Every nineties kid who grew up in Singapore spent a large part of their youth on Orchard Road.
Hands up anyone who remembers California Lemon at Cineleisure, the benches outside Far East Plaza (for the ah bengs/lians) and spending hours listening to CDs at HMV at the Heeren or… Tower Records *gasp*.
These days, the Orchard Road shopping district is no longer as cool. Years back in 2014, there was already plenty of discussion about how to revitalise Orchard Road.
Why are Singaporeans not going to Orchard Road like before?
It’s crowded and parking is expensive. In the 90s, Orchard Road was just crowded enough to be considered lively. These days, the entire stretch of Orchard Road is an unbearable stench of jostling bodies, especially on weekends.
But if there are more people, shouldn’t the malls be making more money?
Not enough apparently. Newer malls like ION Orchard, Somerset 313, Orchard Central and Knightsbridge have sprung up like weeds in the past few decades and are now muscling in on the market share.
And don’t even get us started about the increase in parking fares. You’d be hard-pressed to find a mall in the main Orchard Road area with a per-entry fee after 6pm. Instead, they’ve been replaced with time-based per entry rates. Thankfully there are still some safe havens in Orchard Road for relatively affordable parking.
Online shopping became mainstream. With top e-Commerce stores promising free returns and short delivery times above competitive prices, shops in Orchard Road are finding it hard to compete.
Retailers know this too. They don’t need to set up shop to achieve visibility at a costly place like Orchard Road anymore in an age where Facebook, Instagram and Youtube marketing have become mainstream.
Heartland malls have gotten a lot better. Once upon a time, shopping in heartland malls meant wearing This Fashion clothes or being limited to the book selection at Popular.
That’s no longer the case. There are stores like Kate Spade Saturday, Calvin Klein Jeans and Armani Exchange at Westgate, while Nex at Serangoon has a rooftop garden with, get this, a dog park, which we have to admit is freaking cool.
There are better hangout spots. Let’s face it, there are about a million places more appealing to spend your weekend at than Orchard Road. If you’re into cafe hopping, you head to Tiong Bahru. If you want to buy hipster clothes, you head to Haji Lane. If you want to buy luxury goods, you head to Marina Bay Sands. If you want to eat at a nice restaurant, you can head almost anywhere else.
With all these being said, there are still some cool things you can do in Orchard Road, given the new changes. Here are 10 fun things to do in Orchard Road today.
1. Shop GST-free on July 7, 2019
In a bid to create its own shopping day, Orchard Road is implementing a 7/7 GST-free day, where the 7% goods and services tax will be absorbed by participating shops and restaurants.
This could mean considerable savings. Additionally, as part of GSS, from 21 June to July 28, shoppers get to enjoy extra discounts (up to 80% off) on Fridays.
Still belong to the online shopping camp? Read this article on GSS 2019 online shopping deals on the best promo codes.
2. Dine with a bird’s eye view of Orchard Road from rooftops
While you could shop with a few clicks, your bedroom probably doesn’t let you dine with a view, and Orchard Road offers some good spots to do just that.
Head to levels 11 and 12 of the Orchard Central building and you’ll find restaurants such as Joie and Ban Heng. Next to these dining options is a charming roof garden overlooking the city. Little waterfalls provide very zen sound effects, and it’s pretty much deserted late at night, when you’ll have only the kitschy Yayoi Kusama sculptures for company.
Address: 181 Orchard Road, Orchard Central, 238896
Another place where you can dine with a bird’s eye view of Orchard is at Salt Grill & Sky Bar on level 55 of Orchard Road. You’ll discover a lovely viewing gallery with dizzying views over the city. You can even spot Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer in the distance.
Address: 2 Orchard Turn, #55-01 ION Orchard Mall, Singapore 238801
Currently, there is a Travel the World with Lego Bricks show on the same floor, which is free, under the condition that you spend a minimum of $20 in ION Orchard.
3. Local brands and film screenings at Design Orchard
Orchard Road is well-known for its luxury boutiques, but the younger generations of today no longer crave branded goods engraved with conspicuous logos. Instead, affluent millennials are paying for unique experiences and will splash out more for brands that reflect their ethics and values.
So while Orchard Road is bigger and brighter than it ever was before, the brashness and boldness of its malls no longer attract the younger crowd.
Design Orchard seeks to step in the gap. It’s a retail space stocked with local brands with a rooftop garden that can be used for film screenings and fashion shows.
Inside the building, there are workshop venues and a co-working space. The industrial looking exterior is also a great backdrop for a winning Instagram shot.
Address: 250 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238905
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4. Flip through books in Kinokuniya and [email protected]
Online shopping has hit retail businesses hard, and this no less true for book stores. After 36 years of operation, Kinokuniya has closed its doors at Liang Court, a sad occasion for book lovers. Thankfully, the outlet at Ngee Ann City is still operating, along with two other outlets at Bugis Junction and JEM.
The Ngee Ann City outlet is a longstanding treasure trove for book lovers in Singapore, with endless rows of English, Chinese and Japanese titles.
Address: 391 Orchard Road #04-20/20B/20C/20E Takashimaya Shopping Centre Ngee Ann City, 238872
And if you are at the other end of Orchard Road nearer to Somerset, you can steal some time in [email protected] in Orchard Gateway instead. The books that you can find here lean more towards Design and Art, though they do have a selection of novels, cookbooks, AV materials and even Chinese books.
Address: 277 Orchard Road, Orchard Gateway, #03-12/#04-11, 238858
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5. Go on a farm tour to learn about urban farming at Comcrop
Urban farming is riding on a huge wave in Singapore. Millennials love dressing up their apartment in plants, and now, you can even learn how to do it at SCAPE, Orchard Road.
There’s a free farm tour every first Saturday of the month from 1030am to 12pm, and they regularly organise Farmer’s Markets where they sell fresh Cai Xin, Pesto and so on. You just need to check Comcrop’s Facebook Page for the latest updates.
Address: #04-01 *Scape, 2 Orchard Link, 237978
6. Jump on a trampoline at BOUNCE Singapore
BOUNCE Singapore is purportedly Singapore’s largest trampoline park located on the 9th floor of Cineleisure. There are 28 interconnected trampolines, a climbing wall, dunking nets and a dodgeball arena.
It costs $25 for adults to jump for the first session and $21 for the second session. Children above 3 years old and under 110 cm pay $17 for the first session and $12 for the second session.
Check BOUNCE Singapore’s website if you’re keen to sign up for multi-session packages.
Address: 8 Grange Rd, #09-01 Cineleisure, Singapore 239695
7. Car-free roads linking to Singapore Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park (coming soon)
While Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA)’s suggestion that the 2ha plot of state land behind Ngee Ann City be used to create a green space in 2014 wasn’t heeded, greenery will be one of the key additions to Orchard Road in the near future.
In the URA Master Draft Plan 2019, Orchard Road will be divided into 4 themed sub-precincts and part of the road may even become completely car-free to connect green spaces at Istana Park, Dhoby Ghaut Green and Plaza Singapura.
8. Sing Karaoke
Karaoke is way more expensive in Singapore than it is in its birthplace, Japan, but there are still some affordable places to sing on Orchard Road.
Manekineko at Cineleisure is relatively cheap if you sing between 11am and 6pm—a 2-hour session costs $16 per person on weekdays and $20 on weekends. There’s even a crazy limited time promotion now from 24 June to 31 July where you can sing for just $1 or $2 per hour per pax (maximum 3 hours and 3 persons). Which makes it dirt cheap to K your favourite tunes!
Cash Studio, which has branches at Cuppage Plaza, Ming Arcade and Prinsep Street, charges about $23+++ per room per hour for a group of three.
9. Check out an Art Gallery at ION Orchard
Soul-less consumerism isn’t the only thing that Orchard Road’s got going for it.
It’s also home to Opera Gallery on the fourth floor of ION Orchard Road, which you’re free to browse even if you’re not about to spend half a million on a Picasso sketch.
They’ve got works by the likes of Magritte, Miró and Warhol, so anybody with even a passing interest in art will find something that fascinates them.
Address: 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801, Level 4
10. Check out historic buildings at Peranakan Place
Tired of the blinding bright lights emitted by the hulking malls lining Orchard Road?
Duck into Emerald Hill, a conservation area where gorgeous heritage shophouses and Peranakan houses still stand. If you get thirsty, pop into one of the many drinking holes in the area, such as the ever-popular Acid Bar, with its value-for-money happy hour from 5pm to 9pm.
Address: 180 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238846
Do you still spend time shopping on Orchard Road? Tell us why or why not in the comments!
Image credit: ValMan via Flickr