These suburban areas are primarily where the locals live, eat and shop and offers a look into local life. Discover the wet markets, sit down at a local coffee shop or simply take in the sights and sounds.
Two MRT train stops away from Orchard Road and a 15-minute walk from Novena station later will bring you into Balestier. Embark on a cultural walking tour starting with the historic Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple which was built by Balestier’s plantation workers back in 1847, before visiting the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, then settle in for some local food. Foodies come here for the stretch of infamous Bak Kut Teh (bone tea soup) shops as well as durian sellers to feast on the king of all fruits. This is also the best area to catch a glimpse of traditional trades and experience remnants of past Singapore, from Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory, one of the few remaining shops roasting and grinding coffee beans the traditional Singaporean way to Lim Kay Khee Optical Shop with its vintage floor tiles, stools and ceiling fans.
Named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, Queenstown is Singapore’s first satellite town. Go to Tiong Hoe Speciality Coffee for the perfect roast and then stop by Eng Kee Chicken Wings for one of the city-state’s oldest and most famous chicken dish. Be warned though, there will be a wait. Get in touch with your artsy side at Wessex Estate. Once a British Army base, it is now a residential area with colonial black and white houses that have been converted to art studios and galleries. The best hidden gem here is the “Rail Corridor”, a defunct 24 km long railway track that used to support trains from the Malayan Railways. Take a refreshing walk in this green oasis that takes you right through the centre of Singapore.
Once a thriving hotbed for criminal and gangster activities, you can now find plenty of trendy cafes hidden amidst the old buildings in this former swampland. Creamier serves up one of the best waffles in town while the Daily Press specialises in grilled sandwiches with a local twist. Tell the locals you’re headed to Toa Payoh and you might just hear about the famous Dragon Playground. This iconic playground is one of the last of its kind that were once popular in the 80s. For an educational afternoon, go to Housing & Development Board (HDB) headquarters located in the town centre of Toa Payoh and visit the HDB gallery to uncover Singapore’s public housing story through interactive exhibits.
There are two sides to Holland Village – the bustling side where roads are closed to cars allowing for patrons of bars and restaurants to spill out, or the quieter side across the street at Chip Bee Gardens. Regardless of which side you’re at, we know it’s got its stamp of approval as a hip area if niche lifestyle and magazine Monocle opens up its store and café in this neighbourhood. Art buffs should also pop into Taksu Gallery which showcases budding local talents from Singapore and around the region. Before you go, don’t forget to get your fill of local favourites at Holland Village Market and Food centre.