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Your day is far from over when the sun sets in Singapore, and no visit to our island would be complete without a foray into what we have to offer by night.
Without meaning to sound like a stale cliché, this city truly does not sleep. There’s always some place to drink, something to do and somewhere to be seen. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly defines nightlife in Singapore because there is simply so much choice – if you have the energy to do it all. A respectably high level of safety and 24/7 access to a transport system that never fails mean a night out promises nothing but a riot of fun without you ever having to worry about staying out ‘too late’. Partying till the sun rises is totally acceptable, and why the heck would you not?
Naturally, the best nights to experience the city in its full glory would be Fridays and Saturdays but by no means are other nights of the week a dull showing. I’d love to be able to say definitively the best place to be if you had just one night to kill but I would be doing you – and Singapore – a great disservice. And sure, Boat Quay and Clarke Quay will probably be the guidebook favourites but you already know that.
As with its myriad of culture, food and sights, this island is as much of a chameleon at night as it is at any other time of day. Your experience is what you make of it and hopefully, this list will serve you well as an after-hours cheat sheet to get you going.
WHERE’S MY SPOT?
1. I want solid heart-thumping house and electronic music: Zouk, Mink
The former is Singapore’s superclub with international accolades up its walls and a constant stream of top-notch local and global DJs on the decks. With three different dance floors to suit your music taste and a wine bar, Zouk never disappoints. A relative infant on the clubbing scene, Mink has been making headlines with its awesome beats, good-looking crowd and plush interiors. Sure sounds like a win-win-win to me.
2. I’m a craft beer ‘connoisseur’: RedDot, LeVeL33, Brewerkz
You don’t just want to experience the nightlife, you want a good taste of what it’s all about. A growing collection of microbreweries have popped up across the island that will more than satisfy your need for some killer malts. Hit up LeVeL33 if you want a great city view with your pint at sundown.
3. I’m want to feel like I’m away from the city, just for a while: Dempsey Hill
A lifestyle quarter packed with rustic shops, restaurants and bars, Dempsey is tucked away in a blanket of greenery close to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Why it makes the list? There are few better places in town with such a concentrated collection of good food and drinking spots all offering an al fresco experience under the stars, a refreshing change when it’s not too sweltering. Go fancy and dine in a gorgeously restored chapel that is The White Rabbit or go local with some Indian at Samy’s Curry. Start the drinks at RedDot Brewhouse or in the serene gardens of The Green Door. And to top it all off, you can end the night partying at Chameleon Club Lounge, one of the area’s newest additions.
4. Let’s get me on top of the world: KU DÉ TA, New Asia Bar
Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has redefined what it means to feel sky high. Pricey, yes; touristy, definitely. But there’s no denying that the complete panorama views KU DÉ TA offers will give anyone quite a thrill. Having a drink with the cool night breeze on your face and then dipping in onto the dance floor for some body rocking: life doesn’t really get much sweeter. New Asia Bar is an old favourite which will reward you with views of MBS and notably less tourists than the former. Either way, unless your pockets run deep, I’d suggest starting the night on a high with just a drink or two before moving on to cheaper, less gravity-defying options.
5. Enough is never enough, give me a bar crawl: Far East Square, Club Street/Ann Siang Hill, Duxton
You want to be close to an assortment of venues so you can explore more than just a couple. The Quays (Boat and Clarke) have their fair share of fun and are within walking distance of each other but starting at Far East Square and working your way through Club Street to Duxton Hill would definitely be the Tribe pick. Each spot has its own charm and is dotted with bars and great restaurants. On weekends, the roads of Club Street and Ann Siang Hill are partially closed so little parties can spill onto the streets. Club Street Social on Gemmill Lane, off Club Street, will transport you to a Manhattan-style speakeasy; while a Negra Modelo over some ceviche at Lucha Loco’s garden bar on Duxton Hill is nothing short of laidback cool, a slice of Mexican flavour in the heart of Asia.
6. I want to feel the sand between my toes: Tanjong Beach Club
Sure, you’ve had your fun in the sun but you simply can’t get enough of being by the seaside. Then lounge through sunset and while away the night at Tanjong Beach Club on Sentosa. Soothing chill-out tunes, a full food menu and scrumptious cocktails all come backed by the melody of crashing waves. If you’re in town at the right time, be sure to catch their Full Moon Party that happens three times every year.
7. Live music is my thing: Timbre, Wala Wala, Crazy Elephant
Tone deafness doesn’t exist, drinking way too much because singing gets you parched makes complete sense, and everyone becomes a groupie for one night only. That’s pretty much how I would sum up live music venues. Oh, and that moment your heart skips a beat because those first couple of notes of that song you know all the lyrics to has just come on. It’s not that you can’t sing your lungs out anywhere else, this experience is all about that camaraderie of being among a sea of people who are as much music geeks as you are. Having some ‘liquid courage’ also means everyone sings louder, the music sounds better and no one really takes anything too seriously. Wala Wala at Holland Village is great for cover songs, Timbre @ the Substation to uncover upcoming local gems and Crazy Elephant of Clarke Quay for some tongue-in-cheek rock ‘n’ roll blues. So go on, sing your jolly hearts out.
8. I’m definitely an intrepider-than-thou sort: Orchard Towers, Geylang
Run-of-the-mill is not in your vocabulary. You travel to collect stories of how you got down and dirty with the locals, away from those tourists and live to tell the tale. Orchard Towers and Geylang are right up your alley. The Towers is affectionately known as “The Four Floors of Whores” and Geylang is home to much of Singapore’s legalized prostitution activity, along with some of the best local eats we have in town. Those who dare are guaranteed a spectacular sensorial feast and it’s as seedy as Singapore gets, and I mean that in the best way possible.
9. ‘Chill’ is your middle name: Haji Lane, Dunlop Street, Emerald Hill
Singapore may not be your picture of relaxation: too crowded, too small, too fast. But if you find yourself on the island anyway, kick back in one of the many bars along Haji Lane and smoke some flavoured shisha. Take a trip down Dunlop Street in Little India and visit gems like the Prince of Wales Backpacker Pub or the roof terrace of Zsofi Tapas Bar. Check in to Emerald Hill, a conservation area just off Orchard Road preserved in its quaint old-architectural glory. Live music, a game of pool, bar snacks – what else could you possibly need? Plus you really can’t go wrong with the kickass chicken wings and 1-for-1 martinis at No. 5 Emerald Hill.
10. It’s 4am and I’m starving: River Valley, Geylang
At last, my favourite bit of all. Is it just me or does food always taste better after some late night revelry? Growing up in Singapore, we’re spoiled rotten having great eats whenever our hearts desire. And honestly, there’s just something so deeply comforting about having a few go-to places when you’ve stayed up way too late and your tummy isn’t letting you off the hook. This city is undoubtedly a food lovers’ paradise through and through but experiencing it in the depths of night takes the enjoyment to an unprecedented level. Maybe it’s the epic combo of youthful rebellion that’s keeping you out past bedtime plus a dash of deep yearning for something hot and savoury to put you to bed. Or it could just be an adrenaline-induced dose of MSG that makes everything taste out of this world. Whatever the case, I urge you to find yourself along River Valley Road for some prata or nasi goreng at Spize, or a plate of chicken rice at Five Star Hainanese because they never disappoint. If your desire is to go even more local, hop in a cab and make your way to the streets of Geylang. Let the driver know that you’d like to go to his top picks in the area and there’s no way you’ll go wrong. As much as I’d like to think I know my town, few stand any chance of besting a Singaporean taxi driver in a foodie showdown. Indeed, their taste buds never lie.
If nothing here tickles your fancy and you’re after a less intoxicating way to spend the nights, I’d highly suggest either a trip to our Night Safari or the Gardens by the Bay. While the former is an obvious choice, being in the Gardens and its domes after nightfall, once the crowds have parted, is one pretty magical experience. But shhh, this can be our little secret – let’s keep the partygoers doing their thing.
[After Hours is written by Lydia who is currently on hiatus from big city living in sunny, mountainous Colorado. She travels with no agenda and lives for everyday adventures. And when life gives her lemons, she makes a Whiskey Sour topped off with a slice of crispy bacon. Invade her inbox at email@example.com.]