Shopping in Singapore: The city’s 9 best neighborhoods for retail therapy

Photo: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

In a city teeming with malls on every corner, Singapore’s retail scene has no lack of big name luxury chains, local indie boutiques, and street markets. We’ve got countless glossy shopping centers, thrift stores, budget outlets, and heritage souvenir shops, spanning from the island’s iconic Orchard Road stretch to the quieter heartlands.

So if you’re in the mood for an afternoon of retail therapy, take some time to explore these 9 neighborhoods for the best buys.


 

Bugis

Haji Lane. Photo: Carson Arias/Unsplash
Haji Lane. Photo: Carson Arias/Unsplash

This vibrant district is chock-full of hidden gems, from the edgy hipster street of Haji Lane where vintage treasures and stylish wares by homegrown labels reside, to Bugis Street Market, which is perpetually swarmed by crowds of locals and tourists alike, all taking their time to rummage through souvenirs, apparel, and accessories for a good deal.

Nearby, Arab Street sparkles with the gleam of precious stones and a variety of fabrics in brilliant hues, while malls like Bugis Junction and Bugis+ give shoppers their high street fix. For more eclectic style, head to the National Design Centre for lifestyle brand Kapok and designer collective Keepers, or put together an affordable outfit with pre-loved pieces from Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations’ New2U Thrift Shop.

 

Chinatown

Photo: xiquinhosilva/Flickr
Photo: xiquinhosilva/Flickr

On the hunt for tacky trinkets imprinted with typical Singaporean stereotypes? Chinatown’s your best bet. But we’re not here for that. The heritage hotspot is also home to street stalls hawking Chinese antiques, toys, and textiles, as well as teas, herbs, medicines, and handicrafts in the malls (don’t let their dilapidated exteriors fool you).

Plus, a quick wander around the area’s conserved shop houses will reveal modern concepts like activewear brand Lorna Jane, music store White Label Records, and luxury pet establishment Woofer & Purrlensky.

 

Dempsey Hill

Photo: Siri House
One of the multi-concept stores in Dempsey. Photo: Siri House

Apart from being known as a restaurant enclave that’s centrally located yet quieter than the nearby Orchard stretch, Dempsey is also an upscale retail space for the finer things in life. Think antique houses, carpet galleries, a wedding gown warehouse, a chocolate boutique, and its newest, a multi-concept brand that showcases Thai designer goods.

 

Harbourfront

Photo: VivoCity Singapore/Facebook
Photo: VivoCity Singapore/Facebook

At VivoCity, Singapore’s largest retail and lifestyle mall, the options are endless, with shops amassing furniture, clothes, groceries, cosmetics, and gadgets over three floors, all doing their best to entice you to buy. You can almost get lost roaming around the building – either that, or you’ll somehow find yourself at its next-door neighbor, HarbourFront Centre, to continue your shopping jaunt.

Once you’re done spending every last dollar, the alfresco rooftop area at VivoCity is a sweet spot to unwind, or you can stroll across the boardwalk to Sentosa for its evening light and water show.

 

Jurong 

Just another mall. Photo: JCube/Facebook
Just another mall. Photo: JCube/Facebook

Some call this far-off neighborhood home; others call it the “Orchard of the West”. Thanks to its myriad of malls with all the usual brand names, residents don’t actually have to leave the vicinity to get what they need.

But we suggest you ditch the conventional offerings in Westgate, JCube, or Jem, and swing by Big Box or IMM instead. The former is a massive warehouse that caters to furniture and electronics buyers, while the latter is packed with factory outlets that won’t be quite so harsh on your wallet.

 

Little India

Bags from Little India’s Deepavali market. Photo: _paVan/Flickr
Bags from Little India’s Deepavali market. Photo: _paVan/Flickr

Just like its name describes, Little India is a heritage heaven, with old school shops standing next to modern cafes and lively bars. There’s plenty to purchase here, from aromatic spices and silk saris to patterned textiles and quaint handicrafts.

To scout out the area, start with Little India Arcade and Tekka Centre, then stop by whatever catches your eye along the streets, and end off at Mustafa Centre, where you’re more likely than not to lose yourself in the value-for-money deals on sporting goods, groceries, electronics, and apparel in the building. It’s also open 24-hours, so insomniacs and night owls can poke around for a bargain in the wee hours of the morning.

 

Orchard Road

Photo: Orchard Road/Facebook
Photo: Orchard Road/Facebook

Famous for its title as the shopping belt of Singapore, Orchard Road is the city’s garden-variety answer to a retail district. Even so, you won’t be able to traipse across all its malls in a day – from Tanglin Mall to Plaza Singapura, there’re just too many of ’em.

So map out your plan of attack before you head over – for general reference, Ion Orchard, Ngee Ann City, Mandarin Gallery, and Paragon house high-end and mid-range international brands, Far East Plaza offers affordable accessories and (mostly) teenage apparel, while 313 @ Somerset retails high street names. You’ll also find the occasional local label dotting the stretch, including the likes of Actually (Orchardgateway), Beyond The Vines (Mandarin Gallery), In Good Company (Ion Orchard), and Naiise (The Cathay).

If local finds are what you’re after, though, then good news: The newest kid on the block, Design Orchard, is an entire structure dedicated to Singaporean brands and designers.

 

Raffles Place/Marina Bay

The very recognizable structure. Photo: Marina Bay Sands/Facebook
The very recognizable structure. Photo: Marina Bay Sands/Facebook

The CBD may be a soulless place on weekdays and an abandoned ghost town on weekends, but in true Singapore fashion, it’s still rife with shops selling corporate work wear and local designer goods. Y’know, just in case OLs (office ladies) decide to embark on a short shopping spree during lunchtime.

Also in the area, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is an obvious standout. Granted, not all of us can afford to live the high life and breeze in and out of the luxury stores with a personal shopper in tow, but hey, there’s always window shopping.

 

Tiong Bahru 

Photo: BooksActually/Facebook
Photo: BooksActually/Facebook

Famed for being a ‘hood made hip by gentrification, Tiong Bahru’s once-quiet shop houses and resident units have undergone a trendy makeover in recent years, with waves of indie retailers and cafes setting up shop in the area. Still, with a certain nostalgic charm in its streets, the district continues to draw in crowds, who flock to quaint and quirky places like BooksActually, Woods in the Books, Nana & Bird, Curated Records, and Maissone. You’ll find shopping to be more of a leisurely pastime here, without the hurried bustle of the city.

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