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Flea markets in Singapore: The Timeless Charm Of Sungei Road Thieves Flea Market (discontinued)

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In the heart of Singapore, amidst its gleaming skyscrapers and sophisticated shopping malls, lies a shopping experience steeped in history and intrigue: the Sungei Road Thieves Flea Market. Known as Singapore’s oldest flea market, it offered a vibrant departure from the city’s usual retail polish. Once notorious as a hotspot for peddling stolen goods, from cars to gold, the market has since evolved, but retains its vibrant, chaotic essence, making it a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.

A bazaar of noise, colour and history

The atmosphere at the Sungei Road Thieves Flea Market was anything but subdued. Vendors were loud and brash, more interested in moving their wares than engaging in lengthy discussions. This bustling bazaar, with its eclectic mix of items, also attracted young designers and artisans who set up stalls to sell their unique creations. Amidst the hustle and bustle, visitors were treated to a sensory overload, a true embodiment of a traditional marketplace where the only predictable element was its unpredictability.

Treasures amidst the chaos

What made the Sungei Road Thieves Flea Market so fascinating was the sheer variety of items on offer. From vintage clothes and old war memorabilia to household goods, cameras and even small pieces of furniture, the market was a treasure trove for collectors and casual shoppers alike. It was a place where diligent searchers could find rare gems among the seemingly random assortment of goods. Whether you were looking for a piece of history, a quirky addition to your home decor or a unique gift, chances were you’d find it here.

A hub for creatives and collectors

Aside from the traditional flea market fare, the Sungei Road Thieves Flea Market became a hotbed of creativity. Young designers and artisans were drawn to the vibrant atmosphere, setting up stalls to showcase their original designs, from handmade jewellery to bespoke handicrafts. This mix of old and new gave the market a fresh dynamic and ensured that there was something for everyone, whether you were a fashion enthusiast, a collector of vintage finds or simply looking for something out of the ordinary.

The end of an era

The iconic flea market, popularly known as the Thieves’ Market, was shut down by the authorities on 10 July 2017 after 80 years of recycling second-hand goods. Starting in the mid-1930s, the market became a haven for peddlers who initially didn’t have to pay rent. In its early years it was known for dealing in stolen or smuggled goods. It was an open secret that if you had stolen anything, you could probably buy it back at the market.

Despite the demolition of the market by the Ministry of the Environment in 1982 and the subsequent relocation of the hawkers, the spirit of the market proved indomitable and the hawkers returned in the late 1980s. The formation of the Association for the Recycling of Second Hand Goods in 2012, and an online petition to save the market, highlighted the community’s efforts to preserve this unique cultural landmark. Sadly, the Sungei Road Thieves Market closed its doors with a final ceremony, marking the end of an iconic chapter in Singapore’s history.


The closure of the Sungei Road Thieves Market in 2017 marked the end of an era for Singapore. For over eight decades, it stood as a testament to the city’s vibrant, multi-faceted identity – a place where history, commerce and culture intertwined. As the market fades into the annals of history, it leaves behind a rich legacy celebrated by collectors, creatives and everyday visitors alike.

While the physical market is no more, the memories and stories of Sungei Road Thieves Market continue to inspire and serve as a reminder of the enduring charm and resilience of Singapore’s community spirit. For those who experienced its vibrant chaos and unparalleled sense of discovery, the market will forever be remembered as a beloved treasure trove of the city. Goodbye, Thieves’ Market, and thank you for the memories.