Explore the cultural kaleidoscope of Singapore
It's a place where ancient Chinese traditions live in harmony with Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Taoism.
The city's cultural diversity makes it a fascinating place to explore, whether you're checking out the churches and temples or heading straight to the markets in Chinatown.
Get in the spirit
January is a great time to visit Singapore, as it's a chance to catch the most important event on the Hindu calendar - the Thaipusam Festival. The build-up starts the night before and the celebrations continue into the evening the following day. You can't miss the main event, the large, colourful procession that literally stops traffic between Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
Chinese New Year is another important time for Singapore. It starts around mid-February and involves colourful street processions, trinket markets, music and dance performances, and special feasts. Red is the colour of this festival. It's obvious in the clothes people wear, decorations in the streets and souvenirs on sale. Watch for the festive goodies - buttery pineapple tarts, spiced cakes, rolled egg biscuits (called 'love letters') and delectable coconut cookies (kueh bangkit).
Take me to church
If you look out across the Singapore skyline, you'll have no trouble spotting the neo-Gothic St Andrews Cathedral rising majestically alongside the skyscrapers. You might even stumble across the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, the oldest Catholic Church in the Lion City. But to really get a sense of Singapore's eclectic spirituality, make sure you visit the Pagoda Street churches, temples and mosques in Chinatown. Ironically, this historic area was once known for its opium-smoking dens. Now it's the place to go if you're keen to learn about the past, sit and reflect, or discover religious architecture.
Be sure to visit the Jamae Mosque, an unusual design borrowing elements from both east and west. You'll also find several Hindu temples in Singapore, including its oldest - the surprising Sri Mariamman Temple. The ornate tiers covered with sculptures of deities, mythological beasts and otherworldly beings are truly captivating.
The best way get a sense of the real Singapore is to explore Chinatown on foot. If you're not sure where to start, simply join one of the many Chinatown culture walking tours run by local licensed tour guides. Soak up the buzzing atmosphere as your guide takes you through the throngs of market stalls.
To really get a sense of Singapore's eclectic spiritually, visit the Pagoda Street churches, temples and mosques in Chinatown.
Chinatown is also a food lover's paradise, fragrant with the aromas of Chinese teas. Whet your appetite with a hot steamed bun or some herbal eggs, a nutritious snack bursting with Chinese herbs. If you're really game, try some frog porridge from the exotic Chinatown wet market, one of the liveliest you're likely to see.
The Chinatown Heritage Centre is a fascinating museum that offers a free walking tour. You'll visit famous landmarks and learn about the traditional Chinese concepts of yin and yang. You might also be tempted to try a medicinal concoction from one of Chinatown's many healing centres.
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