A Guide to Exploring the Historical Road of Tampines in SG
Singapore/ Nomads/ Explore

A Tourist’s Guide to Exploring the Historical Road of Tampines in Singapore


Aside from its towering trees in Gardens by the Bay and the mythical Merlion statues dotted along the city-state, Singapore is a hotspot of historical sites waiting to be explored and admired.

One of the districts in Singapore with a wealth of history to share can be found in the eastern region — Tampines!

What began as a farming and fishing village, Tampines Road (pronounced as tam-pee-knees) has evolved into one of the city-state’s modern new towns, with a plethora of retail and leisure shops such as Century Square, Tampines Mall, and the largest IKEA store in the Lion City. For lovers of nature and culture alike, the district is also home to the Tampines Eco Garden, The Chinese Temple, Tampines Regional Library, Hike Tampines Quarry, and more.


Tampines derived its name from tempinis trees, also spelt as tampenis (a type of timber), which once flourished in the area. About 40 years ago or less, Tampines was considered a rural district or “ulu” in Malay because of its remote location far away from the city.

Before being converted into a cart tract in 1864, the road was originally a “bridle path” or a horse trail surrounded by coconut palms, fruit trees, farms, and sand quarries, and residents nearby take pride in their livelihood of poultry and vegetable farming.

The urbanisation of Tampines New Town initiated in 1979 resulted in the resettlement of 3,700 villagers including plantation workers, sand miners, and travelling hawkers. It took 10 years for the Housing & Development Board (HDB) to make way for the infrastructure works, replacing traditional kampong houses (with attap and zinc roofs) with low-rise flats, recreational parks, and retail establishments. However, this major transformation brought about environmental issues including the virtual extinction of Tempinis trees.

Despite having a reputation for being one of Singapore’s most haunted roads, Tampines is regarded as an award-winning town, clinching the World Habitat Award by the Building and Social Housing Foundation and UN-Habitat in 1992. The award recognised the town’s “high-quality, high-density and affordable housing.”

In the same year, Tampines recorded 232,700 HDB residents and 68,812 managed flats. It became one of the “most livable towns” in the city-state due to the amenities situated within a 300-metre radius of the train station (see map here). The vicinity has three shopping malls, multiple office buildings, a fully integrated community, and a lifestyle centre.

It is also Singapore’s first precinct town based on HDB’s New Town Structural Model in 1979, which serves as a blueprint for the strategic allocation of residential, commercial, and open spaces within the neighbourhood. The precinct is categorised into three tiers:

  • Four to eight blocks of flats (public spaces and playgrounds)
  • Six to seven precincts (Neighbourhood)
  • Four to five neighbourhoods organised into towns

What to See

More than just shopping malls and corporate buildings, Tampines harbours some unique “UFO sightings” along Old Tampines Road. Fret not, there are no extraterrestrial beings involved; these are actually storage tanks by Singapore’s National Water Agency NEWater built in 2004 with inverted cone-shaped structures.

Each tank measures 43 metres wide and has the capacity to store 8,500 cubic metres of NEWater or approximately three to four Olympic-sized swimming pools. The water is used to supply nearby electronic chip manufacturing factories.

To further preserve Tampines’ heritage and culture, the town is full of community spaces including churches, markets, and parks or nature reserves. Its Temple Cluster involves Taoist, Buddhist, and Chinese temples, such as Jiutiaoqiao Xinba Nadutan Temple, Kew Sian King Temple, Hiap Tien Keng Leng Poh Tian, Soon Hin Ancient Temple, Tua Pek Kong temples, and more.

On the other hand, one notable green space in the district is Tampines Central Park. It is recognised for its “multi-coloured, mosaic-tiled watermelon and mangosteen playgrounds,” which were part of the second-generation projects of HDB in the 1980s. Its whimsical structure is similar to watermelon slices and two larger-than-life mangosteens with doors and windows.

Finally, Our Tampines Hub is one you shouldn’t miss when you stroll along Tampines Avenues 4 and 5. With a glass façade that gleams at night, this 5.3-hectare complex stands as Singapore’s first-ever integrated community and lifestyle hub mounted on the former grounds of Tampines Stadium and Tampines Sports Hall.

To further embody the spirit of the dynamic town of Tampines, the hub includes an 800-seat hawker centre, a 32-lane bowling centre, six rooftop swimming pools, and 20 badminton courts, to name a few. For more information about Tampines Road heritage trails, visit this link.

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