Wednesday, 31 August 2022

9 unexpected hidden gems to check out in Tanjong Pagar

Produced by SilverKris for Sofitel Singapore City Centre

Tanjong Pagar might be a vibrant business and commercial centre dominated by modern skyscrapers, but don’t be fooled by its glittering, urban image. Beneath the towering structures is an eclectic neighbourhood rife with culture and heritage. With so many shophouses and winding alleys in Tanjong Pagar, there’s plenty of hidden gems nestled in nooks and crannies for a one-of-a-kind experience – if you know where to look. Read on to find some of the best ways to make the most of your time in this charming neighbourhood in Singapore.

1. Admire fascinating architecture

Tanjong Pagar offers plenty of surprises with its mix of urban developments situated next to heritage shophouses. Go for a leisurely walking tour around the neighbourhood and try to spot some amazing architecture. 

Wander past Jinrikisha Station at the junction of Neil and Tanjong Pagar roads, which was originally Singapore’s first public transport depot for rickshaws. Nearby you will spot the former Tiger Balm factory, also known as Eng Aun Tong, which is now home to Shake Shack. The NUS Baba House, a hard-to-miss blue three-storey townhouse showcases Peranakan history, architecture and heritage. Another one to look out for is Dong Ya Building at Keong Saik Road; an iconic red-and-white art deco structure housing Tong Ah Eating House that has since moved a few doors down. 

Don’t forget to check out the tallest building in Singapore, Guoco Tower. This towering vertical city is where you will find the five-star hotel Sofitel Singapore City Centre. The design here is heavily inspired by the geometric structure of a traditional French formal garden.

Wander past Jinrikisha Station, Singapore’s first public transport depot for rickshaws. Photo credit: Adobe Stock; Gaze up at Sofitel Singapore City Centre, which stands at the 105.3m tall


2. Check out spectacular artwork at Sofitel Singapore City Centre

Instead of making a beeline for independent art galleries to get your culture fix, consider wandering into Sofitel Singapore City Centre. The French luxury hotel boasts many visually impressive art pieces that serve as great conversation starters. Once you enter its doors, you’ll be greeted by a 9m-long art installation at its lift lobby, a captivating chandelier comprising 700 hand-blown glass crystals that resemble shimmering leaves. At the concierge desk, you can’t miss the exquisite Bouquet Magnifique art piece created by celebrated Italian painter Arianna Caroli. The vibrant floral canvas adds a dash of nature into the sophisticated space. 

For a full artful experience, sign up for its Discover Tanjong Pagar: Cultural Getaway package. You’d receive an exclusive tote bag featuring the works of local artist William Sim, as well as a postcard set and hand-drawn map by local street artist Yip Yew Chong which will take you on a self-guided adventure exploring nostalgic murals.

Tanjong Pagar hidden gems Sofitel Singapore City Centre
A shimmering chandelier in Sofitel Singapore City Centre’s lift lobby

3. Enjoy French cuisine and refined local delights

Racines, which is French for “roots”, serves up the best of both worlds with its mix of gourmet French classics and timeless Chinese dishes. You are guaranteed freshness, as dishes are made using the finest seasonal local produce and organically grown ingredients, with herbs harvested from its own herb garden. There are plenty of options for varied tastes, with every dish no short of an epicurean experience. Try its Steak Frites, a tender chargrilled black Angus striploin (or you can opt for the more premium Wagyu beef flank) that’s topped with herb butter and served with fries, or go for the melt-in-your-mouth baked Black Cod with grilled leeks, crispy lotus and a bonito butter sauce. If you’re in the mood for Asian fare, the Sambal Seafood is a flavourful dish comprising seafood stir fried with sambal paste and served with turmeric rice and calamansi.

Tanjong Pagar hidden gems Racines Signature Delights
Fine French fare and timeless Chinese dishes await at Racines

4. Have a new outfit made at a bespoke tailor

While there is nothing wrong with shopping off the rack, a made-to-measure outfit that fits you like a tee will ensure you look your best at any special occasion. Some expert tailors that make the cut include Marlo at Club Street; Q Menswear and The Prefecture. Getting a suit from Marlo is quite the experience – it involves a detailed consultation with tailors in a sophisticated wood-accented atelier, multiple fittings and adjustments, before culminating in a finely crafted piece that’s handmade to each individual’s taste and lifestyle. Q Menswear, a charming boutique located on the second floor of a shophouse, is where you can get a customised suit with a modern edge, while The Prefecture, with its beachy vibes, is perfect for those with more adventurous sartorial tastes. Think bold, punchy colours and floral prints, a reflection of its dynamic founder.

Tanjong Pagar hidden gems Q Menswear
Get a sharp suit tailored at Q Menswear

5. Get a dose of culture

The rich tapestry of Tanjong Pagar’s heritage can be traced back to its origin as a fishing village. The Thian Hock Keng Temple for instance, is standing on what used to be the shoreline of Telok Ayer Basin. It was popular with newly arrived immigrants who would visit to offer thanks to Mazu Po (a Taoist goddess and protector of seafarers) for their safe arrival. One of the oldest temples in Singapore, it is an architectural marvel constructed without the use of nails. Comprising stone, tiles and wood, it boasts intricate carvings and sculptures, as well as carefully crafted mosaic elements. 

Nearby is the Al-Abrar Mosque, another historic site and one of Singapore’s oldest mosques. It used to cater to Chulia immigrants who once lived in the area, and has since evolved from a thatched hut to an impressive structure spanning the width of three shophouses, with the front of the building incorporating a five-foot walkway. Other must-visit religious temples include the colourful Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple that dates back to 1920, and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple that gets its name from a revered religious artefact housed on temple grounds.

Tanjong Pagar hidden gems Thian Hock Keng
Thian Hock Keng Temple is one of Singapore’s oldest, dating back to 1839

6. Browse interesting boutiques

Part of Tanjong Pagar’s old-world charm lies in the traditional 19th century shophouses that line meandering streets. These house hole-in-the-wall joints, old-school stores that have stood the test of time and indie boutiques, all of which offer a mall-free, one of a kind shopping experience you won’t get anywhere else. Bibliophiles will love the quaint bookstore Littered With Books at Duxton Road that is chockful of curated literary picks in a narrow but dreamy two-storey space. Little Match Girl offers unique sustainable women’s fashion in a cosy shop right opposite Amoy Street Food Centre, while Ette Tea at Kreta Ayer Road is where you can get bold hyper-local tea blends (Nasi Lemak, Pandan Chiffon and Ice Kacang tea, anyone?). For a journey back to yesteryear, pop by Ban Choon Medical Store at Telok Ayer, a weathered Chinese medical hall that has been around since the 70s, before making a pit stop at Tong Mern Sern, an antique shop at Craig Road that’s filled with storied vintage curios.

hidden gems boutiques
Shops sustainable women’s fashion at Little Match Girl

7. Treat yourself to a grooming sesh

In need of some pampering after an eventful afternoon? Make an appointment at one of the salons in the area – not only do they offer you a respite from the weather, they also provide an experience that’s more than just a haircut. Take Jermyn Street. Inspired by the famed Jermyn Street in London, this premium barber shop is styled like a gentlemen’s club and ensures you look dapper, while savouring a dram or cup of coffee. Or try Hounds of the Baskervilles, another traditional gentlemen’s barber and shaving parlour with leather seats and an onsite café that offers Australian Proud Mary coffee.

hidden gems Jermyn Street
Get the royal treatment at this gentlemen’s barber

8. Sip on bespoke cocktails at 1864

History buffs will be thrilled to know that the 1864’s name honours a historic moment – the year the Tanjong Pagar Dock Company, or the forerunner of Maritime and Port Authority, was founded. Pay homage to tradition by sipping on signature barrel-aged cocktails that have been aged in-house, such as the Martinez (Four Pillars Shiraz Gin with sweet vermouth, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and grapefruit bitters) and Old Fashioned (Bulleit Rye, granulated sugar and Angostura bitters), or be adventurous and ask the mixologist to surprise you. If you’re in the mood for more – its plush sofa seating and floor-to-ceiling windows certainly make it hard to leave – its Lychee, Vesper and Espresso martinis pack a delightful punch.

hidden gems 1864 cocktail bar
Sip on 1864’s intriguing range of barrel-aged cocktails

9. Kick your feet back and enjoy a night at Sofitel Singapore City Centre

To cap off the experience, book yourself a stay here and sink yourself into its lush Sofitel MyBed – a signature crafted bed designed to lull you to sleep with its ultra-soft surface and sturdy support. Make sure you choose from its extensive pillow menu to ensure a perfect night’s rest. Your room will come with premium bath amenities from L’Occitane and Balmain depending on which room you choose to book, not to mention a Bose entertainment system for an immersive experience. Exercise buffs will get enjoy the 24-hour SoFit gym, or you can choose to dip in its outdoor infinity pool that comes with a spectacular view. In the mood to treat yourself? Upgrade to its club rooms or suites for access to the Virgin Active Fitness Club and Club Millésime, where you get to indulge in complimentary evening cocktails and canapés.

Sofitel Singapore City Centre Swimming Pool
Dip into Sofitel Singapore City Centre’s swimming pool

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