Last Updated on 17 January, 2022
Chinatown is Singapore’s Chinese heritage district and popular with tourists and locals alike for its great mix of historical landmarks and traditional shophouse architecture, right next to the modern towers of Singapore’s Central Business District. These days you can find a surprising number of murals and street art in Chinatown from both Singaporean and international artists which tell you a little bit about the area’s story. I’ve put together a detailed guide on where to find street art in Chinatown.
- Street Art Projects
- Kreta Ayer
- Telok Ayer
- Bukit Pasoh + Tanjong Pagar
- Blair Plain
Chinatown in Singapore actually refers to quite a large area, but to make it a bit more organised I’ve broken up my guide by area – Chinatown historically has 4 main sub-districts which is what I’ve used here: Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Bukit Pasoh and Tanjong Pagar. And while it’s technically more Outram than Chinatown, I’ve also included the Blair Plain area because it’s not too far away.
As Chinatown is Singapore’s designated ethnic Chinese enclave and a popular destination for international visitors to Singapore, especially during Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival where the streets are alive with activity, lights and lots of food. I’ve also included some suggestions of nearby attractions so you can do some sightseeing while looking at street art in Chinatown.
For more street art in Singapore checking out Little India or Kampong Glam as well, or head on over to Bugis-Bras Basah near the museums instead. For heartland areas, go west to Jurong West or east to Tanjong Katong and Joo Chiat. Check out my full list of street art guides from around the world for more, or head on over to @singaporestreetart on Instagram for more.
Street Art Projects
Singapore has a strange relationship with street art – most of the works you see have been commissioned as you need permission to paint the walls in Singapore to avoid getting in trouble with the law. Here’s a rundown of some of the major street art projects that contributed to the artworks in this area. Most of the street art in Chinatown took place in/after 2015, aka Singapore’s 50th year of Independence SG50 where there was a lot of fanfare and programmes throughout the year.
50 Bridges was a part of SG50OZ, a joint collaboration between Singapore and the Australian High Commission in celebration of 50 years of inter-nation collaboration as well as Singapore’s 50th jubilee. 50 Walls was one part of 50 Bridges, and saw 50 street artworks created by artists from both countries in various neighbourhoods around the country.
NEA Our Hawker Centres – An art and heritage project
This was another SG50 celebration helmed by the National Environment Agency where they had 50 murals painted in hawker centres around the island. Many of these were social projects that involved students and the community coming together to paint, others were artist-led. See more about NEA Our Hawker Centres and flip the e-book.
Colouring Banda Street
Yet another SG50 project driven by auditing company PriceWaterhouseCoopers in collaboration with the Kreta Ayer Residents Committee in collaboration with Singaporean artist Belinda Low that depicts scenes of Singapore from past and present and was meant to spruce up this older housing estate. Head here for more about Colouring Banda Street.
Yip Yew Chong
Yip Yew Chong is a Singaporean artist who used to live in Chinatown and has become very popular for his distinct nostalgic murals that showcase life in Singapore in the 70s-80s when he was a child. You will find many of his works all around this neighbourhood. See all of Yip YC’s Murals.
You can follow a guided tour via LocoMole (S$9.98)created in partnership with YipYC, which will show you all his murals and even integrates some interesting Augmented Reality (AR) functions that lets you take some fun photos with his murals!
Kreta Ayer is what I call ‘downtown Chinatown’ and where you can find the touristy pedestrianised streets and all the action takes place during Chinese New Year. It covers the area bound by Upper Cross Street, South Bridge Road, Kreta Ayer Road and New Bridge Road.
- Upper Cross Street
- Mosque Street
- Pagoda Street
- Temple Street [NEW]
- Chinatown Complex
- Smith Street
- Banda Road
- What’s Nearby
Upper Cross Street
Location: 200 South Bridge Road (wall at alley connecting Upper Cross Street to Mosque Street)
I saw this work while driving by along Upper Cross Street, and to my delight found that this was a new Ernest Zacharevic work done in 2019. It shows a girl and a boy riding a golden dragon. I couldn’t find much else information on the piece, but it’s a beautiful eye-catching artwork as always.
Location: 48 Mosque Street
This artwork belongs to the Porcelain Hotel situated on the side of the shophouse row, an extension of the hotel’s decor which revolves around porcelain designs. It’s such a beautiful intricate piece, pity I couldn’t find any info on whether any artist was involved in putting up this piece.
Location: 83 Pagoda Street (Back alley behind Lucky Chinatown)
Yip Yew Chong has painted plenty of murals all around Chinatown – this one celebrates Mid-autumn Festival which typically sees families lighting lots of colourful lanterns and feasting on mooncakes and pomelo fruits. Here’s a fun mistake YipYC made in his painting – the bowls of tang yuan or soup dumplings on the table are actually eaten during Yuanxiao (15th day or the end of Lunar New Year) or Dongzhi (Winter solstice), but he mixed it up in his head!
Temple Street [NEW]
Location: 30 Temple Street, side wall next to alleyway
This is one of Yip Yew Chong’s newest works from 2021 and quite an impressively large piece on the side of a shophouse. I was quite lucky to catch the artist himself working on this piece which showcases some nostalgic sights of businesses in Chinatown back in the day, from an old school kopitiam to a bustling provision shop and market. It took him 24 days to complete this work because of the wet and hot weather, and he had lots of people (including me) drop by to watch him work.
This was the old mural that used to be here before 30 Temple Street was renovated:
To the left of this is another wall covered with murals of what I like to call random scenes of Chinatown at night. This wall was covered up by hoarding for awhile but now you can clearly see a mishmash of various scenes, including quite a detailed Chinese opera performer, alleyways and rooftops of Chinese buildings and oddly enough, a night scene of the Great Wall of China.
[Photo coming soon – I thought I had it here but apparently never got around to getting a shot]
Location: Junction of Temple Street and South Bridge Road
One of YipYC’s largest murals, Cantonese Opera shows a very classic stage with actors in full opera regalia and makeup. You hardly see this scene around Singapore nowadays, though they were quite popular back in the day, roving around the various housing estates on temporary stages. YipYC spent 10 days painting this mural for Charity – check out the full story.
Chinatown Complex [UPDATED]
Location: 335 Smith Street
Chinatown Complex has a pretty great hawker centre on its second floor – there is a huge variety of local street food to choose from, and it even has a craft beer and draught beer taps right in this hawker centre, quite a rarity in Singapore. You will find several murals on the ground level which also consists of a market.
The Path is a work by Australian artist Tom Civil, one of several works that he created in Singapore as a part of 50 Bridges The colours are a callback to Chinatown’s colour scheme. Can you spot the one special man with the dots around him to the right of the pillar?
Next to the Tom Civil work is this mural by YipYC from early 2018. Called Letter Writer, it depicts an old calligrapher who specialised in writing Chinese couplets and calligraphy which you often seen hung up in Chinese households around the Lunar New Year period for good luck. Read more about Letter Writers here.
Local artist and art teacher Biddy Low who also goes by Nightflower Arts also did some murals within Chinatown Complex in early 2021 that showcased some of the earlier days of Chinatown, like the old street food scene before hawker centres were a thing, and some hints as to how Chinatown got its name.
Prosper in Wealth, Huat ah! is a mural by Temasek Polytechnic School of Design students for the SG50 government initiative by NEA’s Our Hawker Centres. As with Chinese artworks, this has a lot of red in it and you can see lots of symbols which are references to Chinese culture and Singaporean heritage. Also, the eponymous Bruce Lee with a durian in hand, of course.
There are several murals from NEA Hawker Centres around the first floor of Chinatown Complex, though none quite as big as these 2 featured here – see how many you can find. Here’s one more to get you started
Location: 30 Smith Street, Sidewall facing alley
This is YipYC’s rendition of the house he lived in on nearby Sago Street when he was a child. I love how it incorporates the actual doors and windows of the wall into the artwork – apparently he wasn’t allowed to paint over those as this is a conservation shophouse. I also love how he sizes it so that you can interact and be a part of the work if you chose to. More about this work here.
Location: Junction of Smith Street and 266 South Bridge Road, Thye Shan Medical Hall
This is YipYC’s mural from May 2019 on the side of Thye Shan Medical Hall’s South Bridge Road outlet. It pictures a typical fruit and durian seller, but also incorporates a Japanese anime character known as Detective Conan. If that seems like a weird mashup to you, that’s because there is a movie coming out which features this character visiting Singapore and uncovering a murder at Marina Bay Sands.
Also here is another mural from 2021 – not sure how permanent this one will be given that it’s not on an actual wall, but it’s the work of TraseOne, also a commission to promote the show The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang for iQiyi channel, and even has a tie-in walking tour supported by STB. Since it’s a commission, it’s not quite his usual style but shows characters from the show, including a rather scary Tay Ping Hui as the Dragon King with scary red eyes.
Around the area near Chinatown Complex is Banda Street, which has a pretty colourful history as both a hotspot for late night hawkers as well as the haunt for Japanese brothels back in the pre-war era. These days, it’s home to many older folk who live in the HDB rental blocks here. The murals here are largely by Belinda Low for the Colouring Banda Street project and feature scenes of Singapore back in its early days.
There are 13 murals in total, have some fun seeking them out. You can find them around Blk 4 and Blk 5 Banda Street as well as Blk 333 Kreta Ayer Road. Read more details here. Belinda’s works can be found around other parts of Singapore too – she’s a self-taught artist who takes inspiration from Van Gogh and often features strong women figures in her art.
Here are some of my recs on highlights to check out nearby, so you can swing by and see some street art while you go see the sights of Singapore’s Chinatown.
- Downtown Chinatown is lined with heritage shophouses and is nice at night when the streets are lit up. This area is usually extra festive during Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festivals when the pedestrianised streets are bustling with activity and the main roads are decorated.
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple has a beautiful exterior to photograph. It’s free to enter (and air-conditioned) and apparently home to the Buddha’s left canine. Nearby, the Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple is one of Singapore’s oldest temples dating back to 1828.
- Popular food souvenirs found in this part of Chinatown: Bak Kwa or BBQ-ed meat from Bee Cheng Hiang, egg tarts from Tong Heng.
- Check out Chinatown Complex Hawker Centre on level 2 for your local food cravings – I like Smith Street Taps, a rather unusual craft beer joint located in the hawker centre itself, quite different from the typical Tiger beer that you can get from drinks stalls here, but it’s also home to the 1-star Michelin hawker Hawker Chan.
Telok Ayer is the oldest part of Chinatown and where the coastline used to be before land reclamation and Telok Ayer Street is home to a diverse bunch of religious buildings. It is also home to Ann Siang Hill and Club Street, an unusual mix of trendy bars and restaurants amidst traditional clan houses and shophouses, and the crowds spill out onto the pedestrianised streets on weekend nights.
- Ann Siang Hill
- Club Street [NEW]
- Mohamed Ali Lane
- Gemmill Lane
- Amoy Street
- What’s Nearby
Ann Siang Hill
Location: 4 Ann Siang Hill, Coconut Club
The works here are by Colombian-born artist Didier Jaba Mathieu aka Jabaone (whose works you can also see in Kampong Glam and Little India) for the Coconut Club Singapore, a hipster joint dedicated to local coconut-based foods Nasi Lemak and Cendol.
Jaba first started with a piece called Ayam Goreng which translates as Chicken Rice in 2017 (the year of the chicken), before creating a dog in 2018. It seems he’s looking to produce the entire Chinese Zodiac series as 2019 revealed a Peranakan-inspired pig. I missed the dog he did in 2018 though, and sadly it hasn’t been updated since.
Club Street [NEW]
Location: 72 Club Street, side of Goh Loo Club
Club Street is named not for the number of nightclubs that can be found here, but the business associations and clans or ‘clubs’ that operated in the area. Many of these club premises can still be found here today, including the Goh Loo Club up on the hill top of Club Street.
This club dates back to 1905 and was patronised by many wealthy Chinese businessmen who were involve in the Chinese revolution, and was the only club that continued operating in this area even through WWII when Singapore was occupied by the Japanese – read more about its history at Roots.sg.
This mural shows the Samsui woman unveiling one of these typical club meetings taking place in this shophouse premises and if you look closely, you just might recognise some of Singapore’s pioneers and even Sun Yat Sen himself in this mural.
Mohamed Ali Lane
Location: Junction of Mohamed Ali Lane and South Bridge Road
Just off South Bridge Road is the little lane that is home to some Yip Yew Chong murals done in October 2018. These are actually 4 different works that represent scenes or trades that were once commonly found in Singapore’s Chinatown area.
Location: Gemmill Lane near junction with Amoy Street
This huge mural called Amoy Alley was created by Singaporean artist Chris Chai for The Artling and 8M Real Estate. Check out the video and write up in the link above – the dragon is taken from the nearby Thian Hock Keng temple and I love the intricate patterns that reflect the classic Peranakan tile patterns you find on the floors of the temples and shophouses around the area.
Location: 7 Maxwell Road, Amoy Street Food Center Level 1
This series of 5 panels line the inner walls of Amoy Street Food Centre – there is a slightly raised area near the back of the hawker centre. They are a collaboration for NEA Hawker Centres by local street artist Ceno2 (whose works you can also find in Kampong Glam) and the students for Anglo Chinese School (ACS) in celebration of SG50 called ‘Then and Now‘.
Location: Opposite 96 Amoy Street, back side of Thian Hock Keng Temple
This Thian Hock Keng mural was painted by heritage muralist Yip Yew Chong and can be found on the back walls of the Thian Hock Keng temple – the front entrance is located along Telok Ayer Street, but the back walls are along Amoy Street. The oldest Chinese temple in Singapore dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu used to face the sea, though that land has now all been reclaimed and all you see are office blocks. This 44m long mural has scenes of what the area used to look like, as well as the lives of early Hokkien immigrants from Southern China. Check out his website for closer views of the artwork, it’s hard to take good photos with the cars and the sheer length.
Here are some of my recs on highlights to check out nearby, so you can swing by and see some street art while you go see the sights of Singapore’s Chinatown.
- Nights are nice at Ann Siang Hill and Club Street which is quite the hipster hangout with bars, cafes and eateries galore. Be warned that it is absolutely packed on Friday and Saturday nights when they convert the street into pedestrian-only. Weekend nights are full of office workers who just wanna hang loose after a long week of work
- Eat local street food at some pretty good hawker centres: there’s the famous Maxwell Hawker Centre or Amoy Street Food Centre
- Telok Ayer Street used to be the coastline before land reclamation, and home to a diverse range of religious and cultural institutions side by side with each other with many dating back to the 1800s like the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Nagore Durgah Shrine and Al Abrar Mosque
- Looking for quirky museums to check out in Singapore? The Musical Box Museum is right next to Thian Hock Keng and is also home to a cafe with an Peranakan Tile collection, as well as the tiny Fuk Tak Chi Temple further down the road which opens up into the Amoy Hotel.
Bukit Pasoh + Tanjong Pagar
Bukit Pasoh is a conservation area and its most well-known feature is Keong Saik Road, a notorious former red-light district and a rather dodgy gang turf to boot. Gentrification has turned it into one of the hip happening areas to be in Singapore, so much so that Lonely Planet named this area a top 10 of its 2017 Best in Asia destinations.
Tanjong Pagar meanwhile has gained a reputation for some of the most authentic (and popular) Korean restaurants in Singapore as well a whole row of boutique wedding shops for some reason.
- Keong Saik Road
- Teo Hong Road
- Neil Road
- Kreta Ayer Road [NEW]
- Duxton Road
- Duxton Hill [NEW]
- What’s Nearby
Keong Saik Road
Location: 1 Keong Saik Road
This mural is by local artist duo RIPPLE ROOT for collaborative workspace The Working Capitol in 2016. A little alleyway connects Keong Saik Road to the back of the shophouses – both walls on either side are lined with exuberant abstract shapes and colours that are a signature look for RIPPLE ROOT.
Teo Hong Road
Location: 1 Teo Hong Road
It’s a short walk from Keong Saik Road to nearby Teo Hong Road, where you can find the Swis Ling Bak Kut Teh Seafood Restaurant. I’ve never eaten there, but I like the cartoony lion dancers you can find on either side of its side entrance
Location: 89 Neil Road (Shake Shack)
Sam Lo’s new mural is a commission for Shake Shack’s second outlet in Singapore along Neil Road and this gorgeous piece really melds together eastern and western influences. I love how vibrant and colourful and detailed this artwork is – these elements were pieced together from different aspects of the surrounding neighbourhood.
Location: 74 Neil Road (Botanist)
Along Neil Road is a little hipster heaven of a cafe called Botanist – I have yet to visit it properly, but I love the swirly art on its sidewalls, which is also a very instagram-friendly spot that I first noticed because it kept popping up on my feed.
Kreta Ayer Road [NEW]
Location: At the junction of Kreta Ayer Road and Neil Road
This wall contains a pretty long piece by Sam Lo aka SKL0 called Evolution//Revolution for music app BandLab in late 2021. This is a piece dedicated to the Singapore music scene of yesteryear – music aficionados might recognise names like Swee Lee Company, The Oddfellows, Force Vomit and even the Xinyao genre just to name a few.
Location: At the junction of Duxton Road and Craig Road
This area I jokingly call the Korean Wedding district for the sheer number of Korean restaurants and wedding shops along this stretch. Again, more unattributed works which are somewhat strange by eye-catching.
Duxton Hill [NEW]
Junction of Duxton Hill and Tanjong Pagar road
I was grabbing some food along Tanjong Pagar when this lovely blue and white mural caught my eye. Painted in late 2021, Ikan Todak is a mural by Tobyato that showcases the old legend of how Redhill got its name – swordfish were attacking Singapore’s shores and killing Singaporeans until a boy suggested using deploying banana tree stems to trap them. That swordfish battle apparently happened here in Tanjong Pagar, which is why this mural is here in Duxton HIll.
FYI if you’re not familiar with how the Redhill story ends, the Raja (King) was jealous of his successful plan and ordered his death, and when the boy was stabbed, his blood turned the entire hill red, hence the name Redhill or Bukit Merah.
- Keong Saik Road is an upcoming hipster eating and hangout spot, and was picked by Lonely Planet as a top 10 spot to visit back in 2017.
- The Art Deco Shophouse facade of Dong Ya Building is pretty iconic. Stalwart Tong Ah Eating House nearby makes for a good place to fuel up on local snacks, but those who want something more modern, Potatohead is the place to be.
- Duxton Road is home to Singapore’s highest HDB flats – The [email protected]. The public can enjoy the view from its sky bridges on 26th and 50th floors for a small fee.
- Tanjong Pagar Road is where you will find a ton of Korean restaurants and bars, so it can get pretty busy on the weekends.
Blair Plain is actually a part of Outram and not Chinatown, but it’s close enough that you can just cross Cantonment Road and walk over to this area that is much quieter and less touristy than downtown Chinatown. Lots of lovely shophouses around here to check out, and hidden gem cafes and shops in the little lanes.
- Everton Road
- Spottiswoode Park Road
Location: 39-40 Everton Road, close to Asia Gardens apartment
Muralist Yip Yew Chong has created around 30 murals at this point in time, but Amah and Barber have the honour of being his first street art pieces painted back in late 2015. His murals tend to show lots of nostalgic detail about Singapore related to the surrounding area, and this is no exception.
Location: Junction of Spottiswoode Park Road and Everton Road
This 3rd mural by YipYC is called Provision Shop and painted a few months after the other 2 works. This brings back lots of nostalgia. I love the life sized scooter and the pushcart hawker with his cat and mailbox (yup that’s not real) on the right.
Spottiswoode Park Road
Location: 64 Spottiswoode Park Road, junction of Blair Road and Spottiswoode Park Road
Art Porters is an art gallery and besides its rotating exhibitions, you can enjoy the mural on its back side. This beautiful piece is by Alexface from Bangkok – you can spot his work at Bugis-Bras Basah as well – and showcases his signature cute little monster children.
- Everton Park is also quite a hip enclave for the brunch and cafe crowd – Nylon Coffee Roasters or Strangers Reunion are good places to start for coffee lovers, or see some other recs
- 66 Spottiswoode Park is supposed to have the oldest intact painted shophouse facade in Singapore. There is a lot of lovely tile work and architecture to admire around here
- Plant lovers might enjoy checking out the rare Binjai Tree which has heritage status and is a call back to this area’s past as a nutmeg plantation
- You are not too far from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station which would be a great place to check out for its architecture and they often hold interesting events there, but sadly it’s currently under redevelopment and will only reopen in 2025.
Spotted any other works I missed out? Drop me a comment here and let me know. Street art is always evolving so some of these works might disappear while others may pop up, I’ll update this street art in Chinatown guide as regularly as I can.
If you love hunting street art in Singapore, make sure to check out my side Instagram account @singaporestreetart for more updates on new works. Here are some of my other Singapore street art articles and guides, or check out my full list of all my street art guides from around the world.