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Thomson Nature Park
Photo: Delfina Utomo

The ultimate guide to Thomson

The Thomson stretch is so much more than just a sleepy residential 'hood

Written by
Time Out Singapore editors
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The Thomson Road stretch has never been considered 'sexy'. And for the most part, this has suited its understated residents well. Who needs a massive shopping mall when you're just 20 minutes bus ride from Orchard Road? Fancy Michelin-star restaurants? No thanks, they prefer variety and have it in spades. The outdoors? There's MacRitchie, not to mention the fancy Singapore Island Country Club (for the lucky few). Plenty of reasons to check out this centrally located neighbourhood.

RECOMMENDED: The best coffee in Singapore

DO

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Central Water Catchment

You may think you know MacRitchie Reservoir like the back of your hand but there’s always something new to discover, especially if you go off the beaten track and take the 11-kilometre route deep into the rainforest. There you’re likely to get more than just a passing glance at the occasional monitor lizard, playful monkeys and any of the other 80 bird and eight reptile varieties. And while the Treetop Walk is a definite don’t miss highlight, a leisurely paddle in a kayak or canoe is an underrated attraction.

Upper Seletar Reservoir
  • Things to do
  • Mandai

Situated in the northern part of Singapore, this reservoir park is the perfect place for an evening walk or jog through nature. A highlight of this 15 hectares space is its rocket ship lookout tower. Burn some calories with a quick cardio workout by climbing up the tower's winding stairs and be awarded with the aerial view of the park's water body and surrounding greenery. 

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  • Things to do
  • Yishun

Go for a walk or run along this park that looks out onto Lower Seletar Reservoir. Facilities and amenities include a fishing jetty, a People's Association Water Venture outlet that provides kayak rentals, and a water park. Kids will have heaps of fun at the waterpark by the reservoir.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Ang Mo Kio

The seventh nature park on the island joins in other existing parks such as Chesnut, Springleaf and Windsor to act as a green 'buffer' – to reduce visitorship pressure – for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. There are five trails to choose from in the park that span over 3.8km. Each trail takes you on a sightseeing tour to see ferns, ruins, macaques, streams and the Raffles' banded langur – a highly elusive and endangered monkey. Other wildlife residing in this reserve also includes the Sunda pangolin and the Malayan porcupine but you have to be extremely lucky to spot them in the wild. The nature park also houses a former Hainan village in Singapore and visitors can get a glimpse of this from the ruins and rubble that has been left behind from its heydays in the 60s. See the remnants of a rambutan plantation, a farm and several old village houses (one of them used to belong to the family behind popular Singapore eatery, Han's). Old street signs have also been left untouched so you're literally walking through an old kampung in 1960s Singapore. 

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  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops
  • Bishan

If it's some no-holds-barred fun with art that you want, then head to Splat Paint House. As the art studio's name suggests, you're in for a lot of paint – and a lot of splatting. Grab a canvas and hang it on the wall or place it on the table, then go wild throwing, flicking and drizzling a riot of paints on. Doesn't matter if some get on the wall too. Just remember to book your slot before heading down and wear clothes and shoes that you don't mind getting a little dirty (they do provide protective raincoats and shoe covers, but you can never be too careful). 

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  • Sport and fitness
  • Novena

Nope you don’t need to swing a polo mallet to check out the lush grounds of the Singapore Polo Club, they’re actually open to the public, just not all the time. The Polo Bar and Indochine restaurant welcomes the everyman on weekdays. There’s also Lush Spa – check out their indulgent 2 hour spa promos – open to the public on all days, regular yoga classes run by Alphabalance and the occasional polo match and divot stomping session.

  • Shopping
  • Gifts and souvenirs
  • Novena

Looking for a Christmas tree? Perhaps an ornamental orange plant or just fresh blooms or succulents to brighten the home space? There’s nowhere else better to source for your choice of plant/flower/seed than along Thomson Road and at Far East Flora.

EAT

  • Restaurants
  • Indian
  • Yishun

Perhaps more famous for its Plaster Blaster ($5.50), an eggs Benedict-inspired prata topped with ham, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce, Springleaf still does the classic roti prata ($1.20) right. Everything’s still cooked to order, ensuring that you’re always served piping hot prata that’s crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. If the original is too plain for you, Springleaf is also known for its variety, coming up with all kinds of wacky creations like the Prata Goreng, its take on mee goreng that swaps noodles for strips of prata, as well as the Umami 50, an egg prata with luncheon meat, cheese, chicken floss and mayo.  

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Bishan

Bak chor mee (minced meat noodles) are a staple in many Singaporean's diet, and Meng's Kitchen (now known as Ming Fa), is a stalwart on Upper Thomson Road. This place famously has one of the best bak chor mee in town, serving up generous $5 bowls of springy noodles, minced meat, meatballs, liver slices and mushrooms. Just enough heft after a day of hiking in the surrounding nature parks. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Bishan

With the Upper Thomson area experiencing a café rush, One Man Coffee comes along to add some serious cred to the java scene brewing there. Mostly fronted by spunky Sarah Jane Lin (formerly in the kitchen of Peranakan gastrobar Immigrants) and Melbourne- based barista Soh E-gene, the cosy nook shares the same shophouse space with gourmet pizza bar Crust, so you’ll have the option for a full meal paired with coffee ($3-$5.50) from famed Melbourne outfit Axil Coffee Roasters. Lin fronts her personalised corner counter in the day, teaming a variety of pastries (sourced from artisanal bakery B.A.O) with light brunch bites like the chilled soba ($10), featuring charred corn, sakura ebi and spicy sesame dressing, and its nutty brioche French toast ($10) served with homemade berry compote and fresh cream. For an additonal $3, you'd get to add a scoop of ice cream atop your toast.

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  • Restaurants
  • Bishan

Bread and brownies. That's what these popular bakers are known for. Woodlands Sourdough garnered a loyal following when they first set up shop and now at its most recent physical store, the popularity has not waivered. Brownies come in different variations – check what's in store for the day via Instagram and sourdough loaves here are denser and slightly stickier than what you might be accustomed to. On top of the staples, you can come by to pick up a selection of stuffed doughnuts, tartines and other bakes. 

Wellsmoocht
  • Restaurants
  • Bishan

Vegans get a tough break: no dairy equals no ice-cream, or rather no conventional ice-cream. However the “ice cream ninjas” at Brownice have a magic formula of brown rice milk, cane juice and natural flavours which is more than worthy substitute. With 16 flavours (from gula melaka, Nutella, mint chocolate and PB’and Choc at $3.50 per scoop) and at just 80-140 calories per scoop, it’s hard not to give this creamy, yet less calorie-dense option a try. Bonus: They’re really generous with their scoops and they're launching new items like the Signature Smoochthie Jars and Ice Cream Sandwich.

DRINK

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Ang Mo Kio

This charming, quaint yet cosy café has been making waves ever since its debut on the local scene back in 2017. Modern interiors flooded by natural light make this a pretty lovely spot for weekend brunches with a couple of bosom buddies or just a quiet mid-afternoon coffee with a book. Coffee aromas fill the air as soon as you enter as speciality coffee is roasted in-house to produce quality coffee blends to offer black ($3.50), white ($4.50) and cold brews ($7). To appease non-coffee drinkers, they also have honourable offerings such as the chai latte ($6.50), matcha latte ($6), a range of Kombuchas ($8) and local craft beers ($12). While you're there, also try popular brunch items like the smoked pulled pork and scrambed croissant, garlic carbonana, and – our favourite – the hearty chicken stew. 

 

Yahava Koffeeworks
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Ang Mo Kio

Tucked away in an industrial estate in Thomson, this hidden gem of a café serves up a seriously good cup of coffee made from arabica beans that are roasted in-house. The space is low-key and cosy, great for a quiet afternoon spent reading or working. You can try out their waffles and sandwiches once you start feeling peckish too. 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Craft beer pubs
  • Bishan

 Who says you can't hike and drink? A refreshing bottle of beer might even be what you need to beat the heat. Head straight for Shawn's Beernest to crack one open – it has up to nine taps and 70 beers in the fridge to choose from. A true gem for craft beer lovers living or passing through Upper Thomson, if you ask us. 

More neighbourhoods to check out

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