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View from Skyville at Dawson, Queenstown
Photograph: Gwen Pew

The ultimate guide to Queenstown

There’s so much more to this ’hood than its royal name

Cam Khalid
Written by
Cam Khalid
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Besides hawker haunts, budget buys and hidden gems, Queenstown is also home to a couple of firsts in Singapore – think satellite town, public library and housing estates. Named after Queen Elizabeth II, the area was formerly a swampy valley that Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka settlers called home before the British military set up camp at Alexandra Road. During the 50s, it was cleared to make way for housing estates. And with that brought plenty of things to eat, drink, see and do.

RECOMMENDED: Ultimate guide to Singapore's neighbourhoods and the ultimate guide to Tiong Bahru

Do

  • Art
  • Buona Vista

Not all of Queenstown’s British past has been demolished, some black-and-white colonial houses still exist in scenic Wessex Estate. Stroll past blocks of apartments and semi-detached houses that were previously occupied by non-commissioned British officers and soldiers. Today, these houses are mostly residential, with some transformed into studio spaces for artists.

  • Attractions
  • Queenstown

Pick a book and make yourself comfy at Singapore’s first full-time public library that’s chock-full of nostalgia. But don’t judge a book by its cover – this 49-year-old library has been keeping up with the times, hosting new titles, interesting talks, DIY sessions and movie screenings for bookworms of all ages to enjoy. Go on, get lost in a book and lose track of time.

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  • Things to do
  • Kent Ridge

Brush up on your gardening skills at NParks’ 23-hectare HortPark. Besides 20 themed sections including a stunning Silver Garden made up of light-reflective plants and a Balinese garden under one big canopy in a park setting, HortPark boasts research greenhouses, sells gardening gear and showcases vertical gardening systems ideal for apartment dwellers. There's the Pitter Patter Potter Garden decked with vibrant hues and a playground for families, and the Butterfly Garden will delight nature photography enthusiasts with its gorgeous blooms, and well, colourful butterflies. And while you're at it, make the most of the trip by exploring the surrounding Southern Ridges and soak in nature's beauty.

  • Things to do
  • Queenstown

Get a bird's eye view of the cityscape at Skyville@Dawson, where there's a rooftop garden perched atop the 47th floor. Unlike Pinnacle@Duxton, there's no entrance fee and you can enjoy the panoramic views to your heart's content. The tranquil rooftop garden has plenty of seating and sheltered spots for you to take a breather and contemplate, with the cool breeze in your hair. While you stroll around Skyville@Dawson, be sure to look out for the wall murals depicting Queenstown's heritage by comic artist Troy Chin too.

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  • Property
  • Bukit Merah

One to admire from afar – The Interlace is a mind-boggling, if not fascinating sight in the Queenstown/Alexandra area. Resembling Jenga blocks, the condominium features 31 six-storey blocks irregularly stacked on each other. The spaces between each block are then used for the condo amenities like lush roof gardens, swimming pools, tennis courts and courtyards. 

 

  • Hotels
  • Bukit Merah

Looking for a staycation in the neighbourhood? Book a night (or two) at any one of Park Hotel Alexandra's stylish rooms. Each room features floor-to-ceiling windows, so that you can enjoy stunning views of the Southern Ridges and city skyline, especially at sunset and sunrise. The leafy urban oasis also offers an outdoor pool, a rooftop bar and restaurants that will satiate all appetites. Perched atop the hotel, on the highest floor, is the Crystal Club Lounge where club guests are welcome to unwind at the private outdoor terrace garden with a glass in hand.

Eat and drink

  • Restaurants
  • Buona Vista

Did you know that Colbar is short for ‘Colonial Bar’? This old-school kopitiam used to be a canteen for the British Army when it first opened in 1953. Back then it served a selection of British beers and Asian-Western comfort food. Now, its menu has expanded to include curry, Chinese dishes, sweet treats and milkshakes. Regulars swear by its prawn cocktail ($11) and T-Bone steak with chips and peas ($25).

  • Restaurants
  • Singaporean
  • Bukit Merah

Opened in 1974, ABC Brickworks has long been a favourite among Westies for hawker food. With nearly a hundred stalls offering everything from Hainanese chicken rice and Penang assam laksa to prawn noodles and oyster omelette, you’re spoilt for choice. And if late-night hunger pangs kick in, this hawker centre makes a great supper spot as several stalls open past 11pm.

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Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa
  • Restaurants
  • Singaporean
  • Bukit Merah

This Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning stall constantly sees snaking queues for its piping hot bowls of laksa served in claypots (from $4). The use of claypots instead of plastic bowls helps keep its temperature hot and gives it a distinctive smoky (wok hei) flavour. Don't expect the usual uniformly lemak gravy – the one here is split into a thicker coconutty layer and a thinner soup base.

  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Bukit Merah

While Keng Eng Kee manages the usual seafood fare with aplomb, the brand is more well-known for its range of zi char dishes. One of its homemade specialties is the prawn roll ($8) – crispy beancurd skin wrapped around minced meat, carrot and prawn, with diced water chestnuts added for a sweet crunch. It also offers a range of stir-fried venison dishes ($18), for those who enjoy the rich, earthy taste of deer. Fish head ($18) is popular here, prepared in a variety of ways - deep-fried, marinated in black bean sauce, sweet and sour sauce or soy sauce.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Bukit Merah

Fans of the King of Fruits can get their fix at Ah Seng Durian’s new dessert cafe at Bukit Merah Lane. No prizes for guessing the superstar flavour here – the dessert cafe serves cakes and pastries by Keong Saik Bakery and Flor Patisseries, made with Ah Seng Durian's very own supply of Mao Shan Wang (MSW) puree. Treat your sweet tooth to bestsellers like MSW durian tart ($8.50), MSW shortcake ($9.50), and MSW burnt cheesecake ($11). Pair 'em up with coffees from Common Man Coffee Roasters (from $3.50), or the signature Oatly chocolate ($7).

  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Queenstown

This coffee joint has been roasting and brewing beans for more than half a century and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it's got an outlet within FairPrice Xtra VivoCity and another one at One-North. Tiong Hoe offers beans and blends from all over the world. Ask for a brew from its rotational range of single-origin coffee beans roasted, ground and brewed in-house. Can’t get enough coffee? The team also hosts coffee appreciation workshops and sells roasted and raw beans.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Bukit Merah

Beat the heat and cool down with Carrara's homemade gelato and ice-cream, which comes in a variety of flavours like the classic chocolate, cookies and cream, Kopi guyou, Thai milk tea, seasalt gula melaka, salted egg yolk, and even Tiger Beer. Believe it or not, there are over 100 different gelato flavours here, so you'll be spoilt for choice. The café also takes pride in handmade gelato that is rich in flavour and low in fat and sugar, with no artificial flavouring or gelatine included – a healtheir dessert option, no less.

 

  • Kids
  • Buona Vista

At some point, you have to take your kids out for a meal, so why not order comforting treats at this Aussie-inspired restaurant? The young ’uns can dig into stacks of pancakes with fresh berries and maple syrup, or French toast with honey at this cosy nook in the west. Kids eat free with every main course ordered on Mondays. But first: let them jump around the bouncy castle from 3pm, or let their creative juices flow at the arts and crafts corner from 5pm to 8pm.

Shop

  • Shopping
  • Queenstown

This two-storey shopping centre is a gem for bargain-savvy shoppers. Revamp your wardrobe with steals from Cotton On, Charles and Keith and Pedro, or stock up on stationery from Typo. When it comes to food, head to Fish Mart Sakuraya and fill your shopping basket with Japanese rice, fresh sashimi, sake, sushi and more. Done with shopping? Continue the retail therapy across the road at IKEA, or hop over to Queensway Shopping Centre for all your sporting good needs.

  • Shopping
  • Bukit Merah

Switch up your home essentials for new ones from the Swedish furniture giant. While you’re at it, check out the showrooms for ideas to jazz up your crib. If all that shopping worked up an appetite, stop by the restaurant for Swedish meatballs with mash and broccoli, starting from $6. It also has local dishes like mee siam, mee rebus or carrot cake at $2.50 a pop.

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Queensway Shopping Centre
  • Shopping
  • Shopping centres
  • Queenstown

One of the oldest shopping complexes in Singapore, Queensway Shopping Centre is full of sports stores with great discounts all year round. Though the selection might not throw up the trendiest choices, it offers a range of last season’s Nike football boots or a decent squash racquet if you’re willing to settle. You can even get a pair of Nikes to go for less than $100 depending on the shoes you have set your eyes on. As the prices vary between shops, we’d recommend that you browse for a bit before buying.

  • Restaurants
  • Queenstown

As with wine, there's always a perfect cheese for everyone. And you'll definitely find it here at The Cheese Ark. More than just artisanal cheese, the place specialises in rare (and authentic) cheese. All of the cheese here is sourced by the founder Ai Ming Syu who has travelled far and wide for cheese. Borrow her expertise in choosing the perfect one for you or opt to create your own cheese platter (with help of course). The cheese selection changes weekly, depending on whatever is peaking. 

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