Orchard Road, Singapore

Orchard Road

So far we’ve covered many of the tourist attractions and major sightseeing areas in Singapore. But still, there is a lot more that the Lion City has to offer.  One such place is Orchard Road, which is located near the base of the Singapore River. And the best way to describe Orchard Road is perhaps as a pimped-out shopping area.

An orchard is actually a place where fruit trees are planted en masse. As such, this street has derived its name from the fact that, back in the old days, it did indeed lead to many plantations. And it had been fulfilling this purpose at least from the early 19th century.

Heart of Government of Singapore

But now it serves a more-modern purpose for the Singaporean government.  For instance the President’s official residence and workplace, known as the Istana (aka “Palace”) is there. The Istana is also the office of the Prime Minister of Singapore. And whereas it is only open to the public sparingly, it is still a lovely site and illustrates how important Orchard Road is to both the past and present of the Lion City. Indeed whereas the pathway may have led to farms in the past, it was also formerly populated by the well-to-do, especially those of Chinese origin.

Yet despite possessing this type of exclusivity, Orchard Road is not isolated at all. In fact it is easily-accessible, as a number of Metro Rapid Transit (MRT) stations for both subways and buses are scattered throughout. Indeed one of the main draws to Orchard Road is simply that it is so effortless to get to. And that’s because the business owners very much want you to visit, as once again it is amongst the premiere commercial centers in Singapore.

Oceans of Shopping Centers on Orchard Road

As a matter of fact if nothing else, you can be assured that you are going to have an satisfying retail experience on Orchard Road. In fact, many of the top tourist attractions in the area are actually shopping centers. 

ION Orchard

Let’s take for instance the ION Orchard. As its name implies, this facility (which serves as both a retail and residential site) is indeed state-of-the-art. But most visitors to ION Orchard are actually there for the shopping experience, considering it’s a mall and all. In fact it is a 12-storey mall which has over 300 shops and even its own art gallery. Also the Orchard Residences (which is a component of the ION Orchard) is another sight to behold. In fact it houses one of Singapore’s few panoramic observatories in its own right.

Orchard Road has a Rich History

And as we stated, Orchard Road is a place steeped in history. So for instance, if you decide to visit Tangs, a famous department store, know that you’re actually stepping into a shop that’s probably been around before even your grandparents, having first opened its doors in 1934. In fact Orchard Road’s development into the amazing center of commerce it is today all started with Tangs. And if you are an admirer of architectural marvels, as we all are, then this is another structure you’re bound to be impressed with. In fact its design was inspired by traditional Chinese palaces (the founder of Tangs was a Chinese immigrant). 

Moreover, Tang Plaza is actually the site of the Singapore Marriott Hotel. So while on Orchard Road, in addition to having the best shopping options in Singapore you will also have access to the top, internationally-recognized hospitality establishments.

For example Orchard Road is also home of the Regent Hotel in Singapore. And believe it or not the Regent houses a drinking bar – called “Manhattan” (after the center of New York City) – which is actually considered one of the best bars on the face of the Earth. But this is not really that surprising considering that much of Singapore was designed with the specific purpose in mind of pleasing international audiences. In fact foreign shoppers are actually entitled to special discounts at places like Orchard Central, which is another of the area’s mega malls.

Ngee Ann City

There’s also other department stores in the area, such as Ngee Ann City. That’s right – a department store so big that it earned the title of “city”. But all jokes aside, this place is huge – so huge in fact that it serves host to extravagant events such as fashion shows and even concerts. And in terms of shopping in Ngee Ann City, whereas retail opportunities are plentiful, by and large this is known as one of the pricier shopping centers in Singapore.

Mandarin Orchard Singapore

And while keeping on the theme of high-end retail establishments on Orchard Road, there is the nearby Mandarin Orchard Singapore. Its shopping section, the Mandarin Gallery, is honestly a bit out of the average person’s price range.  But of course it has many well-to-do visitors and patrons. And when they want trendy clothing from big-name designers, this is one of the places they come to. Moreover the Gallery specializes in personalized tailoring. Additionally the Mandarin Orchard has its own hotel, which features luxuries such as a gym, swimming pool, steam room and spa.

Far East Plaza

For a contrast in shopping style, you may want to also spend some time at the Far East Plaza. Boasting over 600 shops, the Plaza is more of the everyman’s retail experience. That is to say that in addition to having a vast array of food and merchandise available, such items also tend to be generally-affordable.  Perhaps such is why the Far East Plaza is traditionally one of the more-popular malls among youth on Orchard Road.

Plaza Singapura

Another locale we had to give a shoutout is the Plaza Singapura. Being constructed in 1974, the Plaza Singapura holds the distinction of being the first mall in Singapore’s history to be multi-storied. In other words, it’s one of the elder establishments in the area. But you definitely wouldn’t know that by looking at it now. And while acknowledging that there are loads of stores everywhere on Orchard Road, what really makes the Singapura standout from its multitude of peers is actually its vast and delicious food courts. So like the Far East Plaza, the Plaza Singapura is also more along the lines of an experience that just about anyone can enjoy.

Tanglin Shopping Centre

Indeed as the old saying goes, ‘different strokes for different folks’. So even though we may be suckers for bright, colorful lights, others may be looking for a more artsy, intellectual experience. And in that regard, may we suggest the Tanglin Shopping Centre. First off, although the place is massive, you’re not likely going to be taken aback by its appearance. But as aforementioned, this mall is defined by its sense of civility. As such it is one of the best locations in Singapore to purchase antiques, artwork, jewelry, carpets and things of the like. There are also a number of educational courses held within, ranging in subjects as diverse as computer coding to martial arts. Additionally, the Tanglin Shopping Centre is known for having top-notch tailors on hand. And of course it has all of the other products you commonly find in malls. But once again, one of its main appeals is catering to the tastes of more-cerebral people in Singapore.

Orchard Towers on Orchard Road

Another prominent, multi-faceted facility on the strip which needs to be mentioned is Orchard Towers, as it serves a variety of retail, official and recreational purposes. Whether or not you decide to visit the Towers (which is actually a single, 18-storey building) is a matter of personal taste. Or more specifically, there is both a good and questionable side of its functions. On the up-and-up, it is actually a respectable office complex. In fact the Orchard Towers houses the embassies of Cambodia, Mauritius and Romania. Moreover, it possesses quite a few condominiums for those who may be interested in acquiring real estate on Orchard Road, in addition to a variety of reputable stores, eateries, etc. 

But Orchard Towers has also earned the distinction of being referred to, unflatteringly (depending on your disposition), as “the Four Floors of [expletive]”. Or simply put, “working girls” (as well as their patrons) tend to congregate there during the evenings on the first-four storeys of the complex.  So in the daytime, Orchard Towers is more of a mainstream institution where visitors come strictly for food, shopping, work or to go to their apartments.  Indeed the uninitiated may not even detect that it is traditionally a center of the aforementioned night business. But at night things can get a little seedier.  That is when the aforementioned type of commerce goes on in the Towers’ numerous bars, nightclubs and adult-themed venues. So the best advice we can offer when it comes to visiting Orchard Towers is this. If you intend visiting it with the kids, it would be a good idea to restrict your visitation to the daytime hours.

Smoking on Orchard Road

One important thing the smokers out there should be aware of is that Orchard Road idealizes itself as a smoke-free environment. As such, puffs can only be enjoyed publicly in what have been dubbed Designated Smoking Area (DSAs).  Also it may not be easy to find an eatery with its own section that legally allows smoking. But there are enough other exciting things happening on Orchard Road to keep you distracted from taking a puff.

Getting to Orchard Road

Also if you’re coming into Orchard Road via an automobile you’re driving yourself, you shouldn’t have any problem finding parking in one of the malls.  But if you’re coming in by taxi, you should note that when leaving you cannot hail a taxi in the middle of the road like some other places. Rather they can only be solicited at various taxi stands which are scattered throughout.

Orchard Road is very Important to Singapore

So at the end of the day, we can say that Orchard Road serves three major functions for the economy of Singapore. The first is it being a major shopping area in an ultra-modern country.  In fact if we were allowed to name this street ourselves, we’d probably call it something like ‘Mall City’. Second is that it is also a fine place to be treated to top-tier hospitality services. And when you put these plus other factors together, this leads to the third function of Orchard Road, which is it being a premiere tourist attraction that appeals to foreigners and Singaporeans alike.

And by other factors we mean the businesses that exist outside of the malls, department stores and hotels, such as the numerous eateries and nightclubs.  Indeed Singapore’s own Hard Rock Café can be found nowhere else but on Orchard Road. And foreigners needn’t worry about being separated from their favorite foods in the area. Also we didn’t mention that some of the malls we talked about have their own attractions outside of shopping and cuisine, such as cinemas, arcades or even gardens. Indeed all that Orchard Road has to offer is way too plentiful to mention here. So whether it be food, accommodation, merchandise or entertainment, it has you covered – and then some. 

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6 Responses

  1. Sweet Singapore says:

    Located at the heart of Singapore, Orchard Road is widely recognized as one of the city’s most famous tourist sites. Typically, a shopping area, this long road is engulfed with a wide range of internationally respected restaurants, coffeehouses and department stores.

    The name “Orchard Road” was derived from the pepper, nutmeg, and fruit plantations mostly found in the area during the 19th century. This one-way street begins at the Orange Grove Road, where one can find the Orchard Hotel. It stretches across the Scotts Road-Paterson Hill junction, Bideford Road, Orchard MRT station, Central Expressway through Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station, and finally ends at Handy Road.

    One of Orchard Road’s most notable landmarks is the Istana, which is the official residence and office of Singapore’s President, located at the eastern end. On the South side, on 38 Oxley Road is the residence of the Lion City’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Botanic Gardens, the world’s only tropical garden noted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is found on the western side of this Road.

    Other notable landmarks on Orchard road include Emerald Hill, Cairnhill, Centrepoint, Orchard Gateway and Scotts Shopping Centre. Orchard Towers, found on the far end of Orchard Road is one of Singapore’s red-light districts with a vast number of bars and discotheques to accommodate its fun-seeking, nocturnal visitors. The Korat Thai Café is noted for its delicious Thai dishes including tom yam, pad thai and green curry.

    The plethora of shopping malls found on Orchard Road are what makes the area iconic. Right from 313@Somerset, to the Cathay Cineleisure Orchard urban mall, Far East Plaza, Forum The Shopping Mall, ION Orchard, Paragon, Plaza Singapura, Tangs as well as Shaw House and Centre can all be found on Orchard Road. Notable brands that have set up shops on this venue include Apple, Gucci, Celine, Fendi, McDonalds, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Toys R Us, Armani, Abercrombie & Fitch among many others.

    The Singapore Art Museum is also located on Bras Basah Road in this iconic shopping district. It houses at least 8,000 pieces of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian art exhibited within a space of over 10,000 square metres. Fort Canning Park, which is one of Singapore’s most significant landmarks, can be found here. This park houses the WWII underground tunnel known as Battle Box, and can be accessed from different places.

    Certain areas on Orchard Road have been featured in the HBO TV series, Westworld. In January 2019, the National Environment of Agency declared the area a strictly smoke-free zone with the exception of the designated smoking areas.

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