8 Spots to Discover the Real Old Charm of Singapore

8 Spots to Discover the Real Old Charm of Singapore

What are you waiting for? Discover the old charm of Singapore at these amazing spots.

Ultra modern like no other city in Southeast Asia, but Singapore still has its old hidden spots – if you are looking for them. Forget about the ‘Heritage Trails’ in our guidebooks, these spots will uncover the real old charm of Singapore.

Tong Mern Sern Antiques Shop

Tong Mern Sern Antiques ShopImage credit: Tong Mern Sern Antiques

‘We buy junk and sell antiques some fools buy some fools sell’ is strapped across a banner above the entrance of the store. Situated in the beautiful area of Tanjong Pagar, the shop with its restored front is not only a treasure in itself, but holds plenty of gems inside!

The owners have been collecting for more than 40 years. No matter whether one is looking for old toys, furniture, watches or crockery – the shop has an incredible amount of antiques and treasures on display. The owner’s passion for collecting can be seen when walking through the narrow shop. He buys from other markets and individuals in Singapore, and has one of the biggest collections of antiques on the island.

The shop is popular among locals as well as expats. People with a sense for antiques and long forgotten gems will find the shop to be a paradise. Find it on 51 Craig Road.

Bukit Brown

Bukit BrownImage credit: Jnzl

singapore old spotsImage credit: Jacklee

At first glance, this cemetery might seem like just another graveyard. However, history runs deep around the nine hills of Bukit Brown. First opened in 1922, the cemetery spans less than one square kilometre and holds more than 100,000 graves. If you are still not impressed, then the stories of the caretakers surely will. Many have reported strange sightings at various places, such as an elderly lady brushing her hair every morning between 3.30am and 4am.

Bukit Brown is also an ideal place to get an understanding of Chinese history in Singapore, as the graves and their appearance have many stories to tell. Feel free to ask one of the caretakers. It might even become a UNESCO world heritage site soon. Explore it before the masses will.

Tanjong Pagar Railway Station

Tanjong Pagar Railway StationImage credit: Choo Yut Shing

Tanjong Pagar Railway StationImage credit: Lip Jin Lee

Long before Changi airport became the main gate into Singapore, most travellers would enter the country on rails via this station. It only closed in 2011, but hasn’t been taken down. Until then it served as the main link to Malaysia. Although most of the tracks have been removed, the so-called ‘green corridor’ to Malaysia still exists with abandoned stations, tunnels and bridges along the way. The green corridor is an ideal cycling trip, but already the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station is worth a visit.

Old Changi Hospital

Old Changi HospitalImage credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly

Old Changi Hospital Image credit: Kevin Lee

Built in the mid-1930s, this building complex is much older than the nation of Singapore itself. It was used as a British military hospital and remained in their hand until 1971 (excluding the Japanese occupation), when the British started to withdraw their troops. In 1997 Singapore built a new hospital, leaving this one abandoned. Since then, the Old Changi Hospital has become a venue of ghost sightings. Stories about sudden fires and haunted rooms are still voiced occasionally.  

Old Changi HospitalImage credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly

In 2006 Singapore Land Authority had plans to develop the complex into yet another resort venue with spas and restaurants. The plans were however never put into action, as the financial crisis hit the country in 2008. Since then it was returned to the ghosts.

Coney Island

Coney IslandImage credit: Jnzl

Coney IslandImage credit: xterlim

Although the name might sound familiar, we are not talking about the amusement park neighbourhood in New York City. Coney Island, also known as Pulau Serangoon, is situated between the northeast end of Singapore the more famous island Pulau Ubin. Coney Island was only very recently reopened to the public and is entirely deserted – if you don’t count monkeys and lizards. In 1947 Singapore had plans to turn the island into Happy World Amusement Park – hence the name – but these plans were never realised. In the decades after, the island became popular among local fishermen and bird-watchers. A highlight of the island is perhaps the abandoned beach villa that is slowly becoming one with nature.

Haw Par Villa

Haw Par VillaImage credit: Choo Yut Shing

Haw Par VillaImage credit: Anne Murray

Forget about Disneyland and Resorts World Sentosa, as this theme park is nothing like anything you have seen before. First opened in 1937, the park was originally called Tiger Palm Gardens and a venue for teaching traditional Chinese values. Equipped with more than 1,000 statues and 150 huge dioramas portraying stories from Chinese mythology and folklore, Har Par Villa became in the 1980s a theme park (although not much has changed).

Today, the park is again open to the public and free of charge. Walking along the paths, one will even discover the ten courts of hell, which are depictions of hell in Buddhism and Chinese mythology.

Also read: Haw Par Villa: Where Fairytales Go to Hell

Pulau Ubin

Pulau UbinImage credit: William Cho

Haw Par VillaImage credit: Walter Lim

Easily accessible with a fishermen’s boat, Pulau Ubin is only 10 minutes away from the main island. Located in the northeast of Singapore, Pulau Ubin gives us a glimpse of what life was like in the beginning of last century. Still sparely populated today, Pulau Ubin has no more than a few small houses spread over the island. Pretty much every Singaporean has been here once, as the island is a must for every school class.

Today, one can still freely explore the different paths crossing the island – just for a few dollars you can rent a bicycle all day. It’s an awesome day tip with monkey and wild boar sightings guaranteed.

Raffles Hotel

Raffles HotelImage credit: alantankenghoe

Raffles HotelImage credit: shankar s.

This hotel really isn’t a secret. However, the Raffles is one of the oldest buildings on the island. It was first opened in 1887, when Singapore was still part of the British Empire. Amongst the colonial remains, the Raffles Hotel is still the most impressive one. After all, it was here that the famous Singapore Sling was created more than 100 years ago.

The Long Bar as well as the Bar & Billiard Room hold fascinating stories within them. Billiard table was apparently the very last place where a living tiger had been seen on the island. One can inspect the remains of the tiger’s head, while enjoying one of the famous cocktails.

Also read: 7 Heritage-Rich Hotels in Singapore You Should Stay In

About Author

Peter Schimke
Peter Schimke

Peter is a freelance writer and author of the novel ‘Beyond Blue’. He has travelled extensively over the past decade and for some reason ends up where there are no tourists to be found. Cocktail bars, bookstores and skate parks are the places you might run into him. He currently calls Singapore his home, as he his banned from Shinjuku, Tokyo (after publishing his book).


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