Singapore is a multicultural society with all the world's major religions co-existing peacefully side by side. This article aims to provide an overview of the places of worship in Singapore that tourists are most likely to want to visit.
What is now Singapore was historically under the control of numerous kingdoms of the Malay Archipelago, with some of the most notable ones being Srivijaya (based in Palembang in modern-day Indonesia), Majapahit (based in Java in modern-day Indonesia) and the Malacca Sultanate (based in modern-day Malaysia). The modern history of Singapore is generally said to have begun in 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company exploited a succession dispute in the royal family of the Johor Sultanate (which Singapore was under the jurisdiction of at the time) to establish a British trading post on the island, at the mouth of the Singapore River. Due to Singapore's strategic location on the main shipping routes between West Asia and East Asia, and Raffles' masterstroke to declare it a free port, Singapore's grew into one of the world's busiest trading hubs under British colonial rule, attracting numerous immigrants from far and wide looking to make their fortunes. Many of these immigrants brought their religions with them, establishing numerous places to worship to cater to their respective communities.
Today, Singapore remains a religiously diverse place with no religious group forming a majority; Buddhism, Taoism (which in the Singaporean context also encompasses traditional Chinese folk religion), Christianity, Islam and Hinduism all exist in significant numbers, with Buddhists forming a plurality among Singapore's religious groups. Sikhism and Judaism exist in much smaller numbers, though they too have roots in Singapore dating back to colonial times, with members of these communities having made significant contributions to the country's development. Besides the aforementioned religions, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and the Baha'i Faith have also been given official recognition by the Singapore government, and while there are no places of worship dedicated to those religions, their religious governing bodies have offices in Singapore where people of those faiths can gather to perform their respective religious rituals.
- 1 Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple (觀音堂佛祖廟/观音堂佛祖庙 or more colloquially, 觀音廟/观音庙), 178 Waterloo St (Bugis). Singapore's most popular Buddhist temple, dedicated to the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, also known in Chinese as Guan Yin. Come here to see throngs of devotees offering prayers and performing divination rituals. Due to its popularity, the temple has grown very rich from the donations of devotees, and is actively involved in numerous charitable ventures.
- 2 Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (佛牙寺), 288 South Bridge Rd (Chinatown). A relatively new temple dating only to 2007, built in a style reminiscent of the architecture of China's Tang Dynasty. It was built to enshrine a tooth said to have been found within a collapsed stupa in Myanmar, which is said to be of the Gautama Buddha, though this claim is controversial among experts. Regardless of the tooth's authenticity, the opulent interior of the temple is virtually guaranteed to leave visitors awestruck. Only monks are allowed into the relic chamber on the fourth floor, though there is a public viewing gallery that is open to visitors at certain times of the day. The temple also houses a vegetarian restaurant in the basement.
- 3 Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery (雙林寺/双林寺), 184 Jalan Toa Payoh. Singapore's oldest Buddhist monastery, built with a donation from the wealthy Hokkien merchant Low Kim Pong in 1904. Its layout is inspired by that of the Xichan Temple in Fuzhou, China, while main buildings incorporate design elements from different parts of Fujian province, namely Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. The monastery is today also known for its pagoda, which is easily visible when travelling on the adjacent Pan Island Expressway. Vegetarian food is sold in the monastery's dining hall on weekends, important Buddhist festivals, and on the 1st, 15th and 24th day of each month of the traditional Chinese calendar.
- 4 Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (光明山普覺禪寺/光明山普觉禅寺), 88 Bright Hill Rd. Singapore's largest Buddhist monastery. The expansive grounds consist mainly of buildings in a traditional Chinese architectural style, though the new meditation hall completed in 2020 was built in a contemporary architectural style, and the adjacent Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas is topped off by traditional Thai-style stupas. There is also a temple garden with the Dragon Pond, designed to evoke contemplation of Buddhist precepts, and a vegetable garden where some food for the monks is grown. Visitors may also head to the Dining Hall to purchase vegetarian meals in the mornings on weekends and Buddhist festivals, but be sure to go early as they get sold out quickly, and there is also a minimart on the temple grounds where visitors may purchase vegetarian snacks. The temple grounds is also home to the Buddhist College of Singapore, where one can study for degrees in Buddhism. Arguably the best time to visit is on Vesak Day, when the temple will be packed to the brim with local devotees, who will be lining up to bathe a statue of the baby Gautama Buddha.
- 5 Wat Ananda Metyarama (วัดอานันทเมตยาราม), 50B Jalan Bukit Merah. Singapore's oldest Thai Buddhist temple, founded in 1918, and now under the patronage of the Thai royal family. While the main building exhibits strong influences from the traditional Thai architectural style, the extension building is built in a contemporary architectural style, making the difference between the two particularly striking.
- 6 Burmese Buddhist Temple (သာသနာ့ရံသီ မြန်မာဘုရားကျောင်), 14 Tai Gin Rd (Balestier). The oldest Theravada Buddhist temple in Singapore, founded in 1875, and moved to the current site in 1991. The temple is the only one outside Myanmar to be built in a traditional Burmese architectural style. It is also home to the largest pure white marble Buddha statue outside Myanmar, which was carved in Mandalay in 1918, and shipped to Singapore in 1921.
- 7 Thian Hock Keng Temple (天福宮/天福宫), 158 Telok Ayer St (Chinatown). Singapore's oldest Chinese temple, built in a traditional Hokkien architectural style to serve that community, but also incorporating various other design elements as well, including cast-iron railings from Scotland at the front entrance, and some decorative tiles from the Netherlands. It is mainly dedicated to the goddess Mazu, but with a smaller shrine behind the main hall dedicated to the Buddhist Bodhisattva Guan Yin (the Chinese name of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara), and several other smaller altars on the side dedicated to numerous other traditional Chinese deities, including one to Confucius. Today, the temple is known for its intricate carvings and sculptures on the temple buildings, including several of Indian persons holding up the roof beams in honour of the Indian labourers who helped build it. The temple possesses a plaque inscribed with the Chinese characters 波靖南溟 (Gentle Waves over the South Seas), which was presented to it by Emperor Guangxu of China in 1907, making it one of only two temples in Singapore bestowed with this honour.
- 8 Yueh Hai Ching Temple (粵海清廟/粤海清庙), 30B Phillip St (Riverside). Singapore's oldest Teochew temple, also known as Wak Hai Cheng Bio in Teochew, built in a traditional Teochew architectural style, with the hall on the left dedicated to the goddess Mazu, and the hall on the right dedicated to the god Xuan Tian Shang Di. The hall on the right is also home to an idol of the traditional Chinese love god Yue Lao (identifiable by the red strings around his neck), and commonly prayed to by single locals looking for love. The temple is known for its intricate carvings, and for its colourful roof sculptures depicting scenes from Teochew opera. The temple possesses a plaque inscribed with the Chinese characters 曙海祥雲 (Peaceful clouds over the Ocean at Dawn), which was presented to it by Emperor Guangxu of China in 1899, making it one of only two temples in Singapore bestowed with this honour.
- 9 Armenian Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, 60 Hill St (Riverside). Singapore's oldest church, completed in 1835, and part of the Armenian Apostolic Church within the Oriental Orthodox communion. Its design is based on that of the Echmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia, but with numerous adaptations for Singapore's tropical climate. While Singapore's Armenian community is today much smaller than in its heyday, divine liturgies are still performed here for important festivals such as Easter and Christmas, and the church continues to be a centre of cultural activities for the Armenian community.
- 10 St Andrew's Cathedral, 11 St Andrew's Rd (Riverside). Singapore's Anglican cathedral, completed in 1861 in a mainly neo-Gothic architectural style, and considered by many to be Singapore's most impressive church. Named after the patron saint of Scotland in honour of the Scottish community who had donated funds for building the church.
- 11 Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, "A" Queen St (Orchard). Singapore's Roman Catholic cathedral, and oldest Roman Catholic church, completed in 1847, and formerly home to the French Mission in Singapore. It is named after St. Laurent-Marie-Joseph Imbert, a French Roman Catholic bishop who was tortured and killed for his faith by Korea's Joseon Dynasty in 1839, whose relics are interred within the church. It is also home to Singapore's oldest extant pipe organ.
- 12 St. Joseph's Church, 143 Victoria St. A Roman Catholic church completed in 1912 to serve Singapore's Portuguese Eurasian community, and formerly home to the Portuguese Mission in Singapore. It was built in a Gothic revival architectural style and is known for its distinctive blue and white paint scheme, as well as blue and white Portuguese azulejo tiles adorning the front facade, while the interior is known for its impressive stained glass windows. Today, the church is the only one in Singapore to still conduct Latin Masses, though Masses are offered in English as well. The church also continues to follow numerous numerous Portuguese religious traditions, including the annual Good Friday procession, and the commemoration of Our Lady of Fátima on the 13th of each month.
Almost all Muslims in Singapore follow Sunni Islam, but there is one Shia mosque, and Shia Muslims may practise their religion freely.
- 13 Sultan Mosque (Masjid Sultan), 3 Muscat St. Located in the heart of Kampong Glam, the history of this mosque is tied closely to the founding of modern Singapore as a British colony by Sir Stamford Raffles. Tengku Hussein, a rival claimant for the title of Sultan of Johor, gave the British permission to set up a trading post in Singapore, in exchange for an annual stipend and British support for his claim. Using this money, Tengku Hussein built himself a small palace, and a mosque next to his palace. The current mosque was built on the same site in 1928, as the original one had become too small due to the growth of the Muslim community in the area, and is today known for its distinctive golden domes.
- 14 Hajjah Fatimah Mosque (Masjid Hajjah Fatimah), 4001 Beach Rd. Named after a Malay noblewoman who had donated money to build the mosque. It is known of its eclectic blend of Islamic and European architectural elements, with a large Moorish dome above the main prayer hall, but a minaret built in a traditional European architectural style, resembling the bell towers of traditional European churches. The minaret is also known for leading slightly off-centre towards the main prayer hall. The grave of Hajjah Fatimah herself is located within the grounds of the mosque.
- 15 Abdul Gaffoor Mosque (மஸ்ஜித் அப்துல் கஃஊர்), 41 Dunlop St. Located in Little India, and built in 1859 to serve the Tamil Muslim traders living in the area, as well as the Bawean syces and horse trainers who worked at the then-nearby racecourse. The architecture is an eclectic blend of Saracenic and Neoclassical architectural styles, with Islamic motifs adorning the walls, and a distinctive cupola above the main prayer hall. Today, the temple remains a major centre of worship for Singapore's Tamil Muslim community, and conducts Islamic religious courses in Tamil.
- 16 Sri Mariamman Temple (ஸ்ரீ மாரியம்மன் கோவில்), 244 South Bridge Rd. Singapore's oldest and largest Hindu temple, perhaps surprisingly located in Chinatown and not in Little India, dedicated to Mariamman, a rain goddess most prominent in the rural areas of South India. Particularly known for its impressive gopuram above the main entrance. The annual Thimithi fire walking festival is held here.
- 17 Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (ஸ்ரீ வீரமாகாளியம்மன் கோவில்), 141 Serangoon Rd. This temple in the heart of Little India is its most important one, dedicated to the goddess Kali. This remains a popular temple among local Hindu worshippers, and the temple is particularly vibrant during important festivals like Deepavali and Durga Puja.
- 18 Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (சிங்கப்பூர் ஸ்ரீநிவாசப் பெருமாள் கோயில்), 397 Serangoon Rd (Little India). Dedicated to the god Vishnu, this temple is the starting point of the annual Thaipusam procession, in which male devotees don elaborate shrines that pierce through their bodies, and proceed to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple near Fort Canning. The temple is also the starting point for the annual Thimithi procession, which proceeds to the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown where the actual fire walking takes place.
- 19 Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (சிங்கப்பூர் தண்டாயுதபாணி கோயில்), 15 Tank Rd. Dedicated to the Tamil war god Murugan, and end the point of the annual Thaipusam procession that takes place in his honour. Originally founded by the Chettiars, who originated from Chettinad in Tamil Nadu and dominated Singapore's banking industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Many Sikhs were brought to Singapore by the British during the colonial era to serve as soldiers and policemen. Today, despite their small number, Sikhs play a prominent role in Singapore's social fabric, and have held numerous important government roles.
During the colonial period, many Baghdadi Jews moved to Singapore as traders to escape persecution by the Ottoman governor of Baghdad. While most of the community moved to Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia following independence, a handful chose to remain in Singapore, and have made important contributions to Singaporean society; Singapore's first legal aid fund was set up by the Baghdadi Jewish lawyer Harry Elias. Today, the Singaporean Jewish community remains small, with a community of about 180 people, and they are far outnumbered by expatriate Jews from Western countries. Virtually all Singaporean Jews follow Orthodox Judaism, though there is also a Reform synagogue whose congregation is almost entirely made up of expatriates.
- 21 Maghain Aboth Synagogue, 24/26 Waterloo St (Orchard). The oldest surviving synagogue in Southeast Asia, completed in 1878, and today the main centre of Jewish life in Singapore. The main building was built in the colonial style, albeit incorporating some neoclassical elements, with three Stars of David adorning the front facade. Today, the grounds of the synagogue are home to Singapore's only kosher grocery store, its only kosher restaurant, and classrooms where religious classes for Jewish children are conducted.
- 22 Chesed-El Synagogue, 2 Oxley Rise. Built in 1905 in a beautiful Renaissance architectural style, originally as a private synagogue for Baghdadi Jewish businessman Sir Manasseh Meyer, but today available for community use.
While the Zoroastrians, Baha'is and Jains do not have their own places of worship in Singapore, they have been given official recognition by the Singapore government, and each of them has a local governing body and community centre where communal prayers can be conducted.
- 1 Zoroastrian House, 83 Deskar Road. The headquarters of the Parsi Zoroastrian community in Singapore, with a small museum dedicated to their history and religion, and with a prayer hall for communal prayers.
- 2 Bahá'í Centre, 55 Cantonment Rd. The headquarters of the Baha'i community in Singapore, which also serves as its community centre for communal activities.
- 3 Singapore Jain Religious Society, 18 Jln Yasin. The headquarters of the Jain community in Singapore, and also its main location for communal prayers.