The British Occupation in Singapore lasted over a century and is reminiscent in the buildings of the Colonial District. Spanning the MRT lines of Bugis, City Hall, Marina Bay and Raffles Place, the colonial district is set in the heart of the city. It starts from where Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of modern Singapore, set foot on the Raffles Landing Site in the Singapore River. Featuring stunning architecture from the 1800s, the buildings, churches and monuments stand silent against the rest of the city’s blinding shopping centres and skyscrapers.
Guided tours are popular in this area. Frequently sighted, the Duck and Hippo Tours take you around the district by land and sea with a candid and clear commentary. The Singapore Walking tours are a popular choice, where guides will handhold a group through Singapore’s many heritage and culture walks.
Architecture junkies will be appreciative of the varied structures of Singapore’s churches, courts and office buildings. A charming offering of both learning and photographic opportunities, notable buildings include the Old Supreme Court, City Hall, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, CHJIMES, and the Armenian Church.
Like any other country torn by past wars, two of Singapore’s monuments, the Cenotaph and War Memorial Park stand solemn in the midst of city lights, ignored by locals but quietly appreciated by tourists.
The colonial district is where you can get a bird’s eye view of Singapore from its many lookout points. To make merry and experience the high life (quite literally), head to Swissotel the Stamford’s New Asia Bar. Perched at the 71st storey, it offers night views of Bugis, Orchard, Marina Bay and the River area. To heighten your culinary senses, 37th-storey Hai Tien Lo at the Pan Pacific Hotel will thrill you from the start of the lift ride, where City Hall will span out. Finally, the crème de la crème of good views lie in the Singapore Flyer, an observation wheel alike London’s eye, but bigger and higher- 42 storeys of unobstructed views of Marina Bay, City Hall, Bugis, Kallang, the River Area, the surrounding islands and even Indonesia.
Hotels around the area offer both splendour and old-world charm. Swissotel the Stamford and Pan Pacific Hotel are among a few high-end hotels which come with an entertainment and shopping centre. The luxurious Ritz-Carlton is often favoured by famous guests who prefer its central yet discreet location, with its entrance located away from the main road. Hotels with excess baggage from colonial times include the Raffles Hotel and The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, both grand in design and exclusive in practice.
Shoppers are spoilt for choice as the district offers varied options for varied income types, from the cheap yet somewhat dodgy apparel and souvenier items at Bugis Street Market, high-end handbags at Raffles City Shopping Centre to designer items at the respective hotels’ shopping arcades. Ignore the credit crunch and shop for electronic/it goods at Funan Digitalife Mall and Sim Lim Square. Make sure you know the market prices beforehand to avoid getting ripped off.
The arts scene in Singapore has been revived in recent years with the introduction of the riverfront Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, a questionable-looking building which either looks like the local spiky fruit durian, or a bug’s eyes. Housing recital studios, concert halls, music rooms, galleries and a library catering to the arts, it salutes another centre a stone’s throw away- the Victoria Concert Theatre and Hall. Museums are aplenty. Notable ones such as the Peranakan Museum and Asian Civilisation Museum will nurse anyone with yellow fever.
A whirlwind of food and dining options spanning cultures and genres are available. Although most cater to mid-range and high-end budgets, travelers can still source for good deals with lunch and dinner sets, happy hours or freeflow nights. Drinking dens center on CHJIMES where bar Insomnia holds weekly freeflow nights. Other bars can be found in shopping malls and hotels, such as Tawandang Microbrewery at Suntec City Mall and Long Bar at Raffles Hotel.