Exploring Singapore: Tiong Bahru

Forty hands for breakfast, a cat in a bookstore and graveyards. How do these things go together? You just have to explore Tiong Bahru to find out.

Tiong Bahru is one of Singapore’s oldest housing areas. Its name is very Singaporean – it’s a mix of Hokkien (Tiong) and Malay (Bahru) and  translates to “Old Cemetery” – mainly because this area used to be a place where people burry their dead. This changed in the 30ies, and after reconstructing the area it turned out to be one of the more sophisticated, pricey parts of Singapore. After WW2, the population in the area tripled and it became more affordable again. (If you’re interested in more about Tiong Bahru’s history, I recommend this page)

In the past decades, this area used to be an area for elderly people – until recently: Tiong Bahru has developed a hip culture with nice cafés, bars and shops. It’s a beautiful mix of old and new. So I decided to grab my camera and explore the area last Saturday – and came up with a brilliant plan of how you could spend a weekend day there!

1I immediately fell in love with the charming flair of this area. You can see the typical old white buildings, many wonderful mini-gardens and a few cafés here and there.Tiong BahrTiong BahruTiong BahruTiong Bahru
I continued to my walk through little alleys and streets. Close to the market, you there are see parts of the authentic, traditional culture with a variety of Chinese-Singaporean restaurants and tiny shops which sell everything from cheap clothes to kitchen accessories.

Tiong Bahru Tiong BahruTiong BahruTiong BahruAt a certain point, I became hungry, so I headed to Yong Siak street to treat myself with a nice Saturday brunch. I ended up at Forty Hands, which is a pretty cool restaurant with amazing food (and nice vegetarian options as well). I had Eggs Cocotte on sautéd mushrooms (which I’ll definitely have again soon) and my friend tried the falafel pita.

Tiong Bahru Tiong Bahru
Already being in Yong Siak road, I could not miss out on two other musts. The first one is BooksActually, a wonderfully curated, hip book shop – with a cat. They have a CAT! And what is better than books and cats on this planet? Not a lot. Except for cupcakes, probably. That is why we headed to the second target place: Plain Vanilla Bakery. This place is a mekka for the common hipster as well as foodies with a sweet tooth and an eye for aesthetics. We chose a Salted Caramel and a Carrot cupcake – both were a bit prettier than they tasted. The relaxing, clean atmosphere made up for it, though.


IMG_4208 IMG_4213My conclusion: Tiong Bahru is a great place to spend a lazy day off. Exploring this area is totally worth it! Already been there? Share your favourite restaurants and hidden corners with us!


40 Hands
78 Yong Siak Street, #01-12, 163078
6225 8545

Plain Vanilla Bakery
1D Yong Siak St, Singapore 168641
8363 7614

Books Actually
9 Yong Siak St, 168645
6222 9195


6 thoughts on “Exploring Singapore: Tiong Bahru

      1. Haha, well you did not miss out on too much if there aren’t any hipsters in Cornwall 😀

        You could go on safari and take a bus to London to see flocks of them sitting in stylish cafés and nipping on their cashew milk latté. If you get lucky, you can even see them using a typewriter in public space.


    1. Thanks for these tips 🙂

      I have not heard about Flock – will definitely check it out if if you recommend it.

      Actually, that day I wanted to go to P.S. Café and once I arrived, I found out that they don’t offer brunch but only lunch so I went to 40 hands instead. Smoked margarita pizza sounds divine!


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