beautiful painted historic Peranakan houses

Emerald Hill Road Singapore Guide 2024

Nestled in the heart of Singapore, Emerald Hill is a captivating blend of history, culture, and modern charm. Once a nutmeg plantation, this vibrant neighbourhood now stands as a testament to Singapore’s rich heritage, with its beautifully preserved shophouses and trendy cafes.

Imagine walking down a lane lined with beautifully preserved Peranakan houses, their intricate facades telling tales of a rich cultural heritage. This is not just any stroll; it’s a journey back in time. Emerald Hill, with its vibrant history and architectural beauty, offers a tranquil escape from the modern world’s hustle and bustle.

Join me as we explore the hidden beauty that is Emerald Hill, discovering its stories and its enduring spirit that captures the heart of Singapore’s rich cultural landscape.

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Location of Emerald Hill

Emerald Hill is located just off the shopping mecca of Orchard Road in Singapore. It’s worth the short detour to see these colourful, historical buildings that are part of Singapore’s culture.

History of Emerald Hill Singapore

The area of Emerald Hill was thought to be originally rainforest, but Chinese immigrants began using it for pepper plantations. However, when William Cuppage took over the land in 1837, it was barren.

William Cuppage was originally a Postal Clerk who first leased Emerald Hill in 1837 and subsequently obtained a grant for a nutmeg plantation in 1845. Unfortunately, in the 1860’s, disease went through the plantation and the business failed. William continued to live there until he died in 1872. The land and two houses were passed onto his two daughters and, later, sold to his son-in-law, Edwin Koek.

beautiful painted historic peranakan houses in emerald hill singapore

Koek then built another house on the land and turned the area into an orchard. Unfortunately, this failed, and he went bankrupt, so ended up selling to Thomas Rowell in 1891.

Seah Boon Kang and Seah Boon Kiat bought the land from Rowell and then demolished the houses to make way for terrace houses.

The land was subdivided in 1901 into 38 plots and 28 of those were sold. The builders were mainly Peranakans or Straits born Chinese, which shows in the architecture.

In 1985, it was announced that Emerald Hill would be a conservation area in order to retain some of the best examples of Straits Chinese style of housing. The conservation area also includes the development known as ‘Peranakan Place’, which is a row of 6 two-storey shophouses (about 1902) fronting Orchard Road.

Architectural Highlights of Emerald Hill

Emerald Hill is renowned for its stunning Peranakan shophouses, which seamlessly blend Chinese, Malay, and European design elements.

Peranakan Shophouses

The most iconic feature of Emerald Hill is its rows of Peranakan shophouses. These colourful, two- and three-story buildings date back to the early 20th century and are characterised by their intricate facades, ornate tiles, and wooden shutters. Each shophouse is a work of art, with detailed carvings and vibrant paintwork that tell the story of the area’s multicultural heritage.

Art Deco Influences

As you stroll through Emerald Hill, you’ll also notice the influence of the Art Deco movement, which was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Some shophouses feature streamlined designs, geometric patterns, and elegant curves, reflecting the modernist trends of the time. These architectural details add a unique charm to the neighborhood, setting it apart from other heritage areas in Singapore.

Unique Design Elements

Keep an eye out for unique design elements that set each shophouse apart. From intricate Peranakan tiles to decorative plasterwork and wooden louvered windows, these features highlight the craftsmanship and artistry of the era. Many buildings also have distinctive pintu pagar (swinging doors) at their entrances, adding to their traditional charm.

Exploring the architectural highlights of Emerald Hill is like stepping into a living museum. Each building tells a story of Singapore’s past, offering a fascinating journey through time and culture.

Emerald Hill boasts a number of high-quality restoration projects. These can be seen at 6, 41, 45, 50, 63, 65, 66, 74, 77 and 94 Emerald Hill Road.

Number 39 features a traditional Teochew gateway and was built for Goh Kee Hoon.

Please be mindful that most of the houses are residential so noise should be kept to a minimum and privacy respected.

a beautiful example of Peranakan painted houses

Cafes, Restaurants & Bars in Emerald Hill

Acid Bar is at the front of Emerald Hill, on Orchard Road. It is packed solid on weekends with locals enjoying their cocktails while listening to the live music. Enjoy a wide selection of cocktails, craft beers, and wines, along with a menu featuring delicious bar bites like satay and truffle fries.

No 5 Emerald Hill has been operating since 1991. This two-storey cocktail bar is housed in a beautifully restored 1910 Peranakan shophouse, complete with original wall paints and antique carvings. Try their signature Chilli Vodka and Chicken Wings.

Alleybar is a cool cocktail bar situated between two Peranakan houses along Emerald Hill. This stylish bar offers a relaxed atmosphere with its vintage decor and cosy seating. Enjoy a wide selection of cocktails, craft beers, and wines, along with a menu featuring food like truffle fries and sliders.

Ice-Cold Beer is the place to go for a refreshing brew. Located in a historic shophouse, this laid-back bar offers an extensive selection of local and international beers. Pair your drink with their mouth-watering pizzas and wings for a perfect night out.

Que Pasa is an authentic Spanish tapas bar, serving 60 wines from all around the world. It is also located in a 1910 Peranakan shophouse.

Tips for Visitors to Emerald Hill

To make the most of your visit, here are some practical tips:

Getting There

Emerald Hill is conveniently located near Orchard Road, one of Singapore’s most famous shopping districts. The easiest way to get there is by taking the MRT to Somerset Station (North-South Line). From the station, it’s just a short walk to Emerald Hill Road.

Another option (what we did) was to buy a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off Bus.

Best Time to Visit

While Emerald Hill is beautiful year-round, the best time to visit is in the late afternoon or early evening. The lighting is perfect for photography, and the area comes alive as restaurants and bars start to open. Weekdays are generally quieter.

Photography Tips

Emerald Hill is a photographer’s dream. To capture the vibrant colours and intricate designs of the shophouses, visit during the golden hour (just after sunrise or before sunset). Don’t forget to look up and capture the beautiful facades and ornamental details. Be respectful of residents’ privacy when taking photos.

Dining Reservations

If you plan to dine at one of the popular restaurants or bars in Emerald Hill, it’s a good idea to make a reservation, especially on weekends. Places like No. 5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar and Alley Bar can get quite busy, so booking ahead ensures you get a table.

Explore Beyond the Main Road

While Emerald Hill Road is the main attraction, don’t miss the smaller lanes and alleys branching off it. These quieter areas often hide charming little shops, cafes, and interesting architectural details that are worth exploring.

Respect the Heritage

Emerald Hill is a residential area with a rich history. Be mindful of the local residents and respect the heritage buildings. Avoid making excessive noise, littering, or touching the fragile architectural elements.

Stay Hydrated

Singapore’s climate can be quite hot and humid, so make sure to stay hydrated. Carry a bottle of water with you as you explore, and take breaks in the many cafes and bars to cool down and relax.

Local Etiquette

When visiting Emerald Hill, it’s important to observe local customs and etiquette. Dress modestly if you plan to enter any religious sites nearby, and always ask for permission before photographing people.

Combine with Orchard Road Visit

Since Emerald Hill is just a stone’s throw away from Orchard Road, plan to combine your visit with some shopping or dining on Singapore’s most famous retail street. It’s a great way to experience both the historical charm of Emerald Hill and the modern vibrancy of Orchard Road.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through Emerald Hill. May it inspire you to explore, to learn, and to always appreciate the rich cultural heritage that surrounds us, no matter where we are in the world. Why not take a look at other Singapore articles to help plan your trip to Singapore.

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