Kampong Glam Walking Tour

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Kampong Glam Walking Tour

February 10, 2020

Discover Kampong Glam’s rich history and heritage, bustling streets, shops, eateries and key landmarks on this heritage walking trail.

Kampong Glam got its name from the Malay word gelam (cajeput tree) which grew locally and has many uses. Its bark can be used for weaving and to caulk boats, its fruit was ground and used as pepper, and its leaves boiled to make cajeput oil to treat ailments like rhematism and cramps. 

Starting Point
Malay Heritage Centre (former Istana Kampong Gelam)
85 Sultan Gate

An antique rickshaw and hawker stall outside the Malay Heritage Centre
Photo: Singapore Tourism Board

Learn about the culture, heritage and history of the Malay community in Singapore at this heritage centre. Once the home of Malay royalty, the building was conserved and developed into the Malay Heritage Centre in 2005.

Gedung Kuning
73 Sultan Gate

Photo: Nadya Salyriana  

Also known as “Rumah Bendahara” (Prime Minister’s residence), Gedung Kuning (“Yellow Mansion” in Malay) was believed to be built around the same time or slightly earlier than the former Istana Kampong Gelam. Constructed mainly of wood and brick, the façade of the building suggests European influence but its form and internal layout reflects the architectural style of a traditional Malay house.

Former Pondok Java and Sultan Gate
Baghdad Street
Once a common feature of Kampong Glam and its vicinity, pondoks or communal lodging houses were built to house newly arrived migrants from Indonesia and Malaysia. As a logding house for Javanese arrivals, mostly bachelors, Pondok Java became a centre for Javanese culture. As its name suggests, Sultan Gate was a road that led to an entrance of the former istana (Malay for “palace”). Many blacksmiths and foundries were located at Sultan Gate. By the 1900s, the Chinese, in particular, the Hakkas, operated most of these foundries.

Former Chong Cheng School and Chong Pun Girls’ School
30-32 Aliwal Street

Photo: National Heritage Board

The Art Deco building used to house the two former Chinese schools which were established by the Hokkien community. Both schools were housed in separate wings and shared common facilities such as the school hall.

Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah (Alsagoff Arab School)
111 Jalan Sultan

Photo: National Heritage Board

Singapore’s oldest madrasah (Muslim school), Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah was established in 1912. Its beginnings can be traced to the late 19th century when Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff started a small school in the family house at what was then Java Road (present-day Beach Road Garden estate). To ensure its continuity, he left a sum of money and an endowment for the school in his will. As the number of pupils outgrew the premises at Java Road, his nephews contributed more funds to the endowment and established the madrasah at Jalan Sultan. The school taught Muslim boys the tenets of Islam and started accepting girls in the 1940s.

North Bridge Road

Photo: National Heritage Board

One of the earliest roads to be built in Singapore, the road got its name because it ran north of Presentment Bridge (present-day Elgin Bridge). It was home to diverse businesses and trades including tailors, printers and gemstone craftsmen. Today, North Bridge Road is still the place to go for pilgrimage goods at V.S.S. Varusai Mohamed & Sons, attar (non-alcohol perfumes crafted from essential oils) at Jamal Kazura Aromatics and handcrafted jewellery at Mesra Enterprises, and to enjoy Malay specialities such as martabak (pan-fried pancake stuffed with meat) and briyani (rice cooked in spices) at Singapore Zam Zam, and nasi padang (rice eaten with an assortment of side meat and vegetable dishes) at Warong Nasi Pariaman, Rumah Makan Minang and Sabar Menanti.

Sultan Mosque
3 Muscat Street

Photo: Singapore Tourism Board

Built in the early 1920s, the mosque (“masjid” in Malay) is an important focal point for Muslims in Singapore and the most prominent landmark in Kampong Glam. The history of the mosque goes back to 1823, when the sultan wanted a mosque built near his residence. During the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims will gather at the mosque to await the prayer call to break their fast. Designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, with domes, minarets and balustrades, the mosque’s most striking features are its two large golden-yellow domes.

Arab Street

Shop for traditional batik cloth at Basharahil Bros, a batik clothing and cloth shop at Arab Street
Photo: Paris Chia Photography

One of the few streets in Kampong Glam that has retained its original name from the early 1800s, Arab Street was designated for the Arab community in the 1822 town plan of Singapore. Since its early days, the street has been attracting traders and entrepreneurs from present-day Indonesia, India, China and the Middle East who started businesses such as eateries, rattan shops, goldsmiths, textile shops, money changers, bookstores and printing presses. Check out bookstore H. Hashim bin H. Abdullah (opened in the early 1900s), which is still run by the descendants of pioneers who arrived here decades ago. 

Bali Lane
The current Bali Lane and the neighbouring Shaikh Madersah Lane (defunct) which ran parallel to it, around present-day Ophir Road, made up the former Kampong Bali. The kampong’s development from the 1850s was partly due to the pilgrimage trade which had by then expanded from Kampong Jawa around Arab Street and Haji Lane. The population then was mostly Javanese from Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa. Kampong Bali was where one of the first bangsawan (Malay opera) troupes was formed in Singapore. For a period, the back of Bali Lane had stalls for horses, which were later converted to motorcar stalls in the early 20th century. By the first half of the 20th century, more Chinese had moved into Kampong Bali, many of them setting up lodgings for indentured labourers or coolies.

Haji Lane

Photo: maodoltee/Shutterstock  

The small lane takes its name from hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken by Muslims (“haji” is the Malay word for a Muslim man who has completed his hajj). During the 1960s and 1970s, the shophouses of Haji Lane provided shelter for poor Malay families and housed pilgrims transiting through Singapore on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Today, Haji Lane is home to hole-in-the-wall, independent fashion boutiques, cool lifestyle stores, barber shops, tattoo parlours, hipster cafes and chill bars. Look out for the lane’s colourful murals and capture those Insta-worthy shots. 

Ending Point
Bussorah Street 

No Name Teh Sarabat Stall vendor "pulling" a cup of tea
Photo: National Heritage Board

Regarded as the heart of Kampong Glam by its former residents, Bussorah Street was originally called “Sultan Road” as it was located in front of Sultan Mosque. The street was famous for its food, culture, community spirit and districts such as Kampong Tembaga, Kampong Intan and Kampong Kaji. Today, Bussorah Street is lined with halal restaurants, cafes, an ice cream and waffles shop, a bakery, a Malay bookshop, spas, beauty and hair salons, a songkok (cap worn by Muslim men) shop and an art gallery. Be sure to check out No Name Teh Sarabat Stall, Kampong Glam’s last surviving sarabat (Indian tea) stall which has been in business since the 1950s at the adjoining Baghdad Street, and order a cup of teh tarik (literally “pulled tea” in Malay) or teh halia (ginger tea) and see how your tea is “pulled”.

Ask Our Concierge

We are happy to assist you with dining and spa reservations, transportation arrangements, children’s programmes, and arranging itineraries. Please provide general details and the concierge will contact you to discuss your plans further.

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Contact Us

1 Science Park Road #04-07
The Capricorn, Singapore Science Park II
Singapore 117528
+65 6395 7575