Where to Shop in Singapore
For 1.3 miles, Orchard Road stretches on … and on. This is Singapore’s shopping hub and probably your first stop. Check out the ION Orchard and Paragon malls (just 2 of the 20 along this road), where you’ll find every designer brand you’ve ever heard of. Don’t overlook the tried-and-true Far East Asia and Lucky Plaza for fashion bargains. And don’t miss the uniquely Singaporean Tangs department store for high-end fashion, designer homeware and premium beauty products. You’ll recognize it by its pagoda-style roof and red columns. Hungry? There are countless bars and restaurants to stop at for a quick libation or mid-day meal before hitting the stores again.
Spend hours strolling through the colorful shops and stalls of the Chinatown Street Market – which encompasses Pagoda Street, Trengganu Street, Sago Lane, Smith Street and Temple Street. There are handmade fans adorned with calligraphy, homewares, techy gifts, handicrafts, lacquerware and more. And, like the purveyors on Orchard Road have figured out, you can shop all day without sustenance, so the shopping stalls are complemented by plenty of street food cards serving everything from dim sum to duck. The best culinary spot of them all is “Food Street” on Smith Street.
Not just one of Singapore’s largest malls, VivoCity is one of Asia’s largest shopping complexes. You’ll find shopping and entertainment together here at the HarbourFront, including huge cinemas, massive toy stores, a wading pool and four food courts. Name brands are ubiquitous here – look for Chanel, Watches of Switzerland and other recognizable upscale labels. Let the kids run off steam at the rooftop play area.
Credit card burning a whole in your pocket? Throw caution to the wind and splurge at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. YOLO, right? While “discount” isn’t a word here, you’ll find plenty that’s worth its fancy price tag, including some of the world’s highest-end designers.
Step away from the enticing megamalls for a beat and visit Haji Lane near Arab Street. This is where the hipsters hang, those who want one-a-kind fashion and unique gifts. Vintage shops line this narrow road, where buildings are adorned with colorful wall murals. Stay after hours for the fun nightlife scene.
Another favorite off-the-beaten-path Singapore shopping destination is Little India, centered around Serangoon Road. Amidst the various markets and street stalls, you’ll find bargain-basement fashion outlets, fresh produce, tailored Indian textiles, jewelry and Chinese liquor. Aim for morning or evening when it’s not as hot.
In an area that used to be known for its rather seedy nightlife, Bugis Street Market has emerged as another trendy, off-the-wall shopping destination. It’s huge, it’s cheap and it’s constantly busy – and hot, so like Little India, consider visiting in the morning or evening. The covered market offers more than 800 shops and is home to everything from electronics to cosmetics, clothing to stationery. Grab a snack from a food stall – perhaps a noodle dish or a fresh banana-pineapple juice.
What to Buy in Singapore
Now that you know where to shop, what should you shop for? Fashion comes first to mind and you can expect high-end fashion as well as your run-of-the-mill souvenir t-shirts. But don’t stop there. Here are few ideas for what to buy when you’re shopping in Singapore:
The national symbol of Singapore, the Merlion is a half-lion/half-mermaid representation of the city’s original name (Singapure, translating to “lion city”). Look for it on souvenirs of every ilk, from keychains to apparel to magnets.
The national flower of Singapore, the orchid is seen just about as often as the Merlion symbol. Treat yourself or someone back home to an orchid-infused perfume. Most are sold under the name “Singapore Memories” and are a blend of native orchid varieties. Look for Aranda 1965 or Orchids by the Bay, among others.
Originating from Chinese emperors, tiger balm products were first sold commercially by a Chinese herbalists who later expanded to Singapore. Treat your achy shopping-weary muscles to a topical tiger balm ointment, found in shops throughout the island.
Singapore is a haven for foodies, so bring home the taste of the nation to recreate your experience later on. Look for laksa paste, which can be used to make this traditional Peranakan noodle soup, along with coconut milk, lemongrass and prawn paste. Popular, too, is coconut jam, made with coconut milk, sugar, eggs and padal leaves, and delightful on toast or as a dessert topping.
Bak kwa is a soy sauce-marinated pork or beef, complemented by sugar and spices, slow-grilled over charcoal. It’s a popular gift during the Chinese New Year and travels well, making it a wonderful souvenir item. And don’t forget the famous Singapore Sling, dating back to the 1930s. Grab some Sling mix – a blend of lime and orange juices, cherry brandy, pineapple juice and gin – and you’ll be the hit of your next cocktail party.