The Merlion and the Central Business District skyline

The Singapore River forms a central artery in Singapore's densely packed Central Business District. The north bank of the river is where Raffles originally landed and founded his colony, and to this day many central government buildings can be found in the area. The newer south bank, laden with skyscrapers, is where Singapore's bankers make (or break) their fortunes. Between the two are the bulk of Singapore's nightspots, found along the riverside streets of Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay.

Get in

The riverside is best accessed by the MRT stations Raffles Place (North-South/East-West Lines) for Boat Quay and the Merlion, City Hall for Raffles Hotel and Chijmes, and Clarke Quay (North-East Line) for the bars and nightlife. There is no convenient MRT station for the western end of the river though: you'll have to hike on foot for 15 minutes, try to work out the buses, or hop on a bumboat.

Get around

By boat

A popular way to see the heart of the city is with Singapore River Cruises. Stations are scattered along both banks of the river and reservations are not necessary. Prices start at $3 for a simple ride from point A to point B.

On foot

The Esplanade/Merlion/Boat Quay area has some great views of Singapore and makes for a fine walk (or jogging trail if staying nearby). It can get quite hot during the day though; evenings are cooler and breezier, and the nighttime skyline is equally attractive.


The bulk of Singapore's historical attractions are packed by the river, and the best place to start your tour is at the mouth of the Singapore River. While this area has formed the downtown core of Singapore since the early 19th century, sadly, most of the once-iconic shophouses and street markets have given way to modern skyscrapers and shopping centres, and those who wish to experience a more authentic slice of colonial Singapore life would do well to head up north to the Malaysian island of Penang instead. Not all is lost though, and several important government buildings and places of worship dating back to the 19th century still survive, and provide a rare glimpse into the city's colonial past.


Sir Stamford Raffles strikes a pose


The Asian Civilisations Museum

Historical buildings

City Hall and the Old Supreme Court

Skyscrapers/Observation Decks


The entire Singapore river area is a lovely place for a walk, with small green gardens, old-style bridges and historical buildings, and the nightlife-rich expanse of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay.

If you'd like something a little more adrenaline-laden, head to Clarke Quay:

Jogging along the Singapore River is the best way to combine sightseeing and a workout, but there are two other options right next to Raffles Place MRT if you're willing pay for the air-con.

Try a Singapore Sling. Tourists typically head to the supposed birthplace at the Raffles Hotel's Long Bar (see #Drink section).


There are some shopping malls of interest around the City Hall MRT station, but serious shoppers will wish to head to Orchard Road for their shopping instead.


You're spoiled for choice when eating at the riverside. Prices tend to be slightly inflated by Singaporean standards, so avoid any place that needs to use touts to get customers.

The west end of the river (around Robertson Quay) houses a significant Japanese expat community, and consequently the Japanese restaurants nearby serve up some of the best fare this side of Tokyo.


Lau Pa Sat, also known as Telok Ayer Market



Shophouse restaurants and bars on Boat Quay

The best places for a splurge with a view in the evening are Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, which have many riverside restaurants offering al fresco dining. However, especially on Boat Quay, avoid any restaurant that has to resort to touts to find customers.

Another good choice popular with the expat crowd is CHIJMES (30 Victoria St), the former Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, now an atmospheric assemblage of high-end food & beverage outlets near the Raffles Hotel.


Map of Mohamed Sultan and Clarke Quay

Singapore's nightlife is almost entirely concentrated near the river. The main party zones are Boat Quay, on the south of the river next to the financial district (MRT Raffles Place, exit G) and Clarke Quay on the north bank a few blocks inland (MRT Clarke Quay). Less well known but also worth a look are Circular Road, parallel to Boat Quay just behind it, and Robertson Quay, an up-and-coming nightlife/restaurant zone at the western end of the river. Bars and pubs come and go with dizzying speed, so just head out and find today's hip spot. All four are within crawling distance of each other. Mohamed Sultan Rd, inland from Robertson Quay and until recently the place to be, has been severely eclipsed by newer upstarts and most bars have been replaced by restaurants and furniture stores.

Bars and pubs

Singapore Sling



At all clubs listed below, arrive early (or very late) because otherwise you may be stuck in line for a while. ID is theoretically required but rarely checked.


Unless you're a shopping maven intent on maximizing time in Orchard Road's shopping malls, the riverside is probably the best place to stay in Singapore.


There is a large cluster of older mid-range hotels on and near Havelock Rd at the western end of river, not the best location for sightseeing or shopping. SBS bus 51 from Havelock Rd offers a good escape route to Chinatown, Clarke Quay and Orchard. Note that in the center, the bus goes north up Eu Tong Sen Rd/Hill St, but returns south via North/South Bridge Rd.


In addition to the hotels below, check out adjacent Marina Bay, which has a major cluster of high-end hotels.

Raffles Hotel by night

There are some luxury hotels of note scattered elsewhere on the river.



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