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Remember Empress Place Food Centre @ Singapore River? Opened 1973, Demolished 1993

Empress Place Food Centre opened in 1973 and was demolished in 1993 to make way for development at Singapore River. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

(Note: This is not the Empress Road Market & Food Centre near Farrer Road MRT station which still exists.)

Before there were hawker centres everywhere in Singapore, thousands of street hawkers plied the back lanes, side lanes, even the main streets around Singapore. During the colonial days, British authorities viewed street hawkers as a hygiene and traffic disruption issue.

From the turn of the 20th Century, the colonial authorities made sporadic attempts to house street hawkers in "hawker shelters". There was little success as funds were limited and the vast majority of hawkers still plied the streets. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

In the early 1970s, the Singapore government began a concerted hawker centre building programme to put every street hawker into a hawker centre. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

One of the sites chosen to house street hawkers plying around Singapore River was Empress Place - at the small car park in front of Empress Place Museum (today's Asian Civilisation Museum).

Opened in 1973, Empress Place Food Centre was the blue roofed building visible on the left in this photo. It was just steps away from Cavenagh Bridge and Empress Place Museum (today's Asian Civilisations Museum). (Image courtesy of NAS.)

Empress Place Food Centre built at a cost of $590,000, opened in 1973 with 98 food stalls. That makes it one of the earliest hawker centres under Singapore's first hawker centre programme and one of medium sized ones. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

The largest, Chinatown Complex Food Centre has over 200 food stalls and the smaller ones have less than 50 stalls. By the mid-1980s, the first hawker centre programme was completed with some 10,000 hawkers housed in over 100 hawker centres across the island. (Image courtesy of NAS.)

The popular riverside hawker centre was busiest during lunch. The hawker centre provided shelter from the sun and rain, and afforded diners a riverfront view and sea breeze. There were Malay, Indian and Chinese food stalls here.


I've been here only a few times before it was demolished and couldn't remember any particular food stall. I know of Empress Place Teochew Beef Kway Teow which was opened by Tan Sok Eng, grand daughter of Tan Chee Kok, the founder of the famed Hock Lam Street Beef Noodles.

Does anyone knows what did she sell and where is this stall now? In this photo, it looked like braised meat for kway chap?

Empress Place Food Centre was a boon to Central Business District workers and visitors to the museum and concert hall at Empress Place as well as nearby Esplanade.

The well loved hawker centre was demolished in 1993 to make way for re-development of Singapore River. (Image courtesy of NAS.)


Today, Empress Place Food Centre is gone, replaced by a lawn and some trees (partially hiding the Asian Civilisation Building behind). It's back to the early 1970s sans the pavilion at the front lawn.

Please share your memories of Empress Place Food Centre. Where are the stalls now?

Date: 26 Oct 2020


  1. Many fond memories. The most vivid one was the Punjabi stall right in the middle of the complex. My favourite was his freshly made Keema and Chapati that I am still using as a standard today.

    1. Thank you Makan Xtra for the insight. I am hoping to trace the hawkers who used to operate here.

  2. Empress Place beef nwat teow used to be at East Coast Rd. but moved to Maxwell Rd FC where they are at now.

  3. Before it became a museum, the ACM housed govt offices such as the National Registration Office and Immigration Department.

  4. Uncle, is the beef stall the same family who went to scotts pick in the 1990s or late 1980s ?

    1. Hi Lily, Scotts Picnic one is Odean Beef Noodle. There are at Bendemeer Food Centre, known as Hwa Heng Beef Noodle now.


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