Monday, August 26, 2013

CHIJMES: Chapel in Singapore Turned Hip Party Place?

One afternoon, during my very first trip to Singapore in 2008, the ex-BF (now the Husband) and I found ourselves within the grounds of a really nice church compound.  But we weren’t there to attend mass on this particular trip.  Nosiree; for believe it or not, we were there to have dinner.


This beautiful building complex, known as CHIJMES (pronounced simply as "chimes"), is a well-known entertainment and dining hub here in the Lion City.  From it's former life as a Catholic School, convent (Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus or CHIJ) and living quarters (Caldwell House), we now see these structures housing an art gallery, shops, and various dining establishments with a really healthy night life.

Al fresco dining

An Uncomplicated History

How a religious complex, which was once home to a Catholic school, convent, and chapel, could have been turned as a lifestyle hub is not too bad and complicated a story as it sounds.

The convent acquired tracts of land bit by bit since its establishment in the 1800s that it eventually spanned a whole city block.  When the government decided to develop a mass transportation system, they acquired the complex in the 1980s, a portion of which they eventually redeveloped to house the MRTC headquarters and an MTR station.  The schools and convent were then moved to a new location in Toa Payoh.

To preserve the ambiance of the remaining structures, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) gazetted Caldwell House and the chapel as national monuments.  The whole complex was then classified as a conservation area, meaning that the surrounding buildings were now to be subjected to high restoration standards, and their future eventual use, under strict usage guidelines.  This then lead to the opening of CHIJMES in 1996 (visit the Singapore Infopedia website for the full story.)

What Is It Now?

The surrounding buildings, which once served as living quarters for nuns and classrooms for the students, now holds an art gallery and a number of restaurants and bars featuring all sorts of cuisine; most open at night till the wee hours of the early morning.

Restaurants and bars

In the middle of the complex is a beautiful Gothic style chapel that was constructed in 1904.  Deconsecrated in the 1980s when the convent was eventually closed, this structure is now known as CHIJMES Hall, a multipurpose function venue that serves as an on-site location for various events like parties, corporate functions, and weddings, of course.

The old Chapel now CHIJMES Hall

Is it Sacrilegious?

Is it sacrilegious?  The use of a once holy place of worship, now turned to a social mecca of food and drink?  I guess it is a question better left to those more qualified than me to assess.  I do feel glad that a place of such historical value is given another life, albeit a cry away from its original religious origins.  Much better than having them raze the whole lot to the ground, right?

One of the bars inside CHIJMES

Having payed host to numerous events, it has in a way continued to serve the community by providing a place to unwind and relax after a hard day's work.  Strolling through the premises in the morning gives one a brief idea of how the complex may have looked like in its former life.

A quiet life, though, it does not lead.  Why just last April 2012, an "Escape Chapel Party", which was to be held at CHIJMES Hall caused a stir among the local Catholics when the events organizer used girls dressed in short, mini-skirt length habits to promote the event


If you thought the above poster was scandalous, wait til you've seen the models handling out flyers for the event.  The organizers did a pretty good job on scandalizing the whole thing, as aside from the venue and theme, the party was "coincidentally" supposed to be held on Black Saturday.

Needless to say, protests from all over the island made a strong argument against the inappropriateness of the party and the affair was scrapped a few days before the event.

Still a Quiet Place in the Morning

Still, CHIJMES is one picturesque place to visit in the morning; away from the drunken patrons and smoky lounges.  It’s as if it’s been restored to its former self -- a place of peace and tranquility amidst the bustling Singapore business district..

So peaceful in the morning


30 Victoria St.
Singapore 187996
T      (+65) 6337 7810

Planning to visit?  Drop by my "Getting Around Singapore" post (click here) for more details on how to get around the Lion City.


  1. Nothing wrong about using a former church as a restaurant and art gallery. However, I was offended by the party place promotion. Good thing it was cancelled. Will take note of this place should I visit Singapore. :)

  2. Its current use of the church as a hall is fine, I suppose, since the chapel is already deconsecrated. I don't know the comment of others but I prefer that they spared the chapel and left it there as a chapel.

    What's really offensive and sacrilegious is the event where the organizers featured religious sisters in a negative way. Dapat ibang gimik na lang ang ginawa nila.


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