Singapore is often dismissed as merely a layover destination or a stopover on a trade route, but don’t underestimate this tiny nation. Over the past decade, the country has earned its title as one of the world’s best shopping spots, packing in more malls per square mile than any other country in the world. From high street fashion to outdoor markets, to the latest in designer brands that line the city’s broad boulevards, this sprawling urban metropolis is the place to be for fashionistas and shopping fanatics.
Chinatown Street Market
Chinatowns spring up across the world adorned with brightly coloured lanterns and waving cat figurines. Loved by locals and holidaymakers alike for their seemingly random evolution as a microcosm of foreign culture, each city’s is unique and Singapore’s is no different. The Chinese citizens of Singapore form a staggering 75+% of the population, meaning you can bet the city’s Chinatown is vibrant and thriving. This section of the city is interspersed with modern skyscrapers, temples and traditional medicine halls at street level, making it the amalgam of eastern and western cultures. Find everything here from Chinese spices to oriental-themed gifts.
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Orchard Road is without a doubt the beating heart of Singaporean shopping culture, and where you can spot locals and tourists in a shopping frenzy. The iconic street is a two-kilometre-long boulevard, and is the retail and entertainment hub of this fantastic city. For those living locally, the spot is known simply as ‘Orchard’, but it is far from the agricultural image this colloquial nickname conjures up, with pristine glass buildings and modern skyscrapers home to designer brands.
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Ann Siang Road
For a break from the mega malls and skyscrapers that have become synonymous with the Singaporean skyline, head to this enchanting, oriental-style street for a more tranquil shopping experience. Just a short walk from Chinatown, this street is filled with restored shophouses which have been redesigned with a nice nod to Asian culture, and are filled with artisan boutiques, hip cafes and vibrant bars. There is a selection of great alternative shops that sell a variety of artisan gifts, bespoke men’s and womenswear as well as items for the home.
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As with Chinatown, Singapore‘s ethnic and colonial history manifests itself in an explosion of colour and the tantalising waft of exotic spices. This time it’s down Little India’s ramshackle lanes. Little India has an interesting history. Previously a segregated area for the Indian Singaporean community under British rule, this corner of town now acts as a celebration of India’s exciting and vibrant culture. Visitors to this district can purchase everything from handicrafts to jewellery for low prices – even lower if you fancy your hand at a spot of bargaining.
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Tiong Bahru estate is a hip, urban-chic hangout in the heart of Singapore that makes for an unconventional shopping expedition. The housing estate is a fantastic spot for a day of leisurely enjoying freshly baked goods from independent bakeries, or whiling away the hours with a warm and creamy organic coffee. This area, in particular, is a treasure trove for any discerning reader. And in Singapore, there are many of those. Head to BooksActually – a beautifully designed, independent book shop with thousands of titles to get your hands on and venue for the occasional exhibition, poetry recital and even acoustic session.
Raffles City Shopping Centre
This contemporary shopping mall is one of the many large complexes in the city of Singapore. Inside, you’ll find all your usual high street names alongside a great choice of dining and bar options, but its location is what makes it truly special. Raffles City Shopping Centre is located within the downtown core of the city-state, and a short walk from Clarke Quay – an historical riverside quay that comes alive in the evenings with vibrant bars and restaurants. The mall is also close to Marina Bay Sands, which is home to the iconic ship-shaped SkyPark that perches on top of three towers to make up one of the world’s most expensive hotels.
This rustic and colourful market lies just outside Singapore’s city centre, but is worth the trip if you are attempting to source the freshest of the country’s agricultural yield. PasarBella Farmers Market sells everything from artisan beers and wines to fresh seafood and organic fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Its enchanting interior is warm and authentic and its open plan space encourages a hospitable community feel.
One massive advantage of Singapore’s function as a layover destination and trading city is that its airport is like no other. Not only does it have the usual amenities and functions, but it is kitted out with an array of attractions like the onsite butterfly park, the cactus garden, swimming pools and various art installations. It also has some great duty free shopping facilities and a variety of designer and high street brands will be at your fingertips, making your layover an enjoyable experience!
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This narrow alleyway in Kampong Glam is packed full of brightly painted shop fronts and graffiti-covered buildings. Here, you’ll find all sorts from colourful boutiques selling handcrafted gifts to artisan coffee shops. On a typical weekend, you’ll spot the city’s hipsters roaming the street capturing its quirky appeal with truly Instragram-worthy photographs.
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Dempsey Hill is made up of former British army barracks that have been turned into chic warehouse spaces and shops specialising in ornaments and antiques. The shopping district is the place for people looking for a calmer shopping experience, with its peaceful and rustic setting a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the likes of Orchard Road. Dempsey Road commands an excellent location, with nearby botanical gardens, galleries, as well as plenty of quirky restaurants and arty bars to nicely round off your shopping trip.