The CBD or the Central Business District is the heartland of Singapore. City Centre, Central Area – this part of the country has many names that it goes by. Although the entire region covers a considerable area on both banks of the Singapore River, it is the area immediate south of the waterbody, comprising of Downtown Core, Marina South and Outram, that is most popular for the endless list of commercial buildings, shop houses, temples, restaurants and bars.
At one glance, the CBD area is a busy enclave for the office-goers and workers who are employed in the many sky-high buildings of this place. Men and women dressed in their formals crowd the boulevards and the sidewalks of the 11 planning areas of the CBD area. As you dig deeper, a multi-dimensional neighbourhood for fun, entertainment and recreation exist amidst the corporate feel.
There are places for shopping and eating. There are placed of historical and spiritual significance. There are places for letting your hair down and relax. With a little discovery hunt, you will find endless possibilities in the streets of the CBD area.
Do everything till you drop
The Marina Bay Sands lead the lifestyle choice options in the CBD area. Although billed as a luxury hotel, the magnificent grandeur of Singapore's Numero Uno establishment is a lot more than that. It was the world's most expensive standalone casino on its opening year. It became the most attractive shopping, dining and lounging site of the country.
You want designer labels and international brands - you have got The Shoppes. You wish to plan a perfect dinner date - you have restaurants with Michelin Star chefs. You want to relax in the world's highest artificial swimming pool - you have the Infinity Pool in the Sands Skypark. There are convention-cum-exhibition centres, the Art and Science Museum and numerous others facilities along with the luxury hotel and casino. In short, you can not only shop but do literally everything under the sun until you drop. Marina Bay Sands, in one word, is a phenomenon.
For the ones who prefer local more than global and rustic ambiences appeal more than luxurious ones, there are more than enough places to haunt.
Enriching diversity in art, culture and religion
The National Gallery of Singapore is as grand and majestic in its physical appeal as the Sands, but only with more cultural significance. The white Victorian building houses an extensive collection of South-east Asian art and craft. They specialise in special exhibitions for children. You can always find out what theme they are hosting for the week before making your visit.
The Asian Civilisation Museum, Peranakan Museum and Baba House are other eminent places to visit in the CBD area for a glimpse into true Peranakan history and culture. They are about the Chinese immigrants to the straits region during British rule in the Malays, who now make up for the majority of the population. The National Museum of Singapore, on the other hand, has stood here since the days of Raffles and is now a storehouse of antique displays about Singapore.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is another very culturally important site here. The five-storey Buddhist temple reportedly is the home to a single tooth of Lord Buddha himself, excavated from a collapsed stupa in Myanmar. The artefact lies protected inside a solid gold stupa in the 4th floor. The other floors have more religious relics, while the rooftop lawn has a giant prayer wheel.
Among other spiritual places, the Chinese temple called Thian Hock Keng Temple, the Taoist shrine called Yueh Hai Ching Temple, the Armenian Church and the original chapel of the CHIJMES deserve mention and also a visit. Outside the Thian Hock Keng Temple, which is a Hokkien shrine, there is a mural by artist Yip Yew Chong, telling you the story of the Hokkien immigrants who made their way to Singapore in the early years from south-eastern China.
Treat for the taste buds
If you are in the CBD area for the first time as a tourist, you will be baffled by the many options for food and drinks that the place offers. It is impossible to cover all of those on a whole trip, let alone a day. However, some of them are simply must-go. There is a double diner which is a cosy little café or kopitiam, in Malay, called Hua Bee, serving authentic mee pok and other delicious savouries by morning, and in the night it transforms into a lively bar-cum-bistro called Bin Cho.
There are bars in the CBD area like Bar Stories, The Spiffy Dapper, Native or the Operation Dagger which will make you cocktails with your 'feelings'. Instead of the usual mixes, the bartenders will fix you up something completely out of the ordinary, depending on how you are feeling and what ingredients you love. Nylon Coffee Roasters does the same, but with espressos and cappuccinos. Tea Chapter is another beverage place you would want to visit, for lovely, different flavoured warm sips.
To try out a plethora of local flavours including delicious seafood in Chinese, Malay and Indonesian cuisine at pocket-friendly rates, try out the Alexandra Village Food Centre or Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown Complex. In case you have a more gourmet taste, Chef Dave Pynt serves flame-cooked Mod-Oz BBQ fish and poultry at Burnt Ends in an absolute fine dining ambience. Another place for a foodie to explore is the Chong Wen Ge café inside the Hokkien temple Thiam Hock Keng to devour true-blue Peranakan cuisine.
Unparalleled set of experiences
The Central Business District is not all about shopping and dining. Tucked in between the endless skyscrapers and shop-house complexes, there are some unique things to experience as well.
The bibliophiles can scavenge the best bookshop in Singapore - BooksActually, which has not only an extensive collection of fictions and non-fiction but also paintings, photography, antique curios, Chinese crockeries and other vintage souvenirs to take back home. For a more antique treasure hunt, visit Tong Mern Sern Antiques, which is a secret house of old furniture, books, handicrafts, curios, vinyl records, porcelain and china clay and a never-ending list of interesting artefacts.
A ride in the river taxi down the Singapore River is a must, so is enjoying a theatre or orchestra performance in the Esplanade against the backdrop of the beautiful Marina Bay.