Directly above (and under!) the Orchard MRT station is Ion Orchard. Occupying an immense 700,000+ square feet over eight floors, this mall has a diverse range of offerings from high-end designer brands such as Cartier and Louis Vuitton all the way to mainstream fashion staples like H&M and Uniqlo. There’s even a giant Daiso, the $2 Japanese store that sells a bit of everything. Other features of ION Orchard are the recently revamped food court and the ION Sky observatory. The Food Opera on B4 is a little bit more expensive than other hawkers, but is very popular and offers a myriad of cuisines. The ION Sky Observatory offers sweeping 360-degree views of the district from the 55th and 56th floors and, best of all, access to the observatory is free!
Far East Plaza on Scotts Road, while not exactly on Orchard, is perfect if you’re looking to get away from the mainstream shops and check out some local stores. These smaller shops sell the latest fashions, trendy accessories, and more. On the upper floors, there are true bargains to be found on shoes, cosmetics, and more. Visit the fifth floor to find a cool secondhand bookstore that is run by a very sweet man, who magically knows where to find every item in his hazardously disorganized shop. French restaurant Saveur and expanding gourmet burger joint Fat Boys are both worth a visit if you get hungry while you shop and want something nicer than hawker food.
Orchard Central, one of the collection of malls above Somerset MRT, is worth a visit just to enjoy its eccentric architecture. The modern facade of this building is enhanced by outdoor escalators that give the building a unique appearance. The stores are a similar collection to Ion Orchard, but the from the 7th floor and above, the space is dedicated to mid-range restaurants. Korean all-you-can-eat buffet and K-Cook are great if you’re starving and with mostly outdoor seating, you can avoid the problem of smelling like your dinner afterward. If you’re feeling fancy, head to Tanuki Raw for some oysters and cocktails on their terrace overlooking the street.
The best times to visit Orchard Road are from late October through the end of the year or early June to mid-August. If you visit at the end of the year, you can enjoy the incredibly-over-the-top Christmas decorations — think giant lights and baubles hanging from every tree, a two story bow covering a mall entrance, a life-sized unicorn-drawn fairytale carriage and a massive, Swarovski jewel-encrusted Christmas tree. For bargain hunters, June to August is the ideal time to hit up the city-state as the nationwide Great Singapore Sale will be on and the majority of stores on the island participate every year.