One of Singapore’s most important heritage districts, Bugis derives its name from the Bugis people – a seafaring community originally from Indonesia – who inhabited the area before it was colonised by the British. Formerly one of the city-state’s most popular red light districts during the 1950s to 1970s, the area underwent a massive development and clean-up exercise beginning in the mid-1980s. This resulted in the construction of the Bugis MRT station, which was followed closely by current landmarks such as Bugis Junction, Parkview Square (also dubbed the Gotham Building) and the Intercontinental Hotel, among others.
While you’ll still find remnants of the past in the form of pre-war shophouses, important religious monuments and heritage buildings, much of the area has been heavily modernised, with many swanky new mixed-used developments popping up over the past decade. But there’s a more laid-back side to Bugis that can be found in the live music venues along Haji Lane; the delicious eateries doling out Malay food at Kampong Glam; and the charming boutiques you can spend all afternoon exploring.
Sumptuous dining at The Singapura Club
For quality nosh and refreshing drinks, look no further than The Singapura Club. Located along the vibrant Haji Lane stretch, this heritage-style bistro and taproom offers delicious eats in a laid-back setting. Tuck into hearty dishes such as the Heavenly Butter Chicken, comprised of tandoori-grilled chicken tikka in a velvety tomato gravy; and the “Mille Julle” (Get Together) Platter, an assortment of lamb, chicken and fish tandooris. Wash it all down with popular drinks such as the Singapura Sling, Mai Tai, Margarita or Piña Colada. If you’re an art aficionado, there’s all the more reason to stop by: you’ll find an eye-catching mural by top street artist Ceno 2 enveloping the establishment’s exterior.
fb.com/thesingapuraclub; +65 6957 3771
High-quality footwear at CNES Shoemaker
CNES Shoemaker is your go-to footwear boutique for classically welted shoes. Since it was established in 1994, the brand has been creating elegant items using the finest natural leather from France and Italy. Whether you prefer oxfords or loafers, leather or suede, you’re sure to find something functional and fashionable that will only get better with age. Select from a range of ready-to-wear pieces constructed using the Goodyear Welt or Blake technique that marry classical construction with timeless sensibility. For a unique and personalised pair of shoes, do enquire about their made-to-order programme. The shop also stocks leather bags, belts and accessories and provides resoling, repairing and shining services.
Street art at Haji Lane and Kampong Glam
Haji Lane is a colourful street packed with plenty of character. Besides hole-in-the-wall boutique shops, lively bars and charming cafés, you’ll also find plenty of vibrant street art from some of the city’s most creative artists along this stretch, as well as in the larger Kampong Glam area. Begin your self-guided tour by checking out a large-scale mural by Colombian graffiti artist Didier Jaba Mathieu outside the popular restaurant Piedra Negra. Then make your way to Subhan Street, where you’ll be able to view plenty more intriguing works. Ernest Zacharevic, the man largely credited with making Penang’s George Town a street-art destination, has also left his mark at the alley between Jalan Kledek and Jalan Pisang.
Tuck into fresh and healthy eats at LIMAA
Whether you’re an early riser on the hunt for breakfast or want a healthy yet hearty afternoon meal, get your wholesome delights at LIMAA, a quaint café in the heart of Haji Lane. Founded in 2017, LIMAA’s colourful and gorgeously plated dishes offer something for everyone. Signature items include the Acai Smoothie Bowl, which comes with homemade granola, chia seeds and seasonal fruit; the Lamb It Up: lamb loin served with potato rosti and fresh greens; Beef Nachos; and Honey Buffalo Wings. You’ll also find moreish snacks such as the raw Matcha Mint energy ball and a flaky Chicken Rendang Puff. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a refreshing Infused Coconut Water or a Brewed Lemongrass beverage.
A retail haven for gamers at GameMartz
Experienced gamers or those who are new to the scene: GameMartz at Bugis Junction is your one-stop shop for cutting-edge digital and electronic gaming products to support a gamer lifestyle. From video games and accessories to game consoles and software for Sony (PS4 and PS5), Microsoft (Xbox One and Series X) and Nintendo (Switch and Switch Lite) systems, you’ll find everything you need here. The shop even retails gaming merchandise such as T-shirts to jazz up your wardrobe and is one of the largest video game stores in Singapore. Besides its retail offerings, GameMartz also provides repair services and technical support at this location, as well as at its other branches at Plaza Singapura and Funan Mall.
200 Victoria Street, #03-24B, S188021; fb.com/gamemartzscenic; +65 6336 0217
Discover more about Chinese culture at Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
Originally erected in 1884 and reconstructed twice in 1895 and 1982, this temple along Waterloo Street is one of the area’s key religious sites and a popular tourist attraction. The temple is of great importance to Singapore’s Chinese and Buddhist communities, and devotees come here to pray for blessings from Kwan Yin, also known as the Goddess of Mercy. It gets particularly crowded on the eve of the Lunar New Year each year, as believers flock to the temple in droves to pray for an auspicious start to the year ahead. Be sure to check out the temple’s ornate façade and traditional Chinese architecture when you drop by for a visit.
Delicious eats at Sultan Turkish Restaurant
Want to dig into sumptuous Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine without leaving Singapore? Simply make your way to Sultan Turkish Restaurant, which serves a wide array of halal dishes. The menu offers plenty of options that are fit for both meat eaters and vegetarians. Specialties include the Sultan Kebab, which features tender chunks of lamb served with mashed potatoes and baked with cheese; the Sultan Mixed Grill, which consists of various mouth-watering kebabs served with an array of tasty sides; and desserts such as the Kunefe (baked semolina with butter, cream, mozzarella cheese, sugar syrup and whipped cream) and Baklava (baked filo pastry with dried fruits and sugar syrup).
30 Bussorah Street, S199448; sultanrestaurant.com.sg; +65 9235 5719
Tend to your beauty needs at Emerald Allure
Be it eyebrow or eyeliner embroidery; lash extensions or a manicure and pedicure, Emerald Allure offers an attractive range of beauty services. Founded by Elayne Neo in 2015, the business has grown from its humble beginnings as a home-based shop to now employing roughly six staff members across its three stores in Singapore, including one at the bustling Bugis Village. Among the beauty treatments offered are the Soufflé lash extension technique, which results in fuller, bolder and fluffier eyelashes that accentuate your eyes; and the 9D Volume lash extension technique, whereby nine lash extensions are attached to a single natural lash, offering a dramatic yet lightweight look that’s sure to impress.
Explore a historic landmark at the Masjid Sultan
The striking Masjid Sultan – with its two golden onion-shaped domes that are each crowned with a crescent moon and star – anchors Kampong Glam and is an important place of worship for Singapore’s Muslim community. Initially constructed in 1824 for Sultan Hussein Shah, the first sultan of Singapore, the mosque was rebuilt in 1932 in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style by design firm Swan & Maclaren (also responsible for other iconic structures of the era such as Raffles Hotel, Stamford House and Goodwood Park Hotel). Do join one of the guided tours if you’re planning a visit. The area particularly comes alive during the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan, with a buzzy night market filled with stalls selling delicious food.
Get your groove on at D’Trio Dance Studio
Looking to sweat it out in a fun and welcoming environment? D’Trio Dance Studio offers a mix of fitness and dance programmes designed for both adults and kids. Their motto is to create a space where members feel right at home, and where instructors and students build a special familial bond. Besides a plethora of classes in different genres, the studio also offers corporate team-building sessions, private classes, wedding choreography and private dance parties. Whether you are a complete beginner or seasoned professional, you are sure to find a class here that suits your needs. What are you waiting for? Check out the studio today to boost your health, happiness and endorphins.
Cheap buys and street snacks at Bugis Street
If you’ve already made your way through Singapore’s glitzy shopping malls and are searching for a slightly different retail experience, take a gander over to Bugis Street. While it may not be the most glamorous of shopping havens, the packed cluster of open-air stalls opposite Bugis Junction is perhaps the closest you’ll get to the proverbial “night-market experience” in the Lion City. This is where you can find souvenirs at discounted prices; shop for bargain clothes and accessories; and pick up various trinkets and tchotchkes that you never knew you needed. Peckish? Simply nab a fresh juice or deep-fried snack from one of the many food stalls here and continue hunting for deals.
Some of these images were shot before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
With thanks to our advertisers, The Singapura Club, CNES Shoemaker, LIMAA, GameMartz, Sultan Turkish Restaurant, Emerald Allure and D’Trio Dance Studio.