Shophouses in Singapore are synonymous with local architecture. No matter which neighbourhood you’re in, these charming two and three-storey narrow dwellings are rich in heritage and culture. It’s a gorgeous combination of Chinese, Malay, Peranakan and European elements, some even dating back as early as the 1800s.
While securing a shophouse today can break the bank, admiring these bad boys from afar costs nothing at all. Check out URA’s conservation portal, a handy guide to navigate you to the conserved beauties. And if it happens to house a bar, pub, restaurant or shop, feel free to step in and soak in its accompanying interiors. Lace up and grab your camera – we’re going shophousing.
Some of the earliest shophouses (one documented in 1840) can be found in this ethnic enclave. Stroll down Erskine Road for examples of the minimalist two-storey buildings featuring a five-foot way on the ground floor, wooden jalousie windows and clay-tiled roofs.
Swing by 157 Neil Road for a juxtaposition of styles. Here, you’ll find the Baba House which was once the sweet digs of a wealthy shipping merchant. Bathed in electric blue and adorned in an array of jian nian phoenixes and peonies, it’s a shophouse superstar you can’t miss. More of such bold shophouse also reside along Stanley Street.
For an art deco version – also known as tropical deco – feast your eyes of the Dong Ya building. The uniquely-shaped building is now the humble abode of Potato Head Singapore which makes a swell spot for food and drinks.
The main star of Joo Chiat and Katong? The rows of vibrant shophouses. Take a jaunt down Koon Seng Road where you’ll find the popular eye-candies adorned in ceramic Peranakan floral motifs, geometrical tiles, pastel hues and even Chinese couplets which are said to bring good fortune.
While you can’t photograph its interiors, Rumah Bebe has eye-catching cerulean exteriors and bright Peranakan tiles that your ‘gram desperately needs. For something less in-your-face, take a stroll down Lotus @ Joo Chiat, a stretch of 18 white conserved shophouses with green windows and doors with intricate carvings.
As if things couldn't get any bolder, the shophouses here are as vibrant as the sights, sounds and scents its known for. The ‘hood is home to shophouses known as Singapore Eclectic due to their kaleidoscopic animal and floral motifs as well as their popping blend of Chinese designs, Spanish glazed tiles and Malay eaves. Some of these are found along Petain Road.
For a more modern take, navigate your way down to Jalan Besar. The shophouses here are more functional than decorative. Leaning towards a brutalist style, they have concrete for walls, steel for windows and roofs that are flat.
During the day, this buzzy hangout is a gorgeous sight to see with the bumboats riding the waves of the Singapore River and the pastel-coloured two and three-storey shophouses that line the river bank. Featuring sheltered verandahs at the top floor, Teochew-style shophouses are common here. The oldest one is the River House, which once belonged to a Teochew merchant. Most of the shophouses here now houses bars, pubs and restaurants.
Befitting its Peranakan influence, Emerald Hill is lined with colourful two-storey shophouses designed in the Straits Chinese style – think sheltered verandahs (aka five-foot ways), pintu pagars (fence-like pairs of revolving doors) and the bold use of colour and ornaments such as tiles with floral motifs. Located at the mouth of Emerald Hill Road, the Peranakan Place makes a great example.
Don’t skip the traditional terrace houses within the area either. These gorgeous buildings are a blend of European details such as neoclassical columns decked in colourful tiles and panels embellished in Chinese motifs.