Take A Walk Around Singapore's Hot New Hipster neighbourhood

Drips cafe in Tiong Bahru Singapore

Photo: Jennifer Polland/ Business Insider

Unlike the rest of Singapore, which primarily consists of carefully planned high-rises, the neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru is a historic community that still retains some of its ramshackle charm.With its Art Deco-style architecture and its small quiet, lanes, Tiong Bahru feels like a quiet respite from the dizzying skyscrapers and frenetic pace of city life.

It was built in the 1930s as the first housing estate in Singapore, but recently it has become the hottest neighbourhood in the city.

Today, yuppies, designers, expats, and creative types linger over cappuccinos at hip cafes or peruse boutiques for one-of-a-kind jewelry, clothing, or furnishings.

Meanwhile, vestiges of the old neighbourhood persist. There are a few traditional coffee shops where older people gather over kopi (coffee in Malay). And on Sunday mornings, the Tiong Bahru wet market is the place to be. 

It’s a study in contrasts, and a combination that adds up to one of the most dynamic and vibrant neighborhoods in the city.

Disclosure: Our trip to Singapore, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board.

Tiong Bahru is defined by its curved Art Deco-style architecture. Most buildings here date back to the 1930s.

Over the last few years, there's been an explosion in hip Western-style cafes, like Drips.

The cafes aren't cheap. At Drips, a cup of coffee costs S$5 (about US$4).

But they are cool. Many cafes, like the Orange Thimble, host changing exhibits by local or international artists.

Most of these cafes are housed in what was once ground-floor apartments, meaning that the spaces are long and somewhat narrow.

40 Hands was the first boutique coffee shop to open in the neighbourhood. It's still one of the most popular cafes in the neighbourhood.

The Tiong Bahru Bakery recently opened under the helm of French baker Gontran Cherrier. The extremely popular cafe supposedly has the best croissants in Singapore.

Many of the cafes are modern, like Flock, which opened in late October last year.

There are also a slew of new designer boutiques, like two-o-ri, which sells everything from Swedish watches for men to dresses, jewelry and bags for women.

Strangelets is another designer boutique, which sells everything from artworks and decorative objects to plates, bowls, and mugs.

Flea & Trees sells vintage women's clothing from Japan and jewelry from Asian designers.

There's even an industrial-chic massage parlor called Nimble/Knead whose concept is to massage people inside shipping containers.

Meanwhile, some vestiges of the old neighbourhood exist.

This satay street vendor is reportedly the last street food vendor to exist in Singapore. (All of the street food is now served only in government-regulated Hawker centres.)

And people still hang their laundry to dry in the small lanes outside their homes.

On Sunday mornings, the Tiong Bahru market is bustling.

It's widely considered the best wet market with the freshest produce, meats, and fish in Singapore.

You can also buy fresh flowers here.

There are strict rules about hygiene and preservation at this market. All of the fish and meats must be kept on ice or refrigerated to prevent them from spoiling.

There's a hawker centre here too, with all sorts of street food.

It's easy to tell which are the best vendors: the longer the line, the better the food.

Outside the market, the neighbourhood has a peaceful feel, especially when you stroll down the quiet, small back alleys.

There's also a strong community feel here. You might stumble on an impromptu garage sale or gathering on the street.

Now explore another hot neighbourhood in a different part of the world.

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