Colorful garlands, stacks of jewelry, and great food—Little India is every tourist’s dream come true, and every local’s little secret. The best time to visit is Sunday evenings when it's at its most bustling, but if you prefer a more leisurely experience, late mornings and early afternoons on weekends are perfect.
Kampong Glam, meanwhile, was home to the Malay aristocracy in 1819, before British settlement in 1822 divided the area to ethnic groups (Chinese, Arabs and Europeans). Today, it remains a stronghold among the Malay-Muslim community and is home to numerous eateries, chic bars and indie shopping boutiques, making it one of the hippest neighborhoods here.
Make time to explore Indian temples like Sri Veeramakaliamman (141 Serangoon Road) and Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman (555 Serangoon Road) with beautiful architecture and colorful arches, which make for wonderful photo opportunities. You’re welcome to have a look inside; just remember to take off your shoes.
There is also picture-perfect Kampong Kapor Methodist Church (intersection of Kg Kapor and Veerasamy roads), built in 1929 by Singapore’s oldest architectural firm Swan and Maclaren. Another must-see is the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall (Race Course Lane), which acts as a family service center for the Singapore Indian Development Association—you’ll recognize it when you see a bronze statue of the man himself on the exterior.
Also known as the Arab Quarter, Kampong Glam is home to the Malay Heritage Centre (85 Sultan Gate, 6391-0450) and the majestic-looking Sultan Mosque (3 Muscat St., 6293-4405), a Muslim place of worship that has stayed essentially unchanged since it was built in the late 1920s.
If you’re looking to buy a new SLR camera or mobile phone, don’t miss Sim Lim Square (1 Rochor Canal Road, 6338-3859) and 24-hour shopping mecca Mustafa Centre (145 Syed Alwi Road, 6295-5855). The latter offers pretty much every product under the sun. Also check out Singapore’s first eco-friendly retail hub, City Square Mall (180 Kitchener Road, 6595-6595), housing retailers including Uniqlo, Giordano and Best Denki.
For the fashion forward, artisanal is the key word at Maison Ikkoku (20 Kandahar St., 6294-2600). Grab a coffee on the first floor before browsing through chic men’s wear from labels like Hobo, Nuggets and Discovered upstairs. Don't forget to check out the many indie boutiques found along hip street Haji Lane. One such example is the black-and-white themed Salad (25/27 Haji Lane, 6299-5805), which carries an eclectic variety of fashionable home accessories, ranging from a curious horn-shaped chandelier to customized shoes.
Thirsty after all that shopping? Chill out over a cup of fragrant Turkish coffee or a bagalawa shake at Café le Caire (42 Arab St., 6292-0979), before heading for beer at Blu Jaz (11 Bali Lane, 6292-3800), which features live music. Alternatively, enjoy a quiet cocktail custom-made by the mixologists at Bar Stories (57A Haji Lane, 6298-0838).
Don’t miss the chance to dine at Islamic Restaurant (745 North Bridge Road, 6298-7563). Around for almost 50 years, its trademark nasi biryani and mutton rendang are still the stars here. The rustic Bumbu Restaurant (44 Kandahar St., 6392-8628) is also great for its eclectic mix of Indonesian, Peranakan and Thai dishes. Or check out contemporary cafés like Swedish Fika (257 Beach Road, 6396-9096).
For vegetarian options, go to Namaste India (288 Serangoon Road, 6735-6755). If you are feeling a bit adventurous, try the fiery fish-head curry at the popular Banana Leaf Apollo (54 Race Course Road, 6297-1595). Its Indian dishes are served on banana leaves, and you’re encouraged to use your hands here; the wait staff insists that it brings out the aroma of the food.