Singapore is rapidly gaining traction on Seoul and Taipei as one of the leaders in innovation and design in Asia. From the artsy Haji Lane to an Instagram-worthy Euro-Asian eatery and an indie jewellery store inspired by the ‘beauty in imperfection’, the Lion City is home to an eclectic mix of design hotspots. Here’s a whirlwind tour to take in some of the best.
BooksActually and Tiong Bahru
BooksActually may seem a bit out of the way to start your day, but the neighbourhood is full of vintage gems. Take a stroll around Tiong Bahru, one of Singapore’s first public housing projects, for what could be a masterclass in Art Deco architecture. Then pop into the independent bookstore to meet its friendly cat employee and browse the island’s largest collection of works by Singaporean authors. Owner and publisher Kenny Leck also produces the works of local authors through the Math Paper Press and sells rare editions that he has come across on his travels.
Next stop, Cat Socrates in Bras Basah. This shop carries a random collection of adorable products, from home décor and kitchenware to presses, plants and even bicycles. After you’ve had your fill of examining all the merchandise and debating luggage allowance constraints, spend some time in the bookshops that fill the complex. There are several secondhand stores dedicated to different interests, including a reference shop that’s popular with design and architecture students.
National Design Centre
The National Design Centre is a short walk from Cat Socrates, located between Bras Basah and Bugis. The centre encompasses all aspects of the industry, from running workshops on how to improve design and usability in various fields to research on how products can be developed and progressed, as well as working with businesses to help them enhance their own offering. Until the end of this year, you can also catch the Fifty Years of Singapore Design exhibition, which shows the changing landscape of design in Singapore since 1965 and shines a spotlight on iconic works and visionary concepts by trailblazers.
By now you must be feeling a bit peckish, so stop by Tanuki Raw, a modern Euro-Asian seafood eatery, situated right inside the National Design Centre. A fitting restaurant for its location, this chic eatery shares space with fashion boutique Kapok Singapore and serves up beautifully presented (and delicious) food. For an appetiser, try Instagram This Maki, a tongue-in-cheek plating of yakiniku steak, avocado, tamago and bacon maki, covered in melted cheese, smoked ketchup and umami mayo.
A final must-visit inside the National Design Centre, Keepers is an indie jewellery store by local designer Carolyn Kan, known as Carrie K. It may seem strange to have so many stops in one place, but you’ll be happy to stay out of Singapore’s famously inclement afternoons, when it’s either unpleasantly hot or there’s a torrential downpour. Kan’s collections are inspired by the idea of ‘beauty in imperfection’ and wanting people to take the time to appreciate the small, seemingly ordinary things in life. Keepers kicked off 2017 with its new Bling Bar, where you can customise a bracelet or necklace with charms to match your personality or to help you think positively.
Next, walk down to Haji Lane in Kampong Glam. Generally speaking, the neighbourhood is closed to traffic and you’ll see many people taking #ootd pictures standing in the street, but just be aware that the occasional car or delivery truck does come down here. Haji Lane is interesting for its mix of clientele and shops. At the North Road end, there’s a halal café and a handful of indie clothing retailers. Further up the road, you’ll discover a few cafés that are popular with local students, and then on the Beach Road end, where it’s all bars catering to expats. And as you stroll along, you’ll see some of Singapore’s best street art.
Good Luck Beerhouse
End your day with a craft beer at Singapore’s newest offering, Good Luck Beerhouse. With minimalist-retro décor, all attention is focused on the drinks. The bar features eight rotating taps that serve craft beers from around the world, as well as a huge selection of bottled brews – but don’t be intimidated by the selection! The staff are knowledgeable and will happily answer any questions, as well as give recommendations. Pair your drink with some dumplings or a dim sum platter and enjoy the live music that floats down the street. With a relaxed vibe, this is a great way to end your day in Singapore.