One of the most vibrant areas of Singapore, Little India is an authentic collection of streets bursting with life. There’s so much to do here – from museums to buildings to eating to your heart’s content, which is why it has an important spot on a Singapore itinerary. Are you enticed? Read on…
Why I Love Little India
It must be the colors. As soon as I approach little India, I see the bright buildings, banners so brilliant they hurt my eyes hanging over every street, and wonderfully garish clothing on sale. In an animated fashion, Little India simply bursts out of Singapore. The rest of the city is wonderful, but there’s something completely vibrant about the Indian community’s area.
And then there’s the food. Mouthwatering curries sold on every street corner, creating the most unreal sensory delight for noses, eyes and eventually mouths. With around 250,000 Indian people living in this area of Singapore, the Indian food of the place is second only to India itself.
And there’s loads of culture to be tapped into and history to be discovered too. With an intriguing museum, dozens of friendly locals to chat to and events and heritage sessions taking place, it’s no wonder why Little India enchants so many visitors to The Garden City of Singapore.
A Quick History of Little India
Indian Singaporeans are the third largest ethnic group in Singapore; there has been trade within the countries for years due to India’s richness in spices and Singapore’s usefulness as a port city.
Many Indians have thus settled in Little India, which is known as Tekka in the Indian community. It was once an area of segregation but is now a thriving place for Indians living in Singapore. Little India is where you’ll find the very best Indian food, clothes and culture in Singapore.
The Best things to do in Little India
Although part of Little India’s charm involves simply walking the colorful streets and marveling at the effervescent communities, the cultural center of Little India offers an amazing history and unique society to explore. This can be explored by historical museums and centers, temples and modern attractions like hectic shopping centers.
Not all of Little India’s attractions are strictly Indian; it’s home to one of Singapore’s best mosques, buildings from the Chinese colonization and a temple built by a Thai monk. It’s just this blend of cultures that compels me to Singapore and Little India, time and time again.
Learn about Indian culture in the Indian Heritage Museum
The Indian Heritage Museum is a four-floor building that showcases the heritage and culture of Singaporean Indians. Inspired by a type of Indian stepwell, the exhibitions detail the historical links between the Indian subcontinent and South East Asia, especially Singapore.
The Indian Heritage Museum focuses on the diversity of the Indian community and the rich culture they provide to Singaporean society.
Shop at the Mustafa Center and Tekka Center
The Mustafa Centre is a shopaholics paradise; one that has to be seen to be believed. It’s open 24 hours, housing designer products sold at super low prices. It stocks textiles, watches and electronics and is one of the best places in Asia to pick up reasonably priced jewelry. It is a fantastic place to purchase souvenirs to take home with you!
The Tekka Center is Singapore’s largest wet market. While not offering much in the way of souvenirs, it’s a fascinating place to explore, to really experience the hustle and bustle of modern Singaporean life and to purchase some tasty snacks.
Admire the architecture of Masjid Abdul Gaffoor
This beautiful golden mosque is located on the edge of Little India and is visited by different nationalities. It’s a fantastic spot to visit to admire the architecture, learn about the interesting religion of Islam and celebrate the unity of Singapore’s cultures.
Engage in Hinduism at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of the oldest temples in Singapore, built by some of the first Indians in the country. It’s deeply religious, as it was worshipped by Hindi Indian workers to help them feel safe in the new land. Now it is an amazing building with beautiful architecture and statues.
Snap a photo of the House of Tan Teng Niah
The House of Tan Teng Niah is not actually an Indian building but one from the Chinese colonization. It’s been decorated in a rainbow spectacle by the Indian community and it’s one of the area’s most famous photography spots.
Light up your day the the Temple of a Thousand Lights
The Temple of a Thousand Lights, named so because of the room of lights that sits behind the temple itself, was built in 1927 by a Thai monk and is most famous for the 15 meter tall Buddhist statue enclosed within.
Places to eat in Little India
If you like Indian food, make sure you come to Singapore with an appetite! With an impressive range of cuisines, from South Indian to North Indian food, there’s something to please every palate in Little India.
Vegetarians will love the rich, spicy lentil and chickpea curries on offer throughout the area. If you’re a meat eater, you’ll be graced with sizzling flavorsome meats served piping hot. Seafood is aplenty, with fresh fish and prawns being the main feature of many Indian dishes.
The streets are teeming with vivacious Indian restaurants and stalls and you could spend a lifetime traversing Little India trying curry after sambal, but here’s some of the very best:
Banana Leaf Apolo
This unique Indian restaurant follows the cultural tradition of serving its food on a fresh banana leaf, which has become something it has been renowned for over the years. Curries, sambals, seafood and vegetarian dishes are all served up on a banana leaf.
Delhi restaurant appeals to every palate, with South and North Indian food such as mixed cooked meats, seafood, kormas and curries.
Jaggis North Indian Cuisine
This Dhaba style North Indian food, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, is a popular favorite among many visitors to Singapore; and even better is the made-to-order naan bread!
Komala Vilas Restaurant
This Indian vegetarian restaurant sells delicious South Indian food, including delicious dosa and spicy dip. It’s really cheap, making it a favorite for budget travelers to Singapore.
Celebrations in Little India
No matter what time of year, Little India is a thriving community that welcomes visitors and loves to educate its guests about Indian culture. But some of the very best times to visit are during one of the Indian festivals. At these times, the community explodes with love, light and happiness. Some of the best festivals to celebrate in Little India are:
Deepvali is celebrated all over the world by Hindus, to mark good triumphing over evil and light prevailing over darkness. This momentus celebration is summed up by the lighting of an oil lamp, which Hindu families do all over Singapore at the right time of year.
Little India is a fantastic place to be at this time; the streets are colorful, with lit up arches and glittering lights. The bazaars are alive with aromas and a buzzing atmosphere. There’s mouthwatering curries and drinks to sample and everyone is in a festive, happy mood.
Pongal is celebrated over four days in South India; it’s a celebration by farmers who give their thanks to the sun god ‘Surya’, who gives life for a rich harvest.
Little India is the place of oil lamps being lit, colourful clothes being worn and sun dances being taught.
Campbell Lane is turned into a pedestrian-only area with stalls offering souvenirs and locals showcasing Pongal performances and Kinta road hosts cultural dances and a cooking competition.
Your Singapore Trip
If you’re visiting Singapore, be sure to check out my 2 days in Singapore itinerary and my guide to Singapore on a budget – one of my best tips being to use capsule hotels as cheap accommodation. You can also check out my YouTube channel which documents my travels from Bali to London without flying (including a couple of Singapore videos!). Check out my Singapore on a budget guide below: