19 heritage trails have been collated by the National Heritage Board, (beginning 1999) … snapshots of the island’s history and geography. For those inclined to explore, this is a short overview on what’s out there.


Balestier : Moderately easy : 3 hours

A bit hilly on the Tan Tock Seng side / about 9,000 steps in total

Highlights :

  • Temples : Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Buddhist temple, Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong
  • Film Studio : Shaw Brothers
  • Markets : Balestier Market (the only surviving rural market built in 1922), Whampoa Food Market
  • Food : Loy Kee Best Chicken Rice, Loong Fatt Tau Bar Piah Chinese Bakery and Sing Hon Loong Bakery. Boon Pisang Goreng is recommended for its banana fritters, and its Nian Gao and yam fritters. Combat Durian is right behind the only surviving permanent wayang stage in Singapore. The Lam Yeo Coffee Powder company is also recommended.
  • Residences : Sim Kwong Ho shophouses and Art Deco Apartment blocks
  • The Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall and the former Mandalay Road Hospital

For foodies – the area is packed with food offerings alongside history, and three mini trails focus on architecture, heritage and food, while offering many snack breaks.


Toa-Payoh : Moderately easy : 4 hours

Three bus rides, each averaging about 2 stops and a sprawling walk with many stops and detours / about 10,000 steps in total

Highlights :

  • Temples : Seu Teck Sean Tong, United Temple, Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman Temple
  • Masjid : Masjid Muhajirin
  • Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery
  • Dragon Playground @ Toa Payoh Town Park – an iconic space
  • Tree Shrine

Toa Payoh, the first town project designed and built by the Housing Board, has the multi-cultural diversity characteristic of older districts as well as the more utilitarian features of modern urban planning. The various religious institutions are examples – ranging from a folksy tree shrine to the upgraded complex of the Masjid and the Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman Temple which traces its roots to a former choultree (rest area) in Orchard in the 1860’s.


Jalan Besar : Moderately easy : 4 hours

Two bus rides of 2 to 3 stops each, a sprawling exploration, needs planning / about 8,500 steps in total

Highlights :

  • Shophouses : Petain Road –  stunning, with elaborate friezes, some colourfully painted
  • Temples : Central Sikh temple, Chwee Kang Beo temple, Sri Manmatha Karuneshvarar Temple
  • Church : Holy Trinity Church – has distinctive winged roof elements tiled in green, reflecting its Chinese roots
  • Hospital : Kwong Wai Shiu, founded in 1910
  • Allenby House and International Hotel
  • Jalan Besar Stadium

Spot on for fans of architecture – the buildings run the gamut from traditional religious architecture to elaborately decorated shophouse and sleek Art Deco constructions. The Chwee Kang Beo temple has a replica of a Ming-era junk made by a worshipper who once built boats – harking back to the area’s maritime roots.


Bukit Timah : Moderately easy : 1 hour, 40 minutes

Two bus rides of 4 to 6 stops each / about 6,600 steps in total

Highlights :

  • Masjid : Masjid Al-Huda
  • Temple : Hoon San Temple
  • Former Bukit Timah Railway Station – the only suburban station left standing of the Singapore to Bukit Timah section of the Singapore-Kranji Railway, which opened in 1903
  • Beauty World Centre
  • Former Ford Factory – where the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese during World War 2 – a wartime museum

There are 3 trails – WWII Legacy, Kampung Life and Learning and Leisure (around the Botanic Gardens and Adam Road Food Centre). Some landmarks are more than half an hour apart on foot.

  • Dress comfortably (and for the weather), and carry sunscreen and an umbrella.
  • Be mindful about dress and photography in the areas you visit, especially religious sites.


The content of this post is derived from the 6 December 2020 article in The Straits Times.