Singapore’s Orchard Road is renowned worldwide as the place for all your shopping needs, from luxury goods to everyday staples. Its popularity lies not just in its diverse range of goods, but also in the simplicity of it all. It’s a single short stretch of road and a few side streets of malls and shops to venture into. But there’s more than just shopping on offer – venture a little off the beaten path and you’ll find Orchard Road has hidden gems of culture to explore.
This is what Orchard Road is most known for and does best. Immediately after exiting the bus or MRT, you will see stores lined up all along the street. From the MRT, you can access the different malls via the underground routes and there are shops all along the tunnels as well.
Aside from big names such as Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci, there are also high-street brands like H&M, Topshop and even an Apple store. A lot of these malls are spectacular in their exterior designs as well, with striking patterns and massive light panels that scintillate in the dark. Visiting Orchard Road during festivals such as Christmas time can be a joyous experience in itself.
A historical neighbourhood that dates back to 1845, Emerald Hill is famous for a style known as Chinese Baroque. It’s a syncretic East Asian and European style seen especially in the use of colourful ceramic tiles, pastel-hued walls and a tendency to emphasise loose space and openness through the use of carved swing doors and shuttered windows. In its later years, it was popular with the Straits Chinese and the Peranakan community and has been immortalised in the famous novels of Singaporean writer Goh Sin Tub.
Nowadays you’ll see a lane lined with bars to enjoy a drink at after all that shopping and sight seeing.
If you look carefully, you will have a rich experience exploring the artistic sights on Orchard Road. Orchard Central, one of the malls on the strip, has art exhibitions and displays within its malls such as some Yayoi Kusama works on its rooftop gardens. On top of all this, there is the Pop and Contemporary Fine Art space that deals in a lot of modern artwork by storied individuals such as Burton Morris, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama herself, allowing you a unique chance to get up close with some of the most forward-thinking modern masters.
Another interesting tidbit for anyone interested is to check the shops just before the infamous Orchard Towers, where a quick walk will bring you face-to-face with some antique shops and others that deal in niche crafts such as handmade carpets.
Right at the very edge of Orchard Road, you will come across Singapore’s premier museum on all things Singapore. The National Museum of Singapore focuses heavily on the history of Singapore, with relics, manuscripts and artefacts from Singapore dating back to various eras. Its design was modelled heavily after the Royal Albert Hall in London. Some of the more fascinating artefacts include the Singapore Stone – written in a yet undeciphered script, although it is believed to be either Old Javanese or Sanskrit – as well as some old daguerreotypes of Singapore that are believed to be the oldest photographs of the island nation.
National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897, +65 6332 3659
Constructed in the Neo-Palladian Anglo-Indian style, which was one of many architectural traditions from the colonial period that became popular here, the Istana is the official residence of the President of Singapore. Previously it was utilised by the British Governors of Singapore. The place only opens during special occasions annually such as Labour Day, National Day, Diwali and others, but it is worth visiting for some strange historical relics. For instance, there’s a huge Japanese cannon and a rather antiquated and anachronistic statue of Victoria, entirely hewn out of Sicilian marble.