Need a guide to Kampong Glam? We combed one of Singapore's trendiest neighbourhoods and sussed out the best restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops in and around the popular Haji Lane, Bali Lane and Arab Street
Whether you’re a born and bred local, longtime expat or an in-the-know tourist, you’ve probably heard of the Kampong Glam district. Once an ethnic enclave for the Muslim community, including Arab and Bugis traders, the area is a hip neighbourhood peppered with hole-in-the-wall boutiques, quaint restaurants, cool bars and charming cultural spots. Here’s a little tour of this buzzy treasure trove that’s spilling with surprises at every corner.
Eat & Drink
Kampong Glam is littered with eateries offering Mediterranean fare. If we really had to pick, we’d go for Nabins (32 Sultan Gate, p. 62911190) for our kebab fix. With belly dancers and live soccer screenings, we’re not surprised that this lively ‘hood sees a mixed crowd of locals and tourists.
Take the opportunity to find a bar while you’re exploring the streets. Going Om (63 Haji Lane, p. 6396 3592) is great if you have a friend here from out of town – its dancers and live bands make great accompaniment to their beer and grub. Or spend an evening at brightly-coloured Mexican gem Piedra Negra (241 Beach Rd, p. 6291 1297) over freshly made guac, an endless supply of tortilla chips and hearty burritos – all to be washed down with frozen margaritas, of course.
Craving for good ol’ Southern comforts? Check out The Beast (17 Jalan Klapa, p. 6295 0017), a Southern kitchen and bourbon bar which serves up a wicked lineup of soul food, including buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, and country-fried steak and eggs.
For a true-blue Turkish dining experience, do not give Alaturka (15 Bussorah Street, p. 6293 9010) a miss. Its authentic Turkish cuisine and elaborate interior of traditional Turkish tiles will transport you right to Turkey!
If you’re up for some good ol’ traditional Malay fare, we recommend Warong Nasi Pariaman (742 North Bridge Road) for their Indonesian-style nasi padang. You know it has to be good when it’s been serving nasi padang for 60 years and counting. Just a heads up, things get spicy in there!
For a not-so-usual dining experience, reserve a table at Nox – Dine in the Dark (269 Beach Road, p. 6298 0708). Yep, as the name suggests, your culinary adventure takes place in a pitch-black room, as you’re served by staff who are – though visually impaired – comfortably in their element in the darkness. It’s a humbling experience.
You’re bound to love this hidden find nestled two minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Arab Street. With full brunch, lunch and dinner menus offered at Symmetry (9 Jalan Kubor, p. 6291 9901), this French- and Aussie-inspired café by day and restaurant bar by night is an all-round winner. Love to people watch? Catch all the exciting Haji Lane action over at popular street side I am…(674 North Bridge Road (off Haji Lane), p. 6295 5509) cafe, which specialises in charcoal grilled burgers and Instagram-worthy desserts.
We’ve raved about cafe Working Title (48 Arab Street, p. 6298 8721) before, but this inconspicuous café definitely deserves a mention in our neighbourhood guide. Snag a seat in the backyard while you chill and enjoy your food and choice of poison (from their huge shelf of craft beers and ciders) – bliss. For a slightly off-beat cafe experience, make a beeline to The Lab, (1 Jalan Pisang, p. 6299 5681) a halal joint with laboratory-inspired interiors and experimental dishes.
Fancy a cocktail or a cup of coffee while you shop? Head to Maison Ikkoku (20 Kandahar Street, p. 6294 0078), a uber hip two-in-one establishment, which houses a café and a buzzing after-hours cocktail bar.
The Old (and Gold)
Take a bit of Singapore’s history with you the next time you make a day trip to Kampong Glam. The Malay Heritage Centre (85 Sultan Gate, p. 6391 0450) curates frequent exhibitions and activities for visitors. Fun fact: Kampong Glam used to be a bustling port town before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived on our shores! Explore the Sultan Mosque’s (3 Muscat Street, p. 6293 4405/6293 4043) impressive architecture (for free) just next door – the gold dome interior is made entirely out of glass bottles.
Art & Entertainment
Around the corner of Kampong Glam’s heritage trail is Artistry (17 Jalan Pinang, p. 6298 2420), an art gallery café dedicated to showcasing local and international artwork and performances. Get your dose of creativity at this space that lives and breathes art – but not without a cup of coffee with beans from Liberty Coffee and some of its delightful desserts.
Home to regular music parties and events that celebrate local talent, Blu Jaz Café (11 Bali Lane, p. 9199 0610) is Bali Lane’s magnet for the hip and funky. Boasting two shop houses with more than three floors of space and rooms for their regular jam sessions and standup comedy shows, there’s never a reason to get bored here!
Aliwal Arts Centre (28 Aliwal Street, p. 6435 0131), which held the recent Urban Arts Festival, is the new kid on the block for the performing arts scene in Singapore. It also houses Malaysian burger joint Kaw Kaw SG (p. 6444 8349) and kid-friendly Eat Play Love Café (p. 6444 6400), which gives us even more reason to check out this place and its curated exhibitions and workshops.
Singapore’s home interior scene just got a little more exciting, with the addition of award-winning Scene Shang‘s (263 Beach Road, p. 6291 9629) brick-and-mortar store in the district. Melding Asian heritage with contemporary design, the brand is renowned for its printed cushion covers of iconic heritage landmarks and immaculately crafted furniture. And if you’re on the hunt for uniquely local goods, don’t forget to stop by gallery shop Supermama (265 Beach Road, p. 6291 1946) – the gallery shop works with homegrown designers to create eclectic souvenirs.
Adding a quirky and laid-back vibe to the Haji Lane stretch is Mondays Off (76 Haji Lane), which offers a diverse mix of homewares, accessories, and trinkets sourced from all over the globe.
Discerning shoppers will be spoilt for choice at En Pointé The Boutique (735 North Bridge Road), which features unique designs from both renowned and emerging Asian designers, is also set to be the latest haunt for trendsetting style mavens.
Once you’ve got your your ensemble sorted, it’s time to accessorise. Pick up one-off jewellery pieces or minimalist watches from The General Store (38 Arab Street), which stocks a dazzling array of independent, local designers.
You’ll want to spend the entire day at Shop Wonderland (37 Haji Lane, p. 6299 5848), which houses a café, a boutique, and an arts and crafts workshop space all within a delightfully cosy two-storey shophouse.
For the latest selection of cult fashion labels like Bec & Bridge, Shona Joy, Sass & Bide, and Vita Fede, the super chic multi-label boutique Et-i-kit (34 Kandahar Street, p. 9665 5685) is where to go.
Want a new way to explore this thriving ‘hood and its neighbouring areas? Pop into Tokyobike (38 Haji Lane, 6299 5048) – the only Asian flagship store outside of Japan – and test-run one of its signature minimalist bikes before making the big purchase.
Want more? Read our interview with local accessories designer Ling Wu on her favourite spots in Kampong Glam!
A part of this article was published in Singapore Insider. Pick up a copy of the print guide at Singapore Visitor Centres island-wide, including Orchard (junction of Cairnhill Road and Orchard Road), orchardgateway, ION Orchard (Level 1 Concierge), and Chinatown Visitor Centre (2 Banda Street), or download the latest version.