Are you eager to shop ‘til you drop? Then look no further than Singapore and its glittering, disposable income-frittering mega shopping malls. In a nation where shopping is practically a national pastime, there’s no shortage of places to drop some cash and come out looking a million dollars.
The Lion City’s most famous shopping precinct is undoubtedly Orchard Road – home of several of Singapore’s most popular shopping centres. The sprawling ION Orchard boasts more than 300 cutting-edge outlets, featuring everything from boutique brands to top-of-the-line designer labels. Nearby Tangs is a Singaporean institution, having first opened its doors in the 1950s, while the Japanese-owned Takashiyama lends a cosmopolitan air to this vibrant shopping district.
Beyond the Shopping Malls
If shopping malls aren’t your thing, you can still pound the pavement in search of a bargain in one of Singapore’s numerous shopping precincts. Whether it’s kitschy décor, colonial-era antiques or simply an authentic souvenir of your stay that you’re looking for, there are plenty of places to scope out on a Singaporean shopping sojourn.
Arab Quarter and Haji Lane
Trend-setters have been quick to make the Arab Quarter one of their favourite fashion haunts, thanks to its proliferation of textile stores and clothing stores. Bright colours and bold fabrics abound in the many boutique shops sandwiched between the districts shisha cafes and Persian rug emporiums. Running through the heart of the Arab Quarter is the tiny Haji Lane, which has shot to prominence as one of the hottest fashion streets on the island. If music’s more your thing, head one street over to Bali Lane to peruse the eclectic collection on offer at indie-friendly Straits Records.
Singapore’s famous Chinatown district is, not surprisingly, a great place to pick up authentic Chinese wares, from loose-leaf Chinese tea to traditional handicrafts and jewellery. While Chinatown remains the historic hub of Singapore’s ethnic Chinese community, it’s also home to some hip-and-happening boutique stores. Design company Asylum boasts its very own concept store, while Egg3’s graphic t-shirts are a favourite with trend-conscious Singaporeans and visitors alike.
Dempsey Road and Holland Village
Dempsey Road was once the site of the British Army barracks, but these days it’s better known as a great place to shop for antiques. It’s also where you’ll find upscale Dempsey Hill – renowned as much for its vast range of bars and eateries as it is for the many retail outlets within. Holland Village has long been a favourite with Singapore’s sizeable expatriate community, which has flocked to the trendy shopping enclave for years to purchase imported produce and dine in the district’s many fine restaurants.
Gentrification crept up slowly on Bugis Street, a once hedonistic avenue of raucous revelry frequented by visiting sailors. Today the din of the dive bars has made way for the pounding of feet, as shoppers from Singapore and beyond look to snap up a bargain on this revitalised shopping strip. Now the largest shopping locale on the island, Bugis Street is a part-covered, part-open air three-level extravaganza. Offering over 800 retail outlets across multiple blocks of fashion-filled, street-food flouting market stalls, this eclectic shopping precinct is one of the most popular on the island.
Geeky gadgets abound in tech-savvy Singapore, with the shelves of several stores jam-packed with high-tech electronics. From iPod docks to the latest in SLR camera technology and USB flash drives – which some say were first invented in Singapore – the Lion City is at the vanguard of a technological boom. Head to shops like Travel PAC for all your geeky gadget needs and stuff your suitcase full of some of the most high-tech Singapore souvenirs on offer.
Put away that alchemy instruction manual because Singapore’s vaunted jewellers will leave you peering through a purple haze. Purple Gold is a uniquely Singaporean invention, created by mixing pure gold with other precious metals to produce a unique style of jewellery with a distinctly purple hue. Be it bracelets, necklaces or even custom-made rings, there’s no shortage of unique Purple Guide designs available to impress your friends and family.
CYC The Custom Shop
When it comes to looking your best, no one does it better than CYC The Custom Shop. This long-standing institution is Singapore’s oldest custom shirt maker, having first opened its doors in 1935. Shirt-makers to the stars, what sets CYC The Custom Shop apart from its competitors is the meticulous amount of detail you can put into your own shirt design. Choose everything from the fabric right down to the cuff style in this eternally popular clothing outlet.
Address: Raffles Hotel Arcade, 328 North Bridge Road.
TWG Tea Company
From its inception in 2008, The Wellness Group Tea Company has set new standards in luxury. Singapore’s first high-end luxury tea salon features an eye-catching rotating tea wall and dedicated patisserie counter, as well as just about every form of tea and tea accessory imaginable. The company even creates its own unique tea blend, making a uniquely Singaporean souvenir just a cup of tea away.
Address: ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn.
Charles and Keith Shoes
‘Keep calm and carry on shopping’ seems to be the well-worn mantra of many Singaporean women, and when the city-state boasts brands like Charles and Keith Shoes, it’s not hard to understand why. Founded by brothers Charles and Keith Wong, this wildly popular ladies footwear and accessories brand has established a firm foothold in the market courtesy of its wildly popular and impressively affordable sandals and stilettos.
Address: ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
Zouk Flea and Easy
By night its one of the hippest nightclubs in Asia, when daylight rolls around – at least on market Sundays – Zouk transforms into one of the trendiest places to shop in Singapore. The Zouk Flea and Easy markets are a much-loved treasure trove of antiques, well-worn books, vinyl records and vintage clothing, all housed within the atmospheric confines of one of Singapore’s coolest venues.
Address: Zouk, 17 Jiak Kim Street.
Don’t let the name fool you; the MAAD Market – or Market of Artists and Designers to use its full name – is one of Singapore’s most sensible places to shop. This trendy market, hosted on the first Friday of every month by the Red Dot Design Museum, welcomes hordes of young artists and creative types to showcase their wares for the benefit of the buying public.
Address: Red Dot Traffic Building, 28 Maxwell Road.
China Square Central
In a nation positively teeming with market stalls, China Square Central may seem like just another ho-hum marketplace. For comic book fans, however, it’s a veritable wonderland of back issues and hard-to-find collectors’ editions. There are also plenty of cheap DVDs and an array of electronics for sale at this weekly Sunday market.
Address: 18 Cross Street.
A popular twice-monthly flea market held in an ever-changing variety of locations espousing staunchly indie values, Public Garden is a self-proclaimed alternative to “big box retail.” That means quirky second-hand fashions, eye-catching handicrafts and a delicious assortment of hand-made food products are what’s in store at this market, which draws an eclectic crowd of bargain-hunters and visitors eager to soak up the relaxed ambiance.
Thieves’ Market at Sungei Road
Sungei Road is home to Singapore’s largest and longest-running flea market, the conspicuously named Thieves’ Market. So named because it’s where second-hand goods of dubious origin invariably end up, the Thieves’ Market is nevertheless an ideal place to search for knick-knacks and bric-a-brac, much of which ceased to be manufactured years ago.