Known for its highly instagrammable cafés and street art, Kampong Glam or Kampong Gelam—located in the Bugis area—is full of surprises. In the 1800s, Kampong Glam was an ethnic enclave for the Muslim community in Singapore; mostly the Malays, Arabs and Bugis.
Once reigned by Malay Sultans, only the Istana Kampong Gelam and the Masjid Sultan still serve as a reminder of the Malay royalty who ruled the area. The rest of the shophouses, which line the many streets, are now home to a unique blend of heritage businesses and trendy eateries offering cuisines from all over the world.
From hole-in-the-wall boutiques to hidden watering holes, here’s what to eat, drink and do in one of Singapore’s oldest (and hippest) urban quarters.
Fika Swedish Café & Bistro
Located on Arab Street, Fika serves traditional Swedish food that is halal certified. This modern bistro stands out from its surrounding shophouses and heritage businesses, with its Swedish name meaning something along the lines of ‘taking a break for a coffee’. Many come for their Swedish meatballs (said to rival those of IKEA), but we say, try their desserts too! Take a break and enjoy tea by the pot with a slice of lingonberry cheesecake at Fika.
Location: 257 Beach Rd, Singapore 199539
Alaturka Mediterranean & Turkish Restaurant
Kampong Glam is home to many Turkish and Middle eastern restaurants, and one of the most well-known of them all, Alaturka, has been serving authentic Turkish food since 2005. Awarded a Bib Gourmand in 2016’s Michelin Guide, you can be sure that its extensive variety of kebabs and Turkish standards will leave you coming back for more. If you can’t decide on what to get, try their Karisik Kebab, a feast platter of beef, lamb and chicken kebabs served with butter rice and vegetable salad.
Location: 15 Bussorah Street, Singapore 199436
Chix Hot Chicken
When it comes to fried chicken, you’ve probably tried the ones from Kentucky and maybe even Korea. But what about Nashville-styed fried chicken? Opened by local star Taufik Batisah and fellow fried chicken fanatic Ismail Bober, the fried chicken served here is guaranteed to be HOT. Their Nashville hot chicken is marinated in buttermilk and seasoned with ghost pepper — one of the spiciest chillies in the world! For those with a lower tolerance for spice, don’t worry, their chicken comes in three levels of spiciness (including a non-spicy option as well).
Location: 1 Jalan Pisang, Singapore 199069
Ice-cream wrapped in a colourful bouquet made from a Hong Kong egglet waffle and topped with an insane amount of toppings, this dessert is one for the gram. Escape from Singapore’s sweltering heat and cool down in Lickety’s pastel-coloured shop space that is very hard to miss.
Location: 34 Bussorah St, Singapore 199452
Global chain and famous Kyoto coffee house, % Arabica serves its famed coffee in a small 20-seater on Arab Street. They roast their own house blend, comprising of beans sourced directly from its origins. With a minimalistic interior and highly aesthetic storefront, it’s no wonder that this Arab Street outlet dominated #cafehoppingsg when it first opened in June 2019.
Location: 56 Arab St, Singapore 199753
Sick of flat whites and mocha lattes? Hidden in the alleyways of Kampong Glam is the famed Bhai Sarbat Teh Tarik stall that has been selling traditional teh tarik (and about 70 other drinks on their menu) since the 50s. Watch as black tea mixed with milk is pulled from one stainless steel mug to the next, forming a frothy-pulled milk tea that attracts large numbers of passersby and returning customers no matter the time of the day.
Location: 21 Bussorah Street, Singapore 199442
Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall
Don’t be fooled by this regular kopitiam drink stall-looking shop on Haji Lane. It is, in fact, very atas*. You won’t find Tiger beer on ice or kopi peng here. Instead, find yourself ordering bespoke and classic cocktails on a scale of po (Hokkien for ‘thin’, meaning not-so-strong when used in the context of drinks) to gao (‘thick’), referencing the local coffee culture. Enjoy a good night out with drinks, without the need to dress up in this unpretentious 3.0 evolution of the kopitiam.
*Singlish for describing something as luxe or upper-class.
Location: 12 Haji Lane, Singapore 189205
Also featured in our Local’s Guide To Bugis, Oriental Elixir is a hidden watering hole that serves Gin infused with unexpected ingredients, from octopus and shrimp to pandan and laksa leaf. Read more about this one-of-a-kind bar in our list of 7 Unique Themed Bars In Singapore You Have To Visit.
Location: 10A Haji Lane, Singapore 189203
Kampong Glam is truly a gem on its own, with so many things to see, food to taste and nooks and crannies to explore. Customise your own perfume blend on Arab Street, make your own Gin & Tonic with master mixologists, or craft your own Ba Zhang/Ketupat leather pouches right in the heart of Haji Lane.
Also known as Masjid Sultan, this prominent historical landmark in Kampong Glam is the biggest mosque in the city-state. Built in 1824 by the first sultan of Singapore, the mosque holds great significance for the Muslim community in Singapore, and is a preserved national monument. Check out its impressive architecture, and learn more about its history and significance through their guided tours, offered in multiple languages.
Location: 3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833
Malay Heritage Centre
The Malay Heritage Centre is situated on the original grounds of Istana Kampong Gelam, the former Malay palace in Singapore. Dedicated to showcasing the rich heritage and culture of the Malay community, its museum contains a wide range of historical artefacts, interactive multimedia and colourful exhibits — all worthy of a visit!
Location: 85 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198501
An indie boutique/gallery showcasing locally crafted porcelain, housewares & Singapore souvenirs. Worth mentioning is their Singapore Blue collection, which features blue-and-white porcelain pieces specially designed to showcase the many fascinating facets of this city-state. With most items only available in limited quantities, do pop by this little gallery to search for unique pieces to take home or simply admire the handiwork and art pieces that make up the store’s collection.
Location: 265 Beach Rd, Singapore 199544
Vintage Camera Museum
This unique museum with over 1000 vintage cameras (some even dating back to the 19th century!), is built like a camera itself, with its entrance in the shape of a lens. Unlike most museums with a no-touching policy, the founders of the Vintage Camera Museum are more than happy for you to pick up the cameras for a closer look and pose for photos with them! Their collection features unique cameras as well, such as spy cameras disguised as cigarette lighters and walking sticks — the likes of James Bond we might say, and a machine gun-shaped camera originally used by Japanese troops.
Location: 8C & 8D Jalan Kledek, Singapore 199263
In the back alleys of Muscat Street is an outdoor art gallery, featuring over 30 murals painted by local artists as well as those from beyond the region. Some murals are inspired by pop-culture references and others by the rich local culture and heritage. Snap a pic with the uber-colourful walls and add a pop of colour to your Instagram feed!
Location: Muscat Street, Singapore 198833
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At Culturally, we offer customised hands-on cultural experiences for you and your loved ones to enjoy and have fun whilst learning about other cultures! For more things to do in the area, check out our full list of experiences available in Kampong Glam here!