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Spend the weekend at one of the many innovative workshops in Pearl's Hill Terrace. Nicholas Yong

Gazetted Car-Lite Areas In Singapore: Pearl's Hill

Only a stone’s throw away from bustling Chinatown, Pearl’s Hill is one of the smaller designated car-lite zones in Singapore. At the top of the hill, you'll find a beautiful park with stunning views, offering a serene spot to relax and recharge. And if you're looking for a little bit of old-school charm mixed with trendy coffee shops and studios, you'll love the eclectic mix of shops that surround the area.

We explored Pearl’s Hill on foot to see how it fares as a car-lite area.

Where is Pearl’s Hill?

Nestled between Outram Road and Upper Cross Street, Pearl's Hill is one of the few surviving hills in the city. Did you know this used to be the home to Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the Singapore Police Force.

Interestingly, Pearl's Hill used to be even higher than Fort Canning Hill. But the British lowered its peak to ensure that enemies couldn't use it as an attacking position against Fort Canning.

Fun fact: Pearl's Hill is named after Captain James Pearl, the skipper who brought Sir Stamford Raffles to Singapore in 1819 and acquired the hill in May 1822. He sold it to the British six years later when he retired and returned to England.



How to get to Pearl’s Hill?

Hop off at either Chinatown or Outram Park MRT stations to reach Pearl’s Hill. If you're planning to head up to Pearl's Hill City Park, we suggest alighting at Outram Park and getting out at Exit 8. There are also ample bicycle parking lots available at this exit.

Unlike other car-lite areas we've explored, Pearl's Hill doesn't have designated walking or cycling paths. But don't worry, the narrow roads make it safe and easy to travel on foot.

What to see?

The first thing we wanted to do was to conquer Pearl's Hill itself. It's just a short walk from Outram Park MRT station Exit 8, but the steep stairs can be a challenge for the (literally) weak-kneed.



However, once you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with a gorgeous park surrounded by lush greenery. Keep an eye out for birds and butterflies fluttering around you as you walk. The green space is also great for a workout, with plenty of stairs to get your heart rate up. While the park is small, taking an hour or so to explore the whole area is definitely worth it.

Around Pearl’s Hill, there are several highly rated eateries: Yanxi Dim Sum & Hotpot is at the end of Chin Swee Road, but you need to descend the hill to reach it. If you're in the mood for Japanese, check out Ming San Casual. This cozy restaurant is run by a friendly couple who serve up delicious and affordable food, like their signature Salmon Abuki Maki.


Among the old-school stores here that sell shoes and joss paper, we stumbled upon a charming little coffee shop called The Crossing Edge, where we were pleasantly surprised by the delicious coffee and pastries on offer. It was the perfect place to take a break and cool down after our trek through Pearl's Hill City Park.


The standout gem in Pearl’s Hill is undoubtedly 195 Pearl’s Hill Terrace. In its former life, it was the Singapore Police Force (SPF) Upper Barracks, built after World War II to keep Chinatown safe from crime and vice. The three-story building was equipped with a bomb-proof bunker called the Combined Operations Room. It was the nerve centre for police communication during crises, allowing the police and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to coordinate their response to incidents, such as the Chinese Middle Schools riots in October 1956.

Post-independence, the Ministry of Interior and Defence was based at Upper Barracks until the ministry split into the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) in 1970. Later, the structure became the SPF HQ from 1989 to 2001, before SPF moved to New Phoenix Park.



Today, 195 Pearl's Terrace has been revamped into a hipster hotspot with a variety of creative workshops and studios to explore. These include The Potter's Guilt for ceramics, Black Crow Taxidermy & Art for taxidermy (the art of preserving an animal's body), and Art Nooq for art jamming sessions. You can even fulfil your tattoo-artist dreams at State of Shock, where you can practice on fake skin.

We recommend you stay for dinner at Kult Yard. They serve tacos and cocktails called “Kultails” in an outdoor setting surrounded by colourful murals and replica art pieces. The friendly staff even offered us water seeing us drenched in sweat from exploring all day.

Verdict: Whether you're planning to chalk up 10k steps, a delicious meal, or searching for some creative inspiration, Pearl's Hill is definitely worth a visit.

Singapore car-lite areas

HDB and LTA have designated several areas in Singapore as "car-lite" zones, which are designed to be more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, and have fewer cars on the road.

This is part of the Government’s efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and promote a more sustainable transportation system. For example, these “car-lite” areas will have fewer parking lots, freeing up space for more public facilities and greenery. Parking will be prioritised for residents instead.

Btw, "car-lite" does not mean “car-free” - the idea is to transform the infrastructure to become people-first rather than be car- and road-centric.

Existing places to be developed into "car-lite" areas:

  • One-North
  • Springleaf
  • Marina South
  • Jurong Lake District
  • Bayshore
  • Woodlands Central
  • Pearl’s Hill
  • Tanjong Rhu

"Car-lite" areas in development:

  • Jurong Innovation District
  • Punggol Digital District
  • Kampong Bugis
  • Woodlands North
  • Ulu Pandan
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Tengah Keppel Club

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