this museum is a treasure trove. Admire intricate beadwork, porcelain, and traditional costumes.

  • Fort Canning Park: Take a leisurely stroll through this historic park. Visit the Battle Box, an underground WWII command center, and enjoy panoramic views of the city.


Conclusion

As we wrap up our Kampong Gelam adventure, reflect on how this charming neighborhood has influenced Singapore’s contemporary landscape. From the nearby Marina Bay Sands to the futuristic Gardens by the Bay, Kampong Gelam’s spirit lives on in the city’s iconic landmarks.

Kampong Gelam is more than just a tourist destination; it’s a living testament to Singapore’s multicultural heritage. As you wander its streets, savor its flavors, and soak in its history, remember that you’re treading on ground that holds centuries of stories. So go forth, explore, and let Kampong Gelam weave its magic around you! 


Visiting Kampong Gelam? 

Ready to explore Kampong Gelam but not sure where to begin? Embark on our Kampong Gelam Free Walking Tour! Uncover hidden gems such as traditional shops, trendy cafes along Haji Lane, immerse yourself in stunning street art, and marvel at the grand mosques nestled in the heart of Kampong Gelam.


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