If you’re familiar with the tiny country of Singapore (which measures just 64km at its longest), it’s easy to assume that everything the Little Red Dot has to offer can be seen in just a few days. But behind unmarked doors, nondescript alleys and off the coast, you’ll find that Singapore still has plenty of secret spots to uncover. From secluded parks in the city to jungle-swathed hideaways and alleyway pizzerias, you’re bound to find something that inspires you to explore in this list.
1. Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant
For a fresh seafood dinner out at sea, book your table (and a 15-minute return bumboat ride) at Smith Marine Floating Kelong Restaurant. A short stroll on the decks of this modern kelong (aquaculture farm) located off the north-eastern coast of Singapore lets you see how flower crabs, lobsters, sea bass, grouper and other seafood are farmed. You can even try fishing for your own dinner; the chefs will cook up your catch in a variety of styles. As the sun goes down, enjoy the sea breeze as you tuck into garlic lobster, sambal mussels, steamed squid and of course, Singapore’s signature chilli crab.
01’23’52″N – 103’57’42″E. Nearest ferry terminal: Changi Point Ferry Terminal
2. Bollywood Veggies
Occupying a sizeable plot of land in the sprawling Kranji Countryside is the organic farm bearing pineapples, bananas, starfruit, eggplants and more. Tour Bollywood Veggies’ farm, learn about local culinary history at the Food Museum, then tuck into a delicious meal featuring fresh produce at the fabulous farm-to-table Poison Ivy bistro. Don’t miss the Jackfruit Lemak stew, which features chunks of sweet fruit immersed in creamy coconut gravy. You can also learn how to whip up tantalising local dishes at the on-site cooking school.
100 Neo Tiew Road. Taxi recommended.
3. Bincho @ Hua Bee
There are many secret spots in Singapore for a tipple, but there are none quite like this one. By day, bowls of bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) are tossed up in this 70-year-old kopitiam (coffee shop). It happens to be where local indie movie Mee Pok Man was shot. At night, Hua Bee’s modest little space in the hipster Tiong Bahru neighbourhood is transformed into an ultra-cool yakitori (grilled skewers) bar. Another surprise awaits in the back of the premises: a fashionably frowzy, dimly lit cocktail bar that resembles an underground bunker.
78 Moh Guan Terrace, #01-19. Nearest MRT: Tiong Bahru
4. Pearl’s Hill City Park
Just behind the hustle and bustle of the Chinatown district lies this nine-hectare belt of greenery perched atop a 45m-tall knoll. Visitors must climb flights of stairs to get to the summit, where they’ll find the tranquil oasis of Pearl’s Hill City Park. This fortress-like structure was built in 1898 to supply drinking water to Chinatown, which it still does today. Along the way, relax under the shade of mature tembusu trees and breathe in the sweet perfume from the pink and white blooms of frangipani trees. On your way back down toward Eu Tong Sen Street, a little exploring will uncover more relics from colonial times – like a cannon sitting alongside a five-storey blue building. This is one of a pair of Neo-Classical-style conservation buildings built in 1935 – the Upper and Lower Barracks that once housed the Straits Settlements Police’s Sikh contingent.
Chin Swee Road. Nearest MRT: Outram Park, Chinatown
5. Wessex Estate
Once home to British officers, this elegant enclave of black-and-white colonial buildings is where a community of local artists now live, muse and create. You can tour their studios at the annual ArtWalk@Wessex or make appointments with individual artists to have a gander around their workspaces at other times. While you’re in the neighbourhood, you can also check out Joyce Loo’s clay sculptures at JoyClay Studio & Gallery.
4 Woking Road. Nearest MRT: Commonwealth
A surprising sanctuary ensconced in the Kranji Countryside, Gardenasia comprises a farm, bistro and remodelled black-and-white British colonial villas spread over two hectares of picture-perfect greenery. A relaxing farmstay at one of the English-, oriental- or contemporary-style villas lets you step back in time, with their classic carved wooden furniture and exposed timber roof beams. Rustic at first glance, the interiors are fitted with luxurious marble-tiled bathrooms and modern audio-visual systems. Wander amid herb gardens and fruit trees, before tucking into dishes created with freshly harvested ingredients at Bistro by Gardenasia. Try their pan-roasted lamb to accompany salad with ingredients of your choice, washed down with farm-fresh roselle.
240 Neo Tiew Cres. Bus: 925m
7. Lloyd’s Inn
There’s a chic hidden oasis in a residential area just a stone’s throw from the bustling Orchard strip. With 34 minimalistic rooms attached to semi-outdoor bathrooms, this Lloyd’s Inn, which also has a dipping pool and a garden patio, has a distinct resort-like atmosphere. Its exposed concrete body lends the whole place a raw, industrial vibe.
2 Lloyd Road. Nearest MRT: Fort Canning
8. Ann Siang Hill Park
Even the heart of Singapore has secret spots that are easy to miss. The ever-hip Ann Siang area is known for its cool bars and eateries tucked inside heritage shophouses, but not many people have ambled through Ann Siang Hill Park. The lush trail begins at Telok Ayer Green and ends at Club Street, passing by historic landmarks such as Thian Hock Keng temple. Try to spot yellow rain, nutmeg and cinnamon trees along the meandering path.
78 Club Street. Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer
9. Proper Slice
Just a short walk from Ann Siang Hill Park lies another one of the neighbourhood’s secret spots that offers a rarity in Singapore – the humble New York-style pizza. Venture into the alleyway just at the bend of Gemmill Lane and you’ll find an unmarked steel door beneath a maroon awning. Enter, and you’ll be greeted by the enticing smell of freshly baked pizzas. The New York-style of pizza is distinguished by large slices, simple ingredients and a delightfully thin and floppy crust. In addition to pizza, other Italian-American staples are available like the garlic knots, stromboli (essentially a more portable pizza) and a sweet calzone filled with ricotta and hazelnuts.
110 Amoy Street, #01-02. Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer
10. Kampong Lorong Buangkok
For a taste of life as it was in the ’60s (before the advent of multi-storey carparks and air-conditioned malls), head to Singapore’s last surviving kampung (village). Located off Gerald Drive in Yio Chu Kang, some 20 families live in this sleepy hamlet of zinc-roofed houses connected by dirt paths. Here, chickens roam freely amid gardens lined with chilli, lime and hibiscus plants.
Gerald Drive. Nearest MRT: Buangkok
– TEXT BY CARA YAP & MANDY LIM BEITLER
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.