You don’t have to visit stuffy museums to learn about history. Singapore’s colourful past can be glimpsed through roads and buildings that have been carefully preserved for posterity. Some of these places are almost 2 centuries old!
Let’s not waste any time; slap on some sunscreen, bring a camera and explore 5 of Singapore’s historical heritage road trails!
Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail
Highlights: Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre, Monkey God Temple, The “Horse-Shoe” Block, Tan Tock Seng’s Grave
Formerly dotted with graveyards, Tiong Bahru grew into a sizeable residential estate due to the decision by the British Colonial Authorities to relocate the Singapore General Hospital along the vicinity in 1882 following a few cholera outbreaks.
By 1930, Tiong Bahru was densely populated, but the area was originally hilly land interspersed with swamps, conditions started to get unsanitary, prompting authorities to begin redeveloping the area. The hills were removed and their dirt used to fill in the swamps, and the first 4-storey flats were finally ready in 1936. Tiong Bahru was also the site of Singapore’s first hawker centre built in 1955, the Seng Poh Food Market. This food market remained relatively unchanged for the next 5 decades. During which time, the entire hawker centre was rebuilt and renamed the Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre in 2006, at the cost of S$16.8million.
Today, Tiong Bahru is one of Singapore’s prime residential estates. With 10 markers on the heritage trail, you can visit the Monkey God Temple, or admire the distinctive “horse-shoe” block on Moh Guan Terrace, which features the first purpose-built air raid shelter to be included in a public housing project.
Balestier Heritage Trail
Highlights: Pre-war Terrace Houses, Former Shaw Malay Film Studios, Sun Yat Seng Nanyang Memorial Hall
With a history spanning over 180 years, Balestier Road has plenty of tales to tell. Named after Joeseph Balestier, the first American Consul to Singapore, the area was originally a sugar cane plantation. As time passed, Balestier underwent tremendous change. It was where Shaw Studios set up their production studio, earning the nickname “Singapore’s Hollywood”. Balestier Road still attracts crowds even almost 2 centuries later. Today, people come here to enjoy the delicious chicken rice and bak kut teh stalls, or the traditional bakeries that offer baked bread that has been made the same way for 50 years.
The Balestier Heritage Trail will take you across 13 different places of interest, where you will be able to learn more of its colourful past!
Bukit Timah Heritage Trail
Highlights: Old Ford Factory, Bukit Timah Railway Station, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Starting from the Old Ford Factory (which is the site of the historic surrender of the British to Japanese forces during World War 2), this heritage trail stretches 25km in length and ends at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Although no trains run there anymore, check out the Bukit Timah Railway Station to take some beautiful photographs. Join in some guided walks organised by volunteers at the Bukit Brown Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Singapore. Take a break at the former Singapore Turf Club where horse racing took place. Redeveloped under the new name The Grandstand, it is now a popular shopping and food hub, housing Singapore’s first permanent gourmet farmers’ market PasarBella.
There are 21 historical places to visit, and you can spend the whole day discovering something new as you follow this heritage route!
Kampong Glam Heritage Trail
Distance: 1.7km, 1km, 400m
Highlights: Malay Heritage Centre, Golden Mile Food Centre
The Kampong Glam Heritage Trail actually consists of 3 different sections. The first section lets you discover how life used to be in Kampong Glam, while the second section passes by Golden Mile Food Centre, which sells various army knick-knacks and supplies, such as water bottles, mess tins and more. The third section brings you to one of Singapore’s oldest Madrasahs (Islamic schools), as well as the first Tamil Catholic Church in Singapore.
Like all other heritage road trails, the Kampong Glam heritage road trail contains a mix of both old and new attractions. The stretch of cafes and bars along Arab Street attract a young and fashionable clientele on weekends and after work hours. There are also a few backpacker hostels that opened recently, making this place a vibrant place to explore.
Ang Mo Kio Heritage Trail
Distance: 3.6km, 1.7km
Highlights: Masjid Al-Muttaqin, Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple, Ang Mo Kio Town Gardens, Lower Pierce Reservoir
Venture into the Singapore Heartlands when you explore the Ang Mo Kio heritage road trail! The first route will take you past Masjid Al-Muttaqin mosque, the Catholic Church of Christ the King, and the Ang Mo Kio Joint Temple all situated close to each other, which is fairly typical of Singapore’s multi-religious background. You will also come across the Ang Mo Kio East and West Gardens, which are popular places for residents to exercise.
The second route brings you to Lower Pierce Reservoir, where the scenery is definitely picture perfect. If you’re lucky, you can spot some indigenous wildlife such as squirrels and monitor lizards!
Although not included in the heritage route, the beautifully landscaped Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is nearby as well. You can end your trip here and eat to your heart’s content at any one of the restaurants situated within the park itself!
Fascinating History, Glorious Scenery and Delicious Food!
Have you been bitten by the explorer’s bug yet? Be a traveller in your very own backyard, and explore some of Singapore’s heritage road trails today!