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Tanjong Pagar
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The ultimate guide to Tanjong Pagar

Tanjong Pagar is known for a myriad of dining options, cocktail joints hidden in back alleys, and majestic cultural monuments that have stood the test of time

Nicole-Marie Ng
Dewi Nurjuwita
Written by
Nicole-Marie Ng
&
Dewi Nurjuwita
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There’s no other neighbourhood that captures Singapore’s transformation from a fishing village to a major trading port to a modern metropolis like Tanjong Pagar. Meaning “cape of stakes” in Malay, Tanjong Pagar was once a small town by the shore home to fishermen as well as agricultural plantations. Today, wooden huts by the sea have been replaced by tall, glossy skyscrapers that make up Singapore’s Central Business District.

During the weekdays, Tanjong Pagar is crawling with white-collar workers dressed in sharp attire flitting from meeting to meeting. But this neighbourhood hasn’t lost all its old-world charm. Traditional nineteenth-century shophouses line the street, walls decked in street art hint at its history and hawker stalls dishing out classics from yesteryear remain. They thrive alongside swish new restaurants gunning for Michelin stars and accolades, as well as underground clubs and bars locals gather at to unwind.

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Singapore's neighbourhoods 

Do

  • Art
  • Harbourfront

Tanjong Pagar Distripark has been known as an alternative arts hub since a decade ago, and with news that the National Arts Council will further develop it as an arts cluster, there's no doubt that this industrial space will continue to flourish. Visit for independant art galleries such as Galerie Steph and Gajah Gallery, and also look out for the opening of Singapore Arts Museum in January 2022. Spread over two floors at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, SAM's new anchor space will be the site for tech-driven exhibitions and contemporary art installations. 

NUS Baba House
  • Art
  • Outram

Thought to be one of Singapore’s most authentic remaining Peranakan residential properties, this is not a traditional museum but a heritage house with a mission to provide education about Straits Chinese culture. Run by the National University of Singapore’s Centre for the Arts, it was restored and reopened in 2007 as the home to Singapore’s 108-year-old Peranakan Association. Admission is free but a heritage tour fee applies: $10 (adults), $8 (55 years and above), $5 (18 years and below) and $3 (NUS students).

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  • Things to do
  • Tanjong Pagar

Wander around Tanjong Pagar and you'll find intriguing cultural monuments that have stood the test of time, a testament to Singapore's rich and complex history. On Telok Ayer Street, you'll find one of the oldest Hokkien shrines in Singapore. 

For the uninitiated, here's a brief history. A century ago, Telok Ayer Street was right up against the sea. And this temple, known as the 'Temple of Heavenly Happiness', was popular with newly arrived immigrants, who came here to burn incense in thanks to Ma Cho Po (a Taoist deity and protector of seafarers) for their safe arrival. Some of the materials used in the temple were taken from the boats, including the rooftop mosaic. Inside, the main altar features a statue of Ma Cho Po, and other deities of luck, war and punishment.

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Outram

Staycations are all the rage these days. And if you prefer chic boutique establishments, the coolest new kid on Keong Saik might just be your cup of tea. The intimate 45-room Hotel Soloha evokes tropical modernism that fits perfectly into the charming street and puts you within walking proximity to Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar's best restaurants, cocktail joints, boutique shops and more.

Swing through the wooden panel doors of the white and blue facade, and you'll be greeted by witty and bold interiors and artisanal furnishings. Art lovers will appreciate specially commissioned works from local artists like Ethrisha Liaw, who dreamt up a three metre-wide pop art mural in the main areas, as well as dynamic artworks in the guest rooms. In the lift shaft, you'll find a 13-metre painted art piece by Danielle Tay.

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CruBox
  • Sport and fitness
  • Boxing and kickboxing
  • Tanjong Pagar

Put on your boxing gloves and get ready to punch like a celebrity. A favourite of big hitters like the Kardashians, Usher, Hailey Baldwin and Nicole Scherzinger, the LA-based fitness studio CruBox is one of the hottest boxing gyms in town. No matter your fitness level or boxing ability, you're bound to get a good sweat session at its minimalist industrial-chic space along Duxton Road. 

The studio offers a unique and intense full-body workout that choreographs elements of high-intensity cardio, strength training and boxing to the rhythm of an energetic playlist. For those who prefer spinning, sister studio CruCycle can be found on the first floor. 

  • Sport and fitness
  • Yoga and Pilates
  • Raffles Place

Yoga Movement returns to Tanjong Pagar with its eighth and last studio for 2021. Located at Icon Village, this is touted to be its most beautiful studio yet, with customised wallpaper, calming botanical-themed wall features and spacious studios and changing rooms. Yoga Movement Tanjong Pagar will also be bringing back its HIIT yoga sweat fests, on top of its seven signature class types. Just a stone's throw from the likes of Two Men Bagel House and the hip stretch of restaurants down the road, this is set to be your new favourite workout destination. 

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Shophouse gazing
Photograph: Shutterstock

Shophouse gazing

If you're a self-professed architecture geek – especially when it comes to heritage structures – Tanjong Pagar is the district to be. Grab your camera and take a walk along places like Duxton Hill, Peck Seah Street and Neil Road, where you can find one of the oldest conservation shophouses in Singapore. You might just learn a new thing or two about the different shophouse styles that are prevalent in Singapore. 

Eat

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Chinatown

This time-honoured rice dumpling specialist has been around since the 1940s. It has since passed into the hands of third-generation owner Ryk Chew, who continues his grandfather's legacy of plump and delicious Hokkien-style bak chang. Here you'll find shiny, dark glutinous rice stuffed with meat, chestnuts and wrapped in fragrant bamboo leaves.  

  • Restaurants
  • Fusion
  • Tanjong Pagar

This intimate space in Tanjong Pagar Plaza delivers a surprisingly luxe experience – for a place that's created around the humble bagel and waffle. It's no simple smoked salmon or kaya toppings you'll find at KM Bagel & Waffle. Helmed by head chef Jeremy Low, previously from Hathaway at Dempsey Hill, here you'll find plates loaded with sous vide duck breast, Boston lobster and other premium toppings. Try the Octopus and Waffles ($34) or succulent Braised Beef Cheek ($32). There's also a five-course Chef's Curation ($118) that'll stuff you with the best of the best. Head mixologist Richard Li, formerly of Tanglin Club and Smoke and Mirrors, has also mixed up some imaginative creations – our favourite is the Matcha Creme Brulee, a whisky-based drink that has an interesting whiff of parmesan, and a creamy mouthfeel thanks to the creme brulee foam.

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Maxwell Food Centre
  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Raffles Place

Home to a plethora of food stalls that champions different local fare – from flavourful Hainanese chicken rice and nasi lemak to wholesome porridge and mee pok – Maxwell Food Centre stands amongst the favourites for lunchtime nosh in the CBD. The chicken rice hype is real here: you can’t leave this hawker centre without ordering from Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice where Michelin-starred heavyweight Gordon Ramsay and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain were impressed with its take on the national dish. 

Try Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice’s signature dish — it’s blend of garlic and chilli sauce goes well with the fragrant rice and deboned chicken smothered in light soy sauce. For something less intense, check out Zhen Zhen Porridge where its steaming hot bowls of chicken and fish porridge topped with ginger shreds will leave you satisfied for cheap.

  • Restaurants
  • Tanjong Pagar

Rishi Naleendra is a prodigy among chefs. His restaurant on Amoy Street, however, breaks away from the modern-Australian cocoon he was known for at Cheek by Jowl. The menu at Cloudstreet showcase progressive dishes that take inspiration from Australia, Japan, Sri Lanka and other parts of the world.

Order a grilled Coffin Bay oyster wrapped in betel leaf swimming in a pool of coconut milk and finished with citrusy pops of finger lime; or savour the Western Australian marron served with millet cooked in a mellow Sri Lankan yellow curry. But in our opinion, the most understated star comes in the form of a loaf of bread. Rye flour is mixed with local stout to make a dense, almost cake-like bun that’s glazed with molasses. 

Its wine programme, curated by sommelier Vinodhan Veloo, is just as impressive. You'll find over 350 labels of mostly small, independent winemakers as well as classics. Tasting menus at Cloudstreet are priced from $68 during lunch and $168 for dinner.  

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  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Tanjong Pagar

Helmed by a mother-daughter duo, Kueh Ho Jiak is your one-stop-shop for your traditional kueh needs, with a twist. Young hawker Elizabeth Chan presses ang ku kueh into shapes of teddy bears and koi fishes, using sweet potato to create adorable variants of the traditional treat. 

At the stall, you'll find colourful balls of ondeh ondeh ($3), rice kueh in a rare hue of orange ($3), and even ang ku kueh with unique fillings of cempedek ($2) and spicy shrimp ($2). Got a special celebration? Kueh Ho Jiak also does kueh dessert tables and other custom-shaped treats. 

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Raffles Place

For a taste of experimental Indian cuisine beyond thosai and butter chicken, definitely do not miss this contemporary Indian restaurant along Keong Saik Road. Chef Murugan Thevar serves up creative yet satisfyingly delicious plates inspired by his travels around South Asia and his Penang heritage. 

Start your meal with plump Canadian oysters topped with rasam granita ($28/5 pieces). The spiced potato chips ($10) is so addictive on its own, you don't need the tamarind dip it's served with and the grilled octopus ($36) served on a bed of smooth masala lentil puree is topped with a tomato chutney for a burst of acidity. The star of the show here is the pork ribs glazed with medjool dates ($35), best served with a plate of berry pulao ($12). 

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  • Restaurants
  • Vegetarian
  • Tanjong Pagar

This Michelin Bib Gourmand winner on Peck Seah Street is out to prove that going plant-based doesn't mean you have to give up your favourite Southeast Asian dishes. Whole Earth serves up a curious mix of Thai and Peranakan vegetarian dishes. But here's a twist: Everything on the menu is cooked using plant-based ingredients. 

Order a bunch of dishes to share – but be sure not to miss the Nonya curry ($21). The hearty Peranakan style curry is served with minced mushrooms that resemble meatballs and potatoes. Other vegetarian takes on zi char staples include sweet and sour ‘pork’ and crispy handmade yam rings stuffed with treasures.

Drink

Native
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Tanjong Pagar

It's time to leave your comfort zone and head up this cosy establishment on the second storey of a shophouse along Amoy Street. After all, it did clinch a spot on this year's Asia's 50 Best Bars. At Native, head bartender Vijay Mudaliar showcases spirits from around the region and occasionally deploys foraged ingredients to add pep and zing to his cocktails. 

A favourite on the menu, Chasing The Dragon ($23), has been given a little more fizz to beat the island's heat and is now lightly carbonated with the addition of Japanese Sorachi Ace Hops. Guava ($25) is a new cocktail on the menu, a marriage between Compendium's honey vodka with pink guava distillate, laksa leaves and a curry leaf twig from Native's in-house garden. Feeling peckish? Order up some bar snacks, like the Appam Jala ($8) and Moonlight Fried Rice ($8). 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Tanjong Pagar

This tiny 10-seater bar first started out in the hidden alleys of Tanjong Pagar, making a name for itself with its experimental ideas and ever-changing cocktail menu. Junior The Pocket Bar has now moved to a bigger space – fit to house its growing customer base and ambition. Its current menu spotlights Washi, a Japanese-inspired concept birthing Origami Cocktails ($25) that burst with flavours of grapes, cantaloupe, and an interesting take oon what bamboo might taste like. The bars expanded selection of hearty Asian-inspired mains is also excellent – you won't regret trying Junior's signature sandos. 

 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Tanjong Pagar

 

Restaurant Jag is best known for its celebration of produce from the Savoie region. And beyond just the dinner table, the wild-foraged ingredients can also be found in cocktails at Flow Bar. The one-Michelin-starred restaurant has converted its second-floor space into a drinking hole, one that defies the expectations of a usual bar set-up. The open and inviting space is matched with an accessible cocktail menu divided into three sections: Living Room, Garden, and Playground to guide you through easy-to-love creations to experimental tipples. Must gets: the burnt lemon whisky sour, the addictive espresso martini, and Cinnamon Girl. 

  • Shopping
  • Gifts and souvenirs
  • Tanjong Pagar

Dive into the calming rituals of tea appreciation at Tea Chapter, a teahouse along Neil Road that has been around for more than 30 years. Step into variously styled rooms – Korean, Japanese and Chinese – and sip on fragrant cups of tea alongside traditional Chinese snacks. Up for an educational experience? You can also sign up for workshops to learn more about the history of tea and the art of traditional tea-making at Tea Chapter. 

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinatown

There's nothing quite like a comforting hot cup of kopi to start your day – and Tanjong Pagar is the place to be for OG coffee spots. Quite arguably the most iconic Kopitiam in Singapore, Tong Ah Eating House was once located at the triangular building at the junction of Teck Lim and Keong Saik Road (now home to Potato Head Singapore) and has since moved a few stalls down away from its original spot. But it's still a local favourite for super crispy kaya toast, French toast and kopi, the beans for which are even roasted in-house.

 

 

Shop

  • Shopping
  • Bookshops
  • Raffles Place

If all you want to do is bury your nose in a good book, Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop will be your sanctuary. Immerse yourself in Singapore literature at Epigram Books' physical store on Maxwell Road. Bookworms will be spoilt for choice with more than 400 titles on offer and 90 percent of its books are written by SingLit authors, such as Sonny Liew, Amanda Lee Koe and Jeremy Tiang.

You might just lose track of time as you spend your afternoon browsing the books in the store while you sip on a latte – don't say we didn't warn you. 

Tong Mern Sern
  • Shopping
  • Tanjong Pagar

They say one man's junk is another man's treasure. And for antique collectors, Tong Mern Sern is a haven right in the heart of Singapore. This long, three-storey shophouse on Craig Road is the only one on the block that’s not been refurbished, and for good reason.

It is lined and packed with trinkets and treasures – from jade cabbages in cabinets, porcelain plates on the walls and typewriters lining the stairwells, to old Chinese dressing tables and an ancient music player that looks like an oversized, numberless grandfather clock with the functions of a pianola. Spend your afternoon leisurely sifting through the store – who knows what treasures you might find? 

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Perk by Kate
  • Shopping
  • Lingerie and swimwear
  • Tanjong Pagar

You don't need a special occasion to treat yourself to gorgeous lingerie – especially when they're as dreamy and comfortable as the bralettes from local lingerie brand Perk by Kate. Originally an online store founded by Singaporean Kate Low, the brand now can be found in a physical studio on Telok Ayer Street. You'll have to make an appointment before you drop by though, but it's worth your while. After all, lingerie shopping is the epitome of self-care.  

  • Restaurants
  • Tea rooms
  • Chinatown

Nasi lemak, spicy fortune cookies and silver dust aren't usually the words you find on a packet of tea, but ETTE's blends are daring enough to bring these flavours to its brews. Step into its retail store at Kreta Ayer Road and be wowed by the pretty caddies and sachets that come in a variety of locally-inspired flavours like Chicken Rice. The Pandan Chiffon evokes memories of the childhood snack, while the Kris Grey spikes Earl Grey with South-East Asian ingredients. All tea blends cost $28 for 50g, but you can grab a five-sachet sampler for $9. 

 

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