Exploring the Peranakan Culture in Joo Chiat
More than just an over-populated residential district, Joo Chiat rightfully earns its place among the most bustling neighborhoods in Singapore.
It’s time to explore another neighborhood in Singapore! Located in the Eastern part of the island and one of Singapore’s hidden gems, Joo Chiat is known for being one of the first heritage towns with its colorful rows of traditional Peranakan shophouses dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. The rustic neighborhood, with an eclectic flair and endearing charm, is home to many expats, cool concept stores, and stylish coffee shops.
Joo Chiat was named after Chew Joo Chiat, a famous prominent Chinese ethnic businessman of Perankan descent who became the owner of most of the land in the area. Sometime in the early 20th century, the Peranakan and Straits Chinese communities migrated into the neighborhood to live alongside the existing Malay, Indian and Chinese communities. Chew Joo Chiat’s subsequent establishment of some of Singapore’s earliest season houses and holiday bungalows resulted in the area becoming a wealthy and upper-middle-class suburb with a relaxing and scenic locale.
How to get to Joo Chiat
While Singapore is generally extremely accessible by public transportation, Joo Chiat, unfortunately, does not have its own MRT station. The nearest MRT station would be Eunos (EW7) on the East-West line (or green line). We would usually just take a grab and make it a fun weekend trip.
What to see in Joo Chiat
Joo Chiat Flair
Joo Chiat offers an authentic, local buzz unique to Singapore, with the neighborhood’s vibe in contrast with the sleek sophistication of Orchard Road or Marina Bay Sands. But don’t be fooled by its slightly gritty vibe, as Joo Chiat is a beautiful eclectic mix of colorful Peranakan houses, delicious local and international cuisine, popular bakeries, and much more. It was designated as Singapore’s first “heritage town” in 2011 and is a wonderful representation of Singapore’s aim to preserve the old while promoting all that is new.
Be sure to make a stop at these interesting spots in the neighborhood:
Koon Seng Road Shophouses
The pastel-colored shophouses along Koon Seng Road are what makes Joo Chiat and a pretty popular spot for Instagram and #OOTDs. Built in the 1920s, these two to three-story residential houses are distinctive due to their pastel hues and nicely designed exterior. Although many tend to call them “Peranakan-inspired”, the designs of these houses are actually also a mix of Asian and European influences. Take for example the colorful floral tiles, which were produced in Britain, Germany, Belgium, and even Japan.
The Red House
Located in a heritage shophouse on the site of a former bakery, The Red House is a visually stunning building and a piece of the island’s history. Today, it is mostly a housing complex with 42 units that include maisonettes and studio suites, as well as six retail units and a heritage gallery based around the former bakery.
Shopping & Boutiques
It’s not exactly your stereotypical shopping heaven, but if you – like me – have a fable for tasteful designs and truly original pieces, you will love Joo Chiat with its numerous stores that peddle everything from rattan chairs to traditional Chinese medicine. I can recommend spending at least an afternoon in the enchanting neighborhood – you will very likely not walk away empty-handed.
Katong Shopping Centre – 112 East Coast Road, Singapore 428802 – Katong Shopping Centre used to be the first air-conditioned mall in Singapore.
A Vintage Tale – 277 Joo Chiat Rd, #01-01, Singapore 427531 – A stylish and fun Vintage boutique with a cute interior, layout, and curated selections, such as bags, and designer clothes. There is also an added corner to give a special shopping experience with curated drinks.
The AC – 420 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427641 – The AC retails independent labels from fashion, accessories, and lifestyle, all under one very stylish roof. The curated labels within The AC all stand in their own right, but complement each other as a whole. The labels’ designers all work within the boutique, selling across brands.
Singapore’s Trading Post – 426 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427644 – Singapore Trading post houses a plethora of home decor, accessories, furniture, souvenirs, and the like from places that used to be trade routes during Singapore’s colonial past, and most of its pieces are truly one-of-a-kind.
Cat Socrates – 448 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427661 – This sister shop of the one with the same name in Tiong Bahru sells fun and quirky items with a Singaporean twist. You will find unique and unusual souvenirs, books, and home decor. Watch out for the cat!
RetroCrates – 448a Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427661 – Vinyl lover? Go crazy with an extensive collection of pre-loved and new records spanning various genres like pop, rock, and jazz at RetroCrates. That’s not all. Looking for speakers, turntables, and amplifiers? You can find ‘em right here.
Hello, Bicycle! Showroom Joo Chiat – 5 Joo Chiat Pl, Singapore 427741 – Boutique bicycle shop with a wide range and very knowledgeable and super friendly staff.
Where to Eat and Drink
Common Man Coffee Roasters – 185 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427456 – The baristas at CMCR not only brew my favorite coffee in town, but they also serve excellent breakfast. They recently opened up a new outlet in Joo Chiat, which is just as good as the original.
Forty Hands – 226 East Coast Road, Singapore 428923 – One of the pioneers of the coffee movement in Singapore, starting a Singaporean coffee revolution into the once so sleepy neighborhood of Tiong Bahru. Finally, Forty Hands has opened its second branch in the east, open seven days a week for dine-in, tapao, and delivery.
Petit Pain Bakery – 315 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 427566 – This local hidden gem churns out crusty French loaves, flaky croissants that are baked daily in small batches. Their philosophy is that therefore, customers can enjoy fresh, quality bread that is affordable at the same time.
Wine Mouth – 432A Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427647 – A very interesting selection of organic wines and an impressive American whiskey selection.
CHOICE CUTS GOODS + COFFEE – 446 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427659 – CCG+C started as a vinyl record store but has just moved to a larger space to focus on food and coffee. Yet, they remain their rough Brooklyn-vibes.
Birds of Paradise – 463 East Coast Rd, #01-05, Singapore 428776 – The ice cream here is made using natural and botanical ingredients like basil and blue ginger and is heavily influenced by Southeast Asian palates.
The Communal Place – 465 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427677 – Love the spacious space and quiet atmosphere on a Sunday night. General café food, good place for work and casual dining.
Homeground Coffee Roasters – 475 Joo Chiat Rd, Singapore 427682 – A coffee roastery, art gallery, and retail space in one. The menu is short and concise with black and white coffee but a few interesting food items, such as the Hokkaido milk toast with kaya with sous vide egg.
Where to Stay – Hotels
Village Hotel Katong – 25 Marine Parade, Singapore 449536 – Located in the Katong-Joo Chiat district, Village Hotel Katong is meticulously designed and comfortably furnished and offers the perfect blend of Peranakan heritage and modern comfort.
If you prefer a boutique-style hotel, the Rabbit Carrot Gun might be the perfect space for you! Encapsulated in a pair of traditional 1925 built Singaporean shophouses, hosts Richard and Tricia offer stylish rooms equipped with tastefully designed wooden decor and furnishings.
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