Novena, Newton and Thomson are three relatively compact adjacent districts located immediately north of Orchard Road. They are all extremely popular areas with expatriates and affluent Singaporeans alike because of their proximity to Singapore’s main shopping and lifestyle hub, as well as the extensive range of family-style housing that is on offer. Novena essentially begins just north of Bukit Timah Road, with the Central Expressway (CTE) at its eastern edge, includes Novena MRT Station (NS20), and has its western boundary on Thomson Road and northern boundary along Bassein Road. Newton adjoins Novena to the south-west, and includes the area right down to Orchard Road, includes Newton Station MRT (NS21), and abuts Novena along Thomson Road. Thomson adjoins both Novena and Newton to the west, running from Bukit Timah Road at its southern edge to the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) at its northern tip. It extends as far as Chancery Lane to the west.
Therefore, with a couple of MRT stations that are only a stop or two from Orchard Road, two major expressways on the doorstep, plenty of shopping in the vicinity, and a leafy suburban feel (the area used to be a nutmeg plantation), it is no wonder that these are all rather sought-after areas.
Housing here is generally a mix of condominiums, landed properties (terrace houses or detached/semi-detached villas with front and back gardens) and cluster houses (detached or semi-detached properties that share communal outdoor facilities). Family houses tend to be of a good size, usually with at least four bedrooms and reception, dining and utility rooms, and many will also have a maid’s room as well. There is a mix of new and more established properties, and in the case of the latter most have aged better than their apartment counterparts, in that their interiors (in particular the bathrooms and kitchens) generally haven’t faded as quickly.
The side streets are quiet and relatively traffic free (although the main roads can be very busy during peak hours) and so there is a suburban, neighbourhood feel that will be familiar to many expatriates and represents the sort of lifestyle they are looking for.
To the north of the district, there are ample recreation facilities and open spaces to take advantage of. There are garden centres aplenty, for golfers the Singapore Island Country Club’s Bukit and Sima courses are within easy reach, while for equestrian fans the nearby Singapore Polo Club, as well as the ‘game of kings’, offers riding lessons and a pony club for kids.
The north of the district also boasts MacRitchie Reservoir Park, the country’s oldest reservoir dating back to 1867. This one of the best-kept and most engaging public spaces in Singapore, providing a whole host of family-oriented activities as well as some demanding and challenging trekking trails. It’s also a prime spot for indulging in a spot of fishing or bird watching.
All things combined, there is much to recommend Novena, Newton and Thomson as perfect family residential areas. Getting out and about is easy yet the lifestyle is laid back and gives you time and space to breathe. This doesn’t come cheap, of course, but it is well worth considering making this area your home if you are after a relaxed, family-oriented way of life.
Novena, Newton and Thomson are as well-served in terms of top-notch medical and health care being on the doorstep as anywhere in Singapore, if not in Asia. There are a number of excellent facilities, providing all manner of specialities and services, all within very easy reach. Especially for families with children, the comprehensiveness of the services on offer can be a decisive factor with regards to choosing accommodation.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Mount Elizabeth Hospitals are right at the centre of the district, the former housing Singapore’s largest A&E department, while near these is Novena Medical Centre, home to a large range of specialist medical services. Close by you’ll also find Mount Alvernia Hospital as well as the Thomson Medical Centre and Healthway Medical Centre.
In addition, those looking for ways to eat well, supplement a healthy lifestyle or just get a bit of pampering are also extremely well-catered for in this part of town. There are a large number of health food stores, wellbeing clinics, skincare stores, massage centres and sports medicine clinics located within the district’s major shopping malls, so every aspect of your health and wellbeing is catered for on the doorstep.
A number of international schools are close to the Novena, Newton, Thomson area, as are a large number of government schools, pre-schools and kindergartens, and so residents here have a significant number of choices regarding education.
Located within very easy reach are Overseas Family School, Chatsworth International School, the Australian International School, Stamford American International School, Avondale Grammar School, Chinese International School and St Joseph’s Institution International School.
There are also other international schools within easy commuting distance and you will find that all international schools offer a comprehensive bus network that picks up your children in the morning and then delivers them home again in the afternoon. The International School Singapore, Tanglin Trust School, United World College, International Community School, German European School Singapore, Hwa Chong International School, Hollandse School, Insworld Institute, Singapore Korean International School, and The Swiss School Singapore can all easily be commuted to from Novena, Newton and Thomson. Contact the schools and they will provide you with information regarding the bus services that they run.
These districts are also well served by Ministry of Education schools and there are a number of high quality Singaporean schools located nearby.
Pre-schools and kindergartens are also well represented in the area, and so once again parents living here have a wide variety of choices.
Novena, Newton and Thomson are wonderfully situated with regards to transport and getting around Singapore. The north-south MRT line runs right through the district and Novena (NS20) and Newton (NS21) MRT stations, and their surrounds, are at the heart of the area, both geographically and in the amenities that have sprung around and over them. From Newton it is one stop, and from Novena two stops, to Orchard and so using the MRT is always an easy and convenient option. For most people in the district, one of these stations should be within walking distance or, at the very most, a short bus ride away. There is no major bus interchange at either station, although many buses run to and from them, connecting the district to Orchard Road, the CBD and beyond. The excellent SBS transit online map gives extensive details about these, and bus routes all over Singapore. A taxi ride from Orchard Road to most places in the district, depending on the time of day, should be between $5 and $15.
When travelling by car, there is quick and easy access to both the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) and Central Expressway (CTE). The PIE is Singapore’s longest expressway and runs east-west across the island, from Changi Airport to Tuas in the west. As the CTE is the only highway that connects the city with residential areas in the north of the island, it does tend to be the busiest of all of Singapore’s expressways (although it is still relatively easy to use compared to highways in other major Asian cities), and so the ERP (electronic road pricing) time runs until 8.00pm, the latest in Singapore.
Shops and Services
At the heart of the district are three major shopping malls that essentially provide all the amenities locals may need, so even though the Orchard Road is a short trip away, it is possible to exist perfectly well without ever setting foot in the place!
Velocity @ Novena Square (238 Thomson Road), located directly above Novena MRT, is a sports-oriented mall with an enormous gym, a wide range of sports, health food and lifestyle stores, as well as eateries and small boutique shops.
Square 2 (10 Sinaran Drive) is also located at Novena MRT and is a five floor mall with a Korean-themed speciality floor and over 200 other stores including a food and beauty hall, IT stores, fashion and furniture.
United Square (101 Thomson Road) is the third major mall in the district, and this has positioned itself as a specialist outlet for kids and education. It has lots of children-friendly features, toy stores (including a Toys R Us), educational book stores and learning centres, and an al fresco food court too. Parents are allowed to shop there however, and you can find a Cold Storage here as well as other grown-up boutique stores.
In terns of dining, all of the above have a multitude of eating establishments and, as is the case throughout Asia, don’t be put off by the idea of eating in a food court or at a restaurant in a mall. You can rest assured that you will find good quality dining here (and at most malls in Singapore) offering a wide range of cuisines and at all price levels, and if you haven’t experienced it before, you will be pleasantly surprised.
The area also boasts the famous (or is it infamous?) Newton Hawker Market, often referred to as Newton Circus. This open air hawker centre has developed something of a reputation in recent years for being a place where tourists are besieged by beseeching stall holders to try their wares, or instead are ruthlessly overcharged when ordering items like cooked seafood that you pay for according to the weight. There is also an argument that the food is not of as high a quality as many of the other hawker centres in town, although many equally argue that you can get Singapore’s best seafood here. Either way, it is certainly somewhere that you must experience, even if you are only visiting Singapore, and the fact that is always full at lunchtime must say something. It will stay open as long as there as customers and has become a favourite late-night eating spot for people on their way home from a night out.
Alternatively, there is another enclave of restaurants to be found at Novena Gardens and Novena Ville, just off Thomson Road to the north-west of Novena MRT. The emphasis here is on Asian food, with Korean, Indian, Hong Kong and Chinese restaurants all nestled in together, and there is a good atmosphere and environment for dining.
Other services to be found in the district include the Cairnhill Community Club (1 Anthony Road), which offers a wide variety of community activities and classes, including martial arts, dance classes, life skills and cookery, as well as educational workshops for children.
A further important part of the neighbourhood is the Church of St Alphonsus (Novena Church) after which the are was named. It was established in 1935 and is slightly unusual in that it offers its Novenas on Saturdays, rather than the traditional Wednesdays. The Church is located at 300 Thomson Road.