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Downtown Chinatown, Singapore: A resident’s guide to living, eating and shopping


British Filipina Leanda Rathmell and her two housemates share a charming three-bedroom shophouse in the heart of Chinatown.

EL: Why did you choose to live in Chinatown?

Ultimately, it all came down to “location, location, location!” Once we found this shophouse, we instantly fell in love with the vibe of the area. My housemates and I worked in the CBD, and we made the most of being able to sleep in, since work was only a 15-minute walk away. I have since moved jobs, but they still have this luxury!

EL: Best thing about living in this area?

Chinatown oozes character and is consistently on the move. Though orderly skyscrapers tower over this little community, it remains a self-contained hub of constructive chaos and historical splendour. Luckily, several parts of Chinatown have been declared national heritage sites, allowing these architectural gems to live on. 

EL: Why this particular home?

When looking for housing, we consciously avoided condominiums and high-rises, and opted for something a little different. Despite our budget, we were eager to find a shophouse, as we adored the idea of wooden beams and open shutters on rainy days. Though this place required a lot of TLC, we picked it because of the street it’s on, its reasonable rent and the flexibility of the landlord, who let us completely change the interior from the paint down to the showerheads. As residential shophouses are becoming increasingly rare, we were lucky to find it.

EL: Which facilities were important to you?  

Unfortunately, most shophouse dwellers forfeit the luxurious facilities that many condominiums offer. So, we joined Fitness First around the corner, which has a great gym and a stunning infinity pool that overlooks the city.

EL: How have you found living in this neighbourhood?  

Funnily enough, we received an alarming amount of caution that the area was dangerous and dodgy. After living here for more than a year, I beg to differ. Our neighbours couldn’t be more friendly and helpful, and much like the rest of Singapore, there is a real sense of security.

EL: Is public transportation easily accessible?

The Chinatown MRT station is just a three-minute walk away, and we are surrounded by bus stops covering most, if not all, routes. When I’m late, flagging down a taxi is never a problem!

EL: What is missing from your area?

Until recently, I would have said a salad bar. But I am proud to say that Salad Stop has just set up shop around the corner. The next thing on my wish list is a restaurant that serves a decent breakfast or brunch. I would love to have somewhere to sit down with a good book to a plate of pancakes. And whilst I’m at it, a couple of tennis courts and a barbecue pit nearby would be great.

EL: Are there any drawbacks to living where you do?

Just one. With so many Chinese restaurants around, the smell of cooking oil can get a little overwhelming at times. But once you succumb to the temptation and the fact that dieting is practically impossible in this area, life becomes a whole lot easier!


EL: Favourite restaurant for a special night out?

Club Street is riddled with Italian and French restaurants and cafés. In this high-rise city, I can’t imagine how anyone could resist the romantic vibe of such a quaint street.

EL: Favourite “cheap and cheerful” restaurant?

When you’re in the mood for quality Asian cuisine (or mind-blowing hangover grub), the popular hawker centre, Lau Pa Sat, is less than five minutes down the road.

EL: Preferred local hangout for a drink?

Beaujolais on Ann Siang Hill, for sure! The fact that there’s never an empty seat is testimony to how much of a treasure this place is. The atmosphere, electronic jukebox and hospitable staff make it ideal for drinks.  

EL: This neighbourhood is perfect for …

Aspiring hippies and bakhwa fanatics. 




Fitness First Platinum

#05-01 One George Street

+65 6538 7666


Salad Stop

#01-01 One George Street

+65 6720 0378

Lau Pa Sat

18 Raffles Quay

+65 9730 9991


Club Street