Ced earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies in 1999. His interests include history, traveling, and mythology.
Seeking a more spiritual experience when visiting the multi-cultural Southeast Asian metropolis? Pop by any of these temples in Singapore for a dazzling and inspirational journey!
Note regarding access information: While many of the following institutions are conveniently within walking distance from local subway (MRT) stations, you will still require a map in order to pinpoint their exact locations.
COVID-19 January 2021 Update
Singapore is currently in “Phase 3” of reopening after COVID-19 semi-lockdown measures. Institutions of worship are correspondingly permitted larger numbers of visitors and worshipers.
Nonetheless, it is imperative to check visiting conditions and regulations before heading to any of the temples mentioned below. Note too that attendance of some ceremonies, such as prayer sessions, may require advanced notification too.
10 Spectacular Temples in Singapore You Should Not Miss
- Thian Hock Keng Temple
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
- Sri Mariamman Temple
- Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
- Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple
- Maha Sasana Ramsi (Burmese Buddhist Temple)
- Toa Payoh Seu Teck Sean Tong
- Leong San See
- Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple
- Sri Krishnan Temple
1. Thian Hock Keng Temple
Translated as the “Palace of Heavenly Happiness,” this venerable Chinese temple flanking the financial district is one of the oldest and most important institutions of worship for the Singaporean Chinese Hokkien community.
Devoted to Mazu, the Chinese Goddess of the Sea, Thian Hock Keng began as a joss house in 1821, and over the years, was rebuilt with community funds into the atmospheric complex it is nowadays. Architecture wise, the complex also reflects classic Chinese design, in which a cluster of buildings encloses a peaceful central courtyard.
Of note, the elaborate main entrance with its many golden motifs and men shen (Gods of Doors) is a key attraction of Thian Hock Keng. The culture and heritage represented by these artworks are also an intriguing contrast against the ultramodern skyscrapers nearby.
Access Information: Thian Hock Keng is approximately ten minutes’ walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT Station on the East West Line.
2. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
Opened amid much fanfare in 2007, Singapore’s famous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is today, one of the most iconic landmarks of the Chinatown district. A must-visit too on most guided tours.
Inspired by classic Chinese Tang dynasty architecture and housing a spectacular golden interior, the complex is renowned for its Tibetan influences as well as for being the repository of a Buddha tooth relic recovered in Myanmar in 1980.
When visiting, do not skip the museum on the upper levels too, the art and history collections of which easily rival those of major Buddhist temples in other parts of Asia. The precious Buddha tooth relic itself is also housed in a golden sanctuary on the fourth floor. It is not an exaggeration to say that entering this sanctuary is akin to stepping into the heart of an astonishing Tibetan mandala.
Access Information: The temple is a few minutes’ walk from Exit A of Chinatown MRT Station. The station is on the North East Line and Downtown Line.
3. Sri Mariamman Temple
The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore is interestingly not in the Serangoon Little India district but on the outskirts of Chinatown. Just a mere three minutes’ walk from the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, to be exact.
Established by Southern Indian business pioneer Naraina Pillai in 1827, the main shrine is dedicated to Mariamman, the Hindu Goddess of Rain. Over the years, the entire complex also developed into a key community institution for Tamil Hindus in Singapore.
In recent years, Sri Mariamman Temple became famous for its annual fire-walking ceremony (timiti), an intense ritual that typically takes place in October. For tourists, what’s most fascinating about this historical Singaporean landmark is likely the six-tier Dravidian gopuram capping the entrance. For those who are familiar with Hindu mythology, you will find many major Hindu divinities and legends represented in this astonishing pagoda.
Access Information: Use Exit A of Chinatown MRT Station on the North East Line and Downtown Line, and head down Pagoda Street. The street was named after the gopuram.
4. Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
Singapore’s largest Buddhist temple is somewhat of an exotic Buddhist wonderland. Nestled in the heart of the city-state and originally a small forest temple, this beloved Buddhist institution is today a sprawling complex. One that includes multiple halls, several pond gardens, a decorative corridor, and even a huge golden stupa.
Among Singaporeans, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See is also more commonly known as Guang Ming Shan (Bright Hill, the location of the site). Today, the monastery is one of the foremost Buddhist institutions of Singapore, with elaborate veneration ceremonies conducted every year during Vesak Day.
Of note, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery is doubly famous locally because of its second abbot, the Venerable Hong Choon. The abbot is widely believed by older Singaporeans to be one of the personal advisors of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
During Lee’s funeral in 2015, Phor Kark See conducted the primary Buddhist prayer rituals for the former prime minister. Various other famous Singaporean Chinese personalities also received their final rites from this monastery.
Access Information: The easiest way to reach the "Bright Hill” is to head to Bishan MRT Station on the North South Line and Circle Line. From there, cut across the shopping complex to the Bus Interchange to hop onto Service 410W. (Additional payment required) The bus stops right before the complex, the seventh station as of 2021.
5. Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple
As with Chinese temples in other countries, it is not uncommon to find both Buddhist and Taoist divinities revered within the same complex in Singapore. The Lian Shan Shuang Lin complex in the Toa Payoh residential district is a foremost example of this.
While officially referred to as a monastery, the grounds include the airy Lian Shan Cheng Huang Miao, a huge shrine devoted to the worship of the Taoist city god and other Chinese deities. Architecturally, the main monastery is a serene paradise, with design elements mirroring those of temples in Southern Chinese provinces like Fujian and Zhangzhou.
For visitors keen on photography, Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple has a fabulous seven tier gold-topped pagoda. This religious landmark, backed by the signature public housing blocks of Singapore, will provide for a most distinctive Singaporean picture.
Access Information: 15 minutes’ walk from Toa Payoh MRT Station on the North South Line. You’ll need a map to navigate through the dense housing blocks surrounding the temple.
6. Maha Sasana Ramsi (Burmese Buddhist Temple)
One of the smaller institutions on this list, Maha Sasana Ramsi is the oldest Theravada Buddhism institution in Singapore and the only Burmese temple in the country. Established in 1875 by Burmese immigrant U Thar Hnin, the temple also is famous locally for its impressive three-meter pure marble Buddha statue, the largest of its kind outside of Myanmar.
At the same time, the grounds contain a Bodhi tree, as well as a spacious meditation hall with a, glided standing Buddha statue. For tourists, Maha Sasana Ramsi is conveniently located beside the restored Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. A visit to both can easily be completed within an hour.
Access Information: Maha Sasana Ramsi is a rather complicated walk from Toa Payoh MRT Station on the North South Line. An easier way would be to take a taxi from Toa Payoh MRT Station.
7. Toa Payoh Seu Teck Sean Tong
Seu Teck Sean Tong is more of a neighborhood Chinese Buddhist temple rather than a major religious landmark of Singapore. However, take a look at its entrance archway and you’d agree it belongs on any travel listicle about must-visit temples in Singapore.
Nested on a knoll within the Toa Payoh residential district, the majestic entrance not only evokes the impression of a mountain sanctuary, with the right photographic angle, it also delivers a distinctive Wuxia final duel flavor.
For visitors uninterested in photography or Wuxia adventures, the interior of the main worship hall contains over a hundred colorful Chinese paintings depicting the events of Journey to the West i.e. the Adventures of the Chinese Monkey King. Lastly, being within one of the oldest residential districts of Singapore, Seu Teck Sean Tong is walking distance from several hawker centers. You could move on to discover Singapore’s fabulous street food, after experiencing the country’s Chinese cultural heritage.
Access Information: Ten minutes’ walk from Braddell MRT Station on the North South Line.
8. Leong San See
If you’re seeking a more intimate experience different from the grandeur of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple or Kong Meng San Phor Kark See, Leong San See is the place to head to.
Compacted and with a wonderfully crowded and atmospheric main hall, Leong San See is likely what most newcomers to Asia would imagine a Chinese temple to be. That being, mysterious, meditative, and with a strong touch of the esoteric.
Beyond the main hall, this gem near the Little India district opens up to a courtyard garden and ancestral worship hall too, the garden itself containing a bewildering assortment of Chinese statues.
An important note here for visitors keen on photographing the rear segments. Leong San See is one of the few religious institutions in Singapore that do not openly restrict photography in its ancestral worship hall. However, please refrain if you see funeral rites ongoing. It is considered extremely rude to photograph grieving families.
Access Information: Five minutes’ walk from Farrer Park MRT Station on the North East Line. Use Exit B.
9. Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple
Literally a stone’s throw away from Leong San See, as in it is just across the road, Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple is a temple of extremes. Comparatively small compared to other well-known Singaporean Buddhist temples, the key attraction here is an immense 15-meter tall seated statue of the Buddha. One that weighs an astonishing 300 tons.
Encircling the Buddha are also various dioramas depicting the life and enlightenment of the Buddha, in addition to a tiny room underneath the altar venerating a reclining Buddha. Because of the stylized aura created by bulbs surrounding the huge Buddha, this Thai Buddhist temple is alternatively called the Temple of 1,000 Lights in older Singaporean travel literature.
Regrettably, though, it is nowadays difficult to visit the temple when the bulbs are lit. They are not switched on in the daytime and the temple closes daily before 5 pm. If you do have the chance to visit in the evening, such as during Vesak Day celebrations, consider yourself as having experienced one of Singapore’s most spiritual sights. One of the most beautiful too.
Access Information: Five minutes’ walk from Farrer Park MRT Station on the North East Line. Use Exit B.
10. Sri Krishnan Temple
At the fringe of the Bugis heritage district is Sri Krishnan Temple, a 148-years-old Singapore Hindu temple devoted to Hindu savior Krishna and his consort Rukmini. Comprehensively restored in 2018 after four years of painstaking works, the compact complex is currently a vibrant repository of Southern Indian religious art, with colorful eye-catching statues and wall reliefs at every turn. (And an elaborate fountain at the rear too)
Strongly recommended is a Friday evening visit, when the entire compound comes alive with prayer and lights. The beauty of the exotic sculptures underneath the blue evening sky is positively surreal in feel. Mixed with the scent of jasmine flowers and incense, and singsong prayers, it is a mystical experience you are unlikely to soon forget.
Access Information: The nearest MRT station is Rochor MRT Station on the Downtown Line. From there, it’s approximately five minutes’ walk.
Bonus: 5 Other Gorgeous Singaporean Chinese and Hindu temples to Consider Visiting
If your appetite for Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu religious art is whetted after visiting the above recommendations, consider dropping by the following 5 Singaporean temples too. These offer a slightly different experience than the ones featured above.
- Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho Temple: On Waterloo Street and right next to Sri Krishnan Temple, this shrine to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy—Kuan Yin—is one of the most popular Chinese Buddhist temples in Singapore. While there’s not a lot to see, the compound is swarmed by devotees every Chinese New Year’s Eve. Making it, in a way, one of the best places in Singapore to experience Chinese New Year festivities.
- Sree Maha Mariamman Temple: Ever wonder what’s it like inside a golden palace? This Hindu shrine in the northern part of the city-state will give you a pretty good idea.
- Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple Singapore: Like Sri Mariamman Temple, the main attractions here are the exotic gopuram and many mythical sculptures. The entrance is also five minutes’ walk from Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple. Every January/February, the temple is the starting point of the annual Thaipusam procession.
- Palelai Buddhist Temple: Hidden away on a quiet hilltop in the Bedok residential district, this is one of the few places in Singapore where it actually feels like you’re in a Bangkok suburban neighborhood.
- Kusu Island Chinese Temple: For something truly different, board a ferry and venture out to tiny Kusu Island. One of the last remaining coastal temples in Singapore, the grounds contains a large pond complex, with the island itself also one of the best places to enjoy the Singapore skyline from afar.
© 2018 Ced Yong
Ced Yong (author) from Asia on July 05, 2018:
Thanks for commenting, Linda! Hope you come and visit us soon.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 05, 2018:
The temples look ornate and very interesting. I love your photos. Combined with your descriptions, they create an enjoyable and informative article. If I ever go to Singapore, I'll definitely visit some of the temples.
Ced Yong (author) from Asia on July 04, 2018:
Hey Mary, thanks for your comments! You should definitely visit more of these temples the next time you're here. The museum at the Buddha Tooth temple is absolutely fantastic.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 04, 2018:
What a great presentation enhanced by the way you put the pictures together. I have only visited Sri Mariamman Temple. Next time I visit, I will certainly visit these others.