Singapore is the richly deserved shopping epicentre of Southeast Asia and it is so easy to get swept up in all its frenetic retail activity. It pretty much has it all whether you are a reckless big spender or a hard to please bargain hunter.
No visit to the city, whether for shopping or sightseeing, should go home without a least one quintessential Singapore souvenir as a lasting impression of a visit to the ‘Lion City’.
A rich ethnic diversity ensures plenty of colour and variety in Singapore’s traditional handicrafts and its art and crafts heritage. You will find lots of giftware symbolic of its Straits Chinese, Tamil and Malay history alongside cheap and cheerful tourist souvenirs.
Teeming street markets, speciality stores and enormous shopping malls are all a happy hunting ground for souvenir seekers and whatever your budget, quality is as high as anywhere in Asia.
Which are the best Singapore souvenirs to buy?
Perhaps the most emblematic Singaporean item on offer is a bottle of the famous Singapore Sling. This iconic cocktail was first poured at the historic Raffles Hotel back in 1915 and it has still proved to be the most popular buy for souvenir hunters.
This timeless colonial hotel has a large shopping arcade filled with exquisite gift boutiques offering up the highest quality gifts and souvenirs in the city with lots of expensive Raffles branded memorabilia.
Something a little more fanciful is the weird and wonderful emblem of Singapore – the Merlion. Half lion, half fish, this strange mythical creature can be seen on clothing, kitchenware sets, cigarette lighters, crockery, postcards and pretty much anything else. You will find cheap and cheerful items such as this at popular Bugis Village tourist market alongside famous ‘Singapore is a fine city’ t-shirts, ornaments, jewellery and sarongs.
Where to buy Singapore souvenirs?
Singapore’s ethnic quarters are the Holy Grail for souvenir hunters where the most colourful gifts at the keenest prices are to be found. First stop should definitely be a stroll through Chinatown’s bustling street market. This is where you will find an array of weird and wonderful herbal remedies, Chinese opera masks, traditional fiddles, calligraphy, jade brooches and silks. There is also a great choice of exotic fruits such as the notorious durian, multi coloured candy and traditional Chinese gowns.
If haggling gives you a headache, head to the Singapore Handicraft Centre (Open: 10:30-20:00 (daily); 133 New Bridge Road, Chinatown Point, tel: +65 6536 2846). This is a treasure trove of traditional and contemporary woodcarvings, ‘Peranakan’ pottery and some exuberantly designed trinkets at decent value fixed prices. Many are pretty unique pieces, which are both functional and sure to make a great one of a kind gift for family or friends.
An even more exotic experience is waiting at teeming Little India, a dynamic series of cheap shopping malls and marketplaces resounding to deafening Bollywood music and the aromatic scent of saffron, jasmine and delicious food and snacks. Best buys here include gold jewellery, often in outlandish designs, saris and packaged spice sets and you can haggle to your hearts content.
The traditional Malay districts of Kampong Glam and Gelang Serai are where you can find cheap batik shirts and sarongs, clove cigarettes and exquisite Malaysian pewter gifts. Arab Street in particular is full of speciality shops selling eccentric items such as Moroccan dinner sets and bird cages.
If one of a kind gifts are what you are searching for, look no further than RISIS Gift Gallery . This is the home of the famous RISIS orchid, Singapore’s national flower. Real orchids are dipped in 24 karat gold and styled into brooches, pendants and earrings. Not the cheapest souvenir around perhaps, but a unique memento of the Lion City for a loved one and a timeless gift.