Located on the cusp of the Central Business District, Tanjong Pagar’s blend of colourful shophouses, modern office complexes and public housing estates makes it one of the most diverse areas in the city-state to explore. Originally a fishing village (its name means “cape of stakes” in Malay) that predominantly Chinese and Indian dockworkers called home, the area was the first to be gazetted under the government’s conservation plan in the 1980s – which resulted in the restoration of many of the district’s iconic shophouses to their former glory.
Today, vestiges of the past such as the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Maxwell Food Centre and NUS Baba House stand side-by-side with new developments including Guoco Tower and Pinnacle@Duxton. Come evenings, you’ll find locals packing out some of Singapore‘s top award-winning restaurants and bars that have set up shop here. Follow our guide to get the most out of this vibrant neighbourhood.
Japanese teaware and handicraft at HULS Gallery
Nestled within a charming shophouse along Duxton Hill is HULS Gallery, a minimalist space with a Zen atmosphere and a refined collection of Japanese kogei (crafts). Opened in September 2017 by Yusuke Shibata, the gallery features contemporary teaware, sake sets, tableware, as well as wood, glass and bamboo works, that take inspiration from nature and boast clean silhouettes. Here, visitors are encouraged to not just admire the objets d’art from a distance, but pick them up and appreciate the texture of the pieces up close. Drop by for a dose of inspiration, while learning more about the artisans behind each design.
Clean eats at Lagoon In A Bowl
For an affordable yet healthy meal, head to Amoy Street Food Centre and grab a bowl of fusion donburi at Lagoon In A Bowl. Opened in 2018 by hawkerpreneur Zilch Ng, this new-generation hawker stall marries poke bowls with Japanese rice bowls to create signature dishes such as the Mentaiko Salmon Bowl. An Insta-worthy recipe that tastes as good as it looks, it is prepared with butterfly pea rice in a striking shade of blue, topped with a large Norwegian salmon fillet, blow-torched mentaiko sauce, an onsen egg and a salad. Also worth a try is the new Mentaiko Wagyu Beef Bowl, which features succulent beef slices cooked sous vide to perfection.
Indulgent beauty treatments at Nue Shape
Conveniently located at Downtown Gallery, this well-equipped and futuristic-looking beauty specialist is perfect for when you need some me-time in the middle of the work day. Nue Shape carries a wide range of premium skincare products and offers beauty services, including skin tightening, skin rejuvenation treatments and various types of medical peels that treat clogged pores and uneven skin tones. Nue Shape also provides hair removal services from waxing to Cold Pulse Light treatments, a more painless alternative.
Bespoke jewellery at GIOIA Fine Jewellery
Nestled on the second storey of International Plaza is GIOIA Fine Jewellery, a homegrown boutique, founded by gem collectors Clarence Yee and Cheryl Woon, that specialises in creating bespoke rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches and earrings. Its handcrafted creations, ranging from the quirky and avant-garde to the regal and classic, are tailored to each individual’s style and personality, while making sure to accentuate the natural brilliance of its gems. Choose from a variety of coloured gemstones, which includes Paraiba tourmalines and pigeon-blood rubies, and create a unique piece of wearable art that you can personalise and even pass down as a family heirloom.
Chinese culture at Thian Hock Keng Temple
Here’s one to add to your temple-hopping itinerary. Initially constructed as a small joss house in the early 19th century by early Hokkien settlers who lived along the then-waterfront, the temple is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu, who keeps watch over seafarers and ensures their safe passage across the waters. The entire temple underwent a full rebuild in 1839 and was completed in 1840, and is designed in the traditional southern Chinese architectural style. Keep an eye out for the ornate carvings of dragons and phoenixes found through out the complex; gorgeous red, black and gold lacquerwork; and shrines dedicated to key figures such as Confucius and Kuan Yin.
Lunch with a side of history at Chew Kee Soy Sauce Chicken
Dating back to the 1940s and founded by Yu Beng Chew, family-run Chew Kee Soy Sauce Chicken is a beloved institution on Upper Cross Street that was among the first to introduce soy sauce chicken to Singapore. Many of its devoted regulars have been dining here since childhood and rave about the consistently juicy chicken and al dente noodles. Now run by the third generation, Chew Kee’s signature dish is of course the savoury soy sauce chicken – served as your choice of breast, back, wings, et cetera – along with rice, yellow noodles or hor fun. For a feast, get the chicken feet and dumpling soup as sides as well. Add to it the warm service, and you have a laid-back, convivial lunch or early dinner option in the otherwise flashy CBD.
Healthy, farm-to-table groceries at Little Farms
Load up on the freshest produce and healthiest snacks at the Guoco Tower outlet of Little Farms, a small neighbourhood market with a focus on mindful living and ethical eats. Here, you’ll find all sorts of dairy-free, gluten-free, plant-based and keto-friendly products, ethically produced and sourced from independent farmers across Australia, Europe and America. Unlike usual supermarkets that stock mass-produced goods that may not be the healthiest, Little Farms emphasises on providing the freshest, farm-to-table food. You can even get a refund or replacement for purchases that fall short on freshness or quality.
Martial arts-inspired workouts at Tapout Fitness
Blow off some steam at the Singapore outpost of Tapout Fitness – a fitness brand owned by World Wrestling Entertainment and Authentic Brands Group with 22 locations around the world. Opened in 2020 on the third floor of OUE Downtown Gallery, the gym specialises in martial arts classes that incorporate cardio, weight training and HIIT exercises for a more well-rounded workout. It features exercise programmes catered to both kids and adults, hardcore fitness buffs and absolute beginners. For a more tailored experience, you can sign up for personal training sessions as well to tackle specific goals from weight loss to endurance-building.
Delicious hawker fare at Maxwell Food Centre
For scrumptious hawker delights in a central location, you can’t go wrong with Maxwell Food Centre, which has been feeding the masses since it was founded in 1928. Located just a few minutes away from the Tanjong Pagar MRT station, it’s a popular lunch spot among the areas office workers for its affordable eats. This is where you can sample the full gamut of delicious bites that the city-state has to offer: from aromatic Hainanese chicken rice and comforting bowls of fish noodle soup to zingy popiah (fresh spring roll) and impossibly crispy goreng pisang (banana fritters). Be sure to come with an empty stomach.
Traditional snacks at Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff
Awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin in 2018, Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff occupies a modest-looking stall on the second floor of Tanjong Pagar Market And Food Centre, located a two-minute walk from the Tanjong Pagar MRT Station. Founded by Tham Niap Tong after acquiring a curry puff recipe from a Hainanese sailor in the 1950s, this family business makes its curry puffs with rempah chilli paste, which is cooked for two hours and prepared fresh every day, and thin layers of dough for a crispier crust. The traditional stall also favours excellence over innovation, keeping to classic flavours such as sardine and curry chicken and egg, as well as an affordable price tag of S$1.50 per piece.
A soothing yoga class at The Yoga School
Take a breather with a yoga session at The Yoga School, a spacious, 5,000 sq ft studio that sits on the 39th level of the OCBC Centre along Chulia Street. Opened in 2016, it provides picturesque views of the Singapore skyline, which adds to the tranquility of the space. With more than 30 classes available each week, you can get a taste of every style of yoga from the more popular ones (such as Vinyasa and Hatha yoga) to the more unconventional types (such as Kundalini yoga). The Yoga School also offers guided meditations with crystal singing bowls and Pilates lessons, designed to complement your yoga practice.
An intriguing urban oasis at Tanjong Pagar Park
Looking for a quiet green space away from the hustle to take a short breather? Besides the neighbourhood’s smaller outdoor parks –including Ann Siang Hill Park, Telok Ayer Green and Duxton Plain Park – there’s also Tanjong Pagar Park located right above the MRT station. Made up of 150,000ft² worth of landscaped gardens, the sprawling pocket park features plenty of seating areas; calming water features; mature trees and shrubbery; and a small open green lawn. The immediate area is also home to coffee shops, restaurants and fitness studios, which makes this an ideal spot to enjoy a a takeaway lunch or sip on a refreshing juice or smoothie following your workout session.
Modern Singaporean cuisine at The Quarters
Founded in 2014 with chef-owner Chung Deming at the helm, The Quarters is a local bistro that serves elevated renditions of traditional Singaporean nosh. Head to Icon Village and drop by the cosy joint to enjoy crowd favourites like the Nasi Lemak Rice Burger, Salted Egg Chicken Burger and the Wagyu Beef Buah Keluak Pasta. For a heartier meal, indulge in the butter-poached Boston lobster or the Laksa Pesto Salmon. The Quarters also has a tasting menu – The Quarters Experience. This six-course journey starts with a chargrilled salted egg mid-wing. The bistro’s take on kaya toast, which is served with foie gras and scrambled eggs, pairs nicely with its crackling Roast Pork with Lemak Curry. End on a sweet note with the signature Duriancanboleh, a Mao Shan Wang durian crème brulee.
Take care of your beauty needs at SW1 Clinic
An aesthetic centre located on the second floor of OUE Downtown Gallery Tower 2, SW1 Clinic provides more than just aesthetic treatments such as non-surgical facelifts, lip and eye fillers, red light therapy for acne and non-invasive weight loss procedures. The inviting, stylishly decorated clinic is also home to the SW1 Spa, featuring a range of beauty and skincare services, including award-winning bespoke facials, and has its own line of products, available at SW1 Shop where it sells everything from reusable face masks to anti-aging eyelash serums. The brand has even launched Glow Up, an initiative on building self-confidence that offers complimentary consultations, skin analyses and personalised skincare recommendations, as well as skincare treatments at a discounted rate to students under 25.
With thanks to our advertisers, GIOIA Fine Jewellery, Lagoon In A Bowl, Little Farms, HULS Gallery, SW1 Clinic, The Yoga School, Tapout Fitness, Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff, The Quarters, Nue Shape and Chew Kee Soy Sauce Chicken