Shopping is a national pastime in Singapore, where malls, department stores and exotic markets have sprung up all over the city to meet the demands of keen local shoppers and tourists. For first-time visitors in Singapore, knowing where to begin your shopping escapades can be daunting.
The city centre can seem like one endless shopping mall, as upscale shopping centres such as Raffles City and ION Orchard connect with hotels and MRT stations to offer an air-conditioned sanctuary from the heat, and where you can always be tempted by the latest promotions.
Further from the centre, the traditional shops and markets of historic ethnic neighbourhoods such as Chinatown and the Arab Quarter are the best places to find authentic souvenirs at affordable prices.
Named after the plantations that once occupied this neighbourhood, Orchard Road is Singapore's premier shopping hub. With 22 shopping malls on one street, Orchard Road is heaven for shopping aficionados.
Make sure you have your credit card ready, as you’ll be shopping at high-end and exclusive boutiques including Burberry, Armani, Prada and Balenciaga.
Along Orchard Road, you’ll also find upscale shopping malls such as ION Orchard, which is home to over 300 outlets across 8 levels showcasing trendy fashion, beauty and electronic must-haves. For luxury homewares, head further down Orchard Road to Takashimaya's vast department store.
For a shopping venue that holds a touch of historic charm, Chinatown won’t disappoint. Pre-war shop-houses mingle with trendy fashion boutiques in the historic district, selling everything from traditional gold and jade jewellery to handmade crafts, tea and medicinal herbs and balms.
Major retail spots include Chinatown Point, with its lavish hotel-inspired interior and stores specialising in Ginseng, herbs, bird's nest and other exotic delicacies, and Yue Hwa and OG People's Park department stores, stocking a wide selection of Chinese-style homewares, accessories and cosmetics.
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Known as Singapore’s largest shopping district, Bugis Street delivers a less showy shopping atmosphere than Orchard Road and Marina Bay, as well as being considerably less expensive.
The 3 levels of Bugis Street are home to over 800 retailers, and thronged with locals and visitors browsing fashion stalls, bookstores and curio shops. You could spend the whole day hunting for bargains at Bugis Street, but don’t forget to refuel at one of the many cosmopolitan restaurants and hawker centres along the way.
If you're in Singapore over the weekend, a trip to one or more of its lively shopping markets is a must. The city's oldest flea markets still draw the crowds to the Zouk Flea and Easy, China Square Central Weekend Bazaar and Thieves' Market on Sungei Road, where experienced vendors sell antiques, vintage clothing, memorabilia and everything else you won't find in the shopping malls.
Other Singapore markets such as Public Garden are more variable in their location, to keep regulars on their toes, while the Market of Artists and Designers (MAAD) on Maxwell Road specialises in locally-made arts and handicrafts, with local DJs providing background music to heighten the shopping experience.
Arab Quarter & Haji Lane
A visit to Singapore’s historic retail precincts of Arab Quarter and nearby Haji Lane can be a satisfying alternative for shoppers seeking authentic mementos and one-of-a-kind items. Many of these family-owned boutiques selling textiles, clothing and Persian rugs have been in business for centuries, and their quality wares are still highly sought-after.
When it comes to fashion, the boutiques on Haji Lane can hold their own against the biggest international designers with their unique casual gear, dresses and colourful saris.