Singapore is small. But don’t assume that it doesn’t offer a bit of fun and excitement you if you haven’t dug deep enough. As with anything hidden and off-the-beaten path, you have to dig deeper, look closer, and most importantly, hang out with the right people. But if you’re new to the city and you haven’t made any local friends yet, this little guide will help you kickstart an atypical discovery Singapore’s hidden haunts.

Hawker centres and food courts are aplenty. These are places where you can get local food for $6 or less. It’s cheaper, quicker, and (maybe) healthier than fast food. Maxwell Food Centre has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, mainly because of a chicken rice stall, which is overrated to be honest.

Avoid the eateries lining both sides of Pagoda Street just outside Chinatown MRT station. Once you exit the MRT station, make a left turn through an alley straight to Chinatown Complex Food Centre instead for a wider range of choices and some underrated hawker eats.

A bunch of tourists ordered these plates of food. Laksa, Hokkien Mee, Bak Chor Mee, Chicken Rice, Satay, a whole steamed fish. They know what's good.
A bunch of tourists ordered these plates of food. Laksa, Hokkien Mee, Bak Chor Mee, Xiao Long Bao, Guo Tie (pan fried dumplings), Chicken Rice, Satay, a whole steamed fish. Impressive. They know what’s good.

A pitstop there isn’t complete unless you order the Claypot Rice – rice, chicken, chinese sausage, dark soy sauce all mixed up in a sizzling claypot – to share.


Wash the food down with some craft beer from The Good Beer Company and Smith Street Taps in the green zone to go with your dinner. The former opens from 6pm to 10pm while the latter opens from 6:30pm to 10pm. Surprise surprise, you can find craft beers in a hawker centre, and of course they cost less than the typical beers you get in a bar.
Price: $
Address: 335 Smith St, Chinatown Complex, 050335
Pro-tip: Apart from the XLB, the Claypot Rice is a must-try. You’ll spot the stall pretty easily.

If you’re in the mood for a weekend meat feast, head to Camp Kilo Charcoal Club, a brand new BBQ joint that serves fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs, juicy roast pork with crispy crackling and chicken roasted over an open fire, with sides such as coconut rice, patatas bravas, roasted brussel sprouts, and more.

Camp Kilo

Round off your meal with their dessert of the day. I had the sea salt chocolate cookies which were as big as my palm, and absolutely to-die-for.

Flan topped with whipped cream and chicharron. Sea salt chocolate chip cookies.
Flan topped with whipped cream and chicharron. Sea salt chocolate chip cookies.

Price: $$
Address: 66 Kampong Bugis #01-01

Hungry after a night out? There’s nothing better than dim sum to soak up the alcohol in your tummy. Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant opens till 6am, serving up warm salted egg custard lava buns that ooze liquid gold once you bite into it, as well as XLB, har gow, siew mai, noodles, and other Shanghainese small bites, all at very affordable prices.
Price: $ – $$
Address: 183-191 Jalan Besar, 208882

If you’re up for some late night lobster broth ramen, Ramen Keisuki Lobster King in Clarke Quay slings hot piping bowls of thick lobster broth, springy noodles from 6pm to 5am.
Price: $$
Address: 3C River Valley Road, #01-07 The Cannery, 179022

Singapore isn’t exactly a nightlife mecca but you’d still be able to find some fun parties if you bother to keep your ear to the ground. Well, not literally. But I have to reiterate: Dig deeper.

Don’t bother with the clubs and bars in Clark Quay. Cross the road to Boat Quay and follow the thumping music to Headquarters by The Council, a brand new house & techno club that’s just opened last week. It’s an intimate, no-frills venue that plays host to some of the best house & techno DJs from Singapore and abroad. Parties go from Wednesdays to Saturdays, and it gets dark and sweaty in there like any proper underground club does.

Belgian DJ GoldFfinch
Belgian DJ GoldFfinch

Price: $$
Address: 66 Boat Quay, Level, 049854

Situated on Bali Lane, Blujaz puts on Good Times, a monthly bass music night held every first Friday of the month.
Price: $$
Address: 11 Bali Lane, Historic Kampong Glam, 189848

Across the road from Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown, there’s a restaurant/bar/lounge called Cato that’s also hosted a number of raucous house & techno shindigs, though its soundsystem could do with an upgrade.
Price: $$ – $$$
Address: 237 South Bridge Rd, 058786

For some of the most renowned international house & techno DJs week after week, there’s no place better than kyo, a club that’s literally in the basement of an office building in the middle of the CBD. It’s a little bit posh, but no one’s complaining when there’s air-con (who wants to be sweaty for four hours?), clean toilets, and good vibes.

Price: $$ – $$$
Address: 133 Cecil St, 069535
Pro-tip: To keep updated on the best parties around town, just follow the Facebook pages of the respective clubs.

If partying isn’t your cup of tea, catch indie flicks at The Projector, a refurbished old school cinema that used to screen R-rated movies. Don’t expect cushy seats you get in commercial cinemas. Think of it this way: You’re trading comfort for arthouse films that don’t get screened anywhere else in the country.
Price: $$
Address: 6001 Beach Road, #05-00, Golden Mile Tower, 199589

Cindy Tan

about Cindy

Cindy heads Departure’s Curator section. She is an avid traveller and night owl, known for her contrarian stance on a number of issues. She has criticised such public and generally popular figures as Mother Teresa, Taylor Swift and Pope Benedict XVI.

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