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Top 5 Things To Do in Tiong Bahru


Tiong Bahru
Photo Credit: GoodMigrations

Known as a hipster location, Tiong Bahru is the oldest housing estate in Singapore and was once renowned for its bird-singing aviaries. Now a tranquil neighbourhood full of heritage, good food and trendy stores, this is one of the places that even the younger generation will flock to!


The name Tiong Bahru actually means “new cemetery”, with “tiong” in Hokkien meaning cemetery and “bahru” in Malay meaning new. The reason for this naming is due to the older Hokkien graveyard being shifted from the present-day site of Singapore General Hospital to Toa Payoh. Tiong Bahru Estate was the first project undertaken by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), to provide mass public housing, solve overcrowding issues and improve sanitization, especially since a hospital was located nearby at that time.


Notable features of the estate include the streets being named after 19th and early 20th centuries Chinese pioneers and public housing having a mixed art-deco & local Straits settlement shop-house architecture.


Now, after learning a bit more about the neighbourhood, let’s dive straight into what are the 5 things you can do while in Tiong Bahru!


1. Start your day with freshly baked bread and coffee!


Tiong Bahru Bakery

tiong bahru bakery
Photo Credit: angie & james do stuff

Serving authentic French artisanal breads, pastries and coffee, Tiong Bahru Bakery is one of Singapore’s best bakery chains and is most famous for its handmade croissants. With its light buttery taste with a crispy & flaky skin, you would not expect the inside to be chewy & soft!


Aside from the croissants (plain and almond), other highlights of the bakery include the kouign-amann, squid ink baguette, round lemon tart and the pain au chocolat.


Established in 2012, this modern café have expanded from 1 to 11 stores, with the different branches operating differently, with different opening hours, so do check out their notes and timings here.


Address: 56 Eng Hoon Street, #01-70, Singapore 160056

Opening Hours: Daily, 7:30am – 8pm

Directions: Take bus 16 from Tiong Bahru Station and ride for 1 stop

Walk along Tiong Bahru Rd and turn right towards Seng Poh Rd before turning left into Eng Hoon Street.


Plain Vanilla Bakery

Plain Vanilla Bakery
Photo Credit: Sassy Mama

Famed for their cupcakes, here comes Plain Vanilla Bakery’s flagship store, featuring their largest selection of bakes!


Founded in 2011, they decided to stick to the classic recipes but made with quality ingredients, offering “simple food done consistently”. Freshly baked every day at this outlet, their bakes are then shipped to their sister stores, with every outlet having a slightly different menu. Their regular spotlighted cupcakes come in 9 different flavours, with the highlights being the choco-hazelnut, red velvet and cinnamon brown sugar. However, if these 9 flavours do not pique your interest, there are seasonal flavours as well! The monthly specials are usually announced on their Facebook and Instagram.


In addition to the café, there is also a retail store that sells the full range of Plain Vanilla Foods’ grocer brand. Offering a curated selection of homeware, they strive to bring beauty and wellbeing to their customers’ daily lives.


Address: 1D Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168641

Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 7:30am – 5pm, Sat – Sun & Public Holidays: 7:30am – 7pm

Directions: Take Exit A at Tiong Bahru Station and walk along Tiong Bahru Rd

Turn right towards Kim Pong Rd and walk along the route

Cross the road and walk along Yong Siak Street


2. View scenes of the past through murals!

"Pasar" Mural
Photo Credit: Art + Travel of YC

View snippets of the past captured in 3 murals by the well-known Yip Yew Chong, Singapore’s most prolific muralist.


The 3 murals: “Bird Singing Corner”, “Pasar and the Fortune Teller” and “Home” are heritage-themed murals painted at Yip Yew Chong’s childhood playground. This location was chosen not only due to the fond memories but also because of its unique history and identity.


You can also sell or buy kuehs at the Pasar mural, making it an interactive experience since there is a small squatting stall selling traditional cakes and kuehs!


Murals


Bird Singing Corner

Originally located beside the current Link Hotel and formerly known as Tiong Bahru Bird Arena, it was once a gathering place for bird lovers. They would chat and sip on coffee at the Kopitiam (coffee shop) while admiring each other’s prized pets.


However, when the old HDB blocks were torn down the build the hotel in 2007, the preserved bird corner no longer hosts any songbirds and remains as a memory for the residents.


Location: Seng Poh Lane Block 71


Home

Drawn from a memory of Yip Yew Chong, this gives viewers a look into how homes were furnished traditionally. Showing the lepak atmosphere of the room, the image of Wangsa Yefung, a popular comedian duo in the 70s can be seen on the television while the newspaper featured the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew promoting the Speak Mandarin Campaign in 1979.


Location: Tiong Poh Road/Eu Chin Street Block 74


Pasar and the Fortune Teller

Initially made up of 2 different murals during the conceptualisation stage, the designs were then simplified and combined.


“Pasar” meaning market in Malay, shows the lively atmosphere of the street hawker experience, with the food stalls selling local food. These local delicacies can still be found in Tiong Bahru Market so do check it out!


Location: Eng Watt Street Block 73


Map of the 3 murals

Tiong Bahru Heritage Murals Map
Photo Credit: Art + Travel of YC

3. Go back in time as you view these pre-war buildings and explore the air raid shelter!

Tiong Bahru Post-War Flats
Photo Credit: SNAPSHOT – Canon Singapore Pte. Ltd. (Finbarr Fallon)

Tiong Bahru, an estate where pre-war flats can still be seen, along with low-rise housings, making it a more tranquil neighbourhood to live in.


Highly recognisable by its Streamline Moderne style, these flats are the only preserved ones left, designed by the Housing Development Board’s (HDB) predecessor, Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT).


Aside from the pre-war flats, the post-war walk-up flats feature equally unique architecture, and are numbered as blocks 17 to 50.


Here are some of these iconic flats:


Block 55

Tiong Bahru Block 55

Photo courtesy of DesignSingapore Council’s feature on Blk 55.


The first of 20 blocks (blocks 55 to 82) built by SIT in the estate. Featuring five-foot ways, it increased interaction between the residents and displayed small open public spaces for people to socialise.


Directions: Take bus 33 from Tiong Bahru Station and ride for 2 stops

Walk towards the traffic light and cross 2 of such traffic lights, onto Tiong Bahru Rd

Cross Tiong Bahru Rd and turn right to walk along the path


Blocks 81 & 82

Tiong Bahru Aeroplane Blocks
Photo Credit: Visit Tiong Bahru

Known as the “aeroplane blocks” by the residents due to its elongated layout which resembled the wings of an airplane.


Directions: Take bus 16 from Tiong Bahru Station and ride for 1 stop

Cross the traffic light and walk past the HDB estate onto Lim Liak Street

Turn left and follow along the path before turning right onto Tiong Poh Rd

Walk along Tiong Poh Rd until you reach Blk 81


Block 78

Tiong Bahru Block 78 Air Raid Shelter
Photo Credit: SNAPSHOT – Canon Singapore Pte. Ltd. (Finbarr Fallon)

Nicknamed as the “horseshoe block” due to its unique shape, it is the largest block of flats in Tiong Bahru. It also featured an air raid shelter that can accommodate up to 1,600 people, located within the block itself.


Built in the 1930s, the air raid shelter is the last pre-World War II civilian air raid shelter that exists in Singapore. It is dimly lit, spacious and definitely has a musty smell. The shelter was also used as the venue for an art exhibition, “RAID”, in 2018.


Directions: Take Exit A and walk along Tiong Bahru Rd

Turn right onto Kim Pong Rd and take a left onto Moh Guan Terrace


More information about the blocks and its overall map can be viewed here.


4. Grab a scrumptious meal at Tiong Bahru Market

Tiong Bahru Market
Photo Credit: Nicholas Yong

One of the locals’ favourite hawker centres to visit, Tiong Bahru Market is must-visit for foodies, known for its cheap yet delicious variety of local and international cuisine!


With about 81 stalls, you will be spoiled for choice. If you have difficulties choosing what to eat, here are our recommendations!


- Jian Bo Shui Kueh

- 178 Lor Mee

- Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted Meat

- Tiong Bahru Pau

- Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice

- Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice

- Tow Kwar Pop

- Teck Seng Soya Bean Milk


Tip: Do bring cash as that is the only mode of payment that most vendors accept! There is an ATM machine inside the market, but it tends to have a queue.


Address: 52 Tiong Bahru Rd, Singapore 168716

Opening Hours: Daily, 6am – 10pm

Directions: Take bus 123 at Tiong Bahru Station and ride for 1 stop

Cross Tiong Bahru Rd and walk through the HDB estate before crossing Lim Liak Street


5. Visit the temple dedicated to the main character from "Journey to the West"

Tiong Bahru Qi Tian Gong Temple
Photo Credit: Malavika Bhattacharya

Everyone knows of Sun Wukong (孫悟空), but did you know that there is a temple in Tiong Bahru that is dedicated to this Monkey God?


Qi Tian Gong Temple, or otherwise known as the Tiong Bahru Monkey God Temple, has been around since the 1920s with more than 10 statues of the famed character, with some even being a century old!


Proclaimed as the first temple that was dedicated to worship Sun Wukong, the best times to visit the temple would be during the celebrations for the monkey god’s birthday on the first and eighth months of the lunar calendar.


Address: 44 Eng Hoon St, Singapore 169786

Opening Hours: Daily, 7am – 5pm

Directions: Take bus 63 from Tiong Bahru Station and ride for 2 stops

Walk towards the traffic light and cross 2 of such traffic lights, onto Tiong Bahru Rd

Cross Tiong Bahru Rd and turn right to walk along the path

Take a left towards Tiong Poh Rd and follow the route


Conclusion


These 5 picks are just our curated recommendations when it comes to what you can do at Tiong Bahru. Much more can be found at this quaint town that fuses modern hip with heritage!


If you would like to learn more about Singapore, do consider checking out our small group tours and mega-zine to discover where to visit next or other possible activities to partake in!

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