Located around the eastern part of Singapore, Geylang is home to a group of the country’s oldest settlers: the Malay community. This has given it a strong connection to the country’s history. But throughout the country’s many waves of immigration, along with a period of colonisation, the area has become one of the country’s most diverse. As a result, there remains a variety of historically important places from the different peoples that have inhabited it.
What’s more, Geylang is also highly accessible and a great place to stay throughout your Singapore trip. You can even find it relatively easy to book a cheap hotel in Geylang—which also makes it convenient to comb through every inch of town. But whether you’ve decided to visit or just simply pass through Geylang, here are some places of historical and cultural importance that you should definitely not miss.
Old Geylang Fire Station
Also known as the Former Geylang Fire Station, this old building was the second-oldest functioning fire station in Singapore—before ceasing operations in 2002. These days, the old fire station continues to receive attention from the government as a conserved building. Some of its spaces are also leased out for commercial and industrial purposes, helping it keep its strikingly bright red doors open to the general public.
The Former Queen’s Theatre
Built during the colonial period and dedicated to the former British Empire’s Queen Victoria, this building was once one of the first film theatres in Singapore. And despite construction starting in the 1930s, its design evokes an older Victorian architectural design, in honour of Britain’s then-longest-reigning monarch. This also lets it provide a noticeable contrast to the nearest neighbouring structures. Despite its shutdown during the 1980s, the building has been relatively well-maintained. This has allowed it to continue living a second life as a historical tourist attraction.
Wisma Geylang Serai
Despite the actual structure being relatively new, the entire facility was specifically built to provide a local hub to promote the area’s culture and heritage. In particular, the Malay Heritage gallery inside can help you get an ordered and well-curated view through the Malay community’s place in both old and modern Geylang. Meanwhile, the entire building’s façade makes use of design elements inspired by old Malay village houses. This makes it a great all-around historical hub to promote Geylang’s rich history.
Char Yong (Dabu) Association Building
The Char Yong Association was originally founded in 1858 to provide protection for Dabu Hakka Chinese immigrants from Guangdong in Mainland China. Over the centuries, it has evolved into a local organisation that promotes education and culture—while also undertaking charity events. While the Char Yong Building itself was built only earlier in the century, it houses tablets inscribed with the original founding members’ names in a back wall of the first floor. The building also has a heritage hall and study room that’s dedicated to Hakka culture, along with two galleries on the upper floors.
Bonus: All the Old Local Shophouses It’s fortunate that quite a number of the shophouses from before the Second World War have survived. As a result, Geylang is still littered with shops featuring frontages that evoke a very old-fashioned charm. They all provide a unique vibe that encourages exploration through the area’s streets and lanes. Along with the other places and buildings mentioned above, there are really a surprising number of interesting places to visit in the area. Indeed, there is more to Geylang—and Singapore in general—than meets the eye.