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Discover Singapore: History of Jalan Besar and Things to Do There

June 16, 2021

Jalan Besar is an area that holds historical importance and has an old-world charm. It has numerous eateries, hostels, clan associations, engineering workshops, and offices that add up well to its richness. The distinctive streetscape of this place remains familiar to Singaporeans even though the area underwent several changes.

History of Jalan Besar

Jalan Besar means “big road” in Malay. It is a place that started as a track through a betel fruit and nut orchard, which was opened by the Norris Brothers during the 1830s. The Municipality of  this place expanded the road during the 1880s and 1980s and named it Jalan Besar. Jalan Besar has now become a one-way road that connects Lavender Street and Rochor Canal in Singapore. 

Jalan Besar was initially a swampland. Lavender Street was an area that stinks of the night soil that was used as fertilisers, and the area near Lavender Street was dotted with vegetable farms. Several ribbon developments that happened at Lavender Street after World War I gave way to the rise of many shophouses. The development at the place brought much building of houses in addition to communication routes like roads and railway lines. They laid several new roads like Flanders Square, Kitchener Road, and Jellicoe Road - these were named after key personalities and battle sites of World War I. The development also gave way to the establishment of several new industrial workshops at this place, many of which remain still now.

The New World Amusement Park was an important landmark to the north of Kitchener Road since it offered many exciting options for entertainment. The park was built by Boon Tat and Peng Hock, and it was opened in 1923. Many people continue to associate with it even now although it got closed down in 1987. This place is now redeveloped into a condominium that has a public park and shopping mall. The original gate of the New World Amusement Park was reconstructed at the entrance of the public park as a reminder of the past.

Jalan Besar - Birthplace of Singapore Football

The Jalan Besar Stadium which was built in 1932 is another key attraction in Jalan Besar. This place is considered as the birthplace of Singapore football - the Malaya Cup and the Malaysia Cup was held at the Jalan Besar Stadium for more than four decades before it moved to the National Stadium.

Exploring the Hidden Gems of Jalan Besar

The best thing you could probably do when you are in Jalan Besar is to go explore the charm of the street that is lined with shophouses, cafes, longstanding eateries, and much more. Jalan Besar's neighbourhood has also been declared as a conservation area for its rich history and charm. Here are a few things to do on the Street.

Visiting Apartment Coffee

Apartment coffee is a warm and inviting cafe for coffee lovers. It is a quiet place that offers a space to connect with others through conversations in the best way possible - with a sip of coffee. The cafe has a simple menu that offers single origins, green tea, a blend of Colombia el mirador, hot chocolate, and oolong tea. You can also pick up a book and laze the day away if you are visiting the place alone.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware

It is an old school flagship store that houses a coffee school, a coffee bar, a roastery and a private room for tasting coffee. This place has a food menu with items like mantou and chilli crab. It is also an ideal place to lounge around and get to taste an amazing sip of coffee. The store also has a rustic exterior that gives an old school image.

Sungei Road Laksa

Sungei Road Laksa is a humble stall that offers a menu with just one item. The shop attracts long queues every day for its special laksa. They serve their dish in a typical Katong Laksa style without any chopsticks, but with just a spoon. The highlight of the dish is its light gravy that has the right amount of spiciness. The dish is very aromatic and flavourful and it includes a good amount of fishcake and cockles, which makes us want to have more than a bowl.

Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant

It is one of the most amazing dim sum places of Jalan Besar that wins the hearts of both Singaporeans as well as foreigners. Visiting this restaurant is one of the best things one can do while visiting the street as it offers a wide selection of dim sum dishes. The popular dishes of this place include Siew Mai, salted egg custard bun, shanghai xiao long bao, and shrimp fried rice. Another important aspect of this place is that the dishes are truly affordable.

Visiting Char

This place does a rendition of char siu using fork-tender meat by drenching it in a gloriously sticky, sweet, and salty sauce. They also serve roast duck infused with jasmine tea, along with soya sauce kampong chicken. You can pair this delightful trio with ciders, beers or wines to improve the dining experience.

Trying Burgers at Two Blur Guys

It would be a wrong idea to judge them by their name because they are really good when it comes to the food they make. Making burgers are what they are specialised in and they make it using everything from chicken to beef to seafood and vegan items. The classic burger of this cafe is a popular choice for visitors. You can also try something with a little twist like cheese patty burgers or spam ham.

Visiting For the People

This place is new to the cafe scene at Jalan Besar. It is located on a stretch of other cafes, backpackers hostels, and hardware shops. This is somewhere you could find a minimalist space with a beautiful array of geometric shapes, designs and colours. They have a standard menu for their place that offers all-day brekkie, coffees, juices, smoothies, pastries, and beers. The signature dishes of this cafe are waffles and fried chicken, wagyu beef burger and eggs benny.

Going to Wimbly Lu

This is a must-visit place in Jalan Besar if you’re someone who likes to have something sweet. The place offers everything your heart desires if you’re one such person. The menu includes pancakes that are topped with ice creams, waffles, cakes in coconut lime, crepes, and much more. The place also offers special sweets such as Nutella pie, chocolate cheesecake, puddings, caramel brownie etc. to treat the visitors.

Visiting Two Bakers

Two bakers is an ideal place to have a healthy brunch. They offer a line-up of delectable dishes such as corned beef and spam hash, crab eggs benny, stuffed omelettes, earl grey pancakes, and kaya french toast. You can also get to taste delicious desserts, which are an absolute sight to even behold. Most of these desserts also come with designs that make us think they are too pretty to eat.

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