The River Valley Area is immediately to the south of Orchard Road and encompasses well-known locales such as River Valley Road, Grange Road, Robertson Quay, Jiak Kim Street and Mohammed Sultan Road. There are many advantages to living here, not least the quality of the new housing developments, the proximity to the city’s best shopping and nightlife, and easy access to schools, pre-schools and childcare. For those who want inner-city, cosmopolitan apartment-style living, there are few better places in Singapore in which to settle.
The area is bounded by Orchard Boulevard and Eber Road to the north and Ganges Avenue and Havelock Road to the south, Clemenceau Road is to the east and Nathan Road (alongside Regency Park) is to the west. There are some traditional-style housing and bungalows available, although the overwhelming majority tends to be modern condominium-style. There is a fairly eclectic mix of people here, although generally speaking it tends to be an area populated by rather well-heeled Singaporeans and expatriates. Despite being dominated by high-rise housing there are, like most districts in Singapore, a surprising number of tranquil, green spaces within easy reach, as well as a number of streets that have not been entirely redeveloped and which give you a glimpse back into Singapore’s past.
The area began life as a maze of working godowns (storehouses), as evidenced by the large number of warehouse buildings—now mostly converted into restaurants, shops and hotels—lining the riverfront around Robertson Quay. The river is a splendid place to eat, drink or simply while away a quiet Sunday strolling along the riverbank (after one of Singapore’s famed champagne brunches!) and it is very easy to follow the Singapore River from here to any number of the city’s most popular attractions and dining districts, or into the Civic District.
However, the main attraction to living in River Valley is that you have all the benefits of being in a primarily residential district while also having the best of Singapore’s shopping and nightlife on your doorstep. To the north of the district is Orchard Road (within walking distance, but also linked by any number of bus routes), in the centre are the famous Jiak Kim Street and Mohammed Sultan Road, and to the east are the extremely lively Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, while the more tranquil Robertson Quay and the Singapore River are at the heart of River Valley. Living here, it is very easy to feel that you are right at the very centre of Singapore life.
There are nevertheless other attractions and places of interest in River Valley beyond retail and gastronomy. Here you will find the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, one of Asia’s leading contemporary art galleries, and the Singapore Repertory Theatre, as well as significant places of worship such as: the Chesed-El Synagogue (built in 1905); the Church of the Sacred Heart (built in 1910); the Singapore Buddhist Lodge (founded in 1934); the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (a Chettiar Temple first established in 1859); and the Kampong Delta Mosque (rebuilt in 1995 and one of over 60 mosques to be found in Singapore).
There are a variety of accommodation options available in River Valley, although the majority of families and singles here live in condominiums. Most of these complexes, as they generally cater to an upmarket or foreign clientele, are well-appointed (although some of the older ones i.e., 15+ years old, can look a little dated on the inside) and you can generally expect to find spacious, modern apartments with excellent communal facilities such as a clubhouse, gym, pool, tennis court, playground, gardens and 24-hour security. Apartments in these sorts of complexes are usually not smaller than two bedrooms (although occasionally studios can be found for young singles) and may be as large as four bedrooms, with even larger top-end penthouse apartments also to be found in the area. Apartments here also tend to be designed with entertaining in mind, so you can also expect to find generous reception and dining rooms, large kitchens, and most should have a balcony as well.
Overall, River Valley really is one of Singapore’s premium residential areas. Of course, if having a garden or an outdoor space for your children is a priority, or getting away from Singapore’s hustle and bustle is what you are looking for, then other areas of the city will probably better suit your needs. But if you want to feel as though you are at the centre of things, but still feel that you are living in a neighbourhood, then this may very well be the district for you.
As you would expect in an area in such a prime location, there is access to top medical and healthcare readily available in River Valley and nearby. There are a large number of local family and children’s clinics throughout the district and you should be able find a clinic or surgery near to where you are living (although the majority are only open during regular business hours). As is the case with healthcare throughout Singapore, the standard of facilities and care on offer are generally comparable with what can be found in western countries. A full list of clinics in the River Valley area and nearby can be found online.
In addition, there are four hospitals that are close by and that provide 24-hour accident and emergency departments: Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Raffles Medical, Singapore General Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
The River Valley area is very well served with regards to schools in both the international and state sectors. The two closest international schools are the Overseas Family School and International School Singapore, both of which can be found between Orchard Road and Grange Road, just off Orchard Boulevard.
However, there are 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 Australian International School, Stamford American International School, Tanglin Trust School, United World College, International Community School and Chatsworth International School are all within fairly easy reach of River Valley. Contact the schools and they will provide you with information regarding the bus services that they run.
The area is also well served with regards to government schools and there are five primary schools nearby. This is combined with nine pre-schools or kindergartens, and so the district offers the full range of Singapore’s educational establishments.
Being so centrally located, it is extremely convenient to get to just about anywhere on the island—access to the Central Expressway (CTE) is on the eastern edge of the district, and this connects easily to the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) and the East Coast Parkway (ECP), both to the south, making travelling to both the west coast and Changi Airport in the east very straightforward. River Valley Road, running east-west, Irwell Bank Road, Hoot Kiam Road/Zion Road and Kim Seng Road, running north-south, are the main road arteries in and out of the district.
Although there is not a MRT line running directly through the River Valley district, access to a number of MRT stations is still fairly straightforward. If you go north towards Orchard Road, you can use Somerset Station (NS23) on the north-west line, while a little further east is the busy interchange station of Dhoby Ghaut Station (CC1, NE6, NS24) which enables you to access the circle line, north-east line as well as the north-south line. To the south-east is Clarke Quay Station (NE5) and Outram Park Station (EW16, NE3), just south of the river, provides access to the important east-west line. There is also a new station under construction at Fort Canning.
Bus travel to and from nearby MRT stations, as well as to Orchard Road, the City, Great World City, Valley Point and beyond, are frequent and reliable, and there are bus stops all along River Valley Road, Irwell Bank Road and Hoot Kiam Road/Zion Road, as well as at Great World City and Valley Point shopping malls. The excellent SBS transit online map gives extensive details about these, and bus routes all over Singapore.
A much neglected mode of transport in the city, but one that is extremely useful for River Valley residents, is the river taxi service. There is a convenient stop at Robertson Quay and 16 in all along the river between Esplanade Drive and Jiak Kim Street. Fares cost between SGD2 and SGD8 and the ultra-quick boat taxis run from 9.00am until 11.00pm, making this one of the cheapest and quickest ways of getting about. River taxis are operated by Singapore River Cruises (tel: 6336 6111)
Shops and Services
Being so close to Orchard Road, it might seem that shopping takes care of itself for River Valley residents. However, aside from the extravaganza that is Singapore’s main retail strip, there are further options available.
Great World City is on Kim Seng Promenade, between Kim Seng Road, River Valley Road and Zion Road. It is a huge shopping complex with a number of top-end stores, a food court and a cinema complex. There is ample car parking (a bonus!) and there are regular shuttle bus services from nearby MRT stations. It has the usual fashion and furniture outlets here, as well as electronics stores, beauty services, and supermarkets, including a Cold Storage (1 Kim Seng Promenade).
Liang Court, on the eastern edge of the district near Clarke Quay, also offers plenty of further dining and entertainment options, as there are over 100 shops, including some specialty outlets, such as a dancewear retailer, a Japanese spa and a pet store (177 River Valley Road).
Valley Point is another place that locals come to know well. Again, you can find pretty much everything you need here, and in addition to a Cold Storage it also has a spa, a dance school, a yoga studio and there are medical and dental clinics here too. There is plenty of parking and free wi-fi access available (491 River Valley Road).
As well as the innumerable eateries in the food courts of these malls, Robertson Quay and the surrounding areas are a haven for good-quality eating and drinking. There is a ridiculously wide range of cuisines, dining styles, and price ranges on offer, and it is all pretty much on your doorstep. The restaurants range from Japanese BBQ, to cafes doing burgers and fish & chips, to Australian specialities, to traditional French bistro style cooking, to Belgian cuisine, to specialist dessert bars, to every variation of Asian fusion you can think of—and plenty more besides! Most of these eateries are down by the river and offer you al fresco dining (essential in Singapore) and there is a lively atmosphere in the area that nevertheless stops short of the (at times) overwhelming exuberance of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay. You will find some favourites, of course, but the variety on offer is in keeping with the fairly cosmopolitan make-up of the neighborhood. There are also a large number of hotels lining the river at Robertson Quay, and these too provide a further dining and nightlife activities.
There are also plenty of bars and clubs in the district, in particular around Mohammed Sultan Road and Jiak Kim Street (home of the internationally renowned Zouk nightclub). There are upscale cocktail bars, specialist whisky bars, traditional-style pubs, champagne and wine bars, as well as clubs open into the wee small hours. Like your dining options, there is something for everyone, and a great part of the area’s appeal is that all tastes are catered for, allowing you to be adventurous without having to venture too far from home.