The Bukit Timah and Holland districts are the central western areas of the city and both are very desirable residential enclaves that contain a good variety of quality housing. Bukit Timah is to the north of Tanglin and Orchard, and extends as far east as Newton MRT, westwards to Clementi Road and Upper Bukit Timah Road, and includes the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Upper Pierce Reservoir in the north. Holland is to the west of Tanglin, and incorporates the areas north and south of Holland Road, includes Holland Village, and extends westwards to Clementi Road.
In the distant past, these areas were farming districts, full of orchards and nutmeg and pepper plantations, and this is still reflected today in the quiet, leafy feel they have managed to maintain. There is a wide variety of housing types available, including condominiums, apartments and townhouses, and there is an emphasis on low-rise blocks that are set in quiet, often landscaped grounds, although there are many ultra-modern high-rise developments as well.
However, the majority of the housing stock is modern detached and semi-detached houses in quiet suburban-style streets, and this is why the area remains such a desirable one in which to live, especially for families. These sorts of properties are generally designed with family living and entertaining in mind and so tend to be quite large and to have reception rooms, separate dining areas, and outdoor living spaces, as well as off-road parking and perhaps a swimming pool. Although Bukit Timah and Holland are both within quick and easy reach of Orchard Road and the livelier Quay districts, it is nevertheless possible to feel a million miles removed from the city in the peaceful inner-west.
There are also plenty of opportunities for sport, recreation and nature activities throughout the area, as is to be expected from districts with such well-established expatriate networks and facilities.
Living in this part of town means that you are within easy reach of the Raffles Town Club (1 Plymouth Avenue), located in beautiful premises and boasting a grand old-fashioned ballroom along with modern conference and recreation facilities. To the north, in Upper Bukit Timah, you are also close to the Hollandse Club (22 Camden Park), the British Club (73 Bukit Tinggi Road), the Japanese Association (120 Adam Road), and the Swiss Club (36 Swiss Club Road). These Clubs were once geared towards serving the cultural and business needs of their separate expatriate communities but are now truly international in outlook and welcome members from all over the world.
Aquatic sports are well catered for on this side of town, and whether you want lessons, to swim competitively, or just splash around, there are two well-equipped centres in the area. The Buona Vista Swimming Complex (76 Holland Drive) has a competition pool, a teaching pool and a wading pool, while at the Hwa Chong Swimming Complex (673A Bukit Timah Road) you will find a competition and a teaching pool. The Singapore Swimming Academy gives swimming lessons for adults and children at both locations in the afternoon during the week and all day on weekends.
Horse lovers can join the Bukit Timah Saddle Club (51 Fairways Drive), which offers a full range of equestrian facilities and is Singapore’s premier dressage and show jumping venue (it is affiliated with the Equestrian Federation of Singapore), although they also have lessons and facilities for beginners and novices, including tracks for trail rides. You can also visit Horsecity (100 Turf Club Road), the largest riding school in Singapore and which offers riding lessons and pony rides, as well as chances for the kids to go and feed the ponies too! Alternatively, you can scrum down with the Tanglin Rugby Club (Turf City, Turf Club Road), which actively promotes junior rugby in Singapore, while also within easy reach is Mayfair Park (11 Jalan Bingka) which has playgrounds, picnic areas, a café, walking paths and basketball courts.
However, perhaps the most outstanding feature of all is the world renowned rain forest that is right on your doorstep. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the north of the district, and which includes the highest point in Singapore, encompasses 164 hectares of natural rain forest that has never been developed and is home to a thrilling variety of wildlife. There are walking trails (including the Kampong Trail, leading to MacRitchie Reservoir), cycling paths and a visitor centre. This is a truly unique location and it is hard to believe that it is within sight of the throbbing centre of Singapore.
There are no hospitals directly within either Bukit Timah or Holland, but this doesn’t mean that residents can’t easily access first-class medical facilities. The Gleneagles Hospital (6A Napier Road) and Mount Elizabeth Hospital (3 Mount Elizabeth) are nearby and within quick and easy reach, as are the Thomson Medical Centre (339 Thomson Road), which houses a 24-hour walk-in emergency clinic, and the Camden Medical Centre (1 Orchard Boulevard), where you can find over 65 different private medical practices. Further additional health services are available at three Healthway Medical practices, located at 3 Cheong Chin Nam Road, 275A Holland Avenue 2F and Block 45 Holland Drive, #01-353.
As is the case throughout the rest of Singapore, there are also many private GPs and medical centres located throughout Bukit Timah and Holland which can be found by visiting the Singapore Health website.
These districts are the best served in Singapore by international schools, with a large number of campuses of well-known institutions throughout Bukit Timah and Holland.
Holland is home to the Anglo-Chinese (ACS) International School (61 Jalan Hitam Manis), Dover Court Preparatory School (301 Dover Road), the Integrated International School (41 Sunset Way, #02-03 & #02-04 Clementi Arcade), the International Community School (27A Jubilee Road), Nexus International School (201 Ulu Pandan Road), Tanglin Trust School (95 Portsdown Road) and United World College South East Asia (1207 Dover Road).
In Bukit Timah, you can find the Chinese International School (60 Dunearn Road), the German European School Singapore (72 Bukit Tinggi Road), the Hwa Chong International School (663 Bukit Timah Road), the Hollandse School (65 Bukit Tinggi Road), the Singapore Korean School (71 Bukit Tinggi Road) and the Swiss School Singapore (38 Swiss Club Road).
Within these areas you will also find eight government primary and high schools, and over twenty pre-schools and kindergartens.
Access to Singapore’s expressways is straightforward from Bukit Timah and Holland, so you can travel by car across the island with relative ease. The Pan Island Expressway (PIE) and Ayar Rajah Expressway (AYE) are easy to access from Holland, while the Kranji Expressway (KJE) in the west of the district connects to the PIE and the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE). The latter is a six-lane highway that begins at the intersection with the PIE in Bukit Timah and runs north to Woodlands and the Johor-Singapore Causeway.
These areas are now better served by the MRT than was the case in the past, although it is still perhaps true to say that these older, more well-established expatriate districts are not as conveniently located with regards to MRT stations as some other newer districts in Singapore. However, Holland Village station (CC21) is right next to the Holland Village Shopping Centre, and this has meant that this already popular spot for eating and drinking has become even easier to visit and also a more convenient place to live. One stop to the south of Holland Village is Buona Vista (CC22/EW21) which means you can connect easily to the east-west line, while if you travel north on the central line you connect to Botanic Gardens station and the interchange at Bishan (CC15/NS17) with the north-south line. The access will improve a great deal further when the Downtown Line stages 2 and 3 open in 2016 and 2017 respectively, as there will be stations that run through the heart of the entire Bukit Timah district.
Shops and services
There is an abundance of top class retail and dining opportunities throughout the district, including some of the best-known and most well-established malls and shopping centres in the city.
In Holland, you will find the most well-known expatriate shopping centres and social hub in Singapore. The Holland Road Shopping Centre (211 Holland Road) and Holland V Shopping Mall (3 Lorong Liput), with its landmark windmill, are magnets for expatriates in Singapore and together make one of the busiest shopping and dining areas outside of Orchard Road. Not far away are also a number of smart streets (such as Jalan Merah Saga and Chip Bee Gardens) with more restaurants, specialty stores and spas, and so this part of town has become home away from home for many foreigners in the city. The two main streets of Holland Village (Lorong Mambong and Lorong Liput) comprise of a large hawker centre, fashion boutiques, specialty stores (selling wine, cheese, artisan bread and the like), pharmacies and gift shops as well as some of Singapore’s most popular restaurants, bars and cafés. There is also a Cold Storage, a number of leading banks on Holland Avenue, several convenience stores and a very well-stocked newsagent, selling newspapers and magazines from around the world. As above, the opening of the Holland Village MRT station has made this part of town easier to visit and has only enhanced its popularity with the expatriate and Singaporean communities alike.
Another popular spot in Holland is Dempsey Road, a very fashionable shopping and retail location situated in a former British Army barracks, where conservation buildings house top-end restaurants and bars as well as a number of well-established antique, furniture and arts & crafts stores.
You can also find plenty of retail options in Bukit Timah as well. For instance, try Bukit Timah Shopping Centre (170 Upper Bukit Timah Road) and its two near-neighbours Beauty World Centre (144 Upper Bukit Timah Road and which will have its own MRT station on the new Downtown line), and Beauty World Plaza (140 Upper Bukit Timah Road). A little further south is Bukit Timah Plaza (1 Jalan Anak Bukit) and Balmoral Plaza (271 Bukit Timah Road).
Overall, residents in the central western areas of Singapore are spoilt for choice, whether it be for day-to-day shopping, buying high quality antiques or furnishings, or eating out. This is why this part of Singapore will continue to have some of the city’s most sought-after addresses for many years to come.