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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrOrchard Road is to Singapore what the Champs-Élysées is to Paris: its beating heart and by far its most famous shopping boulevard. With one major exception however: most mere mortals can actually afford to buy a few things on Orchard Road. This over 2km-long artery is considered the shopping, dining, and entertaining hub of the city and, in many ways, much more enticing than its Parisian equivalent. With a relatively recent upgrade, and multitude of attractions, it’s much easier and more rewarding to spend days on end cruising it from top to bottom. Orchard Road is ever lively and with such a vast array of fun and interesting things to see and do, it can certainly be considered a top attraction of its own accord.
Brief HistoryOrchard Road had been a commercial mecca for a little over a century. Long before that, the charming yet nondescript avenue simply led to a plethora of fruit orchards, hence the origin of its name. As the first market stalls, residential and religious buildings started to appear, the street gained notoriety and swiftly became a focal point of social and commercial interaction.
It wasn’t until the 60s and 70s that the first entertainment establishments opened, with a smattering of cinemas and a bowling alley luring visitors to meander about a little longer. Before too long, the city’s richest began building their mansions here and the heady mix of eastern and western architecture was said to be quite spectacular. Nowadays, most of these historic buildings have been pushed aside in favor of futuristic-looking mega malls and swanky hotels.
Nowadays, this eye-popping destination is home to 22 malls, 6 department stores, and a whole host of hotels, restaurants and bars. Although at first glance it may appear as if all Orchard Street has to offer is expensive designer gear, there are actually quite a few local chain and dedicated street stores which do cater for the not-so-financially-endowed visitor. The underpasses which connect malls (and provide much-needed air-con relief on sweltering days) are great to discover and offer, by far, the best bargains on this whole strip.
ShoppingThe primary activity on Orchard Street is to shop till you drop, pop in for a rejuvenating massage or pedicure, and end your day with a sumptuous dinner and a late-night movie and a high-rise drink, or two. In that particular order.
You certainly won’t need a guide if parting with your hard-earned holiday cash is on your must-do list when visiting Orchard Road. However you may be interested to know that there are a few malls which stand out for particular reasons. Here's our list of the top 5 malls on this strip. If you only have the energy, time, and money to visit a few, you may as well see the best.
ION OrchardION is the latest mega-mall to open on Orchard Road and has swiftly become a hit with visitors and locals alike. It offers fantastic deals on affordable foreign brands, which you'll find once you look past the haute-couture flagship boutiques along its entrance. ION is considered by many to be the most varied mall, and boasts an incredible observatory (the highest point on this road) as well as a large art gallery on the fourth floor, not to mention a mind-boggling food court on the basement.
Orchard CentralYet another high-end mall on Orchard Road, yet one which boasts an amazing art display and garden on its 11th floor, pick up your Art Trail guide when you enter and you can add some variation to your shopping escapade. The restaurants in this mall are particularly well rated. The world's tallest indoor climbing wall can keep hubby and the kids busy for hours on end, in case you wanted to know.
Far East PlazaThis is one of the few backpacker shopping havens in Singapore and is much visited by trendy young locals as well. It spans six floors, has more than 800 stores and offers unknown but quite great designer gear. This is one of the oldest malls in town and has arguably the best deal on electronics, which is actually the reason it's always packed with foreigners.
ParagonThe Paragon Shopping Center boasts several flagship stores of various fashion brands.
Ngee Ann CityHome of the Takashimaya Department Store and a wide collection of goods on sale, which is a reprieve for those who get a little over the fashion overload on Orchard Road. Don't get us wrong, there's plenty of clothing stores here, but you'll also find books, electronics, and just about anything else you can think of.
Lucky PlazaFor affordable beauty treatments head to the fourth floor of Lucky Plaza, and browse for cheap and cheerful souvenirs on the second floor. This plaza also boasts a super food court, which is cheaper than ION’s and dishes up quite good grub.
If shopping is your main incentive for visiting Singapore, then make sure you coincide your visit with The Great Singapore Sale. This mega retail event is aimed specifically at visiting tourists and held every year between late May and late July. Very late night shopping, a host of free entertainment and events, as well as comprehensive sales, draw the crowds to Orchard Street like nothing else ever could. Well, except for Christmas of course!
Eating & DrinkingEvery single mall on Orchard Street boasts its own food court, and that’s in addition to the near endless rows of trendy eateries, cafes and bars which are crammed in between them. Popular choices for cheap meals are the ever popular Sushitei, where your treats are delivered via mini-train, as well as Australia’s own Charlie & Co. This fantastic burger joint offer premium Aussie beef burgers for about S$10 ($7.40) a pop and is ideal of you fancy a little taste of your Western home. Student meals which are itzy bitzy smaller, but come with fries and a drink, will also only set you back S$10 ($7.40).
If you’re in mood for a delectable dessert, then head to Toast, where the chocolate or carrot cake (the real version) and a wicked cappuccino will go a long way to restore your shopped-out soul.
In a city renowned for buffet-style dining, it’s hard to pick an absolute winner. But if forced to, we certainly could. Carousel at the Royal Plaza simply offers the most varied and best quality food in Singapore and is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and exquisite high tea. With prices ranging from S$30 ($22) to S$68 ($50), it’s no surprise that this brilliant place is rated as one of the city’s top restaurants.
Should your visit to Singapore be about luxurious splurging, then rest assured you’ll find plenty of places more than happy to accept your patronage. For superlative dining at an exclusive restaurant, head down to Kaiseki Yoshlyuki the hands down winner of the top Japanese restaurant in Singapore contest. Meals ain’t cheap, but the quality of the award-winning chefs creation are said to be well worth the agony of the bill.
The Orchard Road riverside is the concentrated hub of bars and cafes, so head here if you’d like to end your undoubtedly exhausting day with a stiff drink and a relaxing pause.
On the first Saturday of every month, a large section of Orchard Road is closed to traffic and that’s when you’ll enjoy the road at its best. An influx of street entertainment is put on for visitors, making for a fantastic night out in town.
Getting ThereOrchard Road is serviced by no less than 3 Mass Rapid Transit (Singapore) stations, namely: Orchard, Somerset, and Doby Ghaut.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Feb 10, 2015