Singapore has Christmas wrapped, with sparkling shopping malls, a magnificent yuletide fair, dazzling fireworks, delicious seasonal dining, and decorations galore
It may be warm and muggy in Singapore all year round, but the Monsoon makes December one of the coolest months and the Red Dot island is vibrant with things to do and places to see.
Seasonal Shopping: This month, the entire tree-lined stretch of Orchard Road from Tanglin Road to Dhoby Ghaut is decked with millions of glittering lights and sparkling decorations. It may be a little over the top, but the buzzing atmosphere beckons everyone to this famous 2.2km-long shopping belt.
Wishing spheres on the water at Marina Bay
The façades and interiors of the shopping malls on both sides of the street are festooned with twinkling ornaments and Christmas trees. Every year, the malls try to outshine each other for the Best Dressed Building Contest. The festive mood is kicked up a notch with lively street performances and carollers serenading the crowds. Some of the best malls for the sheer variety of fashion and food outlets include Takashimaya (complete with massive indoor Christmas tree) and ION Orchard.
National Gallery Singapore
Orchard Road aside, there are plenty of last-minute gifts to be found in the Marina Bay area. Malls such as Raffles City, Marina Square and Suntec City are all popular shopping destinations.
Winter Wonderland: At this time of year, visitors to the Gardens by the Bay can experience a vibrant carnival-like atmosphere. Among the many attractions are funfair rides, game stalls, a skating rink, vintage carousel and indoor snow playground, as well as festive performances. Don’t miss its Festive Market (until 27 December) and Christmas Toyland floral display. As part of this Christmas Wonderland, the gardens will be illuminated with 56 stunning Baroque-style Luminaire light sculptures from Italy.
Countdown to 2016: To usher in the New Year in a spectacular manner, grab a prime spot at the Marina Bay precinct: consider Orgo – the rooftop bar at Esplanade, or The Pelican Seafood Bar & Grill at One Fullerton. The countdown to midnight culminates in an eight-minute fireworks display. If you’re not into crowds yet lucky enough to be staying at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, you’ll have the best view of the stunning pyrotechnics from the comfort of your room, overlooking the harbour.
Christmas at Gardens by the Bay
Before the countdown, you can revel in the carnival-like atmosphere and enjoy the outdoor musical performances at the waterfront bazaar. The thousands of illuminated beach balls you see floating on the bay are from The Wishing Spheres Project: from mid-November, 30 ‘wishing stations’ are set up all over the island, providing white spheres on which you can write your wishes, hopes and dreams for the year ahead. The spheres are then released on the Singapore River.
Celebrate the Arts: Head to Esplanade, Singapore’s iconic performing arts centre, for world-class concerts and shows and smaller productions that are sometimes put on for free.
You'll have the best view of the stunning pyrotechnics from the comfort of your room, overlooking the harbour
National Gallery Singapore, officially launched back in November, is another major attraction. The gloriously restored former Supreme Court and historic City Hall are now home to the largest visual arts museum in Singapore, matching Paris’ Musée d’Orsay and London’s Tate Modern in size. The gallery shines the spotlight on 8,000 Singaporean and South-East Asian artworks from the 19th century to the present day. History buffs will enjoy an architectural trail around the two buildings: City Hall was where Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, declared independence from Malaysia. The Gallery complex also houses several excellent restaurants. These include Odette, a modern French restaurant by Julien Royer, the former head chef of Jaan; Italian restaurant Aura, which has an excellent rooftop bar; and National Kitchen by Violet Oon, which serves Singapore specialities.
Singapore's Esplanade performing arts centre
Festive Feasting: For your year-end celebration, make your way to Mandarin Oriental, Singapore’s Dolce Vita for an Italian Christmas meal by the poolside. Or bring the family to MELT – The World Café, which will roll out an extensive spread of fresh seafood, traditional roast carvings, and decadent desserts. Over at Axis Bar & Lounge, you can tuck into an elegant Christmas afternoon tea or sip cocktails on New Year’s Eve, topped with the best views of Marina Bay.
Naomi Wan is an established food and travel writer based in Singapore and Malaysia. She has written articles for various travel and lifestyle publications.