A couple of years back on Christmas Day, I was wondering around Orchard Road with my nifty mirrorless camera doing some street photography. The pictures had been sitting in my hard disk ever since, until now.
As local Singaporeans, we have decided to do up a Guide to Orchard Road in Singapore for our overseas readers and visitors!
Orchard Road is the heart of Singapore’s shopping district. It is a shopping paradise for locals and tourists alike, with many gorgeous and beautiful malls along an almost 2 kilometer stretch of Orchard Road. Depending on how much time you wish to spend shopping, you can spend a whole day at Orchard Road. I once brought a friend through all the shopping malls along Orchard Road in about two hours, and it was pretty rush.
The places that we will cover in this guide include ION Orchard, Shaw House, Wisma Atria, Takashimaya, Paragon, Mandarin Gallery, [email protected], Orchard Central and Plaza Singapura. Our guide starts at the western end of the Orchard Road shopping belt at ION Orchard and concludes at Plaza Singapura which is at the eastern end.
Remember, most shopping malls along Orchard Road open at 11am!
Opened in 2009, Ion Orchard is an iconic shopping mall at the heart of Orchard Road. It is one of the newest and grandest malls along Orchard Road, and the interior and exterior design is simply stunning.
Ion Orchard is located at the junction of Orchard Road and Scotts Road. It is also where Orchard Road MRT station is located. This area can be considered the heart of Orchard Road, but for the purposes of overseas visitors, this can be taken as the start or end point in your journey. There are four shopping malls around this junction – Ion Orchard, Shaw House, Tang Plaza and Wheelock Place. If you have little time, just visit Ion Orchard as it is the most gorgeous one with the most brands of the malls at this junction.
Ion Orchard’s shopping mall section has basically 8 floors, from B4 to 4. B stands for basement, these are levels below the ground floor. Also, for our overseas friends, please note that the G level is not used in Singapore, the ground level is usually the 1st floor. There are actually residences above the retail mall!
Food – Most of the shoppers will be in the basement levels, as this is where the MRT is and the more mass-market shops and food areas are located here. B4 has the ION Food Hall, with a ton of street food, restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets. There is good bak kut teh there, as well as the delicious Korean 4 Fingers Crispy Chicken. We also recommend Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Toast Box, Tori Q and Let’s Eat at the B4 area. If you are into Japanese, we strongly recommend Watami at #B3-23.
If you have a higher budget, there are many nice restaurants on the 4th floor of Ion Orchard. There is Saveur Art that serves delicious Italian food, and for Chinese restaurants we have Imperial Treasure, Paradise Dynasty and Taste Paradise.
Shopping – Ion Orchard has around 400 stores with a total retail floor area of 941,700 square feet (87,490 m2). If you are looking for a shop it is probably at Ion Orchard or one of the surrounding malls. The basement levels have mass market brands like Uniqlo, Zara and H&M, while the upmarket brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci Longchamp, Dior and Burberry are on the upper levels. As you can expect, the traffic is thinner on the upper levels.
Secrets – You must visit ION Sky located at levels 55 and 56. There is an incredible panoramic view here. It is open from 3pm to 6pm daily and admission is free. To get to ION Sky, you have to find the special elevator entrance on the 4th floor of ION Orchard.
Verdict – A worthy place to spend a few hours!
This is another iconic building along Orchard Road. Opened in 1958, Shaw House has a big cinema as well as humongous Isetan department store. There is a Japanese supermarket in the basement as well. The neighbouring Shaw Centre even more shopping. In terms of food options, there is Tonkichi at Shaw House and Les Amis, La Taperia, Bistro Du Vin and IPPUDO at Shaw Centre.
Verdict – If you are in a rush, this area may be skipped. If you have a whole day – enjoy it!
Wisma Atria used to be the nearest shopping mall right at Orchard MRT, right until ION Orchard opened its doors. Wisma Atria serves as a busy conduit connecting ION Orchard to the neighbouring Takashimaya and the rest of Orchard Road.
Basically, the basement of Wisma Atria is incredibly busy at virtually all times of the day, while the upper floors have much thinner traffic. For food, we commend the Shiok Maki at Koh Grill and Sushi Bar on the 4th floor.
Verdict – the basement is a nice conduit to Takashimaya and the rest of Orchard Road, we don’t recommend spending too much time here if you are in a rush.
Takashimaya @ Ngee Ann City
This is a bit confusing, you just need to know that Ngee Ann City is the name of the shopping mall, while Takashimaya is the name of the department store. This mall opened in 1993, and even after so many years, the place still rocks.
Shopping – there is a ton of the usual shopping outlets here, and interestingly a lot of them are duplicates from ones you can find at ION Orchard. However, Takashimaya department store is the bomb. They have a wide range of stuff for sale, and you can easily spend half a day shopping here. I’ve personally bought my office chair and weighing scale from there years back. Not the cheapest, but the variety and scale will blow you away.
Food – the food here is incredible. You must head to B2 of Takashimaya where they have their food hall within the department store, and Takashimaya Square at B2 as well, just outside the department store. Takashimaya Square is an event hall that has periodic promotions from time to time. Usually when there is a food event, the stuff there will be super delicious! The famous Tai Cheong Bakery Singapore is there at the food hall, and you can find Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Tori Q, GoGo Franks and many other super delicious food stores over there.
Verdict – A worthy place to spend a few hours!
Paragon is an upmarket shopping mall just across the road from Takashimaya. How upmarket? Well even the toilets have automatic doors so that you don’t have to dirty your hands on the door handle after you have just washed them.
Shopping – Paragon has all the usual brands that you will find elsewhere around Orchard.
Food – They have a variety of food options as well, such as Din Tai Fung, Crystal Jade and Imperial Treasure. We recommend PS Cafe’s truffle fries and Grandma’s nasi lemak. If you’re not dropping by Chinatown, you can get your bak kwa fix here at Bee Cheng Hiang.
Verdict – if you are loaded with cash, do spend a few hours here. Otherwise, you can skip this mall if you are rushed for time.
After [email protected] Ann City, there is the glorious Mandarin Gallery. This mall doesn’t have too many mass market brands, and it is as imposing as its connected hotel, the Mandarin Orchard Singapore.
Shopping – Opening as a revamped mall in 2009, this place has many brands that I have never heard of, and that usually means that they are extremely high end. As for the food, there is a surprising variety of delicious foodie places here.
Food – we recommend Ito Kacho Yakiniku, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Antoinette, Tonkatsu and Ippudo.
Verdict – If you are in a rush, this area may be skipped. If you have a whole day – enjoy it! If you’re interested in staying at Mandarin Orchard Singapore, do have a look the hotel deals provided by Traveloka.
This is another relatively new mall located just above Somerset MRT station. When you reach the end of Takashimaya on the 1st floor, take the glass door exit and you should see this Orchard Shopping Centre with an express entrance to [email protected] beside it.
Shopping – This mall has more of the usual fare, and it is super crowded. There is Zara, Forever 21, Cotton On, Lacoste, Billabong, Epicentre, Sony and Muji, amongst many others.
Food – We recommend Masizzim, Churro 101, Chir Chir, Brotzeit, Hot Tomato, Yayoiken and O’ma Spoon. If you are looking for a food court, there is Food Republic at the top floor, and I must admit to indulging in some Scissors Cut Curry Rice there on occasion. As this is a food and travel blog, I can’t possibly recommend food from food courts for a variety of reasons that all locals will agree – so if you are from overseas, avoid them!
Verdict – Spend some time here, but not too long – unless you have the whole day to spend at Orchard Road.
Orchard Central is a very interesting mall next to [email protected] The interior design was initially panned as being too convoluted and confusing. The architects were undoubtedly trying to maximise the little premium space available to them, but unfortunately it didn’t really work out. They have worked to correct this, and I must say that now Orchard Central is a hub for some of the most delicious food along Orchard Road.
Food – we recommend Sumiya, Ootoya Japanese Restaurant, Tony Roma’s, Lady M, Tonkichi and Pompompurin Cafe
Verdict – this is a great place for food!
After you’re done with Orchard Central, you could cross the road to The Centrepoint, where you could try some famous wanton noodles at Mak’s Noodles from Hong Kong. After that, walk down Orchard Road past Concorde Hotel and you will see the entrance to The Istana.
The Istana is the official residence and office of the President of Singapore, and the working office of the Prime Minister of Singapore. The President receives and entertains state guests here. It is a really beautiful place but unfortunately the grounds are only opened to the public on Chinese New Year, Labour Day, Hari Raya Puasa, National Day and Deepavali. The opening hours on those rare days are from 0830-1800hrs. Also the queues are monstrously long on the rare days when it is opened, so head down to queue by 8am.
Verdict – while we do not recommend that you plan a holiday to Singapore around the opening days of The Istana, if by sheer luck it is open when you are here, do plan accordingly!
Plaza Singapura is another beautiful and iconic mall at the other end of Orchard Road. If your tour starts at ION Orchard, it will end at Plaza Singapura. Sure, if you’re itchy there is The Cathay further down the road, but there is nothing much after that.
Opened in 1974, Plaza Singapura was recently revamped in 2012, with a new retail wing. It is now really humongous, with a ton of retail shops and F&B outlets. There is also a connected mall called The [email protected]
Shopping – anchor tenants include Uniqlo, John Little, Golden Village cinemas, Cold Storage and Spotlight. They have a total of about 320 stores.
Food – we recommend Tim Ho Wan and… seriously there’s just too many F&B outlets here. Find the ones with a long queue!
Verdict – A worthy place to spend a few hours!
Guide to Singapore’s Orchard Road – Final Thoughts
They say that Singapore is a shopper’s paradise, and nothing exemplifies that more than Orchard Road. If you are a shopaholic, Orchard Road is the place for you. You could easily spend a couple of days getting lost inside the malls here. Even if you’re not a shopper, you could easily burn a few hours inside ION Orchard.