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Bugis
Photograph: Shutterstock

The ultimate guide to Bugis

Bugis is a colourful district home to a myriad of food options, art galleries, and historical monuments that contrast against state-of-the-art skyscrapers

By Time Out Singapore editors, Charlene Fang and Dewi Nurjuwita
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Bugis has gone through an overhaul over the years – transforming from a port for pirates and quarters for prostitution to the classy (and artsy) precinct it is today which includes new developments like Andaz, the National Design Centre and the modern National Library branch. Not to mention a smorgasbord of food options from all over the world – whether it's Michelin-star hawker fare, Malay cuisine or Peruvian plates. While the area is evolving into a mini CBD, it hasn’t gone all business-like just yet. The colourful neighbourhood is a place of contrasts, with the historical monuments of Kampong Glam contrasting against state-of-the-art buildings like Parkview Square and Duo Tower. Bugis has also recently been named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, according to a Time Out global survey. So check out all these venues that make the heritage enclave so great. 

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to Kampong Glam and the ultimate guide to Tanjong Pagar

Do

Malay Heritage Centre

Things to do Rochor

Malay sultans once reigned Kampong Glam, but those days are long gone. What stands now is the historic Istana Kampong Gelam, one of the finest examples of traditional vernacular Malay architecture still found in Singapore. Built between 1836 and 1843, it combines traditional Malay motifs with the Palladian style – a style popular in England in the 18th and 19th. It has since been converted into a museum that traces the history of the Malay community – from the days of the earliest settlers and the seafaring might of the Bugis villagers to the golden years of the Malay entertainment industry. 

The Projector
Photo: Philipp Aldrup

The Projector

Cinemas Independent Kallang

Occupying the former site of the historic Golden Theatre is The Projector, a refurbished cinema that’s home to an eclectic selection of films (it also selectively screens mainstream ones), as well as Intermission Bar which hosts unique events and dishes out tasty bites. Settle yourself into a seat – or bean bag – and be spoilt for choice with an array of films that run the gamut. Besides indie titles and arthouse flicks, The Projector also shows local and cult classics such as Rocky Horror Show and 2001: A Space Odyssey

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National Library

5 out of 5 stars
Things to do Literary events Rochor

You can spend all day navigating the National Library building. The 16-floor architectural marvel is home to two libraries (the Central Public Library in basement 1 and the Lee Kong Chian referene Library from levels 7 to 13), a Drama Centre managed by the National Arts Council, and a public art gallery. Showered with architectural awards before it had even opened, the new building (a replacement for the old National Library on Stamford Road) is designed as two towers, linked by walkways and walled almost entirely with glass. The spacious reference section and the study rooms on the upper floors offer great views across the city.

Aliwal Arts Centre

Art Rochor

There’s always something going on at this versatile space that’s part art centre, part performance space and part co-working space. Home to the annual Aliwal Urban Art Festival and Aliwal Arts Night Crawl, the focus isn’t just trained on cool, street culture, they also hold workshops on topics as diverse as opera make-up, dance master classes and movement sessions.

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Coda Culture
Photograph: Coda Culture

Coda Culture

Art Galleries Rochor

Since its inception in January 2018 at Golden Mile Complex, this independent art space founded by Singapore artist Seelan Palay aims to provide a space where home-grown artists can practice with freedom and autonomy. The gallery has just moved into a fresh new location in the thriving Aliwal precinct. Ingrained within its four walls is a strong, unwavering sense of experimentation as the gallery pushes its artists to strive for greater heights in terms of techniques and concepts. 

Eat

Chix Hot Chicken
Photograph: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Chix Hot Chicken

Restaurants Chicken Rochor

Think all American fried chicken is just KFC? Chix Hot Chicken is out to prove you wrong. First of all, its name doesn't lie – Nashville-style country chicken is spicy as heck. Nashville hot chicken is typically marinated in buttermilk, fried and doused with a heavy application of cayenne pepper (often in the form of some magical pepper-infused oil), along with other spices like garlic and paprika. It is sometimes served on the bone with white bread and pickles – possibly to take off the heat a little. Curious? Save the plane ticket to ‘Merica, you can get some in Arab Street.

TONO Cevicheria
Photograph: Daphotographer

TONO Cevicheria

Restaurants Peruvian Rochor

Peruvian food was all the rage in 2017, so it was just a matter of time an authentic Peruvian restaurant landed in Singapore. Started by Peruvian native Daniel Chavez, the food here is as intensely flavoured as it is diverse. The ceviches – there are four types available – are a predictable crowdpleaser, as is signature dishes like the hearty Lomo Saltado and Plancha De Mariscos, a tastier version of bouillabaisse served with toasted quinoa and a subtly-spiced huancaina sauce.

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Zam Zam
Photograph: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Zam Zam

Restaurants Malay Rochor

If it’s nasi briyani and murtabak you crave, there are fewer better places to satisfy those cravings than at Zam Zam. Operating from a shop house space since 1908, it's one of the original dining establishments in Kampong Glam. The crispy mutton murtabak ($5) delivers indescribable pleasure and the fragrant biryani (from $6) – cooked Hyderabadi dum style together with the succulent meat – is exactly how we like it.

Warong Nasi Pariaman

Restaurants Malay Rochor

You cannot visit Kampong Glam without having Nasi Padang. It's almost like an initiation. Opened by Haji Isrin at the corner of Kandahar Street in 1948, this stall is now run by third-generation owners and continues to churn out homely platters of authentic Malay dishes to a throng of people, including celebrities like former sports personality Fandi Ahmad and musical artist Dato Ramli Sarip.

'Generous' is Nasi Pariaman's middle name. Plates are packed with rice covered in gravy of your choice – there’s chicken curry and lodeh – and an assortment of side dishes such as sambal goreng, bagedil, ikan bilis, tofu and long beans. But the star here is the beef rendang ($3.50), a tender hunk of meat that’s drenched in spices, chilli and gravy. Pair this dish with a steaming cup of teh tarik ($1.30) to complete your meal. 

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Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles
Photo: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Restaurants Kallang

You could argue that this one Michelin star eatery isn’t quite in Bugis, but you’ll be splitting hairs. We frequent this eatery for what's been hailed as Singapore's best Bak Chor Mee. Hill Street Tai Haw Pork Noodle's bowl of juicy minced meat dressed in chilli and vinegar and served with springy noodles (from $6) is still one of the best eats to be had in the city. While the main man, Tang Chay Seng, isn’t always the one cooking, the standard remains consistent and the inimitable sauce perfectly balanced.

Artichoke

Restaurants Middle Eastern Rochor

Artichoke Café + Bar sits on the edge of the Bugis district, within the protective bounds of historical Sculpture Square. The eatery takes up one of the inner former chapel buildings, so despite being situated merely a few feet away from bustling Waterloo Street and Middle Road, the patio and slope-roofed L-shaped structure is almost immune to the throngs and the street traffic’s dust.

Food-wise, check out its popular dish known as Eggs Shakshouka ($28). Eggs are cracked onto tender, fall-apart chunks of fresh lamb and barely tart tomato stew made with lamb marrow stock. Served on the pan in which it was baked, the mixture can be scooped and soaked up by the accompanying boats of pide. A dollop of home-made labneh (strained yoghurt) quells the fresh, piping heat of this Tunisian dish.

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Alley on 25

Restaurants Singaporean Rochor

Treat yourself to an elevated street food experience at Alley on 25 – an all-day dining venue by Andaz Singapore. It comprises seven shophouse-inspired venues: a bar, a lounge and five restaurants each specializing in different cooking methods such as open charcoal grilling and cooking in a huge Beech oven. Star dishes include the laksa with tiger prawn, fish cake and rice noodle ($16) from Auntie’s Wok and Steam, as well as the oh-so-sinful braised lamb shank ($35) from The Green Oven. End your gastronomic adventure with the Pulut Hitam Ice-Cream Pop ($10), a uniquely Singaporean dessert served with coconut ice cream. 

 

665 Degrees Farenheit

Restaurants Steakhouse Rochor

Named after the temperature of the Pira oven and grill that sits in the heart of a show kitchen, 665°F is a classic steakhouse dishing out halal-certified prime cuts and sustainable seafood. Perched on the 38th floor of Andaz Singapore, 665°F offers stuning views of the city below while you cut into succulent pieces of dry-aged, grass-fed ribeyes ($49), Australian lamb chops ($55) or a whole dover sole in burnt butter ($99).

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Tanuki Raw (National Design Centre)

Restaurants Rochor

This branch of Tanuki Raw isn't set on a street-watching terrace, but there's still plenty of eye candy to look at. At the National Design Centre, a small clutch of tables seat diners next to the goodies brought in by retailer Kapok. The truffle yakiniku don ($18.90) is the absolute must-try: juicy US Black Angus short rib is served atop rice, draped in a truffle soya sauce and crowned with a gooey onsen egg. Besides that, cuisine-bending sushi rolls and sliders are also on the menu. And dash out early from work if you have to – cocktails go for $10 paired with oysters for $2 each during happy hour. 

Drink

Blu Jaz Cafe

Music Music venues Rochor

There’s so much to love about this homegrown live music café and bar that keeps evolving but never betrays its musical soul. A multi-genre space – from jazz to hip-hop, R&B, to live DJ gigs and musical theatre open mic – the only thing consistent about it is its chilled vibe, reasonable drink prices, and that the music is always on point.

ATLAS
Photograph: Atlas

Atlas

Bars and pubs Rochor

It’s hard not to be impressed when you first step into Atlas. The grand art deco-inspired bar looks exactly like a European hotel lobby of the era. Magnificent champagne-hued tapestries line the ceiling, intricate gold and bronze balconies surround the space, and, of course, a massive gin tower stands imposingly at one end.

Gin lovers will be buzzed to know that Atlas houses over 1,000 bottles of gin – and has the most diverse collection of spirit in the world. With so much to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed so let Master of Gin, Jonathan Teo, and his team help.

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Loof
Photograph: Loof

Loof

Bars and pubs City Hall

The OG of local rooftop bars might be – literally – overshadowed by younger upstarts on taller buildings, but it hasn't yet lost its place on our list of watering holes for a fun night out. The beer is cold, the vibe casual, and the food deserves special mention, thanks to culinary genius Bjorn Shen.

The chef-owner of Artichoke and Bird Bird brings his 'dude food' leanings to Loof. We're talking over-the-top and greasy-in-a-good-way dishes that you wish you could save in the fridge for when the munchies hit. The Pork Chopper ($19) is a cream cracker-battered pork chop slathered in salted veggie slaw between brioche buns, the chilli crab waffle fries ($15) comes with a moreish blue crab dip, and you won't stop munching on the furikake sweet potato fries ($13).

Bar Stories
Photograph: Bar Stories / Facebook

Bar Stories

Clubs Rochor

Snuggled between the indie clothing and trinket stores along Haji Lane is this cocktail retreat. Bar Stories, set up in 2009, is among the first in the wave of bars shaking up crafted drinks in the city, with ardent foodie, David Koh, now at the helm of its drinks-making operation. 

Make reservations for prime seats in front of the bartender, and take the staircase next to The Crostini Bar to find Bar Stories. The small bar counter cleverly tucks you into a recessed space to make conversation easy with the team, who take orders for bespoke cocktails ($20-$25) here. Koh keeps the programming organic and fluid by procuring interesting ingredients and inspirations like Kyoho grapes and kaya toast for the surprise drinks. 

Shop

Supermama

Shopping Boutiques Rochor

The name is familiar, the products heart warming (but not in a kitschy way) and their brand now global with the recent opening of a Tokyo store. Ground zero though remains their Beach Road space, created to inspire one to “collect, create and curate objects”. True to that premise, their beautiful porcelain blue and white plates emblazoned with uniquely Singaporean icons – the Singapore Flyer, the Merlion and the HDB or even Star Wars figurines – remain highly collectible (by locals and visitors) years on, evident by their often sold out status.

Bugis Street

Shopping Shopping centres Raffles Place

Just a stone's throw away from Bugis station lies a bargain shopper's heaven. Bugis Street is the closest you'll get to a street market in Singapore – the first floor is non-airconditioned but we suggest heading straight up to the second air-conditioned floor to shop. The most popular thing to do there, however, is to get your nails done in one of the many nail salons in the 'beauty aisle' – trust us, you'll know when you get there. 

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The Nail Social
Photo: Kevin Ou

The Nail Social

Health and beauty Rochor

There's no lack of nail salons in Singapore but if you happen to be in Haji Lane, check out The Nail Social, which, as its name suggests, is a socially conscious salon offering manicure, pedicure and foot massages. Founders Cheryl Ou and Germaine Monteiro set it up in 2014 with the aim of employing and training underprivileged local women. The pair was experienced nail technicians prior to setting up The Nail Social, and they make sure each customer feels at ease: there’s no lack of conversation, but you’re left to your own devices if you’d prefer things that way. Variety is the operative word here. There are close to 100 colours in both the regular and gel ranges – you’ll have to shell out another $3 for Halal polish, though. Guests also receive an iPad loaded with Netflix, games and books. And you can’t knock the free homemade lemonade and wine (the latter only on Fridays and Saturdays).

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