When planning a trip to Singapore, there’s one thing on many travellers’ minds more than anything: food. And, oh, how spot on you’d be in setting your main goal of visiting the Lion City as eating to your heart’s content!
After visiting dozens of cities on the continent, I can say with grand and unshakeable certainty that Singapore is one of the best food cities in Asia. Nay. The world. And nowhere in this fine city-state is there a better way to experience complete food bliss than in one of the best hawker centres in Singapore.
For the uninitiated, hawker centres are a massive part of the Singaporean food culture. Although they sound a little dubious, they’re best described as a food court taken to its most logical extreme. On its own, visiting a hawker centre is a must-have cultural experience in Singapore. Of course, the real treat isn’t to just walk around aimlessly, but to partake in the gastronomical nirvana that awaits!
Not sure how to get started exploring the scene? Here’s a quick guide to some of the top Singapore hawker centres to suss out on your next trip to the Lion City…
Table of Contents
- Top Singapore hawker centres: 11 must-try places to eat
Top Singapore hawker centres: 11 must-try places to eat
Chinatown Complex Food Centre
There’s hardly a better place to get acquainted with Singapore’s food culture than the massive and central Chinatown Complex Food Centre. Situated in the heart of, you guessed it, Chinatown, this hawker centre offers a wealth of top-notch food options that can keep your tastebuds exploring for hours, if not days. (This is, after all, the largest hawker centre in food-obsessed Singapore!)
Unsurprisingly, the Chinatown Complex Food Centre is heavy on Chinese-inspired dishes like wonton noodles, char kway teow, Hokkien mee, chicken rice, dim sum, lor mee and bak kut teh. You’ll also have no problem finding other more “local” popular Singaporean foods like satay, laksa, and chill crab here.
Nearest MRT station: Chinatown MRT (NE4), Exit B
Hong Lim Market & Food Centre
Although its just steps away from the popular Chinatown Complex Food Centre, Hong Lim Market & Food Centre doesn’t get the recognition it deserves among travellers. Certainly, that’s less a reflection on the quality of the food here than the fact that it’s slightly tucked away from the main streets of Chinatown.
If you manage to snake your way into Hong Lim Market and Food Centre, you’re instantly treated to a sprawling two-storey food extravaganza chock-loaded with some of the Singapore’s most famous food stalls (including a couple Michelin-starred gems).
While there’s no end to the joy you’ll discover here, keep on the look out for Famous Sungei Road Trishaw Laksa, serving up a delicious and aromatic laksa that’s among the city’s best; and Ah Hong Curry, home to some seriously mind-blowing curry noodles.
Nearest MRT station: Chinatown MRT (NE4), Exit G
Maxwell Food Centre
Completing the trifecta of stellar hawker centres in the Chinatown area, Maxwell Food Centre offers a superb variety of local dishes to suit all tastes. Much of its fame these days was no doubt sparked by a visit from the late Anthony Bourdain who dubbed the signature dish at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice as one of his favourites in Singapore.
(Truthfully, the chicken rice found elsewhere in Maxwell Food Centre is often just as good—and without the perpetual long queue!)
Even if you’ve already exhausted the chicken rice contingent, there’s a handful of other dishes worth seeking out here including pork congee from Zhen Zhen Porridge, char kway teow from Marina South Delicious Food, and wonton noodles from Guangdong Wan Ton Mee.
Nearest MRT station: Chinatown MRT (NE4), Exit B
Old Airport Road Food Centre
A little further afoot than other popular hawker centres, Old Airport Road Food Centre gets high praise from gourmands and recommended by Singaporeans as one of the best places to eat in Singapore. This iconic food court isn’t just one of the city’s largest but one of the first. Some of the food stalls here have operated for generations. To put it mildly: You’re gonna get to experience some pretty legendary food when digging in here.
As you’d expect, all the Singaporean favourites are found here from char kway teow and Hokkien mee to rojak and kway chap. The most famous dish at Old Airport Road Food Centre, however, is undoubtedly soya beancurd. Plop yourself into the long queue at Lao Ban Soya Beancurd or 51 Soya Beancurd to see what the fuss is all about.
Nearest MRT station: Dakota MRT (CC8), Exit A
Tiong Bahru Market
Located in the historical neighbourhood of the same name, Tiong Bahru Market is a pleasant surprise for travellers used to Singapore’s older hawker centres. Thanks to a recent renovation, this food market is one of the airiest, cleanest, and most comfortable in the city. It’s a particularly good introduction to Singaporean hawker fare if the thought of eating from informal food stalls leaves you a tad bit squeamish.
Tiong Bahru Market is unique in that it offers both a wet market on the first floor along with a sizeable food court on the second floor. There is, of course, an endless multitude of dishes to try here. Some of the most famous hawker stalls here include 178 Lor Mee, Lee Hong Kee Cantonese Roasted (for roasted duck rice), and Min Nan Pork Ribs Prawn Noodle.
Nearest MRT station: Tiong Bahru (EW17), Exit B
Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre (Telok Ayer Market)
If you’re spending time in the central business district of Singapore, there’s a good chance that the Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre (often also referred to as Telok Ayer Market) will catch your eye. Settled among some of the city’s most impressive modern architecture, this 120-year-old pavilion is one of the most popular Singapore hawker centres thanks to its unique wrought-iron design, ample seating, and diverse selection of mouth-watering foods.
In my few visits to Singapore, the Lau Pa Sat Pavilion quickly become one of my favourite places to eat. Whereas other hawker centres often presented a challenge in finding seats, the 2,500-odd seats here means that, outside of the busier lunch rush, you’ll often have no problem find a place to plop down to eat.
Although you can rarely go wrong with trying new foods in Singapore, I took a particular liking to the char kway teow at Lai Heng Fried Kway Teow and the noodle soup at the Qiu Lian Ban Mian hawker stall.
If you find yourself in the Lau Pa Sat area in the evening, don’t miss the chance to get your Singapore BBQ meat fix on Satay Street. Located on Boon Sat Street just behind the pavilion, this nightly experience sees a handful of Singapore’s top satay vendors briefly open up shop to serve their most succulent attempts at this popular street snack.
Nearest MRT station: Telok Ayer (DT18), Exit A
Rarin’ to try Indian food while in Singapore? There’s hardly a better place to tackle your deepest cravings than at Tekka Centre in Little India. From the moment you enter this 3-storey food complex, your olfactory sense will become overjoyed with the savoury smells of Singapore’s tastiest curry dishes—among a whole host of other Singaporean favourites!
A favourite hotspot in the Little India food scene, eating at Tekka Centre is bound to impress both your palate and your wallet.
The hawker centre is most famous for its biryani, a popular Indian rice dish served with chicken or mutton and flavoured with various spices. Allaudin’s Briyani is one of the most popular hawker stalls at Tekka Centre to indoctrinate your tastebuds to this flavourful dish.
Nearest MRT station: Little India (DT12), Exit A
Makansutra Gluttons Bay
While it gets flak for being a little less than authentic tthan other hawker centres, it’s hard to argue that Makansutra Gluttons Bay isn’t one of the finest places to eat in the city. To some, the cuisine here may feel a little more run-of-the-mill and overpriced compared to food courts elsewhere in Singapore. But—my, oh my!—the fantastic views here are hard to beat.
Compared to the claustrophobic indoor quarters of many Singapore hawker centres, Makansutra Gluttons Bay is an open-air food court perched on the edge of Marina Bay, opposite the iconic Marina Bay Sands.
Spending the wee hours of the night here, sipping on a pint of Tiger and chomping down satay or chilli crab to the lights of Singapore’s skyscrapers shining into the waters, is as rewarding an experience as any as you’ll have during your Singapore itinerary.
Nearest MRT station: Esplanade (CC3) or City Hall (NS25)
Chomp Chomp Food Centre
Once you’ve hit up all the top hawker centres in the city centre, drift up to Chomp Chomp Food Centre in the Serangoon Gardens area of Singapore’s north. This busy food court is popular among local residents and foodies from elsewhere in the city for its plentiful selection of Singaporean favourites at prices lower than closer to the centre.
Your tastebuds will be delighted to salivate at just about everything you’d picture from a top Singapore hawker centre, from spicy & savoury dishes like sambal stingray and BBQ chicken to sweeter delights like carrot cake and sugar cane juice.
To taste a legendary local favourite, brave the perpetual queue at Ah Hock Fried Hokkien Mee (#27) to order their famous hokkien mee. In true Singaporean style, the hokkien mee spins together thick egg noodles and thin bee hoon noodle with seafood in a rich prawn broth. Smother it with sambal paste for an extra jolt of spice.
Nearest MRT station: Serangoon (CC13), Exit B
Amoy Street Food Centre
Thanks to its central location near the central business district, Amoy Street Food Centre is a favourite among Singapore’s caffeine-wired office workers crunching numbers nearby. Like nearby Lau Pa Sat, the top hawker stalls here suffer from long queues at peak meal times (and are often closed at other times of the day). You’ve been forewarned!
Although there’s a slew of amazing dishes to try at Amoy Street Food Centre, don’t leave without a stop at the Michelin-starred A Noodle Story (#01-139). Their signature noodle dish, blending Japanese-style ramen with wontons, roasted pork, and prawns. This, my foodie friend, will be a game-changer for you!
Nearest MRT station: Tanjong Pagar (EW15)
Satay by the Bay
Worked up an appetite while wandering around the spectacular Gardens by the Bay? Scoot on over Satay by the Bay for quick a bite! This outdoor food court sits on the edge of the northeastern corner of the gardens and specializes in—as you might have guessed from the name—Singapore’s most famous BBQ dish.
Even if you’re not into satay, plenty of other delicious Singaporean foods await at Satay by the Bay. Other top-notch local favourites you’ll find here include char kway teow, carrot cake, hokkien mee, roti prata, and laksa.
Nearest MRT station: Bayfront (DT16)