Democracy Dies in Darkness
Skip to main content
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
Customers shop in Books Actually.

A guide to local favorites in Tiong Bahru

Customers shop in Books Actually.
  • By Shibani Mahtani
  • Photos by Ore Huiying
Tiong Bahru
geopinView on Google Maps

Built in the 1930s, Tiong Bahru is Singapore’s oldest housing estate, a leafy enclave packed with prewar Art Deco walk-up flats unlike anything else you’ll find in the city. They were awarded special conservation status in 2003, and the prices of apartments and real estate here have skyrocketed ever since. The quiet, walkable neighborhood — a favorite with expats and young couples — epitomizes how Singapore’s young artists, baristas and bakers are finding a growing space for themselves, yet it blends perfectly with the neighborhood’s rich history and heritage. There is economic sense in preservation, as Tiong Bahru’s bustling cafes and bookshops will show.

Meet Shibani Mahtani

Shibani Mahtani is the Southeast Asia correspondent for The Washington Post, covering countries that include the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. She joined The Post's foreign desk in 2018 after seven years as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Southeast Asia and later in Chicago, where she covered the Midwest.

Want to get in touch?

Read more about Shibanichevron-down

Tiong Bahru

Tiong Bahru Market
Find a variety of local favorites up on the second floor in this food center, the first modern market to be built in a housing estate in Singapore. It’s a focal point for the neighborhood, and the chwee kueh (a type of rice cake with preserved radish), wonton noodles and char kway teow (charred-fried noodles) are not to be missed.
30 Seng Poh Rd., 2nd floor, Singapore 168898
Seng Poh Tea Garden
Use this as a starting point — or perhaps a rest stop — as you take an architectural tour around Tiong Bahru’s prewar flats. This small oasis, marked by a statue of a dancing woman, is close to the distinctive horseshoe-shaped flats at Moh Guan Terrace, where one of the city’s first air-raid shelters is also located.
Seng Poh Tea Garden, Seng Poh Road, Singapore 161077
No mere bookshop, BooksActually has done more for the local literary scene than any government-funded initiative has. Its artfully curated shelves are where many local writers got their start, through BooksActually’s publishing imprint, Math Paper Press. Singapore and regional writers are very much the focus here; they’ll offer insight into issues our society continues to grapple with today. Be sure to check out the little knickknacks on sale, too. They make perfect souvenirs.
9 Yong Siak St., Singapore 168645
Woods in the Books
This whimsical little shop specializes in picture books for the young and those older ones who still appreciate some good childhood wisdom. You’ll find classics like “The Little Prince,” “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and Dr. Seuss books, plus some titles by local authors and illustrators.
No. 3 Yong Siak St., Singapore 168642
Plain Vanilla Bakery
There are a few locations of this local bakery across the city, but the one in Tiong Bahru is simply gorgeous, decorated with flowers and lush potted plants. Indulge in the cupcakes; they taste even better than they look.
1D Yong Siak St., Singapore 168641
Merci Marcel
A newer addition to the Tiong Bahru eateries, Merci Marcel is a cozy little bistro that turns into a wine bar at night, perfect for long conversations over good coffee. If it’s not too crowded, have a seat at the intimate courtyard at the back.
56 Eng Hoon St., #01-68, Singapore 160056
Bincho at Hua Bee
A noodle stall by day, this space turns into a Japanese izakaya by night, a testament to the blend of old and new that defines this neighborhood. The focus here is on yakitori (grilled skewers) and beers and sake imported from Japan.
78 Moh Guan Terr., #01-19, Singapore 162078
Curated Records
Pick up some indie music along with classic jazz and rock at this record shop, which opened in 2014. Speak to the owner for recommendations; he’s friendly and always keen to chat about music.
55 Tiong Bahru Rd., Singapore 160055
There's more to see
Shibani Mahtani
Born and raised in Singapore, Shibani is the Southeast Asia correspondent for The Washington Post. She started her career in the city, and while she is now based in Hong Kong, she still reports on Singapore and visits often to get her fix of the local food. She takes great pride in rebutting those she meets around the world who dismiss Singapore as boring.
Ore Huiying
Ore is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post based in Singapore. Her favorite place there is her family farm at the outskirts, an oasis of serenity amid the bustling city.