If you’re planning a trip to Singapore, you’ve probably read about the Gardens by the Bay and other things to do in Singapore a million times. Don’t worry; this guide written by a Singaporean resident focuses on off the beaten path Singapore with unusual places to visit in Singapore for embracing your inner hipster (or just having some great local food/drinks).
Wondering if you’re a hipster? Don’t worry; this guide is for all the people seeking the good life: good food, high quality things, and on-point decor. The term hipster means almost nothing anymore as it varies a lot in practice: hippy-chic to elegant lumberjack to copper-clad restaurateur. Yet certain things will not change when we talk about hipster joints.
For me it is the trendy, avant-garde places that provide a sort of look into the future of décor, fashion and food.
Keep reading for some of the best upcoming restaurants, cafes, and stores in Singapore in this guide to Singapore’s coolest places to experience a different side of Singapore. Trust me, Singaporeans know how to do hipster. There’s a map at the bottom that you can download.
Discovering the cool neighborhood of Ann Siang Hill
What I can only describe as gastronomic mixology, Operation Dagger is beyond your average bar in Singapore and considered one of the best bars in Singapore/the world.
After heading down to the basement in Club Street, you will be wowed by the herbs and spices that line the wall as the mixologists concoct some of the most interesting and awe-inspiring drinks you’ve ever tasted. The gigantic cloud of dimly-lit light bulbs make it seem like a sort of mad-alchemist’s lair.
The cocktails are pricey, but worth every penny. If you’re unsure of what you want, have a chat to the staff and they will make you a bespoke cocktail to suit your taste buds.
The neighbourhood around Ann Siang Hill and the aptly named Club Street is one of the cooler neighborhoods in Singapore right now. Try the rooftop bar at Tiger’s Milk, for Peruvian inspired drinks, and when the night is done, stay at the Scarlet Singapore for something both historic and unique.
Tanjong Pagar neighborhood (close to Bugis) with the best Korean food in Singapore
Next up is Tanjong Pagar street. While you won’t see bespectacled bearded men on bicycles here (well, you might, who knows) the street is filled with Korean goodness.
As Hallyu (the Korean Wave) is taking over the world at the moment, you will feel pretty trendy having the best Korean street food at Wangdaebak Pocha, crunchy fowl at Oven & Fried Chicken, and of course Korean BBQ at one of the many restaurants like One Fork Two Stick Kitchen. For the trendiest take on Korean cuisine, you’ll have to head over to Joo Bar at Bugis. Their makgeolli is out of this world.
While you’re in Bugis, try Mellower, the quintessential third-wave coffee shop where coffee is seen as an artisanal food and not just something to give you a caffeine boost. The interior is sterile-meets-glam and really spacious as there is an upstairs as well.
Tiong Bahru, Singapore’s original hipster neighborhood
Books Actually is a treasure of a bookstore for the artsy and design-loving trend-setters. Don’t go there looking for classics and best sellers as you will not find them. You will find a vending machine outside with a “random” book that can surprise you.
Also, it’s located in Tiong Bahru, the first hipster neighbourhood in Singapore, so there are coffee shops and stylish eateries all over the place.
In fact, the café that basically started the hipster movement in Singapore, Forty Hands, is located around the corner, near other hipster hangouts in Singapore Open Door Policy (shown below) and PS Café.
Exploring cool spots close to Keong Saik Road
This is my wife’s personal favourite place in all of Singapore and if you’re looking for the best coffee in Singapore, you need to try the coffee at Populus.
They have loyalty prices if you purchase there often, the food is amazing (one word: donburi) and the vibe is truly hipster. The best part is the service. The clean cut waitrons always go out of their way to help, which is so refreshing after the usual pretentiousness that hipster joints often emit.
When you’re done, take a walk down Keong Saik Road all the way to Chinatown. The street is littered with wine bars, luxury boutique hotels and all the food you can ever imagine.
From bohemian-chic Potato Head Folk (yes, the very same as the one in Bali) to Aussie BBQ Burnt Ends and the hole-in-the-wall Mexican eatery Muchachos, you will always find something on this bustling street.
Haji Lane and Arab Street Area
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include what I believe to be one of the “coolest” neighborhoods in Singapore for some time, Haji Lane and the Arab Street area. It is an historic-turned-eclectic area with walls that are splattered with graffiti and streets that are lined with the quaintest boutique shops selling handmade jewelry and unique clothing. This is THE best place in Singapore to take all of your IG snapshots if you want to make everyone at home feel jealous.
Into Yelp? The names alone of the eateries and cafés is reason to go, for instance Going Om, Maison Ikkoku (for the anime lovers out there) and Artistry Café.
One of my favourite’s is I am…, This Holland-meets-Singapore joint will have you drooling, not just for the food, but also the brick-and-mortar-esque décor. Try the Charcoal Grilled Sloppy Beef Burger, you won’t be disappointed.
Another over-the-top in trend coffee shops is A.R.C. Coffee. There is an air of pretentiousness, yet I believe that the staff’s passion for java oversets any pomposity. Here’s a bonus guide to shopping in Haji Lane.
Some other unusual places to visit in Singapore
Alchemist Beer Lab
Hipsters rejoice! A place in Singapore to watch an art film while sipping a glass of wine on a bean bag in a proper cinema. This is what to expect atThe Projector on the 5th floor of the Golden Mile Tower Complex. They even have screenings of series like Stranger Things.
When you’re done, I highly recommend walking over to the Golden Mile Hawker Center across the road. While this place is more local than hipster, you will find some of the best food in Singapore, seriously, for dirt cheap.
Here’s a tip: If there’s a queue, it’s good. Go early to get the best food as once it’s gone, they close for the night. Click for more tips on how to visit Singapore on a budget.
Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar
Does a hardware store turned coffee shop sound hip enough for you? Thought so. Then get your butt to Chye Seng Huat Hardware Coffee Bar in Jalan Besar where cold brew is served on tap.
The vibe is trendy, classy and elegant and the staff know what they’re doing. I had a nice chat about the art of pour-over with one of the fashionista baristas.