Adventures At Home: Let's Rediscover Queenstown
STORY: Nicholas Yong
13 October 2021
Queenstown is the OG Singaporean satellite town, so there’s more to see at this mature estate than shopping at IKEA – think delicious hawker fare and charming sundry shops, to many “firsts”, like the first HDBs, first full-time branch library, and one of the first shopping malls.
With the National Heritage Board and My Community’s Queenstown Heritage Trail, we recount the story of this old school neighbourhood and visit the iconic landmarks that define the area. Wear some comfortable shoes, it’s going to be a long (but very fun) trip!
Borrow a book at Queenstown Public Library
This is Singapore’s first full-time branch library and the oldest library in the country. It was opened by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 30 April 1970 to provide access to books that many couldn’t afford at the time.
One section is dedicated to rediscovering the history behind Queentown Public Library through the years – the coolest part is the Memory Chest wall, using the old library’s catalogue cabinet.
Sports shopping at Queensway Shopping Centre
Everyone knows Queensway Shopping Centre as the place to get your sporting goods and for me, my football jerseys. I knew it was old, but I didn’t know it was one of Singapore’s first multi-purpose shopping complexes alongside Golden Mile and Katong Shopping Centre. Opened in 1974, the first public escalators in Singapore were installed right here in Queensway Shopping Centre too.
Besides getting a new pair of kicks, Queensway Shopping Centre also houses not one, but two awesome makan spots – the Queensway Famous Curry Chicken and Janggut Laksa. Ahhh, nothing like a comforting bowl of laksa or curry chicken on a rainy day.
Go for a run at Queenstown Sports Complex
Now that you’ve got your sporting gear ready, it’s time to head to Queenstown Sports Complex to burn all the calories from the earlier makan sesh. As with a lot of things in Queenstown, it was the first neighbourhood sports complex in Singapore - opened on 15 August 1970 by Lim Kim San, then Minister for Education. Your parents might remember the Queenstown Stadium for NDPs in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
The stadium is popular among runners especially during the day #fitspo. The bright yellow seats also make for a killer Instagram photo.
Explore Tanglin Halt Neighbourhood Centre
Queenstown is known for its hip brunch scene and the ever-popular ABC Brickworks, but some of the best food in the area can be found at Tanglin Halt Neighbourhood Centre.
Check out the Delicious Duck Noodles stall serving generous amount of lean duck meat, the popular Wei Yi Laksa & Prawn Noodle with a spicy kick, and the famous Tanglin Halt Original Peanut Pancake serving the most authentic peanut pancake on this little Red Dot – everything is still made by hand!
There are also pioneer businesses that have been around since this centre was opened way back in 1962. Tian Hut is one of the oldest provision shops in Queenstown, and so is Kiang Seng, which also sells religious items to groceries. Check out the Poh Onn Tong Chinese medicine shop, which has an iconic wooden medicine cabinet to store herbs.
The only McDonald’s that gives you Japan vibes in Singapore
The McDonald’s here at Ridout Tea Garden is probably the most picturesque outlet in Singapore – where else can you have a delicious Big Mac overlooking a pond with terrapins and fish. Come early on weekends because you can expect a queue – but the McDonald’s staff here are super nice to lend you umbrellas to hide from the sweltering heat.
More things to eat at the Commonwealth Crescent Neighbourhood Centre
We hope you still have space in your tummy, because the Commonwealth Crescent Neighbourhood Centre is another heritage spot with good food.
The Queenstown Popiah here has been passed down to the second generation, with each roll still made by hand. Also try the Hong Kee Congee, Henry’s Chicken Rice (since 1985), Xi Le Teng for old-school desserts, and Milah Hokkaido Curry Puff – confirm the taste is not like your ordinary curry puffs.
Boys looking for a cheap haircut should visit the vintage Sin Palace Hairdressing Saloon – Mr Ong is a neighbourhood icon, and one of the few remaining barbers who is an expert in the traditional art of ear cleaning. The décor here makes you feel like you’re transported back to the ‘70s, and even the blue floor tiles are all original.
Your Insta-Walk checklist here:
The first HDB blocks
Blocks 45, 48, and 49 Stirling Road may not look extraordinary, but they are the first ever public housing blocks constructed by HDB. Completed in 1960, these seven-storey blocks stood out as the only high rise buildings in undeveloped swampy Queenstown at that time, and were nicknamed Qik Lao (Hokkien for 7 storey).
Singapore’s first HDB terraces were also built in Queenstown - learn more about them and other unique HDB blocks in Singapore here.
This majestic mosque with a round dome is Singapore’s first mosque designed by HDB, opened on 9 October 1977. According to Islam, prayer halls must face Mecca, but the building was to be located at the corner of Stirling Road so it was structurally challenging to align the mosque to Mecca and adjoin the roads. The solution: house a rectangular prayer hall within a circular building, giving it its unique look.
Tiong Ghee Temple
The oldest Taoist temple in Queenstown features traditional Chinese architecture. The pair of dragon figurine and lion statues are bilaterally symmetric – see for yourself!
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
Queenstown’s first Catholic church has a striking blue slanted roof, which looks like a folded tent to symbolise the “tent of meeting in the Bible’s Old Testament”. The church was awarded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2005.
Affectionately known as the “Hospital in a Garden”, Alexandra Hospital is surrounded by greenery and perfect for Insta photos galore. When it was opened in 1940, it was the principal hospital for Britain’s Far East Command during World War II and the most-advanced medical institution in Singapore and Malaya. Pose for phoots at the main garden, then search for the basement tunnel entrances to take some creative shots.
Happening history sia
Get your trail map and guide for the Queenstown Heritage Trail here. But before you head out, visit the My Community website where you can find a virtual tour of the area – a good way to plan your route.
Once you’re here, stop by Museum @ My Queenstown to learn more about the rich history of Singapore’s first satellite town.