Named after Hugh Holland (a popular Dutch architect and actor) the leafy enclave that was once home to plantations and nurseries has evolved into a laidback neighbourhood popular with both locals and expats. Thanks to its curated selection of hip eateries, independent fashion labels, design and art studios, it’s often regarded as Singapore’s bohemian enclave. Best experienced on weekends, or in the evenings when part of the road is closed to vehicles, the pedestrian element adds to the area’s overall buzz and charm.
Where to eat at Holland Village
Opened by self-professed ramen king, chef Keisuke Takeda’s duck ramen is a lovely departure from the usual pork-centric bowls. Using fatty, flavourful Irish ducks, there are five ramen choices and two broths (rich and clear) to choose from. The rich broth that’s been simmered for eight hours with duck bones and herbs packs quite a punch, while the clear soup (cooked over low heat for five hours) holds a light but full flavoured taste.
The OG of acai bowls in Singapore, Project Acai’s berry superfood bowls remain a cut above the rest. While we are not fans of their Supergreens Acai Bowl, we do swear by their beautifully decorated Original Flower Bowl and the Acai Sundae Bowl that comes with lashings of fresh fruit and a layer of chai seed pudding, before its topped with goji berries and a choice of butters (cookie, almond, peanut or cashew).
Every local has a favourite laksa, for cockle lovers it’s 363 Laksa. Why? Because you can add spoon after spoon of the strong flavoured mollusk at $1.50 per serve – and the same courtesy is extended to prawns, noodles, soup and fishcake. Regardless, the standard $5 serving does not disappoint, the gravy is rich in flavor, the prawns springy and the noodles cooked al dente so there’s plenty of texture happening with each slurp.
Healthy grain bowl concepts are a dime a dozen in Singapore but Superfudo stands out with its expansive space that’s bathed in natural light and greenery. Finding a seat is never an issue even during lunch – there are even standing tables for those who don’t have time to rest their bum – so it’s perfect for those looking for a fuss-free and healthy meal. For $15, pick your choice of base, protein, two vegetables and two toppings. Superfood options include baby spinach and Tuscan kale, which are low in calories and high in fibre, keeping you full for longer.
There are egg tarts, then there are Tai Cheong egg tarts that are worth every calorie for its eggy, buttery goodness. The beauty lies in the biscuit-like crust that crumbles on first bite. The outlet also offers a cha cha tang-style menu with the signature Tai Cheong HK Noodle made with sausage, curry fishball and cuttlefish and thick-cut French toast served with a liberal amount of maple syrup.
A stalwart of the neighbourhood, its new location at the corner of the new Raffles V building with its floor-to-ceiling facade offers a great view of the action. A one-stop gourmet deli and dine-in café, all the usual suspects are still available: their moorish take home lasagna, the buttery blueberry and white chocolate scone, and slices of crusty pizza. What’s new is their Greens & Grains, a build-your-own bowl concept that offers a number of lean proteins, gluten and dairy-free options. Also, the creamy, artisanal gelato from Milan’s Chocolat is a must.
If popular Toa Payoh ice cream café Creamier’s too inaccessible for your dessert fix, you’ll find an alternative in Sunday Folks, the brand’s breezier dessert bar at Chip Bee Garden. Bestsellers include earl grey lavender and sea salt gula melaka ($7.90 each in cone/cup), which you can finish with toppings such as sea salt chocolate honeycomb, honey-toasted granola and handmade gula melaka mochi alongside sauces like miso caramel and chocolate hazelnut. Waffles start from $10 with one topping – or just go all out with the $17 option, complete with three toppings, a generous swirl of ice cream and two slices of waffles. To coerce you to stay a little longer, the café also brews coffee ($4-$7) out of a La Marzocco machine, and offers Franklin & Sons sodas ($6.50), Gryphon tea ($6) and Hitachino Nest beers ($13).
Haakon, pronounced ‘haw-coon’, is a Scandinavian-inspired café that brings superfoods from Norway to your plate. It only uses premium Norwegian smoked salmon – it’s rich in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants – to make dishes like salad bowls ($11.90) and eggs Benedict ($15.90). For those with a sweet tooth, go for Haakon’s classic acai bowl (from $7.90), topped with coconut flakes, banana, strawberries and blueberries for a quick and guilt-free energy boost.
As if a buffet of juicy xiao long bao isn’t enticing enough, tag on a steamboat concept, and you understand the nightly queues forming outside Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao. The buffet runs over three seatings from 5pm (you have to eat and go in 90 minutes) and there are five different broths (choose two, the Szechuan mala flavor is the most popular) to cook and dip your meat and veggies in.
Anyone who says you can’t have dessert for supper clearly hasn’t been proselytised to by this late-night Holland Village sweets bar. And it's not just sweets on the menu. Ther are savouries like beef cheek croquettes ($15), takeaway snacks including churros ($5), an afternoon tea set menu for two with champagne option ($48-$82) and night cap-appropriate cocktails ($18-$20).
What to do at Holland Village
What started as a pop-up concept has found a permanent home at Holland Village Shopping Centre. Sharing space with an upholstery shop, the front part of the store is crammed with cheeky Singapore-themed items like Merlion plushies, pillows and doormats emblazoned with Singlish phrases and local hawker favourites, and other cute knick knacks like a multi-colour kueh doorstop and a variety of ang ku kueh (red tortoise cakes) accessories.
Who doesn’t feel like a foot rub at midnight? Book early though, cause Natureland’s eight seats fill up fast for its effective-yet-relaxing reflexology services. Taking place in a darkened room with oversized recliners equipped with handy charging ports and iPads, the 5-in-1 service gives you a second wind after your feet, head, shoulder, neck and back are massaged for 60 bliss-filled minutes. For more privacy, there are two dedicated foot reflexology rooms upstairs and it also offers body massages.
A Holland Village institution, its second-floor space is still the spot to listen to local musicians live and loud. There are sessions running every night from 7pm onwards and chilled-out acoustic sets on Thursday and Friday. In-between, knock back some ice cold beer (they’ve got seven beers on tap, including Dunkel, San Miguel and London Pride) or catch up a live match screening on one of their TVs.
A welcome (and recent) addition to the charming Chip Bee Gardens enclave is a number of local fashion brands. Ong Shunmugan known for her modern cheongsams has her atelier there, so you can witness how a dress gets sewed together. Embracing a more salon retail concept, Ling Wu’s sustainably-sourced exotic skin bags are showcased alongside lifestyle brands like hand poured candle brand A Dose of Something Good, while Our Second Nature has settled into a retail-cum-café home, taking their brand offline into a brick-and-mortar concept so you can admire its printastic clothes up close.
Known for featuring rising art talents, this gallery – managed by Suherwan Abu – offers a selection of urban art pieces and works by contemporary South East Asian artists. It pays to direct some attention to their featured Artist of the Month: a number of established artists showed at Taksu early on in their career.
Offering everything from botanical painting to long-stitch bookbinding and basic leather crafting workshops, Bynd Artisan offers a series of handicraft classes – taught by its own craftsmen or artist collaborators – as an add-on to their atelier space. The store also stocks a range of its leather goods (leather bound notebooks, photo frames, bag fobs, tote bags) that can be personalised on-site with your name, initials, or anything that comes to mind.
Hair Inc’s relatively new to the game – its first outlet only opened in 2013 – yet the salon’s already known for its anti-frizz treatments and creative colouring services. Haircuts at the chain’s Holland Village branch range from $18 to $55 for men and $28 to $78 for women, with services such as ombre and balayage starting at $158 and bleaching at $138. There are ten treatments here, including Silky Smooth (from $298) and the Olaplex 2-step Treatment (from $108). The latter uses the famed Tokio Inkarami system from Japan and contains six kinds of keratin and fullerene, whose claim is to stimulate hair growth and rebuild the condition of each strand by up to 140 percent, ensuring softer and more manageable manes for up to three months.
Drenched in natural light, the cosy 25-mat studio tucked away in a quiet corner of Holland Village accommodates both hot and non-hot classes. It also has a unisex changing and shower room. A godsend for busy urbanites working in the vicinity, this unassuming studio offers a variety of classes: from Acro Yoga to slow moving Yin-style class and a number of hot yoga sessions. What we love is their last class starts at 8.30pm – so there’s no excuse even if you’re working late – plus there’s always ample space to stretch out.
In the era of eco and organic everything, it's refreshing to find unique, contemporary pieces done the old-fashioned way. The ceramics sold in this Holland Village shop are all made in the Chinese town of Jingdezhen, birthplace of porcelain.