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Yunnan Garden
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

The ultimate guide to Jurong

Journey west for the best nasi lemak, secret parks and an Australian-inspired grocery and lifestyle spot

Written by
Cam Khalid
,
Delfina Utomo
&
Cheryl Sekkappan
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Jurong Industrial Estate – and consequently Jurong New Town – has been the beating heart of Singapore’s manufacturing sector since the 1960s. But it’s not all factories, ports and shipyards. Composed of Jurong East, Jurong West, Boon Lay and Pioneer, the area was once a swampland home to mudskippers, horseshoe crabs and – as rumour has it – crocs. Now, it’s known as Orchard Road in the West thanks to numerous shopping and dining options to die for. That’s not forgetting the pockets of lush greenery for all to enjoy.

RECOMMENDED: The best parks in Singapore and the best hiking trails in Singapore

DO

  • Things to do
  • Boon Lay

There's a lot of history behind this hidden park on a hill, tucked behind Jurong Bird Park. Also known by its Malay name, Bukit Peropok, this is the highest point in Jurong and was a significant spot during the development of Jurong New Town in the 70s. Jurong Town Corporation converted Jurong Hill into a park in 1968 and later on, the Modernist-style lookout tower was opened in 1970. The area was a recreational space for Jurong's residents... and also some pretty important foreign guests. 

Besides the clear views of nearby Jurong Island and Jurong town itself, the park also houses a Garden of Fame where heads of state and other dignitaries have planted trees to commemorate their visit – including Queen Elizabeth II. You can find up to 30 trees planted on the grounds – the Garden of Fame itself moved to the grounds of Jurong Town Hall because of the lack of space. Today, you can still make the trek up from Jurong Bird Park (but you can also drive up) and climb up the famous lookout tower. 

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Jurong West

Hidden in the industrial CleanTech Park in Jurong is a tranquil eco-garden located next to the Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle. Go on an educational journey at this five-hectare park that covers over four main discovery zones – the Summit Forest, the Wildlife Corridor, the Stream Ravine and the Freshwater Swamp Forest. 

There are also some installations around the park that showcase ecological efforts and ideas like recycling rainwater, composting, and more so the young ones can pick up good habits about living in an urban green city. What's a park without some art and sculptures? Go on a stroll to check out the ceramic art around the trails and climb up the viewing platform to get a vast view of the entire park. The eco-garden is also home to plenty of flora and fauna like several butterfly species, birds, and dragonflies.

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  • Things to do
  • Jurong West

Don't listen to what you hear in the songs – here's one waterfall you should be chasing. Located in the far West of Singapore is Yunnan Garden. Inspired by lush and landscaped traditional Chinese gardens, you'll find plenty of elements and features in this park that pay homage to the literature, culture and architecture. 

Start from the boardwalks at Nanyang Lake that will take you over and across and clear lake – keep your eyes peeled for fish and terrapins in the water as you make your down to Yunnan Garden. The main attraction of course is the 5.6-metre-tall waterfall at the heart of the park. There is an elevated viewing platform where you can get a clear view of the waterfall and the entire park grounds – but you can also stroll down the platform to get up close to the waterfall and artificial wetlands. 

The park is quite an educational one too – there are 19 routes and trails you can take, from the herbal and culinary trails to the art and literature trails. Along these designated trails, discover various plants, herbs and flowers that fit into the trail category. Don't want to cram your pretty little head with too much factoids? Take it easy and stroll around this serene park and check out the stone sculptures, little ponds and gazebos around the park before a photo opportunity at the Nantah Arch at the entrance of the gardens. 

  • Things to do
  • Jurong West

Running out of things to do in Singapore? Here's something to rediscover. The state-of-the-art edutainment attraction in Jurong West houses facilities such as a laser tag arena, paintball area, multi-sensory theatre, Wild Thyme cafe, boardwalk and a refreshed permanent gallery. 

A highlight is the Black Lake Facility, a multi-sensorial escape room adventure across 13 rooms and 4 story chapters. Visitors can role-play as special agents investigating the fate of soldiers sent on a top-secret military mission, crawling through tight spaces, finding concealed doors and piecing together clues to solve puzzles. The charges are $30 for those aged 13 and older, and $24 for children aged three to 12. Each experience is estimated to take about an hour. 

Don't let the fun stop there. Grab your team and head on to the laser tag arena, which uses the Helios2 laser tag system and features three exciting gameplay themes – cyborg, extraterrestrial and post-apocalyptic. 

There is also a gallery modelled after a bunker that tells the Singapore story – from the 14th century till the present day, highlighting key events such as the Japanese Occupation, the Indonesian Konfrontasi and the 1983 cable car tragedy. The other half of the gallery is slated to be ready in the middle of next year and will focus on more contemporary issues, including issues faced during Covid-19.

And lastly, don't miss the brand new boardwalk on the lake, where you can see up close some of the more than 2,300 newly installed solar panels, which will help supply nearly half of the centre's annual electricity consumption. 

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  • Things to do
  • Boon Lay

This top-notch attraction contains 8,000 birds from 600 species. There’s a multitude of exotic and endangered South-East Asian species, alongside pelicans, penguins, flamingoes, ibises, swans, toucans, birds of paradise – and more.

Key attractions include the largest walk-in aviary in the world, where you’ll find a 30m (98ft) man-made waterfall and over 1,500 birds from Africa and South America flying freely within the huge compound. After a $10m revamp in 2006, the park now has an exhibit modelled on the Okvango River in Botswana, complete with storks, cranes, fish, frogs and African-style huts.

Make new feathered friends like Big John, the park’s oldest cockatoo, and Merlin, a yellow-naped Amazon who tells fortunes at the interactive Early Bird Breakfast Show. Bird shows and feeding sessions take place throughout the day.

  • Things to do
  • Raffles Place

From Jurong Eco Garden, it’s an easy walk to Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle – which is the site of the oldest surviving dragon kiln in Singapore. Unlike gas or electric kilns, these brick-built kilns allow for a wood-firing process that gives ceramic wares an unmistakable blush of flame. At Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle, you’re free to shop around the hundreds of pottery items that include beautiful Peranakan pieces. If you want to get more hands-on, sign up for a pottery lesson or even venture into the mouth of a dragon with a guided tour into the kiln itself.

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SAFRA Jurong
  • Sport and fitness
  • Jurong West

SAFRA members should definitely make use of the myriad of amenities at SAFRA Jurong. Besides the swimming pool, you can also play tennis and futsal, or fire up a barbeque with some friends. After a hard day’s work, you can also unwind at Fame Music & Entertainment, which offers darts and pool alongside a selection of beers.

  • Things to do
  • Jurong East

Escape the urban life and surround yourself with flora and fauna. The verdant gardens include Lakeside Garden, Chinese and Japanese Gardens and Garden Promenade, making this the largest wonderland dedicated to nature in Jurong. The grounds are specially landscaped and designed with play and learning areas in mind, making it perfect for all ages.

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JCube
  • Shopping
  • Jurong East

Besides offering bargain hunters with Bugis Street-like shopping options, JCube also boasts a myriad of recreational activities that’s perfect for a fun date or day out with friends. Cool off from the sweltering heat by skating around an Olympic-sized rink, catch the latest blockbuster in an IMAX theatre, pick up pottery at Taoz Ceramic Studio, or try to win a cute plushie at Poka-oo or Whimsey arcade.

  • Things to do
  • Jurong East

Get schooled on all things science with regular interactive exhibitions. It also features the only dome-shaped Omni- Theatre, equipped with state-of-the-art IMAX technology, as well as the Observatory, where you can look past the artificial illumination of the city and to the stars light-years away with its mega telescope.

EAT

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Jurong West

Do not be fooled by the interior of this zen-like Japanese teahouse. The menu at this café is, in fact, largely dedicated to espresso-based brews. After all, this tranquil hideout, located in an industrial building at Jurong, is opened by Suzuki Gourmet Coffee, one of the oldest roastery on the island that has been around since 1979.

The expansive compound is a temple to the bean: Mural-splashed buildings house a factory and warehouse that roast, grind, pack, and store coffee from around the world. While Suzuki Gourmet Coffee supplies to other commercial businesses and retails a selection of its exclusive brands online, those hoping to sample a freshly pulled cuppa can make the pilgrimage to its on-site café.

Climb up to the second storey, push open a latticed sliding door, and enter a wood-clad space reminiscent of a chashitsu or traditional tearoom. Adding to its quiet allure are soothing details of bonsai plants and shishi-odoshi, a bamboo water fixture commonly found in Japanese gardens.

Come thirsty but not hungry; the drinks-only menu features a lean selection that shines the spotlight on aromatic brews. The pager on filter coffee might see options of a medium-roast blend from Costa Rica Aquiares Estate ($7.50) or light-roasted Yemen Mocha Matari ($9.50).

More approachable options are also available, including flat white ($8) and cappuccino ($8). Also worth a try: the seasonal yuzu summer fizz ($8), a refreshing, bittersweet blend of citrus and espresso.

Non-coffee drinks can also enjoy a beverage here; the waitstaff explains that tea-based drinks are equally popular. Of the four to choose from, get the creamy hojicha Hokkaido anmitsu latte ($10), suffused with toasty notes in every sip. Another sweet perk: while Hokkaido milk is the default option used in all the drinks, Suzuki Gourmet Coffee provides the option of switching to Japanese soy milk at no extra cost.

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Jurong East

Not to be confused with Yuhua Market & Hawker Centre, this beloved food centre offers a huge variety of local favourites with perpetual queues testifying to their quality. Start the morning right at popular porridge stall Xiang Ji Cooked Food, or go for a classic Singaporean lunch at Hup Hong Chicken Rice. There’s also Heng Heng Cooked Food Laksa for a more fiery meal, and Taste Min Jiang Kueh for a perfect late afternoon snack.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Jurong West

Built in 1971, Taman Jurong Market & Hawker Centre is believed to be the pioneering hawker centre in Singapore. This West-side gem is an oldie but a goodie, with must-try options including De Ji Hong Kong Soy Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle for one of the tastiest soy sauce chicken dishes you can get in Singapore; Tien Lai Rice Stall for amazing char siew; Sikkander’s Briyani for affordable and fuss-free hawker pleasure; and ButterNut for a more modern, healthy option.  

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Jurong East

Come to Block 303 in Jurong East for some satisfying bowls of Peranakan-style curry. The Bukit Merah outlet clinched the Michelin Bib Gourmand award, and the one in Jurong is just as good. This fuss-free joint has typical options like curry fish head ($28), curry chicken drumstick ($4.60) and curry mutton ($5). The meat is always tender and the gravy is spicier than usual - perfect for those who crave more of a kick.

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  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Jurong East

Contrary to its name, Zai Shun Curry Fish Head is actually more popular for its steamed fish and Teochew porridge. Pick from a wide selection of farmed and wild-caught fish, including red grouper and pomfret as well as rarer species like the empurau. The fish is steamed for you in Teochew or Cantonese style in a secret sauce that perfectly complements the delicate flesh of the fish. To complement your porridge, don’t miss out on standout dishes like bittergourd with eggs, braised pork belly, salted egg minced meat and fish cake.

  • Restaurants
  • Jurong East

Those craving for Western fare should check out The Carving Board, an affordable grill restaurant in the heart of Jurong East’s residential estates. You can expect to find relatively upmarket and well-executed menu items here, including striploin steak ($23), pork steak ($16), mushroom risotto ($15) and a slew of pasta options. For a little treat, check out their small selection of craft beers and ciders going at $10 a pop.

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Time Table Cafe
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Jurong West
  • price 2 of 4

Free-flow water, power points under the tables and stable Internet – this neighbourhood café has all you need for a quiet study session or a lazy afternoon. Hot mains are easy on the wallet too, with pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and sides going for less than $10. To satisfy a sweet tooth, opt for the café’s Instagram-worthy rainbow cake or lemon meringue tart.

  • Restaurants
  • Singaporean
  • Jurong West

Easily spotted by its snaking long queues, this nasi lemak stall is a strong contender for the best in the country and it’s worth the wait. From $4, you get a power-packed plate with your choice of meat – fried chicken, fish, otah and more – and a generous mound of fragrant coconut rice as well as a dollop of sambal that’s both sweet and spicy. It’s also one of the few stalls in the area that’s open till late – 3.30am to be exact.

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Brio
  • Restaurants
  • Jurong West

Save on that Euro trip and dine closer to home. Tuck into a mosaic of European street food at this Halal-certified resto set in a cosy, industrial setting. Savour every bite of the juicy charcoal bun shroom and cheese burger ($15.50), the sweet and savoury duck and waffle ($16.50), or the signature seafood cataplana linguine ($16.80). Pro tip: order your pasta with chilli padi like a true Singaporean for that extra kick.

SHOP

  • Shopping
  • Grocery stores
  • Jurong West

If you're looking for a place where you can shop gourmet groceries, pick up fresh flowers and then settle down for coffee and brunch – and also bring your dog – well, you have to make your way to Jurong to the idyllic lifestyle destination Surrey Hills Grocer. The name of the place is an ode to two places in Australia – the leafy Eastern suburb in Melbourne and the vibrant inner-city suburb of Surry Hills in Sydney which is known for its hip café culture. And this spot in Jurong is also very much inspired by those two places in Australia. You'll see this in the rustic and warm decor and atmosphere in the store from the moment you enter.

Grocery shopping is not just a chore here as the space invites you to slow down, enjoy and relax in the experience. Most of the produce and products you will find are Australian-made and grown. Shop the likes of Rich Glen Olive Oil, a family-owned business that produces olive-oil-based food and also has its own skincare range and Koko Black, a popular Australian chocolate brand.  

Over at the bistro, you are encouraged to honour every farmer that has worked hard to contribute to your dish. Find pasta dishes, sandwiches, burgers and also croffles – grub that is family friendly. Coffee snobs, you'll be glad to know that they serve Proud Mary coffee here – a well-regarded name in the excellent Melbourne café scene.

IMM
  • Shopping
  • Shopping centres
  • Jurong East

Go crazy at Singapore’s largest outlet mall, where you can find more than 90 outlet stores offering up to 80 percent discounts all year round. Take the link bridge from JEM and Westgate to get to IMM, and shop up a storm without breaking the bank at outlet stores like Adidas, Calvin Klein, Onitsuka Tiger and Timberland. The Miniso here even has everything retailing at only $2.  

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  • Shopping
  • Jurong East

Rivalling the malls along Orchard Road, JEM is the third largest suburban shopping centre in the city. It houses various stores from fashion and beauty to tech and homeware across six levels. Today, it boasts the largest Don Don Donki in Singapore, with two whole levels offering hot Japanese food, plenty of fresh produce, snacks and lifestyle and beauty products. With retail options like H&M, Uniqlo, Love Bonito, Muji and even Fairprice Xtra for last-minute grocery shopping, there’s no need to go anywhere else.

  • Shopping
  • Shopping centres
  • Jurong East

Westgate completes the trio of mega malls in Jurong, with a character all of its own. This naturally ventilated space is lush, tropical and laidback, with hip retail stores like The Editor’s Market, Freda’D and Aesop. Of course, the food options at Westgate will also leave you spoilt for choice ­– standouts include Ippudo, Honolulu Café, Lady M and at least four major bubble tea chains.

DRINK

Brotzeit
  • Restaurants
  • German
  • Jurong East
  • price 1 of 4

Brotzeit at Westgate is a charming spot for casual drinks, sporting a breezy, open-air concept with widely-spaced seating and a welcoming bar. Start off pulled pork crockets ($9) or a medley of German spreads, featuring various cheeses and liver paté ($18), or dive right into the drinks menu to sample their wide variety of wheat beers and lagers, or even beer cocktails if you’re classy like that. We love the Radeberger Pilsner for its crisp and balanced taste, or Schlenkerla Helles Rauchbier for its aromatic, almost meaty bitterness. Happy hour runs on weekdays until 6pm.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Jurong West

Situated off Yuan Ching Road is a mini lifestyle destination complete with bowling alleys, karaoke bars, and a MacDonald’s drive-through within walking distance of each other. Devil’s Hideout is holed away here, and its laid-back vibe is great for an unpretentious nightcap in the neighbourhood. Jurong residents frequent this place for its darts machines and affordable drinks – there’s Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, Sapporo and Carlsberg on the menu, available in pints or towers.

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