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Our Definitive Guide to the New Singapore

DESPITE its diminutive size, the city-state somehow keeps on growing. Here, a guide on what to eat, drink and do now. By MELANIE LEE.

Published on Feb 20, 2017


Singapore's neighborhoods are as distinct and varied as the bloodlines pulsing through the city's multiethnic populace.

This Eastern suburb has much to offer: picture-perfect colorful Peranakan shophouses along Joo Chiat Road; Singapore's best rice noodles in spicy coconut milk soup at 328 Katong Laksa (51 East Coast Rd.); and Chin Mee Chin Confectionary (204 East Coast Rd.), one of the rare kopitiams (old-school coffee shops) left in town.

Peranakan pastels light up Joo Chiat Road in Katong. Weixiang Lim.


Once a Malay-Arab enclave where the Sultan of Singapore lived, this area is remarkably comfortable with contrasts. Visit the old palace, which is now the Malay Heritage Centre, and browse quirky shops in Haji Lane such as local boutique Soon Lee and home store Mondays Off.

The shopping hub of Asia doesn't need much of an introduction. Ion Orchard is a must-stop for all luxury brands; Far East Plaza has a wide variety of edgy street fashion popular with the young and young-at-heart. Need a break? Stroll up pretty Emerald Hill Road and have a leisurely afternoon tea at Tea Bone Zen Mind.

Tea Bone Zen Mind
Courtesy of Tea Bone Zen Mind.

While this neighborhood still suffers from a slightly poor reputation, it is one of Singapore's most culturally vibrant. Earn shopping cred by surviving a spree at 24-hour Mustafa Shopping Centre, where you can find practically everything under the sun. If you're in Singapore in October or November, a walking tour of all the streets' festive Deepavali lights and decorations is a must.


Pegged as a hipster haven with indie bookstore BooksActually as its main ambassador, the café-filled 'hood centered around one of the country's oldest housing estates is an architectural delight with its Art Deco shophouses and retro public housing flats. Get all-day breakfast at Flock (78 Moh Guan Ter.), croissants at Tiong Bahru Bakery (59 Eng Hoon St.) and of course coffee at the famous Forty Hands. Tiong Bahru Market  has the widest and tastiest range of hawker food.

Among the boutique hotels and fine-dining restaurants popping up are still plenty of fun places for a bottoms up. Potato Head Folk has Studio 1939 lounge on its third level: vintage seats and an intimate marble bar make for friendly interplay with the bartenders. The Library is a secret bar hidden by a bookshelf, and the password for entry is revealed every Monday on Facebook and Instagram. For "healthy" cocktails, try Afterglow ( where their vegan-friendly concoctions are made from fresh herbs, flowers and fruits.


 Marina Barrage
Marina Barrage. Courtesy of National Heritage Road.


If you can bear the heat, the eight-kilometer Jubilee Walk trail (map and guide can be downloaded at is a leisurely way to get acquainted with Singapore's most iconic buildings, monuments and public art. The trail starts with the National Museum of Singapore and ends at the Marina Barrage. Look out for the gold SG50 markers that line this trail—or download the Singapore Time Walk app: users just have to point your smartphone camera at certain landmarks to pull up information, archival images and animations for an interactive history lesson.


Michael Chiang

Insider Tips
Michael Chiang,
playwright of Beauty World

Take public transportation.
Resist Uber, and instead hop on a bus or train. It's not just cheap, but also efficient and easy to navigate.

Catch a sunrise at Singapore Botanic Gardens.
Share the dewy tranquility with joggers, qigong devotees and dog-walkers at this 157-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site.

Catch a sunset at Aura Sky Lounge.
Though only on the 6th floor of National Gallery Singapore, Aura is my favorite place to grab a lychee martini and take in Singapore's skyline anchored by the iconic Marina Bay Sands.

Listen to…
…music by young Singaporean musicians such as Charlie Lim, The Sam Willows and Gentle Bones. Their stuff is heartbreakingly beautiful.


Just four of the hotest eateries powering the fast-paced food scene.

Chef Rishi Naleendra (formerly of Sydney's Tetsuya's) has concocted a multicultural rainbow of a menu with such dishes as ocean trout with cucumber, yuzu and butter milk, and duck confit with five-spice and chili caramel served with crispy waffles.; five-course set S$88.

Cheek by Jowl
Cheek by Jowl. Courtesy of Unlisted Collection.

Don't be daunted finding the Mediterranean tavern's nondescript entrance in an empty back alley. Once inside, you're enveloped by a bustling crowd clamoring for tasty plates such as roast Jerusalem artichoke and Manchego, and grilled Iberico pork jowl with cauliflower and prunes.; meal for two S$80.

Maggie Joan's
Courtesy of Maggie Joan's.

A refreshing collaboration between DP Architects and restaurant group Grub results in this aesthetically-pleasing bistro serving up comfort food with a local twist. Witness the béchamel and Chinese sausage-bursting leop cheong mac 'n' cheese.; meal for two S$60.

Courtesy of Redpan.

It feels like you're hanging out in someone's (big) backyard party at this chill outdoor eatery dishing out a slew of hearty meats, carbs and desserts. A 30-kilogram pig is usually roasting on their self-made spit.; meal for two S$80.

Camp Kilo Charcoal Club
Camp Kilo Charcoal Club. Courtesy of UNIFORM.


Starting with the Singapore Sling, the mixed drink has always had a special seat at the table in this island-state.

HOPSCOTH BAR specializes in Singaporein-fluenced craft cocktails with ingredients such as lemongrass, pandan and hibiscus. Especially memorable is their Osmanthus Penicillin drink: Osmanthus-infused Kakubin whisky with ginger honey, citrus zest and goji jelly.; drinks for two S$50.

Hopscotch Bar
Connect the shots at Hopscotch Bar. Courtesy of Hopscotch Bar.

URBAN SALOON is a mod take on a Wild Western joint, mixing an interesting range of reinterpreted cocktail classics such as Mimosa & Friends blending chamomile, elderflower, orange juice and champagne.; drinks for two S$60.

SMOKE & MIRRORS offers not only a sprawling balcony with stunning views of Singapore's skyline, but also a selection of artsy cocktails inspired by its location in National Gallery Singapore. The vodka, butterfly pea flower cordial and grapefruit bitters-blended Lotus in a Breeze 1970 pays homage to painter Georgette Chen.; drinks for two S$45.

Smoke & Mirrors
Stunning views from Smoke & Mirrors. Courtesy of Smoke & Mirrors.


Loh Lik Peng

The city's hottest trends
Lok Lik Peng,
Hotelier and Restaurateur

Hawker food with a modern twist
"Try Candlenut (; omakase S$65), a modern Peranakan restaurant that embraces old Nyonya recipes from grandmother. Their buah keluak (traditionally cooked with chicken) is also offered with Wagyu beef ribs.

Instagram makes the ordinary look extraordinary
"The latest Instagram-friendly hangout is Chong Wen Ge Café (168 Telok Ayer St.; meal for two S$20), in an old 19th-century Chinese school. Photo opportunities abound since their table tops are laid with vibrant vintage Peranakan tiles while their local grub is served in cute floral, retro plates."


There's no shortage of super cool spots to bed down for the night.

This is French designer Jacques Garcia's first boutique hotel in Asia—and what a vibrant, colorful one it is. Housed in an Art Deco heritage building with Parisian-chic rooms and an artist-in-residence mingling with guests, it's the perfect place for the bohemian-at-heart.; doubles from S$259.

Hotel Yan
Industrial chic is all the rage in Singapore, so it was only a matter of time until a hotel decked in rustic iron and wood would emerge—and from the warehouse part of town no less. Its rooms are small, but its retro, utilitarian aesthetic complements the nearby artisanal coffee joints and the rest of this micro-neighborhood between Kampong Glam and Little India.; doubles from S$157.

Hotel Yan
Courtesy of Hotel Yan.

This refurbished resort is a luxurious respite from the main island's hustle and bustle. Perched at the top of a cliff above Tanjong Beach and surrounded by 10 hectares of tropical woodlands, this serene seaside resort also houses a huge spa that comes with a mud pool filled with volcanic mud from New Zealand.; doubles from S$340.


Chef Janice Wong

Hawker Fare
Chef Janice Wong,
dishes on her favorites

"I grew up eating these noodles, as my grandmother used to live near here. I am amazed at how consistent it is even after all these years. The combination of curry, chicken and yellow noodles is delicious and comforting." Hong Lim Food Centre, Stall 01-58, 531A Upper Cross St.

"This is one of the few stalls where the chwee kueh (steamed rice cake) is fresh every morning (most are from factories). Their chye poh (preserved radish) topping, what usually makes or breaks this dish, is from a traditional recipe of garlic and pork lard. It is so simple, but so good." Ghim Moh Food Centre, Stall 01-54, 20 Ghim Moh Rd.

"To me, satay bee hoon (rice vermicelli drenched in satay sauce) is the most interesting Singaporean dish but it can't be found in many places these days. The sauce here is just the right balance of sweet, savory, spicy, nutty and creamy." Bukit Timah Food Centre, Stall 02-162, 116 Upper Bukit Timah Rd.



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