Small as it may be, Singapore definitely punches above its weight in all aspects, and its reputation as a shopping paradise is definitely not unwarranted. From the East Coast to the West, virtually every square inch of the city is dripping with retail candy. Neatly demarcated areas linked by a smooth and glitch-free transport system make unbridled shopping sprees much more than a fantasy. Given it’s size, many of the shopping precincts in Singapore are laid out side by side or only a few train stops apart – one of the major trump cards of living in this compact and efficient country.
Singapore’s ambitions towards a world-class city have culminated in massive malls bulking with couture offerings, high-street temples and trendsetting boutiques. But look to its off-centre locales and you’ll just as easily find unique independent labels and businesses with plenty of local character. For a complete picture of the vibrant local shopping scene, make a stop at all our favourite shopping precincts in Singapore!
BUGIS TO KAMPONG GLAM
One of Singapore’s prime cultural districts, Bugis/Kampong Glam is the epicentre of Islamic life in the city state. The golden gleaming domes of the Sultan Mosque lie at the heart of the Muslim enclave, beckoning both tourists and devotees alike. While steeped in history, the Bugis/Kampong Glam area has in later years been reinvigorated with a multitude of food, fashion and lifestyle options that bring renewed vigour to the Muslim and Arab quarter. Haji Lane and Bali Lane, two parallel streets on the outer edges of Kampong Glam feed the young and hip with an exciting and unrivalled shopping feast.
CHINATOWN TO TANJONG PAGAR
Try not to be fazed by the swarms of messy storefronts and street vendors peddling plush toy Merlions and faux silk robes, Chinatown’s atmospheric charm has to be seen to be believed. From old-fashioned teahouses to calligraphy and curio shops, Chinatown has plenty in store for lovers of Asian culture. Shoppers with more refined tastes will find happiness along the quaint and historical shophouses of Ann Siang Hill and Telok Ayer. These spiffy streets are home to posh men’s ateliers; independent multi-label boutiques stocked with cult-status brands and bespoke tailors for the distinguished set.
CITY HALL TO ESPLANADE
Flanked by towering skyscrapers and historical buildings, City Hall formed the crucible of Singapore’s fortunes as a young and independent nation. Many of the civic district’s landmark buildings have been transformed into commercial complexes that house a discerning breed of fashion, home and lifestyle purveyors. Stretching from Stamford Road to the banks of the Singapore River, the City Hall area is served by a number of premier shopping malls including Raffles Hotel Shopping Arcade, Millenia Walk, and the recently refurbished Capitol Piazza.
Singapore’s East Coast is often more commonly associated with suburban leisure, but aside from a solid reputation as a foodie destination, the East Coast neighbourhood is also an up-and-coming area with a whole host of shopping and lifestyle attractions. Joo Chiat is a prime example. In recent times, independent craft shops, art and furniture galleries and design studios have made nest in cosy and bohemian Joo Chiat. Its proximity to East Coast Park, and the heritage-filled corners of the Peranakan enclave echo the free-spirited and bohemian spirit of Joo Chiat.
HOLLAND VILLAGE TO BUKIT TIMAH
With its urban village feel and laidback downtown vibes, Holland Village is extremely popular with the expatriate crowd. The vibrant low-rise neighbourhood is equipped with swanky restaurants, late-night bars and lively pubs for an agreeable night on the town. Holland V by day holds other charms, with little shops selling everything from antiques, art, home decor and other lifestyle goods. Mere minutes away by car, the residential enclave of Bukit Timah has everything you need within its leafy surrounds. Cluny Court is a small but delightful lifestyle haven for families and West-dwellers with no wish to brave the traffic snarls that guard the city. Another underrated venue in the West, Sime Darby Centre is the place to go for quality antique and vintage furniture.
LITTLE INDIA TO JALAN BESAR
One of Singapore’s most culturally authentic experiences involves navigating the feverish chaos of the streets and alleyways of Little India. Here, old disappearing trades find a rare respite amidst the heavily perfumed fresh food grocers and chatty textile merchants. Fortune-tellers and their parrots, kacang puteh sellers and sundry shops crowd the bustling main street of Serangoon Road and its inner pathways, adding to Little India’s unscrubbed charm. This cultural landscape attracts a unique species of artsy independent types.
ORCHARD TO DHOBY GHAUT
Singapore’s premier shopping street needs no introduction. Massive multi-story malls are lined up successively in an endless row, forcing surrender from even the most seasoned of shoppers. Non-stop shopping is a real possibility here with malls sweeping one end of the massive Orchard Road to the other. International designer brands are spread across several malls but to better capture a sense of the local fashion scene, make a beeline for local designer hotspots – Orchard Gateway, Orchard Central and Cathay Cineleisure. Lest you think that’s the end of it, the mall crawl stretches right up to Ion Orchard, Wheelock Place and Pacific Plaza as you approach Tanglin.
RIVER VALLEY TO TIONG BAHRU
Singapore’s unofficial hipster enclave has more than indie cafes and swanky diners backing it up. The trendy old-meets-new appeal of Tiong Bahru can be traced to a bevy of interesting shops and retail outfits with novel concepts. Quaint bookstores, design-centric home and décor shops and vintage-style florists add a degree of whimsicality to the art-deco theme of Tiong Bahru’s housing flats. A mere stone’s throw away from Tiong Bahru, Tan Boon Liat Building provides a furniture haven for all who shy away from the cookie-cutter. Little known to most, the affluent River Valley is also home to a sprinkling of luxe furniture showrooms with major lashings of style.
TANGLIN TO DEMPSEY
Within walking distance from the main Orchard Road shopping belt, Tanglin deserves a poke-around for its varied mix of lifestyle shops, fashion boutiques, premium toy stores and all-in-one kid’s stores. Find these and more at Tanglin Mall and Tudor Court, the latter recognisable by the pitched roofs and half-timbered facades of the black and white Tudor style house. Nearby Dempsey Hill offers a relaxed spot of shopping and dining away from the madness of the city. The former army barracks, then known as Tanglin Barracks, was reintroduced as Dempsey Hill, the popular dining and lifestyle haunt that we know today. Hugged by nature’s embrace, the verdant hilltop destination is filled with art galleries, antique shops, boutique furniture stores and shops offering fine rugs and carpets.
The West Coast of Singapore is still a largely undiscovered territory but Pasir Panjang alone is worth the trip out for a plethora of prime furniture stores with a tantalising retro feel. From pre-loved statement pieces, to replica retro and outdoor settees, to classic Asian homewares, Pasir Panjang offers it all.