Cool cafes galore: Toa Payoh
Located in central Singapore, Toa Payoh, one of the island’s oldest heartlands, is experiencing a revival with chic cafes sprouting up amid traditional family-run eateries and provision shops, making it a haven for coffee addicts on a mission to go cafe-hopping.
One of the newest cafes here is Chateraise, a Japanese-style joint offering treats such as Hokkaido Milk Latte, baked cheese tarts and strawberry cream cakes. If you’d like to sample rainbow-hued drinks such as those popularised by stalls in Bangkok’s night markets, visit The Talad Drink & Thai Kitchen. Other popular cafes that Toa Payoh residents enjoy hanging out at include The Daily Press and Shrove Tuesday (above).
To burn off the calories from all the coffee and sweet treats, take a stroll to the iconic dragon playground (above) at Toa Payoh Lorong 6. Built in the ’70s, this dragon-shaped structure is among the few retro playgrounds still standing, and is a nostalgic landmark Singaporeans regard with fondness.
Get closer: Visit the HDB Gallery to learn more about Singapore’s globally well-regarded public-housing programmes.
Peranakan flair: Katong
With colourful pre-war shophouses (main photo) featuring ornate tile decorations, speciality shops and Nyonya restaurants, Katong is one of Singapore’s most distinctive and historic neighbourhoods, and a focal point for those interested in Peranakan heritage.
Get a taste of Peranakan – or Straits Chinese – fare at Baba Chews Bar and Eatery (above), housed in Hotel Indigo – the former Joo Chiat Police Station. Head chef Alvin Leong’s takes on piquant favourites, such as his Itek Tim “Consomme” (salted duck soup) and Ayam Buah Keluak burger, will surely tantalise your taste buds.
Wander the area, and you’ll find that it’s home to some interesting indie shops, such as the cat-themed lifestyle store Cat Socrates (above) and Rumah Bebe, which sells, among other things, local crafts such as beaded slippers.
Get closer: Book a tour of private Peranakan museum The Intan, which includes tea, lunch or dinner.
A touch of green: Punggol
Take a break from the concrete jungle and make your way to the beautifully landscaped Punggol Waterway Park (below), where the neighbourhood’s residents go to commune with nature. To fully take in the scenic views, go on the 2.4km Punggol Promenade Nature Walk, which will take you along the waterfront promenade and pass fishing platforms reminiscent of old fishing villages. You may also spot rare native flora and fauna along the way.
Close to Punggol Waterway Park is the rustic Coney Island Park, which has a mind-boggling variety of habitats, including coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves and casuarina woodlands, packed into 50ha of land. You can rent a bike at these parks too.
To fuel up, head to Tebing Lane in Punggol East and check out its enclave of container bistros. A variety of casual eats are on offer here – think fish and chips, burgers and desserts that are perfect after a day out in the sun.
Get closer: Sign up for a guided walking tour of Coney Island Park to gain insight into its history and biodiversity.
A walk down memory lane: Queenstown
Queenstown may be Singapore’s first satellite town, but it is by no means outdated. Put on your walking shoes and set off on an arty exploration of this neighbourhood on foot. Start at Stirling Road and keep your eyes peeled – and camera ready – for a series of murals, depicting nostalgic scenes of Singapore, in the void decks of various HDB (Housing & Development Board) flats.
For an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, check out SkyVille@Dawson, one of the latest housing developments in Queenstown. Comprising three 46-storey skyscrapers connected by sky bridges, this award-winning estate features swanky community spaces such as rooftop gardens and fitness areas. Just a stone’s throw from Queenstown is Gillman Barracks (above), a contemporary arts cluster of galleries housed in former military barracks. Lifestyle shop Supermama is also located there; pay a visit for unique items created in collaboration with Singaporean designers and Japanese craftsmen.
When you need a caffeine hit, swing by Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee (above), a chic version of a traditional kopitiam (coffee shop). This family-run business has been in the coffee-roasting trade for 50 years, so you can be assured of some of the best beans in town.
Get closer: Sign up for My Queenstown Heritage Trail, a self-guided tour of various landmarks in the Queenstown skyline.
A chill nightlife: Buona Vista
Prefer a more laid-back vibe to your nocturnal outings? Buona Vista is the neighbourhood for you. Head to local hangout Timbre+, an elevated hawker centre with stalls offering unique takes on street food. To get you started: salted-egg fries and satay burgers at Kush, and fusion roast meats at Char Express. Plus, there’s nightly live music and a bottle shop offering a wide array of craft beers.
For something more upscale, head to Rochester Park, where restaurants and bars in restored colonial mansions set amid lush greenery await. Chinese fine-dining restaurant Min Jiang at One-North specialises in delicious Peking duck (below), while the tapas and drinks list at Una will have you grazing all night.
Get closer: Check out The Star Theatre , a 5,000-seat venue featuring a regular roster of concerts and arts performances.
Hipster wonderland: Everton Park
Move over, Tiong Bahru. There’s a new haunt for the young, cool and restless to explore. Located right by the trendy Duxton Hill enclave, the charming housing estate of Everton Park (below) is where an eclectic collection of lifestyle stores, eateries and cafes have popped up.
Stop by onlyBrown, which stocks handcrafted leather bags, belts, wallets and accessories, mostly for men but unisex enough to appeal to women too. There’s also a selection of products that can be monogrammed and personalised.
Escape the tropical heat at Kew Organics, a cosy-chic beauty salon that offers bespoke organic facials for a perk-me-up. For a spot of old-school grooming, try Mister Moustache Barber shop (Block 5, Everton Park, #01-20, tel: 65 6815 4812), whose sole barber specialises in classic styles and hot towel shaves.
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When you need a bite, pop into Alakai for authentic Hawaiian-style poke bowls, one of the most popular food trends in town these days.
Get closer: Visit the National University of Singapore (NUS) Baba House, a restored Peranakan townhouse just a short walk from Everton Park. Free heritage tours are available five times a week; reservations are required.
– TEXT BY KAREN TEE
PHOTOS: TAN WEI TE, CLICK PHOTOS, SINGAPORE PRESS HOLDINGS, GILLMAN BARRACKS, SUPPLIED
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.