Eat, Shop and Party at Clarke Quay

Answers to the always asked question “What is there to do in Singapore?”, would invariably be – shop at Orchard Road, visit the Night Safari, or party down at Clarke Quay. A long time ago, that third answer would be met with quizzical looks amongst Singaporeans.

In the early days, Clarke Quay was simply known as a bustling trade hub. Instead of the place for the young and beautiful, a more familiar scene was sun-tanned coolies loading and unloading a plethora of produce and shipments. It was a prime location for trading between the east and west, and the place flourished as the commercial cornerstone of Singapore.

Clarke Quay, Singapore's nightlife hub. Photo credit - xcode.

Clarke Quay, Singapore's nightlife hub. Photo credit - xcode.

Thanks to recent renovation, the bustling trade center that is Clarke Quay has successfully evolved into one of Singapore’s hottest entertainment spot, popular with the hip, trendy and luxurious. Here’s a breakdown of this nightlife hub of Singapore along with its neighboring districts.

Charming China Town

Start your adventures at ChinaTown, a cultural hotspot filled with history of Singapore’s forefathers and their trading culture. Pay a visit to the Chinatown Heritage Center, or look out for souvenirs along the Chinatown Night Market. The place is certainly touristy, but that’s part of the price to pay for modernization and globalization.

Fret not though, the food is genuine and traditional, some of the best Chinese food you’ll find in the region!

Chinatown Food Street, always packed with both locals and tourists alike. Photo credit - lensfodder.

Chinatown Food Street, always packed with both locals and tourists alike. Photo credit - lensfodder.

Char Kway Teow - a local favorite dish. Photo credit - suziedepingu.

Char Kway Teow - a local favorite dish. Photo credit - suziedepingu.

The Chinatown Food Street is located conveniently in the heart of Chinatown at Smith Street, serving various local fares like Char Kway Teow (a noodle dish fried with fresh cockles), Carrot Cake (a steamed, savory radish cake fried with eggs), or Rojak (a refreshing local salad tossed with sweet peanut sauce).

There is also a popular dessert stall by Temple Street, just on the neighboring street. Another stall not far away serves succulent dim sum, and further out back you’ll find a packed crowd enjoying frog-legs porridge.

Singaporeans are big on food, and don’t mind queuing for up to an hour just to get a simple lunch meal. So if you’re not pressed for time, you’ll do well to queue behind a long line. That way you can be sure you’re enjoying a tasty meal, and one of the many local favorites!

Trendy Clarke Quay

On the way towards Clarke Quay, you’ll pass by The Central, the newest shopping extravaganza directly opposite Clarke Quay. Featuring over 600 shops spread over five levels, The Central is modeled with Japan’s urban chic influence. If you’re looking for local trendsetting designs, head towards the upper floors which play host to a number of local fashion designers.

When you’re done exploring The Central (which shouldn’t take long really, unless you’re out to shop), head out across the river to Clarke Quay, where the nightlife truly starts.

The recently renovated Clarke Quay, Singapore. Photo credit - lemoncat1.

The recently renovated Clarke Quay, Singapore. Photo credit - lemoncat1.

At night, the place truly comes to life. Photo credit - Yueh-Hua 2009.

At night, the place truly comes to life. Photo credit - Yueh-Hua 2009.

Five blocks of restored, remodeled and redesigned warehouses are host to various restaurants and nightclubs. There are also moored boats that have been refurbished into floating pubs and restaurants.

There is The Arena, a 10,000 square feet establishment providing international live music. The Bellini Grande, another recently developed establishment, is a modern day supper club, where a hip mix of retro and current trends serves up the heat.

Recent renovations to Clarke Quay has seen a dome-like umbrella covering a large portion of the streets, so you can still walk around Clarke Quay even when it rains. On the weekends it is always packed with a variety of crowds, from the bar-goers watching sports over a pint of beer, to the younger crowds frequenting the various cafes, to the fashionistas out to light up the night. A great place to people watch, but tables are hard to come by so come early.

Rustic Boat Quay

Finally, wind down the day at Boat Quay, relaxing over supper at its various cafes or enjoy a leisurely pint at one of its many bars. Located not far from Clarke Quay, Boat Quay is the less glamorous little sister, but with its own rustic charm and unique establishments.

The shop houses built along the river in the 1930s are preserved and restored, along with several newer additions that adds to the lively colors in show.

Jazz@Southbridge. Photo credit -

Jazz@Southbridge. Photo credit -

Bars and pubs lines up at Boat Quay. Photo credit - slack12.

Bars and pubs lines up at Boat Quay. Photo credit - slack12.

The river-side establishments at Boat Quay are mostly restaurants and cafes, while the other side are mostly bars, pubs and night-lounges. It is one of the best spots in Singapore for alfresco dining – a popular hangout for locals, expatriates and tourists, with a good variety of choice: chic cafes, high-end restaurants, yuppie pubs and designer galleries.

Harry’s Bar, located at No 28, is one of Singapore’s most popular live-music scene popular amongst numerous expatriates working in the towering skyscrapers nearby. Nick Leeson, the infamous trader who brought down England’s Barings Bank, frequented this bar, and they’ve concocted a drink in his honour – aptly called The Bankbreaker.

Jazz@Southbridge is another popular watering hole, attracting a legion of followers with its unique brand of jazz. The bar prides itself as the launching pad for homegrown jazz talents as well as the rendezvous point for famed maestros. The classy ambience is a perfect way to end the night on a high note!

I hope you enjoyed these suggestions for a day (and night) trip in Singapore. Do share your own experiences and favorite sites! Even at land-scarce Singapore, there are plenty to see and do, a little bit of everything for everyone.

About the Author. Michelle Lee. There is an idea behind every writing, and magic in bringing words to life. For Michelle, words create worlds beyond ours. A writer based in Singapore, Michelle seeks to inspire thoughts, ignite emotions, and explore the unfound as much as boundaries can be ventured into. Her inspirations spiral from overseas escapades filled with wild diversities of culture and traditions. “Abandoning responsibilities, work and the hustles of life to a place where everything is fresh, new and alienated. That, is sheer fascination.”


7 Comments on "Eat, Shop and Party at Clarke Quay"

  1. Nadia Tjhin on Wed, 25th Feb 2009 6:50 am 

    oh my gosh.. i miss singaporeeeeeeeeeeee

  2. WildJunket on Thu, 26th Feb 2009 7:55 am 

    Rojak at the Chinatown food street (it’s called Smith St by the way) is definitely THE best. Way to go Michelle, great article on Singapore. We hafta get out there and tell the World – we’re not just a transit stop, we’re worth a visit!

  3. Mich on Thu, 26th Feb 2009 10:53 am 

    Hey WildJunket, thanks for the comment! I’m not being patriotic here but i certainly think Singapore lives up to its name – unique. And very mich flavoured too. Which sadly, its beauty has been pretty much under-appreciated. I’m sure you feel me.. *wink*.

  4. Eugene Teh on Tue, 3rd Mar 2009 1:58 am 

    i miss Singapore too!

  5. Nik on Tue, 3rd Mar 2009 4:51 pm 

    @WildJunket: Thanks for the additional info WildJunket. Added(edited) into the article! :)

    @Eugene: coming back to Singapore anytime soon?

  6. Sandra on Sun, 19th Jul 2009 5:42 am 

    Chinatown is great.
    Thanks for sharing

    asian expat.

  7. JhaypeeG. on Thu, 13th Jun 2013 3:37 am 

    Wow! Nice and colorful place. I want to have a visit in Singapore. :)

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