Best Neighborhoods in Singapore
In the past we have delved into some of the practical aspects of residing in Singapore such as the cost of living, transportation, food, etc. And now in combining such knowledge we have put together this list of the best neighborhoods in Singapore to actually reside in.
In picking a residential community there are a number of factors to take into consideration such as available entertainment, price, view and even one’s geographic background. So with that being noted, let’s get right into some of the ideal places to lay your head in the Lion City.
Holland Village, or Holland V as it is oft referred to, is a place which has a special appeal amongst young professionals and especially expatriates. That is to say that the area has a long-standing history of catering specifically to foreigners. Moreover it is the part of Singapore where many of the country’s prominent expat clubs are located. So for instance, expats would find an ample support system of likeminded individuals here.
Also being known as a “bohemian” community, Holland Village is a bit more laid back than some other parts of Singapore. Logically, this would at least be partially due to the fact that it is located just west of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, one of the more-meditative attractions in the island’s highly-urbanized south. And this is an important feature which Holland Village expats have on hand, as we would venture to say that no one relocates to another part of the world to be stressed out. And along those same lines Holland V is one of the cooler places in Singapore to hangout, particularly in terms of its eating and drinking options. Additionally it serves as one of the parts of the Lion City which is highly into the propagation of the arts.
Indeed while being primarily a residential zone, Holland Village is still a major commercial ‘hood. For instance, it is adjacent to Orchard Road, the best-known shopping strip in the Lion City. Additionally there are a few malls located within Holland itself. So if you’re not really into crowds, perhaps the Village is not for you. But if you‘re a foreigner – let’s say from the West especially – this is an area that you would at least want to give serious consideration to in terms of residing in. That is because, getting right down to the nitty-gritty, you will find the types of cuisine here that remind you of home. For instance, there is a Starbucks, Subway and even a Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop within Holland V. And anyone who has been away from their homeland for an extended amount of time knows that having access to your traditional diet can greatly increase the quality of life in a foreign land.
Lastly, Holland Village is an easily-accessible and strategically-placed community in terms of offering housing options. And whereas the neighborhood’s skyline is dominated by high-rise residences, there are also more-intimate residential options, such as Chip Bee Gardens, available. And all things considered, if you’re coming to Singapore with the mind to establish your own business for instance, Holland V may be the perfect place to wet your feet due to its expat-influenced residential/commercial mixture.
Tanjong Pagar is another part of the Lion City which communally traces its origins back to foreign populations, though in this case more from Asia than the West per se. In more recent times it has been particularly touched by Korean culture, even being home of Singapore’s own Koreatown or Little Korea, as some would say.
It was also the very first area which the modern Singaporean government renovated back in the 1980s. It features a jumping nightlife in its own regard and is known to be the ideal dwelling place for young professionals in the entirety of the Lion City. This may very well be because it is right on the outskirts of the Downtown Core, Singapore’s main business district. In other words, if you have a job in the Downtown Core or its environs, this would be the best place to live in terms of minimizing commuting along with a more-reasonable pricing structure.
Tanjong Pagar hosts a number of residential options, including a high-rise HDB (Housing & Development Board) complex known as Tanjong Pagar Plaza. In fact if you’re up high enough and facing the appropriate direction, you should enjoy a stunning view of not only the Marina Bay Sands but also much of the ever-colorful Marina Bay area itself. Indeed Tanjong Pajar is where the tallest building in Singapore, Guoco Tower, is also situated. And whereas this structure is partly residential, just to note, it is one of the more-luxury (i.e. pricey) options on the market.
But overall if you’re a true city dweller, then Tanjong Pajar would logically be a neighborhood you consider settling down in. So if this were New York City for instance, having a place in Tanjong Pajar would be like living right next to lower Manhattan as opposed to one of the outer boroughs.
Tiong Bahru proper is a large housing estate consisting of nearly 1,000 apartments. It is one of the most-recognizable residential communities in Singapore due to the fact that the houses at the center of the community are shaped somewhat like an oval. However, this is not a modern design per se, as its architecture dates all the way back to 1920s. Moreover it holds the distinction of being the oldest extant housing estate on the island.
And Tiong Bahru is also the name given to the general neighborhood in which the housing complex is situated. Overall this is another area which has a special appeal to the younger, professional generation. However, old souls alike enjoy Tiong Bahru, considering that it not only has a strong cultural heritage but is also one of the centers of Singaporean literature. In other words, this is one of the quieter, cooler parts of downtown Singapore. And in terms of its economic status, in more recent times the locality has begun developing into quite a well-to-do community.
And stepping back for a minute, what makes Tiong Bahru unique from an architectural perspective is that some of its prominent structures predate World War II. Indeed in many ways the community is a mix of the old with the new. For instance, the Tiong Bahru Market serves as one of Singapore’s premiere wet markets. Also there are a couple of traditional Chinese temples to be found here. Yet the boutiques and eateries in the area are known to attract Westerners and “hip” Singaporeans. In other words, it’s a cool place to reside if you’re an artist or an intellectual type.
Moreover there are a number of bus routes which traverse Tiong Bahru. And whereas it isn’t that deep inland (being just northwest of Tanjong Pajar), it is a sound option for professionals who don’t necessarily want to reside near the coast or too close to the Downtown Core.
Of course there are advantages to living away from the heart of the city. For instance, outer areas tend to be less congested. Also housing tends to be more affordable in sections not as popular as say the Downtown Core. And it is these factors combined which has some professionals rather opting to settle in places like Joo Chiat. In reality this neighborhood is not that far away from the Downtown Core / Marina Bay area. But it is separated enough to have its own distinct characteristics.
For example, Joo Chiat is not littered with high rises. In fact it is more of what typically pops to mind when someone hears the word ‘neighborhood, as in having an intimate, communal feel. And in terms of its influence on Singaporean culture, the area (being highlighted by the quite-popular Joo Chiat Road) was deemed special enough to earn the distinction of being the Lion City’s first official Heritage Town.
Indeed Joo Chiat Road, a major shopping/cultural strip, is an attraction in and of itself. That’s another way of saying that even if Joo Chiat is largely residential, there is still plenty it offers internally to entertain residents. And if you are an expat for instance, this is a sound place to immerse yourself in the Singaporean way of living, particularly the nation-state’s Peranakan culture. Yet and still the area is very much in tune with the international community, featuring a number of restaurants specializing in foreign cuisines to prove to the point. So generally speaking if, like most of us, you have monetary concerns when it comes to deciding where to live, then Joo Chiat is one of the wiser options in the ever-expensive Singapore.
Adjacent to Joo Chiat and part of the same general region is Geylang. Again, this is the type of ‘hood that is not only affordable but also relatedly quite local. For instance, if you’re more into patronizing food hawkers than actual restaurants, then Geylang may be right up your ally. Or even if you’re an foreigner who really wants to understand the culture well (or maybe just wants to save money), this is one of the realest Singaporean neighborhoods on this list. Indeed Geylang happens to be home to the island’s only “official red light district”. But it is still a relative stone’s throw away from the Downtown Core, in addition to being one of the more MRT-heavy parts of the country. So, we know this option isn’t for everyone. Yet it is still worth consideration amongst budget-conscious reenters. And the fact is you’ll still be close enough to the Lion City’s main attractions.
However, if you really want to get away from the heart of the city without venturing too far away from it, you may choose the East Coast instead, which is directly south of Geylang and Joo Chiat. The housing options available in the area are in urbanized surroundings. But ideally you can acquire an apartment or home overlooking East Coast Park, which in its entirety comprises of a larger strip of nature than the Botanical Gardens. Moreover this is one of the best parts of the island to score an apartment directly overlooking the coastline. Indeed there are even some beaches to be enjoyed here. And if you’re looking for a residence complete with a view of the ocean, the housing options on the East Coast are a lot more affordable than say Sentosa Island.
As aforementioned, Orchard Road is the prime shopping area and accordingly one of the best-known parts of Singapore. It is also arguably the most-visually stunning part of the Lion City outside of the Marina Bay itself.
And going back to its notoriety, what Orchard Road is really famous for is its plethora of retail opportunities. However, this is also the part of the country where many people who prefer living in condominiums or high-end apartment decide to reside. In fact you can say that Orchard Road’s residential opportunities is one of its best kept secrets. But there’s a reason it may not necessarily popup on most housing lists, that being renting in Orchard can prove to be pretty-damn expensive. So this is a recommendation which is directed more towards well-to-do renters. However there are also some HDB flats in the general area which can be rented at average Singaporean prices. And Orchard Road is yet another place to consider if you’re really into bright lights.
And while we’re on the subject of high-end renting, it also must be noted that Sentosa Island itself offers residential opportunities. Perhaps one wouldn’t think so considering, as we have elaborated on in the past, that Sentosa is Singapore’s premiere location as far as international stars and diplomats are considered. Or another way of stating the situation is as the Island being the most-welcoming part of Singapore in the eyes of foreigners. For instance, here is where you would find Universal Studios, beach resorts and some of the country’s best hotels. In other words, Sentosa Island is such that most renting opportunities are short-term, as in accommodating to tourists.
However, there are long-term options available also. But as to be expected they don’t come cheap, at all. But if you’re the type of person who possesses over SGD$10,000 to spend on rent monthly, enjoys the seaside and wants access to the best hobnobbing opportunities in the Lion City (including the Sentosa Golf Club), then living on Sentosa Island may be perfect for you. But again this is largely a resort community, so you may find yourself frequenting the mainland in the name of acquiring some sundries.
This is the first and only entry on this list which is situated in the northern part of Singapore. In fact the Woodlands are closer to Malaysia than they are to the Marina Bay. Moreover this is where you would find the Johor-Singapore Causeway, the main passageway between Malaysia and Singapore.
Why this area has a particular appeal to many is because it is indeed up north yet features urbanization on par with the south. What that means in layman’s terms is that the area is developed yet relatively-spacious. As such this is the part of the country where many couples establish themselves in the name of starting a family. It is also where one of the nation’s premiere educational institutions, the Singapore American School, can be found. So needless to say the Woodlands have proven to be especially popular amongst the American expat community. And the neighborhood’s renown is buttressed by the fact that features attractions such as a planetarium (Woodlands Galaxy CC), a theme park (Admiralty Park) and of course with this being Singapore quite a few shopping malls. Moreover whereas houses themselves tend to be high-priced in the area, rental costs are basically the same as in other parts of the Lion City.
Of course we couldn’t conclude this article without giving an appropriate shoutout to the Marina Bay. This is the area in which the Downtown Core and many of the main attractions Singapore is most known for are located. And as you may have already deduced from this post and others featured on this blog, it is in fact the most-popular part of the country. So for instance if you’re admiring a postcard or pic of Singapore’s bright lights, most of the time that image would have been taken in the Marina Bay. Or to put things into a more relatable perspective visually, the Marina Bay (and more specifically the Downtown Core) can be deemed as the Times Square of Singapore.
Being that most of the Marina Bay is dedicated to business and tourism, there are not as many housing options here as most other entries on this list. Or stated otherwise, in this neighborhood you can only get an apartment or condominium to rent. And as is also to be expected, actually purchasing one will cost you in excess of SGD$1,000,000. However, there are also rentals available, specifically in a complex known as the Marina Bay Residences, which is located right next to the Marina Bay Sands. However, these dwellings are considerably more-expensive than their counterparts in most other parts of the country, well exceeding SGD$5,000 per month on average. But that being said, facing East you will have an unparalleled view of the Downtown Core, which as alluded to earlier is one of the most brilliant city centers in the world.
Singapore is one of the most-expensive countries on Earth. So when making a financial decision as important as choosing a residence, exploring your options is of the utmost importance. Yes, it would be ultra-cool to live somewhere like the Marina Bay Residences or on Sentosa Island. But the good news is that Singapore is so developed, compact and clean that all of the neighborhoods above are livable not only to locals but also foreigners. In other words, regardless of which of them you may choose, you should still expect to have access to the best Singapore has to offer.