The heartland ‘hood may be famous for all the wrong reasons, but it’s also home to lovely green spaces, amazing eats and fun activities.
Contrary to what you may think, Yishun isn’t all that bad. Sure, with all the strange crimes, drug syndicate busts and unusual sightings, it may seem like Singapore’s Gotham City. But is Yishun truly as scary as it seems? Our answer is a resounding “no”. Aside from the occasional bizarre incident, Yishun is a fairly tame neighbourhood with charm in spades – it’s got greenery everywhere, it’s home to a close-knitted community, and there’s plenty to see and do. Need further proof? From hole-in-the-wall cafes and ice cream parlours to secret kayaking destinations and nature parks, we dish out all the reasons why this northern neighbourhood is worth the visit.
Eat, drink and repeat
For hardcore hawker hunters, Yishun’s bountiful local food scene won’t disappoint. Slurp up thick gravy with fresh, plump cockles at 928 Yishun Laksa or tuck into the famous Yishun 925 Hainanese Chicken Rice, which comes with juicy, flavourful meat and fragrant grains. To get your dessert fix, the same stall that serves laksa is also home to Lit Lit Xin Popiah and traditional Chinese desserts. For nasi lemak that packs a punch, head to Chong Pang Nasi Lemak – do yourself a favour and order the spicy signatures of long beans and sambal brinjal.
Oh, and you can’t miss out on the delectable delights at the always-bustling Chong Pang Market & Food Centre. Hot faves include chwee kueh (steamed rice cakes with preserved radish), duck rice, kway chap (pig innards with rice noodles) and soya bean milk. To pay a visit to the new generation of hawkers, head to Yishun Park Hawker Centre for traditional eats and modern fusion dishes. You gotta try the Hakka rice bowls at Ah Lock Tofu and har cheong gai (prawn paste chicken) at Ah Tan Wings. Plus, other highlights like Ajisai Japanese Ramen, Fishball Story and Nasi Lemak Ayam Taliwang.
Baker’s Brew Studio
Over at Jalan Tampang, Baker’s Brew Studio welcomes both inspiring bakers and cake lovers. Here’s where you can laze the day away over delish cakes and steaming hot cuppas, or hone your skills at hands-on baking classes.
Baker’s Brew Studio, No. 6 Jalan Tampang, Singapore 758950
Holy Cow Creamery
These days, every ‘hood has it’s own dessert spot and Holy Cow Creamery is Yishun’s. The charming cafe is popular for its freshly churned ice cream flavours like salted gula melaka or cookies and cream (pair them with the crispy waffles!). But, you shouldn’t give the other desserts a miss. We’re talking about the chocolate lava cake that’s deliciously rich and gooey. Chill here for an afternoon of cake and coffee or get a refreshing scoop of sorbet to beat the heat.
Holy Cow Creamery, #01-291, 292 Yishun Street 22, Singapore 760292
Heng Hua Restaurant
Serving traditional Heng Hwa fare, this veteran zi char stall made the move from Joo Chiat to Yishun, where it’s been serving up plates of fried bee hoon, deep-fried fish, braised bean curd skin and stir-fried yam chunks ever since.
Heng Hua Restaurant, #01-212, Blk 748 Yishun Street 72, Singapore 760748
An affordable Thai BBQ joint tucked away on the rustic grounds of Orto, Mookata offers a no-frills grill experience. After your meats, seafood and lard bits have spent time sizzling over the fire, dip ‘em in a variety of house-made chilli sauces for extra umami. Then, wash it all down with sweet sips of Thai iced milk tea.
Mookata, #01-04, Orto, 81 Lorong Chencharu, Singapore 769198
Quench! Bistro & Bar
Also sitting in Orto, facing the prawning ponds, Quench is a chill, open concept bar with alfresco seats for visitors to knock back draught or craft beers while enjoying the scenic sights. It’s also got small bites and happy hour promos all night long for those who want to unwind in nature after a long day at work.
Quench! Bistro & Bar, #01-10, Orto, 81 Lorong Chencharu, Singapore 769198
Hao Bang General Wholesale Trading
Don’t let the name fool you – it’s actually a bakery that sells old school bread, cakes and muffins that’ll transport you back to the good ‘ol days. Don’t expect funky fusion recipes or fancy ingredients here; it’s a humble neighbourhood stall that’s been doing what it does best for years.
Hao Bang General Wholesale Trading, #01-241, Blk 925 Yishun Central, Singapore 760928
At this homegrown burger joint, you can get your buns stuffed with everything from cranberry chicken to mushroom chicken to rendang beef. But if you’re the picky type, customise your own creation with beef, chicken and fish patties, followed by sesame, plain or whole-grain buns. Finish up with dressing options like tartar sauce, ketchup or mayo, and add-ons such as turkey bacon, turkey ham and mushroom sauce.
Burger Up, #01-03, Yishun 10 Complex, 51 Yishun Central 1, Singapore 768794
If it’s soul food you’re looking for, don’t miss Coba Coba. It’s an authentic Indonesian haunt that resembles a cafe, with its brick walls and vintage decor accents, but serves a mean rendition of nasi ambeng and nasi padang.
Coba Coba, #01-106, 156 Yishun Street 11, Singapore 760156
Hang out with nature
Yishun Pond Park
We’ve got a not-so-secret spot for evening strolls: Yishun Pond Park, located just behind the architectural marvel that is Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. With its huge variety of trees and marshland plants, water promenade and spiral tower, it’s a calm haven for both residents and nature-seeking visitors.
Yishun Pond Park, located along Yishun Central, in front of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Lower Seletar Reservoir Park
If you’re looking to escape the constantly crowded bustling centre of Yishun, your ticket to peace and quiet is found in this nature spot. Just a couple of minutes away from Khatib MRT, the tranquil spot is popular with nearby residents for after-dinner walks or jogging sessions. It also features a water play area, a Heritage Bridge, a fishing jetty and water activities like kayaking and dragon boating.
Lower Seletar Reservoir Park, located by Yishun Avenue 1 and Lentor Avenue
Pack a picnic and drive up to Yishun Dam, located near Lower Seletar Reservoir, for a weekend picnic or barbeque. It’s secluded and only accessible by car, but it can get crowded with family gatherings and cyclists stopping for a breather, so plan your outing accordingly.
Yishun Dam, located at the end of Yishun Avenue 1
Sungei Khatib Bongsu
Described as the ‘Land of Giants’, Sungei Khatib Bongsu boasts a hidden natural river. Singapore’s biggest mangrove riverine habitat is home to large trees and wildlife, including various species of birds and mangrove inhabitants like crab-eating frogs and dog-faced water snakes. To visit, try a kayaking tour via KayakAsia.
Sungei Khatib Bongsu, starts at Yishun Avenue 6 around the corner from Yishun Park
Sembawang Hot Spring Park
As the only natural hot spring in Singapore, this outdoor gem is truly one of a kind. Gone are its dingy days, though. Thanks to a recent revamp, the place is bigger and better than before, with a floral walk leading up to the cafe and cascading pool. Here’s where you can dip your toes into the steaming water, try your best to soft-boil an egg or sit in the shade to give yourself a nice foot bath. Best of all, it’s free and open daily for family fun.
Sembawang Hot Spring Park, located along Gambas Avenue
Formerly an old rubber estate, this little spot of greenery features tropical fruit trees and family-friendly hangouts like playgrounds, fitness corners, an amphitheatre and multi-purpose courts. To spend some time with nature, walk across the grounds and see if you can identify the rambutan, jackfruit, coconut or star fruit trees.
Yishun Park, located within the boundaries of Yishun Avenue 4, Yishun Central, Yishun Avenue 11 and Yishun Ring Road
Other cool things to do
Go bowling in the dark
The city has heaps of alleys for you to knock down a few pins. But at Orchid Bowl’s cosmic bowling sessions, you can double up your bowling shoes as dancing ones in a glow-in-the-dark atmosphere (and safely test out that victory dance you’ve been saving). Plus, different nights host different music themes, including R&B, K-pop, Malay pop and Latino grooves.
Orchid Bowl, Safra Yishun, 60 Yishun Avenue 4, Singapore 769027
Have a fun day out at Orto
For a little outdoor relaxation, head to this recreational park encircled by greenery on a balmy evening (it’s open 24/7!). To get a taste of the kampong life, you’ll find Singapore’s largest prawning facility here, as well as a fishing pond. Alternatively, rustle up your posse and get your protective masks ready for a wicked paintball game at Red Dynasty Paintball Park. Or blow off steam by bouncing off the walls at Katapult, an indoor trampoline park that includes activity areas like slam dunk and dodgeball. For an adrenaline rush, hit up Maximum Drift and challenge your friends to a round of high-speed go-karting.
Orto, 81 Lorong Chencharu, Singapore 769198
Take a peek at turtles and tortoises
Relocating to Yishun after 18 years at the Chinese Garden, this unique “museum” takes you into the wonderful world of turtles and tortoises. You can pet or feed some of the free-roaming terrapins or box turtles, or get up close to species like the alligator turtle, Malaysian giant river turtle or sulcata tortoise.
The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum, #01-16, Orto, 81 Lorong Chencharu, Singapore 769198
Shop, eat and watch movies
Okay, so Northpoint City looks just like another mall. But to Yishun residents, this sleek new mixed development lifestyle, recreation and transportation hub is a huge upgrade from its predecessor. As the largest shopping centre in the north, the hip haunt features a community club, a rooftop garden, a public library, countless retail offerings and more than 50 dining concepts. Basically, there’s plenty to keep you occupied here if you’re avoiding the scorching rays of the sun.
Northpoint City, 930 Yishun Avenue 2, Singapore 769098