Despite the retail options all over the island, Orchard Road is Singapore’s shopping epicenter. It is home to some of the flashiest malls and stores you can find anywhere, and ranks in the world’s top destinations for high-end fashion and accessories. Getting off the MRT at Orchard Station lands you in the middle of this truly dazzling array, and is a good place from which to start exploring.
ION Orchard (2 Orchard Turn) is right at the heart of things and just next to the MRT, and has over 300 stores, as well as numerous restaurants and cafés, including major international brands such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. For a break, head up to the 55th floor to ION Sky, an observatory that gives you 360° views of the city.
Wisma Atria (435 Orchard Road), which links directly to MRT Orchard, is another fashion haven, with flagship stores such as Coach, Victoria’s Secret, Gap and Nine West, while next to it is Ngee Ann City (391 Orchard Road #08-05), where you can find Chanel and Cartier.
On the opposite side of Orchard Road is The Paragon (290 Orchard Road), housing upmarket home furnishing and department stores (including Marks & Spencer), as well as Gucci, Bulgari and Burberry. Further west is Tangs Plaza (310 Orchard Road) home of Tangs, Singapore’s oldest department store, and a great location for homeware and electrical goods, and Isetan (Shaw House, 1 Scott Road), the Japanese department store with international mega-labels such as Nike.
Just to the north on Scotts Road is DFS Galleria (25 Scotts Road), one of Singapore’s leading duty free stores, where big brands like Swarovski, Montblanc, Tag Heur and Paco Rabanne have set up shop.
Back on Orchard Road, Wheelock Place (501 Orchard Road) is unmistakeable with its intriguing conical glass structure over the entrance, and this is a great place to go for beauty and hair salons as well as medical and health services.
Heading further west is the Hilton Shopping Gallery (581 Orchard Road) which takes designer chic to new levels, with Donna Karan, Rolex, Stella McCartney amongst the top international brands to be found here, and nearby is Forum (583 Orchard Road), ideal for kids’ fashion and beauty & wellness stores.
On the opposite side of Orchard Road is the Palais Renaissance (390 Orchard Road) which excels in fashion, shoe and accessories stores, while further west is Delfi Orchard (402 Orchard Road) that has a large selection of high quality homeware and beauty & wellness stores.
As you continue west, Orchard Road becomes Tanglin Road, but the quality shopping doesn’t stop. Tanglin Shopping Centre (19 Tanglin Road) is one of the best places in the city for antique stores, as well as homeware, furnishings and Asian arts and crafts. Continue west along Tanglin Road and you come to Tanglin Mall (163 Tanglin Road), a particularly popular spot with expats who live in the neighborhood, as you can pick up anything from stationery to a new sofa here.
This brief wander down Orchard Road doesn’t really do it justice, and certainly doesn’t come anywhere near to covering the full myriad of great shopping Singapore’s premier retail district provides. Although the prospect of getting to know all these great locations may be daunting for some, or extraordinarily exciting for others, the good news either way is that Orchard Road certainly isn’t going anywhere, and it’s something that you’ll be able to work your way through at your own pace during your stay in Singapore, however long that may be.
Marina Bay is the most recent area of Singapore to have been developed, but it has already come to the fore as one of the city’s premier shopping, nightlife and eating destinations, in no small part due to the iconic architecture of Marina Bay Sands, with its stunning hotel and casino, glamorous restaurants and bars, famous infinity pool and, of course, the high-end retail.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (10 Bayfront Avenue) is quite breathtaking. It’s so large there is an even an indoor river where you can be navigated around on a sampan, an ice skating rink, theatre, and this is before you get to the hundreds of boutiques, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. All of this, essentially under one roof.
So whether it’s gourmet and speciality foods, electronics, lingerie, or kids’ fashion, high-end dining or a new pair of shoes, luxury cigars or the latest CD, you will undoubtedly be able to find it at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. This is of course in addition to Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vitton, Muberry, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Versace…
Chinatown is something of a contrast with places like Orchard Road and Marina Bay and demonstrates the real range of shopping that you can find in Singapore. On and around New Bridge Road you’ll find smaller shops and malls that are a mix of both modern and traditional stores and products, with many stocking Chinese arts and crafts, traditional medicine and lifestyle products.
One of the most interesting locations is China Square Central (12 Chin Chew Street) which combines a modern 15-storey office tower with a row of restored shophouses, and creates an aesthetically engaging shopping experience.
Ann Siang Road is also an intriguing place to visit and a good example of the new Boho vibe re-invigorating some of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. Full of trendy cafés, arty home decor stores and boutique hotels, the place is alive both day and night, with a young and vibrant crowd, while many of the old shophouses have been wonderfully renovated and brought back to life.
Little India is so far removed in atmosphere and style from Marina Bay and the high-end malls of Orchard Road, it’s hard to believe that they’re in the same city and only a couple of miles apart. Serangoon Road is the district’s main thoroughfare, but the hundreds of tiny streets around it form an exciting and invigorating maze of shops, restaurants and food stores.
Especially alight during festivals such as Diwali, but bustling with energy 24/7, 365 days a year, Little India is bursting at the seams with cloth and sari boutiques, henna salons, spice shops, goldsmiths, fabric and jewelry stores, as well as some small malls and an ever-increasing number of boutique hotels, designer cocktail bars and hip restaurants.
It’s worth paying a visit to Little India Arcade (48 Serangoon Road), a group of restored shophouses that are now an exciting and colourful array of Indian shops, selling trinkets, spices, incense, religious artifacts and saris, and the Tekka Centre (665 Buffalo Road) which has a wet market, food centre, and a hawker centre with a wide range of vegetarian stalls, selling Indian, Chinese and Malay food.
Any visit to Little India must also include the Mustafa Centre (145 Syed Alwi Road) a sprawling 24-hour department store with a staggering array of goods and some of the best prices in town. You can get household items, CDs and DVDs, cameras, watches, jewelry, as well as books and magazines, and as a consequence it seems to be busy at any time of the day or night. Mustafa Centre is also attached to Serangoon Plaza (320 Serangoon Road) and together they form a formidable shopping duo.
At the south-western edge of Little India is Sim Lim Square (1 Rochor Canal Road), Singapore’s house of cheap electronics. The enormous glass-clad building has literally hundreds of tiny stores selling every possible gadget or device, usually at very competitive prices. It is huge, however, and so you need to be prepared to spend some time there looking around and comparing prices if you want to get the best deal you can.
Sim Lim Square is also probably one place where you do need to take a bit of care when you shop, as some stallholders do have a reputation for doing slippery business. However, if you know what you’re looking for (and can at least sound knowledgable) you shouldn’t go too far wrong. As an extra safeguard, only shop at stalls with the STAR logo which guarantees value and service.
Bugis and Arab Street
Bugis was formerly Singapore’s red light district, but there’s no such goings on there now. What is there instead is a lively shopping area consisting of markets and food stalls, malls and shophouses, that all come together to form one of the most energetic parts of the city.
Bugis Junction (200 Victoria Street) is located above Bugis MRT and is an interesting place to see because it’s actually a street of shophouses that have been restored and are now enclosed under an enormous glass canopy. There are lots of sidewalk cafés and eateries, as well as number of gift and souvenir shops, a Cold Storage supermarket, Nike and Rip Curl sporting goods stores, and the Kinokuniya bookstore.
Bugis Street (3 New Bugis Street) is the city’s largest street shopping location, and there are hundreds of stalls selling just about everything—souvenirs, trendy street apparel, shoes, bags, toys, tattoos, electronics—all in a fairly raucous market atmosphere that always seems more crowded than it really is because of the narrow pathways between the stalls and the shopkeepers’ merchandise spilling out of their tiny stores. A good place for bargains and merchandise which, while not out of the top drawer, is still reasonably made and good value for money.
When people talk about Arab Street, they are usually referring to the whole are of Kampong Glam, of which it’s the main thoroughfare. This is a maze of tiny side streets full of a wonderful array of antique stores, oriental rugs and art, fabrics and textiles, handicrafts and home decor, as well as some fantastic restaurants serving middle-eastern and Arabic food, and many other types of international cuisine.
Many of the shops and traders around Arab Street have been there for years, but like a number of Singapore’s older, more traditional neighborhoods, it has undergone something of a renaissance of late, as there is now an increasing number of hipster cafés, restaurants, galleries and stores coming into the area, and this has only further livened up what was already an engaging and fascinating part of town.
In particular, Haji Lane and Bali Lane are two streets that have really taken off, selling vintage clothing and vinyl, indie designer gear, classic bric-a-brac and old school gadgets and electronics. New wave stores like Dulcetfig (41 Haji Lane), Loft (16A Haji Lane) and Soon Lee (73 Haji Lane) are great examples of the new type of retailer who have helped to add another dimension to this part of town.
Vivocity (1 Harbourfront Walk) is the biggest mall in Singapore (an achievement in itself) and has hundreds of stores of every conceivable type; expect international brands such as Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, Miss Selfridge, Marks & Spencer and Ben Sherman, as well as a Food Republic hawker centre, 25 restaurants and specialist food stores.
GV Vivocity, Singapore’s largest multiplex 15-screen cinema is also here, or if you want a break from shopping, you can enjoy a pleasant walk along the seafront promenade.
Holland Village is one of Singapore’s oldest expat neighborhoods, and the shopping there is centred around Holland Village, the Holland V Shopping Mall and Holland Road Shopping Centre. Expect to find artisan bakeries, home accessories, hair salons and spas, while the streets around Lorong Mambong, such as Jalan Merah Sega and Chip Bee Gardens, are full of smart, upmarket specialty stores selling arts and crafts, homeware and bric-a-brac, as well as galleries and some high quality restaurants.
This is a very pleasant part of Singapore just to stroll around and soak up the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, as well as to admire the architecture of the shophouses that have skillfully been converted into modern stores and entertainment venues.
Learn more about the newest shopping malls, specialty stores and international brands in Singapore on our list at Listly: