If the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road get too much for you, find refuge at the quaint hideaway that is Emerald Hill. Once a nutmeg and fruit orchard spearheaded by Postmaster General William Cuppage in 1837, the area made way for members of the Peranakan community after his death in 1872. A maximalist dream, Emerald Hill is decked with a kaleidoscope of two and three-storey shophouses designed in the Straits Chinese style.
Today, most of these gorgeous abodes are residential while some houses intimate watering holes and trendy restaurants. Nonetheless, it makes the perfect escape for a peaceful stroll and some Instagram shots.
Where to eat and drink
Soak up Acid Bar's understated Peranakan-style decor with live music and a drink in hand. Practically bursting at the seams on weekends, you’ll be hard-pressed to even find a decent spot to stand in. Ease yourself with its signature mojitos shaken with ginger or cucumber juice, or choose the daily happy hour specials which range from $7 for housepours to $45 for a beer bucket of five, all available from 5 to 8pm. And if you're famished, order up a pizza, burger or any one of its all-day brunch plates including the Norwegian smoked salmon bagel ($18).
Situated in a restored 1910 Peranakan shophouse, this pub serves up a respectable range of classic cocktails, shooters and draft beers. Do ask the waiter what specials they have, as bucket deals are not unusual. The bar also serves unshelled peanuts to accompany your drinks; don’t shy away from littering the ground with the empty shells – everyone is doing it, and interestingly it adds to the uniquely rustic and unassuming flavour of the place. Whether seated indoors or outdoors, the scene is lively and energetic. And if sitting and sipping isn’t quite entertaining enough for you, there is a busy pool table upstairs where you can rack up, and shoot a ball or two to impress the ladies.
Tucked between two heritage Peranakan shophouses, this classy bar – think a gorgeous blend old-world charm with contemporary design – has made a name for itself with an unpretentious vibe, tasty menu of bar grub and potent cocktails. Happy Hour starts from 5pm to 8pm with house spirits starting from $7, house wines from $9, draught beers from $10 and cocktails from $13. And ladies, let your hair down every Wednesday, and enjoy free-flow drinks from 7pm to 9pm. Food-wise, sink your teeth into Alley's signature wagyu burger ($20).
Que Pasa ("what's happening" in Spanish) – let this Spanish wine and tapas bar answer the burning question with a variety of 60 wines from all over the world. Ambience is a major player here, with dusty wooden barrels crowding the corners, a casual lounge room with armchairs upstairs, and a front deck that’s ideal for enjoying something from the cigar menu. The tapas menu is superb too – marinated olives, cheeses and mushrooms are must-tries, along with the paper-thin-crust pizza. All better with its signature fruit-based wine punch, White or Red Sangria.
Too cold to hold – the bar has custom-built ice tanks to ensure your beer (more than 50 kinds) is chilled to the optimum temperature within five to eight minutes. Drinking aside, you’ll lap up the convivial atmosphere; everyone’s seemingly relaxed, without a care in the world. Or perhaps they’re all just satisfied by the tasty bar bites such as 9-inch hot dogs, chicken wings and mini beef burgers. While their choice of music – Top 40 and retro – is questionable, it surprisingly adds to the patrons’ good mood; there must be something in those chicken wings.
New kid on the block, this French-inspired bakery dishes out what it says on the tin – freshly baked croissants. Beyond the usual butter croissants, expect trays of the flakey pastry in various flavours such as sesame, banana kaya, peanut butter, sweet potato, yuzu apple and gula melaka. Pair it up with a cup of freshly brewed coffee that's finished with gorgeous latte art.
What to see and do
Befitting its Peranakan influence, Emerald Hill is lined with colourful two-storey shophouses designed in the Straits Chinese style – think sheltered verandahs (aka five-foot ways), pintu pagars (fence-like pairs of revolving doors) and the bold use of colour and ornaments such as tiles with floral motifs. Located at the mouth of Emerald Hill Road, the Peranakan Place makes a great example.
Don’t skip the traditional terrace houses within the area either. These gorgeous buildings are a blend of European details such as neoclassical columns decked in colourful tiles and panels embellished in Chinese motifs.
Got love for tea culture? Visit the two three-storey tea room that beautifully marries old-world charm with modern aesthetics, familiar tastes with new aromas, and gourmet nosh with street eats. Founder Carrie Chen has traversed the globe for fine quality Chinese, Japanese and English teas and artisanal teaware, even creating her very own blends. Sample some teas in one shophouse that comes complete with a koi pond, or marvel at the old and rare teas at the museum and tatami rooms in the other shophouse.
Rhythm cycling, Pilates reformer and personal Pilates come together for a holistic fitness experience at Peranakan Place's Absolute You. Take time out of your shopping schedule at Orchard Road to join in one of Absolute You's many exercise classes. Psst, we hear the rhythm cycling is a really cardio-intensive workout that has you 'dancing' on a stationary bike to high-octane music.
Rebounding is no child’s play, as regular members of Bbounce will tell you. This workout uses small trampolines called Rebounders that will have you bouncing hard, fast and high along to heart-thumping music throughout the session. You’re guaranteed to leave the studio sweaty, achy and with an endorphin rush similar to what you’ll experience with conventional cardiovascular exercises like running and skipping – minus the impact on your joints.
Opened by Japanese artist and art entrepreneur Maya Takashi, the art studio welcomes artists of all ages – even as young at three – to hone their skills, express themselves through creative processes and techniques, and celebrate their creativity. Expect an array of mediums and art forms, including everything from painting and illustration to ceramic and Chinese calligraphy. Who knows, you might even be the next Monet or Picasso.
The famous shopping belt is home to rows of high-end malls and shops that are stocked with everything from international luxury brands to imaginative local labels like In Good Company and Beyond The Vines. If you're a shopaholic, you won't be disappointed by the choices offered by Singapore's undisputed shopping Mecca. Did we mention the unconventional shops that sell upcycled bags, crystals, and even moss? Trust us, you won't leave Orchard Road empty-handed.