Guide to The Civic District

The National Gallery Singapore is the crown jewel of the district, yet there are plenty more gems for you and the little ones to explore
Time Out Singapore in partnership with National Gallery Singapore |
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Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow
Photo: Yayoi Kusama, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore, Victoria Miro, London, David Zwirner, New York.
Art

The universe in a polka dot

Artists often travel far and wide in search of inspiration. After all, experience of the world is a key factor in shaping ideas for art. But for legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, her inner world has presented her an endlessly fertile concept to work with: polka dots. 

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The National Gallery
Photo: Darren Soh and the National Gallery Singapore
Kids

Your guide to an artsy family holiday in Singapore

Get cultured. At the heart of the Civic District is National Gallery Singapore, housed in the former City Hall and Supreme Court, and dedicated to Singapore and South-East Asian art. And if you’ve kids in tow, Gallery Children's Biennale (until Oct 8) is not to be missed.

Restaurants

Gallery and Co

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Gallery & Co. brings together retail and F&B into one stylish package – it’s a far cry from your average museum store. Curated by heavyweights of the local creative industry, the shop stocks a suitably artsy range of childrenswear and accessories. There are clothes from minimalist label Belly Sesame, cute-chic plastic tableware from Buddy and Bear, and uber-cool mobiles that won’t look out of place in a turtlenecked designer’s home. To fuel up, hop over to the restaurant and bar, most of whose dishes are inspired by the artworks on display – this time around, Yayoi Kusama is at the heart of the kitchen’s creativity.

Kids

Toys ‘R’ Us (Suntec City)

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Your kids will be rubbing their hands in glee as they race down the aisles of this massive toy store in Suntec City. Carrying over a hundred popular toy brands as well as child- and baby-friendly accessories, Toys ‘R’ Us really requires no introduction. Give your tyke a treat when you pick up the bestsellers: Wham-O Fun Hula Hoop ($4.98), Nerf Super Soaker Freezefire Blaster ($21.99) and Mattel’s Hot Wheels five-car gift pack ($18.99).

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Kids

Bricks World (Suntec City)

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Add to your collection of LEGO bricks every time you make a trip to this certified store – that means you’ll be able to bring home limited edition and exclusive sets. Part of the shop’s charm is its interactive play area, where the young (and young-at-heart) can construct miniature sculptures or dioramas with the free-to-use LEGO pieces on offer. And if your children have wild imaginations, bring them to the Pick-a-Brick wall. It’s a fixture of cubby holes that each contains various pieces, and the budding architects can fill a cup ($19.90/$34.90) with any brick they desire.

Shopping

H&M (Suntec City)

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This Swedish fast-fashion brand is the perfect spot to pick up affordable and stylish new threads for the whole family. Beside womenswear, there’s a dedicated children’s section in the store so your kids can be kitted out in the latest trends. Whether you’re looking for light basics to suit Singapore’s warm climate or you’ve got an unexpected toilet situation on hand, H&M has you sorted.

Restaurants, French

Saint Pierre

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At this one-Michelin-starred French restaurant, even the kids can get a taste of fine dining. Chef Emmanuel Stroobant has taken great pains to curate a children’s menu ($85), on which you won’t find greasy fish fingers and fries. Although big foodie words like ‘hamachi’, ‘consommé and ‘macerated’ fill the menu, it isn’t as intimidating as it sounds – the dishes are designed to educate the little ones on flavours, produce and, as the chef says, the ‘age-old rituals of dining’. For the adults, pick from three seasonal tasting menus: the four-course Classic ($148), 13-course Discovery ($188) and 21-course Adventure ($238).  

Restaurants, Cafés

Gudetama Café

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We confess: themed cafés are not known for whipping up the best food. But we’ll give it to Gudetama Café for its decor and downright cute plates. Every inch of the space, from the walls to the tables to the napkins, is decked out in something Gudetama related. The lazy egg’s pained expression also makes an appearance on dishes like Le Slider Set ($12.90), a teriyaki chicken slider served with mini cheese sausages and fries, as well as the Pumpkin Bambini Set ($12.90) of Brazilian rice with sausages, pumpkin soup and greens. 

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Pasarbella Suntec City

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PasarBella's gourmet market takes the humble food court to the next level by offering a dozen dining concepts under one roof. The stalls range from a burger joint that doles out sinful stacks of beef, bacon and cheese, to a salad bar that lets you build your own veggie bowl. The multi-concept space is also home to Gifted, a novelty shop that stocks beautifully designed cards and an array of other knick-knacks.

Restaurants, Hawker

Makansutra Gluttons Bay

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Have supper under the stars as you take in sweeping views of Marina Bay while chowing down on all the best local street eats at Makansutra Gluttons Bay. Local foodie, KF Seetoh, hand-picks famous hawkers specialising in dishes such as satay, char kway teow and oyster omelette, and houses them in one dining destination. With food this delectable, you won’t be paying any mind to the heat from charcoal embers and the sweat dripping from your face.

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Restaurants, European

Settler's Cafe

icon-location-pin Raffles Place

Fuel your kids’ bellies and minds at this board games café. There are upwards of 600 titles on offer here, from the typical Pictionary and Jenga to family-oriented games such as Hey, That’s My Fish to complex ones like Dead of Winter. If you’ve got the time to spare, go for the game packages ($10.90-$26.90) that include food, free flow drinks and up to three hours of fun – they’ll go by in a flash. Psst, we heard there are alcoholic beverage packages ($43.90-$61.90) for the adults, too.

Things to do

Fort Canning Park

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While the grown-ups will appreciate the history of this modest-sized mound in the heart of the business district, the kids… well, they don’t need any excuse to tumble around in a park as verdant as this, do they? As they explore the many nooks and crannies of Fort Canning Park and its many colonial-era relics, learn more about the paramount roles it played in the defence of the island and even before the British arrived, when it served as the residence of Malay royalty.

Things to do

Marina Barrage

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Marina Barrage attracts couples and families all year round thanks to its breathtaking 360º view of the bay area. Bring your own kite to sail in the bay’s gusty winds or pick one up from among the cavalcade of colourful creations in the kite shop on the grounds. Besides flying kites, the park is a popular venue for yoga, jogging and kayaking – and there are even a few restaurants nearby.

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Marina Bay, sunrise, Merlion Park
Photo: Noppasin Wongchum
Things to do

The Merlion

icon-location-pin Raffles Place

The Fullerton Hotel and One Fullerton, which are Singapore’s former post office and the home of numerous dining options, respectively, overlook the city’s world-famous half-lion, half-fish mascot. More than 8m tall and spouting water into the bay around the clock, this central figure of many postcards and souvenirs was fashioned by a local craftsman, but relocated in 2002 to its current – and more scenic – location. A 70-tonne sculpture that draws tourists all day long, the statue at Merlion Park is one of seven commissioned Merlions around Singapore, which include other statues of different sizes in Mount Faber and Sentosa.

Singapore River Cruise

Singapore River Cruise

All aboard the Singapore River Cruise, a wooden bumboat tour that takes you around the Singapore River in 40 minutes ($15-$25). Highlights include Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Marina Bay. There isn’t a live tour guide on board, but there is a DVD commentary, so not only do you get a breathtaking life view of Clarke Quay, but also special tidbits on the bars and restaurants in the area.

Board the bumboat from any of the 13 Singapore River Cruise jetties (6336 6111, rivercruise.com.sg). Daily 9am-11pm, last boat departs 10.30pm.

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DUCKTours

DUCKtours

Have a splashing good time on this amphibious vessel (fun fact: its previous life was as a military ship during WWII) that whisks you around the sights of the Civic District. The hour-long journey ($27-$37) takes you to sites such as Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore River, the Padang and the Merlion. Stellar views of the bay are guaranteed, so keep your cameras at the ready.

#01-330 Suntec City Mall, 3 Temasek Blvd (6338 6877, singaporeducktours.com). Daily 10am-6pm.

Kids

The City

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Before KidZania, there was The City. Established in 2012, the interactive learning playground ($18-$22) allows children aged between 18 months to eight years old to take on different adult roles and professions in a well-equipped kid-sized city.

The playground is separated into zones: there’s a police station, fire station, clinic, hair salon, post office and café. Children can dress up in uniforms and play cook, doctor, cashier and policemen, and even ‘drive’ on miniature streets complete with traffic signs and lights. The largest area is dedicated to the supermarket, which stocks items you can find in an actual Cold Storage or FairPrice. The goal of these role-playing exercises is to hone children’s life skills, such as counting money and learning about nutrition, health, safety  and hygiene. 

Kids, Playgrounds

Far East Organization Children's Garden

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This outdoor playground has one mission in mind: to get everybody drenched. There are water tunnels, stepping springs and various jets your pint-sized terrors – or your mischievous side – can use to hose everyone else down. Even toddlers can get in on the aquatic action, with a safe play zone you’ll feel comfortable letting them roam around in.

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Kids

Urban Ski Singapore

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Developing your child's motor skills is important, and skiing is one of the best ways to put said skills to the test - but you don’t have to travel to a wintry country to do that. Instead, make a trip down to Urban Ski Singapore, the first indoor ski slopes in town. The 'slopes' here can be inclined up to 20º and adjusted to different speeds depending on your skill level. They move beneath your feet, and allow you to ski or snowboard down a seemingly endless mountainside – think treadmill, but with skis. And don’t worry if you’ve never tried anything like this before. The 'snow' is made of nylon tufts that are soft and perfectly safe should anyone take a tumble. Ski and snow boots are provided, so all you need to bring is the family.  

Kids

Pororo Park

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For those in the dark, Pororo is an intrepid penguin (who dreams of flying) from a Korean cartoon – and this indoor theme park is dedicated to the character and his friends. Let your children run amok here: they can hop on a train with Eddy the fox as he takes you on a tour through the grounds, peek into Pororo’s icy home and dive into a ball pit. And while the big kids can climb and duck through jungle gyms, tinier tots have a dedicated toddler’s area with foam mats and soft toys.

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Cool De Sac
Photo: Marcus Dejakaisaya
Kids

Cool De Sac

icon-location-pin City Hall

Let the young ’uns run riot at Cool De Sac ($10.70-$27.80), a spacious indoor playground in Suntec City. Suitable for kids aged six months to 12 years old, the playground is split into play stations that cater to different age groups and interests. Budding sculptors will enjoy tinkering with the craft materials at the arts section, while the more active tykes can scale treehouses and tumble through tunnels at the main play area. You can choose to explore the areas with your little ones, or just keep an eye on them while nursing a cuppa at the in-house café, Bistro Cool.

Kids

Keppel Centre for Art Education

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After showing the kids around the exhibits of the Gallery Children’s Biennale, let them continue exploring their creativity at the Keppel Centre for Art Education. The concept here is simple: to stimulate children’s curiosity and imagination through – what else – art.

The centre is divided into several zones, including a museum and workshop. But the highlight is the Art Playscape: in it, visual artist Sandra Lee constructs The Enchanted Tree House, a fantastical play area inspired by the pages of a children’s book. Her illustrations – of giant sea monsters, lush forests and imaginary creatures – literally spill onto the floors, walls and ceilings.

Besides the permanent installations, the Keppel Centre for Art Education regularly hosts programmes, from storytelling sessions to craft workshops to kid-friendly discussions on art. Check out National Gallery Singapore website for more info.  

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