Short Guide to Shopping in Singapore

All About Southeast Asia's Retail Heaven

Shoppers along Wisma Atria, Orchard Road, Singapore
Image courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

The nation of Singapore packs the most malls per square mile within its tiny interior - making this island-state the best place in Southeast Asia to go shopping. (Among other things.)

Singaporeans have turned shopping into the national sport - they do get a lot of practice, what with the many shopping centers lining Orchard Road, the street markets in Chinatown and Bugis, and the family-owned shophouses in Singapore's ethnic enclaves.

Shopping is so popular in Singapore, they've set aside a whole month to celebrate it – the Great Singapore Sale slashes prices island-wide by as much as 70%! Shopping hours are also extended past midnight for selected stores on selected weekends, and other major promotions are held during this time of the year only.

Ride the MRT around Singapore, and you'll find the malls are built right into the island-state's transportation system: many MRT stations are located right at the basements of Singapore's most popular shopping centers!

Ion Orchard, Singapore Shopping Mall
Image courtesy of the Singapore Tourism Board, used with permission

Orchard Road, Singapore: Where the World Goes to Shop

The island-state's primary retail district is a shopper's dream: a long, tree-shaded stretch of shopping centers strung end to end, with warrens of stores numbering in the thousands!

You can get anything here in Orchard - expensive fashion labels and street wear, cutting-edge fashion and pre-loved vintage wear, books, electronics, and Singapore's amazing hawker food in abundance.

Start at the hypermodern ION Orchard (ionorchard.com; location on Google Maps), located right at the Orchard MRT Station exit and home to some of the world’s most fashionable brands – among them Balenciaga, Gucci, Zara, and Dorothy Perkins.

For quality fashion from local artists, stop by Design Orchard (designorchard.sg; location on Google Maps) to browse through their catalog of over 60 Singaporean talents. The resident designers benefit from an ongoing mentorship program run by local retailer Naiise.

For retail with a distinctively Japanese flair, go to Ngee Ann City, (ngeeanncity.com.sg;location on Google Maps)home of Takashimaya Shopping Centre and Department Store, and the Japanese Kinokuniya bookstore.

For a more complete list of shopping centers in the area, read our overview of Shopping Centers in Orchard Road, Singapore.

Stay at one of Orchard Road’s hotels to hop into a mall whenever you want, or travel in via MRT and exit at Orchard (NS22), and Somerset (NS23) stations, both of which exit immediately into the bowels of Orchard's malls!

Marina Bay Sands Shopping Center
Richard Amar/Getty Images

City Hall & Marina Bay, Singapore: History and Retail

The City Hall and Marina Bay area houses not just the city's most prominent historical sites, it contains some of its finest shopping areas, too.

If you're staying at accommodations in the Heritage District, you can easily walk to a selection of shopping malls that includes the I.M. Pei-designed Raffles City Complex (capitaland.com; location on Google Maps); the Suntec City Mall (sunteccity.com.sg; location on Google Maps) with a massive lucky fountain at its center and 300 shops in a labyrinthine complex; and the Esplanade Mall (esplanade.com; location on Google Maps), a refined retail area with a focus on the arts.

To go shopping at Marina Bay, travel via MRT to Bayfront Station (CE1) and exit into the massive, luxurious Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

For a more complete list of malls, read our overview of Shopping Centers near City Hall and Marina Bay, Singapore.

City Hall can be reached by train, via the City Hall MRT Interchange (NS25/EW13) that exits below Raffles City. Travelers on the circle line can exit via Bras Basah (CC2) across the Singapore Art Museum; Esplanade (CC3) under Suntec City; and Promenade (CC4) next to Millenia Walk.

Tourist taking selfie in Chinatown street market
courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

Shopping in Singapore’s Ethnic Enclaves

Chinatown retains its historical color as an enclave for traditional Chinese arts and crafts, with an expanded range of handicrafts, clothes, food, jewelry, and medicine sold from renovated Chinese shophouses.

Street markets on Smith Street and Trengganu Street offer great bargains on souvenirs. Shophouses and shopping malls around Chinatown sell more than just traditional goods, with funky T-shirts, toys and electronics joining the abundance of goods for sale.

For a complete list of retailers in this ethnic enclave, read our overview of Shopping Centers in Chinatown, Singapore.

The MRT connects to Chinatown via Outram Park (EW16) or Chinatown (NE4) stations.

Tourist shopping in Kampong Glam, Singapore
Andrew Watson/Getty Images

Little India, centered around Serangoon Road, caters to the local Indian population, and offers a magnificent range of spices, jewelry, clothes, textiles, and handicrafts. Mustafa Centre on one end of Serangoon Road is a great source for cheap electronics.

Kampong Glam is the historical and cultural heart of Singapore's Islamic community. Walk through the shophouses that surround the Sultan Mosque, and you'll find merchants selling perfume oils, carpets and pastries, in ways that feel little changed over the decades. At the turn of the 20th century, Aljunieds sold carpets here, and Jamal Kazura sold fragrances; both businesses (among many other family-owned enterprises) still do brisk business today!

And yet the modern world lives here too: go to the Kampong Glam's southwest corner and you'll find Bali Lane & Haji Lane (location on Google Maps), two parallel pedestrianized streets crammed with bohemian boutiques, ethnic restaurants and cutting-edge concept stores.

Read our overview of Singapore’s ethnic enclaves.

Jewel Changi Airport
courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board

Other Hot Singapore Shopping Stops

The shopping areas listed here are standalone establishments that have something extra going for them.

Biggest Outlet Mall: IMM Outlet (capitaland.com; location on Google Maps). Singapore has bigger malls elsewhere, but only IMM Outlet Mall crams the most wholesale-price outlet stores in its five floors and 37,800sqm of retail spaces.

Look for bargains amidst its 90-plus outlet stores, covering brands like Coach, Juicy Couture, Nike, and Calvin Klein. All-year discounts at IMM can go as high as 80%; tourists eligible for special privileges.

Mall Inside an Airport: Jewel Changi Airport (jewelchangiairport.com; location on Google Maps). You don’t need to have a flight in our out to enter this bean-shaped glass dome adjoining Changi Airport. Over 290 shops, restaurants and bars are crammed into this multilevel masterpiece – all arranged around a natural-looking indoor park.

Filled with superlatives – the world’s largest indoor waterfall, Southeast Asia’s biggest Nike outlet – Jewel Changi Airport combines retail, leisure and travel into a gorgeous package.

One Stop Sports Shop: Kallang Wave Mall (sportshub.com.sg; location on Google Maps). Appropriately for a mall grounded in the Singapore Sports Hub, the Kallang Wave Mall caters to sporty types with a selection of sporting goods stores from all over the world – among them New Balance, Runners Edge, and Hoop Factory. A rock-climbing wall keeps active types busy.

Couple shopping in Singapore
 PeTer_Lau/Getty Images

Money and Tax-Free Shopping in Singapore

As Singapore is a major financial center in the region, the country's banking sector is so artfully arranged to provide maximum convenience for shoppers from all over, with moneychangers, internationally-networked ATMs, and banks operating at extended business hours.

Find out more about Singapore's money situation: its banks, moneychangers, and credit cards, together with money tips and useful spending suggestions for travelers in Singapore.

Visitors to Singapore can shop tax free - while Singapore shops do charge a 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST), stores let tourists redeem taxes upon departure. The following article explains how you can shop tax-free in Singapore, together with useful tips and links.

Read our overview of Tax-Free Shopping in Singapore.  

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