Singapore River and the Central Business District

The lifeblood of the former trade route, the SIngapore River area remains a buzzing cultural hub and a popular destination for travelers with an eye toward history

Back in the early days, the Singapore River was the former British colony’s main trade lifeblood where all commercial activities took place. Today, the riverbanks are still abuzz but the bustle of entrepôt trade has been replaced with an array of historical spots rich in culture, restaurants and after-dark entertainment. The contrasting sight of restored colonial landmarks like The Fullerton Hotel against towering modern skyscrapers makes this neighborhood a particularly striking one to explore.

The Merlion, one of the city's most iconic symbols


The sculpture of the mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish is one of Singapore’s most iconic mascots. Known as the Merlion (1 Fullerton Square, 6736-6622), its head represents the country’s original name Singapura (lion city) while its body symbolizes the fishing village that the island used to be. See the historical site where Sir Stamford Raffles landed in 1819 and the architecturally stunning Cavenagh Bridge (linked to the Marina waterfront). It’s also hard to miss the MICA Building (140 Hill St., 6270-7988), home to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, with its distinctive colorful window shutters. Explore this vibrant stretch along the river via the Singapore River Cruise (6336-6111, $3), which takes you from Clarke Quay to the Singapore Flyer to Marina Bay Sands.

The first museum in the region to present a broad perspective of pan-Asian cultures and civilizations is the Asian Civilisations Museum (1 Empress Place, 6332-2982). It houses 11 galleries that showcase over 1,300 artifacts. If you prefer theatrics, the Singapore Repertory Theatre (20 Merbau Road, 6221-5585) stages both original and popular classic productions, including Forbidden City: Portrait of an Empress, Hamlet and Avenue Q.

Dining and Nightlife

Over the years, Singapore River has grown to include a host of eateries and nightlife spots, one of which is Boat Quay. Here, you will find bustling bars showing live sports on TV like Harry’s and Prince of Wales. In the area, located just above Clarke Quay MRT, is Central (6 Eu Tong Sen St., 6532-9922), which offers great dining options like award-winning ramen house Marutama Ramen, fashion boutiques, as well as eclectic retailers like Goods of Desire (G.O.D.).

Clarke Quay
Singapore's lively Clarke Quay area

If you’re looking to paint the town red, Clarke Quay would be right up your alley. Enjoy your meal with live entertainment at restaurant-bars such as Aquanova and The Pump Room. If beer is more your thing, knock back pints at Beer Market or Brewerkz. Those who want to dance the night away can pop by clubs like Attica or Fenix Room.

The Robertson Quay stretch houses restaurants like Da Mario Pizzeria Ristorante and tapas joint FoodBar DaDa. Those exploring this area in the day have plenty of options, too. For a peaceful afternoon away from the hustle and bustle, take your pick from chic and contemporary coffee bars like Toby’s Estate and Smitten Coffee & Tea Bar.

If you prefer something a little more happening after dark, visit Zouk (17 Jiak Kim St., 6738-2988) for a world-class clubbing experience. The longest standing club in Singapore, this nightspot has a constant stream of international guest DJs.