The Bras Basah and Bugis Walking Trail sets you in the heart of Singapore, slightly off the beaten track, to discover a rich heritage of a time gone by, and the up-and-coming trends of today. This guided introduction will highlight sites of interests along the streets in the area.
The Bras Basah - Bugis district is bounded by Rochor Road, Beach Road, Selegie Road, and Fort Canning Hill. Set in the heart of the city, this area is alive with creative buzz and youthful energy - an emerging arts, culture, learning and entertainment district. The district houses Singapore’s major performing arts and visual arts institutions, and numerous arts groups have clustered along Waterloo Street.
While other districts in Singapore plunge into a quest to modernise, Bras Basah - Bugis manages to retain a hold on its past and revels in the rich architectural and cultural heritage on the area - it is a treasure trove of cultural and architectural references with its compelling blend of old and new buildings.
Nearest MRT Stations: Bugis [EW12/DT14], Bras Basah [CC2]
View The Bras Basah and Bugis Walking Trail in a larger map
As shown in the map above, the various sites of interest in this area have been arranged into a walking route from Bugis Junction to the National Library, which would take approximately one and a half hours. Each site of interest is listed below with a brief description of the site's history and significance.
1 Bugis Junction
This is Singapore's first air-conditioned, sky-lit shopping arcade, and is extremely popular with teenagers. Built around quaint and historic restored shophouses, Bugis Junction is a charming showcase of how old-world sensibilities are tastefully and artfully integrated into the modern city.
2 Bugis Village
Crossing Victoria Street into Bugis Village, one enters a spectacular clash of old and new. Set amidst restored shophouses, the street bazaar is Singaporean shopping at its most hyperactive. Always buzzing with activity, this is widely considered the cheapest, if not the best, place to buy T-shirts for family back home, and is justifiably popular with youth for its streetwear and locally-designed T- shirts. Beyond the souvenirs and knick knacks, Bugis Village offers local delicacies and fruits like the durian.
3 Albert Mall
The main thoroughfare serving the Bugis area is Albert Mall, a magnet for the local community and tourists alike who come here savour its colourful street life. Rub shoulders with the snakecharmer who sells the miracle cures of medicated snake oil, take a ride on one of the many colourful traditional trishaws or explore the local “wet” market, where locals go to do their daily grocery shopping.
4 Buddhist Kwan Yin Temple
Dedicated to Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, it is said that wishes made in here gets granted, which would explain the crowds of devotees gathered here. The procedure? Enter, light some joss sticks, pray, then shake a container of bamboo sticks until one falls out. With this stick, get a matching slip with verses (available in English and Chinese) explaining your fate. Take the slip to one of the resident soothsayers for more explanation. Free, although voluntary donations are accepted.
5 Hindu Sri Krishnan Temple
The Hindu Sri Krishnan Temple stands side by side with the Buddhist Kwan Yin Temple, in reverence and peace, as an epitome of religious harmony in Singapore. There is usually a steady stream of Chinese visitors from the Kuan Yin Temple who enter to pray and make offerings to the Hindu gods worshipped here too!
6 Stamford Arts Centre
The boundary wall of the Stamford Arts Centre stands on the other side of the open space, creatively imprinted with colourful murals painted by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and students from LaSalle College of the Arts, reflecting the eclectic and unique character of the area.
7 Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA)
NAFA is an arts education institution specialising in visual and performing arts and fashion studies. Take in the delightful mural on the boundary wall of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation building, designed and painted by NAFA students.
8 Sculpture Square
Step into the delightful Sculpture Square - a contemporary art exhibition space showcasing art from up-and-coming talent in the region. Need a breather? Make a stop at the quaint cafe within Sculpture Square. Popular with the local student community, it is a delight for the senses.
9 Waterloo Street
A stretch dedicated to various arts uses and activities, Waterloo Street is a sight to behold, with its array of prewar bungalows and shophouses in different architectural styles, akin to an open-air architectural museum. Along Waterloo Street, put on your dancing shoes at the Dance Ensemble Singapore, or learn a brush stroke or two at the Singapore Calligraphy Society.
10 Singapore Art Museum
One of Singapore’s finest example of colonial architecture, this building once housed the Saint Joseph’s Institution. Today, it houses the national art gallery - the Singapore Art Museum - and is home to a permanent collection of over 4000 Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art pieces. It is also the nation's premier venue for international art exhibitions and hosts meaningful community outreach programmes.
11 Singapore Management University (SMU)
Singapore's third and newest full-fledged autonomous university is uniquely located in a sprawling city campus. The six buildings of the campus are connected by an underground walkway known as the Concourse, which is open to the public and lined with shops. SMU is a hive of activity throughout the week, an endless source of youthful energy.
The building, which was built in 1890, was an award winning conservation project. Once the home of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) school and orphanage, CHIJMES now houses art galleries, boutiques and fine restaurants within its courtyards. The lawns, waterfalls, fountains and sunken forecourt give a sense of spatial dynamics rare in Singapore. Its main attraction is the Gothic-style chapel, with its beautiful stained-glass windows.
13 National Library
Singapore’s National Library is located in a new 18 storey state-of-the-art building which also houses the National Arts’ Council’s Drama Centre. The two blocks are linked by skybridges on every floor, and the gardens and expansive windows of the building offer panoramic views of the city.