What to do and where to eat in Geylang? These brilliant tours around the notorious neighbourhood will show you an alternative side to Singapore
Historic architecture, cultural diversity, and cult-status eateries are accolades not commonly associated with Singapore’s Geylang district – which is frequently written off as the island’s infamous nightlife zone. But take a stroll through the meandering lanes and bustling back alleys of this unique enclave, and you’ll find a buzzing hub filled with colourful shophouses, mosques, temples, bars, and more that put Geylang firmly on the must-visit tourist trail.
With a rich history steeped in multi-cultural migration, the Geylang of today is a melting pot of ethnicities and religions. And unlike the rest of the island, it remains largely untouched by urban redevelopment; if you’re looking for a slice of old-school authentic Singapore charm, you’ll likely find it here. And we say it’s high time to delve into this unique neighbourhood through a series of brilliant immersive local tours.
During the four-hour Betel Box Sins and Salvation: a Geylang Food Walk, a loquacious guide will not only shed light on the area’s diverse history, new migrant communities, religions and after-hours activities, but will also encourage you to eat your way around the district. Highlighting the juxtaposition that defines Geylang, you’ll find yourself passing massage parlours one second, and beautiful temples the next.
Meanwhile, the Betel Box Kampung Geylang Serai Uncovered tour takes you straight to the heart of one of Singapore’s oldest Malay enclaves. Discover the past and present of the neighbourhood as you make your way from Geylang Serai Market & Food Centre to Joo Chiat Road. Sample traditional street food while experiencing the culture, trades and crafts of Singapore’s Malay community. Look out for the bird-singing corner, where elders with prized birds in cages compete to see which feathered friend is the most tuneful. Talk about going off the beaten path!
Also famed for its durian shops, a trip to Geylang wouldn’t be complete without a taste of the pungent king of fruit itself – an experience that Karni Tomer of Wok ‘n’ Stroll claims to be the “ultimate foodie courage test”. Try it for yourself during her Beguiling Geylang food tour through authentic hawker centres and illuminated night markets. This three-hour night crawl will expose you to other local delicacies including dim sum, turtle soup, black herbal tea, and more. Brace yourself, and your tastebuds!
Hectic by day and night, it’s also a must-visit for those keen to explore a totally unique side to the city. Uncover the neighbourhood’s interesting past, and multi-faceted present with the Secrets of the Red Lantern™: A Chinatown & Geylang Night Tour; first you’ll take in the buzz of Chinatown – famed for its back alley opium and gambling dens in the 19th century – before a jaunt around Geylang. It’s an eye-opening experience brimming with tales of vice and tragedy; not for the faint of heart, nor the kids!
Sins and Salvation: A Geylang Food Walk, book your tour via the website or call p. (65) 6247 7340.
Kampung Geylang Serai Uncovered, book your tour via the website or call p. (65) 6247 7340.
Beguiling Geylang, book your tour via the website or call p. (65) 8338 3571.
Secrets of the Red LanternTM: A Chinatown & Geylang Night Tour, book your tour via the website or call p. (65) 6325 1631.
This article was published in Singapore Insider, a series of quarterly print guides produced in partnership with Singapore Tourism Board. Pick up the printed edition for free at Singapore Visitor Centres island-wide, including Orchard (junction of Cairnhill Road and Orchard Road), orchardgateway, ION Orchard (Level 1 Concierge), and Chinatown Visitor Centre (2 Banda Street), or download the digital version.