If shopping was a sport then it would surely be classed as the national one of Southeast Asia. This tiny island nation packs in more malls per square mile than any other country in the world, meaning that although it might only appear as a small red dot on your map, it’s well up there with the best shopping destinations in the world. In fact, visitors could visit only one street in the entire city – the famous Orchard Road – and still be blown away by the sheer size and variety of the malls on offer.
Those with an adversity to these giant indoor shopping arenas need not fear; some of the best places to shop in Southeast Asia come in the form of outdoor markets, bustling roads and clusters of quaint boutiques. Both Chinatown and Little India are great shopping destinations in their own right, and the vast Bugis Street Market is a fun and friendly shopping experience not to be missed either. We’ve scoured the city’s streets to compile this list of the 10 best places to shop in Southeast Asia – all for your retail pleasure.
This 2.2 kilometre stretch of megamalls is the undisputed shopping hub of Southeast Asia. Pristine complexes such as ION Orchard and Paragon house all the designer brands you’ll ever need, whilst the more worn out centres such as Far East Asia (great for cheap food and fashion) and Lucky Plaza still prove ever-popular with bargain hunters. Throw in a whole list of fine bars and restaurants and you have the complete shopping destination.
You could spend a whole day – even week – exploring what Chinatown has in the way of shopping. However, those wanting just a quick taster of what the area has to offer should head to Chinatown Street Market, which stretches across Pagoda, Trengganu and Sago streets every night. Immerse yourself in everything Chinese, from stalls selling traditional candles, artwork and clothing to bustling street side eateries serving up cheap and tasty delicacies.
VivoCity is the largest shopping mall in Southeast Asia, and in a country bursting to the seams with the things, that’s quite a title to hold. Running true to its ‘lifestyle centre’ marketing tag, VivoCity boasts 15 cinema screens, a rooftop amphitheatre, an open-air play ground, an art gallery and a plethora of restaurants and bars – all alongside a never-ending list of high street stores and outlets.
For a shopping experience that feels a million miles away from Southeast Asia’s multitude of malls, head to the hipster-haven that is Haji Lane. The impossibly narrow road is decked-out with cute vintage stores and boutiques, instantly recognisable with its colourful wall paintings – providing as much a photo-op as a place to come shopping. After dark, Haji Lane is a great spot to come drinking too!
As part of Southeast Asia’s iconic Marina Bay Sands complex, this luxury shopping mall is worth a look even if you’re not passionate about shopping. Its spectacular architecture is enough to impress alone, with giant glass windows, vast open atriums and a central water feature all very pleasing on the eye. After perusing the many shops – which range from high street names to designer brands – visitors can head up to the 57th storey for a stunning view of the bay.
With its abundance of radiant colours, exotic sounds and intriguing smells, Little India stands out like a sore thumb in a city often dismissed as being just a giant metropolis of skyscrapers and malls. The main strip along Serangoon Road is where you’ll find all the rough and ready clothes stores (which claim to be the cheapest in Southeast Asia), packed-out electronics shops, traditional Indian fabric and dress stores, and of course, it wouldn’t be Little India without row upon row of delicious curry houses.
For most, Clarke Quay is a place to come to wine and dine in one of its many impressive waterfront restaurants, or just take a relaxing stroll through the vibrant avenues which are bursting with colour and night time activity. Amidst all the fun, there’s a great range of boutique stores and fashion outlets to be enjoyed as well. Don’t forget that Clarke Quay boasts its fair share of malls too; Central, Riverside Point and Great World City are all in the nearby vicinity.
Sure, their SG$3 iPhone chargers might only last you six months, and describing their Louie Vuitton bags as ‘100% genuine’ might be a bit of an exaggeration, but one thing you can be assured of is that Mustafa Centre will probably stock whatever you’re looking for at a very low price. Located in the heart of Little India, this 24-hour mall is big, crowded and noisy – yet adored by locals and visitors alike across Southeast Asia.
Sandwiched between Little India in the north and Marina Bay towards the south, Bugis Street Market is one of the most thriving shopping spots in Southeast Asia. With over 800 stalls all under one giant canvass roof – it’s actually the largest street market in town, and visitors could spend hours browsing the huge range of cheap clothes stores, electronics stalls and eateries which are all packed in tightly making for a fun and friendly shopping experience.
Although there is probably half a dozen similar malls on Orchard Road (Southeast Asia’s main shopping district), Raffles City Shopping Centre makes our list with its hugely convenient location, right in the middle of the Civic District and just a short walk from Clarke Quay and Marina Bay. Inside, you’ll find all your usual high street names alongside a great choice of dining options, including a cheap and cheerful food court in the basement.
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