To get a taste of the local culture, one of the best ways is to visit the malls located beyond the city center. Our heartland malls almost feel somewhat traditional, they may not carry lots of big-name or luxury brands but they are filled with nostalgic goodies be it bubble tea or bakeries. They're the perfect escape from the hustle of the city crowds.
If you are in Singapore and you have time to spare, take a trip to one of the smaller malls dotted throughout the city! You can meet the locals, see how they live, and sample some delicacies which may not be available at places like Orchard Road.
Isn't it great to start the list with a mall literally called Heartland Mall? This mall is located directly above Kovan MRT station and is constantly bustling with locals. Before 2001, Heartland mall used to be one of the biggest Oriental Emporium outlets. This was an era to promote tourism and a budget-friendly shopping alternative for ordinary people in Singapore. Now, it is a simple 4-story mall serving the neighborhood of Kovan.
Local tip: Explore the nearby shophouses located just outside the mall! You can visit various shops selling watches, daily necessities, and indie bakeries. Best of all, there is a hawker centre, Kovan 209 Market and Food Centre, so you can catch your meal there and truly get the full local experience. And not to worry, there are two Muslim-owned stalls located in the hawker centre.
Address: 205 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530205
Nearest MRT Station: Kovan [North-East Line: NE13]
Image Credit: Century Square on Facebook
Century Square was first opened in 1995 as one of the first shopping malls in Tampines along with Tampines mall which was opened a month after. The mall has six levels of retail and open-concept dining areas. They also house a virtual library on the fourth floor, where users can download ebooks directly onto their mobile devices.
Local tip: Tampines is spotted with many malls within the same vicinity. So if you’re dropping by one, be sure to make full use of it by checking out the other malls as well! Other malls include Tampines Mall, Tampines 1, and Eastlink Mall (the corridor lined with shops at the bus interchange itself). And not far from it, is Our Tampines Hub. Aside from that, you can also find the old-school shops that are lined along the walkways of the surrounding buildings. So there is definitely a lot to explore!
Address: 2 Tampines Central 5, Singapore 529509
Nearest MRT Station: Tampines [East-West Line: EW2]
A short history of Beauty World Centre is that it used to be an amusement park back in the day. Before World War 2, crowds gathered here because of the cinema, stages for wayang (also known as wajang is a traditional form of puppet theater play originating from the Indonesian island of Java), and getai (literally means “song stage” in Chinese), and the plethora of food stalls. This made the building stand out in the vicinity of darkness, giving its name Tai Tong Ah also known as Beauty World. Now, the centre is an old-school retail complex housing a mix of shops and food stalls.
Local tip: Beauty World Centre is a few steps away from Bukit Timah Shopping Centre so be sure to plan your time to visit both malls if you are making a trip down! Across the street, you can find many local eateries such as Al-Azhar, Time for Thai, and Tenderfresh.
Address: 144 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588177
Nearest MRT Station: Beauty World [Downtown Line: DT5]
Image Credit: Btcprox, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Located in the town center of Punggol New Town, Waterway Point is the first suburban waterway and lifestyle mall in Singapore. Unlike the traditional malls, you can find in Singapore, the layout of Waterway Point is separated into an East and West wing. It also houses one of the first and largest suburban basement cinemas in Singapore.
Local tip: Right outside of Waterway Point is the Punggol Park Connector. If you want to do something different, try spending a day exploring Punggol Park. You can walk and explore but I would suggest renting a bicycle to get around the area and catch the sunset near the ‘Jewel Bridge’. Even better, if you’ve heard of Coney Island and made plans to visit the area, you can drop by Waterway Point at the end of the day to wind down before heading back!
Address: 83 Punggol Central, Singapore 828761
Nearest MRT Station: Punggol [North-East Line: NE17]
Bukit Timah Shopping Centre was one of the first fully air-conditioned malls in Singapore. The building was constructed with a seven-story podium and a 14-story tower block. In the past, the podium housed a Chinese emporium supermarket, a cinema, and a carpark, while the tower used to hold residential units. Today, the tower consists of office spaces whereas the podium holds small businesses such as maid agencies and construction companies.
Address: 170 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588179
Nearest MRT Station: Beauty World [Downtown Line: DT5]
Queensway Shopping Centre is one of the older multi-purpose shopping complexes apart from Katong Mall and Golden Mile. It is also one of the most popular malls for sports apparel. Anyone searching for a great bargain in their shopping loves to head here, especially for engravers and men’s tailor shops. A special mention is a relatively new store that opened, Planet Days. It’s a shop that carries various products from small local businesses!
Address: 1 Queensway, Singapore 149053
Nearest MRT Station: Queenstown [East-West Line: EW19] or Redhill [East-West Line: EW18]
Nearest bus stop: 11519 (Opposite Queensway Shopping Centre)
Image Credit: SingaporePoly, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Northpoint City is the largest shopping mall in Northern Singapore. It was first built in 1992 as the first suburban mall in the heartlands of Yishun. It was then renovated and expanded to include different public facilities in the shopping mall. Northpoint City mall is home to many eateries and brands so it’s definitely worth checking out during your trip to Singapore.
Address: 930 Yishun Ave 2, Singapore 769098
Nearest MRT Station: Yishun [North-South Line: NS13]
These are just a few of the heartland malls you can find within Singapore. Although these malls may not have luxury brands, you may be surprised by what they have to offer!