Check out our guide to the lively River Valley neighbourhood, known for it’s endless selection of cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as the kid-friendly path along the Singapore River!
If you’re looking for somewhere relaxed and family-friendly, with plenty of great dining options and a playground or two for the kids, you really can’t top the River Valley neighbourhood. It’s easily accessible thanks to the Fort Canning MRT, and well serviced by buses along River Valley Road. Once you’re there you can head out on foot and literally walk the river from end to end — from Great World City to the Esplanade. Nothing quite like exercising in fresh air! Kids can scoot or bike in relative safety (very few roads to cross!) and there are endless spots to stop and play, eat or get that perfect family selfie. You may even spot the otter family who sometimes make themselves at home along this section of the river.
Read on to find out where to eat, shop, stay and play!
Looking for a place to stay?
Poshly known as District 9 in property market circles, River Valley is home to some of Singapore’s most family-friendly condos, including Rivergate, Aspen Heights, River Place and Regency Park. If you’re looking for a serviced apartment, Village Residence at Roberston Quay, Great World Serviced Apartments at Great World City, UE Square Residences or the Fraser Residences at both Valley Point and Robertson Walk make for handsome selections.
As for hotels, choose from several lining the river, such as the Intercontinental Singapore Robertson Quay, M Social, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, and Four Points by Sheraton. For something a little trendier, stay at The Warehouse Hotel – a meticulously restored heritage building that used to be at the centre of Singapore’s seedier side, but now offers a refined take on luxury boutique accommodation. On the other end of the spectrum, Furama Riverfront offers family-friendly rooms and is directly connected to popular indoor playground Waka Waka!
Where to Shop?
Great World City
The biggest mall in the area, and recently refurbished too! (Read more about GWC here.) GWC has a gym, a cinema, Sephora, Uniqlo, Zara, Browhaus and a range of kids’ shops and enrichment centres. There are some fab dining options here, too, including – Din Tai Fung, Tim Ho Wan and Hototogisu Ramen, as well as two big supermarkets, Cold Storage and Meidi-Ya.
Giant indoor playground Amazonia is a hit with kids, and you could easily spend a couple of hours here before venturing out in search of lunch. Try the Food Junction on Level 3, head to family favourite Jones the Grocer or eat at any number of food outlets like Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Bangkok Jam, Starbucks or Cedele.
This neighbourhood mall has become something of a destination, thanks to Little Farms. The large produce store and café offers a wide range of fresh, organic and healthy products, while the café serves up delicious breakfasts, lunches and coffees. Dog lovers can bring their fur-babies out for coffee too if they sit at the outside tables!
For dinner you can’t go wrong with 2it&drink – casual Italian food from the team behind OTTO Ristorante. A Fairprice Finest is small but stocks a good range of products, and you’ll also find a pet store and animal clinic, as well as a nail salon, food court and Starbucks.
Levels 2 & 3 are mostly dedicated to preschools and enrichment classes, including Superland Preschool and My Ballet Studio, as well as enrichment centres like Kumon, Art Zone and Wolfgang Violin Studio, although you’ll also find a Cold Storage and a small Guardian on Level 2. The ever popular Power Kids, which offers classes, open gym sessions and fun birthday parties, is located on Level 2 and Curly & Spike is right next door – a definite fave with the kids for a fashionable haircut from hairdresser Ronnie! (Dad can head to Azami Barber for a cut, shave and massage.) You’ll also find Blue House Infant and Toddler Atelier on the ground floor of the adjacent UE Square building.
It’s not all about the kids though! On the ground floor, you’ll find some appealing places for the grownups too. Dutch Colony do just about the best coffee in Singapore, along with some delicious light meals. Beer connoisseurs will delight in the selection at Temple Cellars, which also stocks a range of boutique spirits – sit down in the small, elegant bar or grab something to take away. Next door you’ll find the Straits Wine Company, as well as The Butcher – a great place to source Australian meat, and imported cheeses and fish.
Japanese, you say? Head to Liang Court, which caters to Singapore’s sizeable Japanese expatriate population. It houses Japanese supermarket Meidi-ya, which offers heaps of authentic Japanese food and beverages. Fill your baskets with fresh (albeit pricey!) Japanese imports, including morsels from their fresh sushi & sashimi counter. Meidi-ya is an extremely child-friendly supermarket, and there is a ‘kids section’ in the middle of the supermarket airing Japanese cartoons – the perfect babysitter while you finish your shopping. Apart from this mini-Japan in the basement, Liang Court also houses other famous brands such as Uniqlo, Paris Miki and Chateraise Bakery.
Hong San See Temple on Mohamed Sultan Road (Image credit: Choo Yut Shing via Flickr)
What to Do
For the active crowd, visit The Herencia, slightly hidden off Kim Yam Road, which houses The Moving Body – Singapore’s largest Pilates studio, offering Pilates, gyrotonic and physiotherapy, as well as Amped Trampoline Park, where kids and grownups can bounce away to their hearts’ content. Feeling brave? Try reverse bungee jumping at Clarke Quay with G-Max Reverse Bungee and GX-5 Extreme Swing – they even videotape you as you’re going up, so you can re-live the memories for years to come. Kids can run wild at the new Jubilee Playground, while Fort Canning offers some beautiful gardens and makes for a fascinating history lesson. If you want to escape the heat, but still want the kids to burn off some energy, head to Waka Waka at Furama Riverfront. Free Wi-Fi and lots of seating for the grownups make this one of our favourite indoor playgrounds!
On the other hand if you’re looking for a touch of culture, head to the quaint South Indian Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, home to the annual Thaipusam festival in Singapore, or the Chinese Hong San See Temple on Mohamed Sultan Road, renowned for its beautifully restored rooftop dragon carvings. Culture vultures (even the littlies!) can also catch a show at Singapore Repertory Theatre’s home base on Merbau Road or check out the latest exhibition at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (free!) above SPRMRKT.
Cafes and Restaurants and Bars (oh my!)
We could be here for days exploring ALL the dining options that River Valley has to offer. Many of them appear in our kid-friendly dining guide, but broadly speaking you’ll find the bulk of good eateries around the Robertson Quay area. During the weekdays this neighbourhood is relatively quiet, but Sunday mornings and dusk most evenings sees the area come alive!
SPRMRKT is a hit for its shaded alfresco seating, river views and good coffee. Further along the river you’ll find Boomarang (this actually fits the bill for kid-friendly cafes, restaurants AND bars) and heading under the Saiboo Road bridge you’ll emerge to find long-time family favourite Kith Cafe (excellent Australian style coffee and super kid-friendly), healthy and instagrammable Carrotsticks and Cravings, Toby’s Estate and Botany by Cassandra Tan. Tucked just around the corner from these cafes is the lovely little Swirls Bake Shop, which serves up truly delicious cupcakes.
If you’re in the mood for cake you’ll want to hit up The Fabulous Baker Boy. At the foot of Fort Canning Park, this place also has a great breakfast menu, but it’s the cakes that really impress. Across the road and hidden away behind UE Square is the newest kid on the block, Fine Dining Bakery by Akira M. French-trained Japanese baker Akira (who previously worked at Joel Robuchon!) is now serving up authentic handcrafted breads using Hokkaido flours. We can vouch for the chocolate croissants (although they are on the pricey side at $5 each) and there are plenty of tables if you want to explore the lunch menu.
You’ll find Craftsmen Specialty Coffee further along Mohammed Sultan Road, and rounding the corner into Martin Road there’s The Book Café, PS Café Martin Road (plus PS Cafe’s casual Japanese restaurant Jypsy next door) and of course Common Man Coffee Roasters. This place has serious queues on the weekends, and the stairs don’t make it easy for the stroller set to access, but the menu of hearty, healthy meals makes up for it! Upstairs is Yoga Movement and another more chilled café called Grounded, also by Common Man.
Restaurants & Bars
Where to start?! Two favourites that work for family brunches or dinners as well as a more grown up affair are Super Loco and Summerlong. Located at the heart of Robertson Quay near the Alkaff Bridge, these two offer excellent menus for both kids and adults, delicious cocktails, and plenty of room for kids to run and scoot. Inside Quayside you’ll find delicious Italian food at DOP Mozzarella Bar, incredible Mumbai inspired food at Dabbawalla, and around the corner next to the kids’ playground you’ll find dog-friendly and kid-friendly Three Buns, Les Bouchons and Aburiya Japanese Wagyu Yakiniku.
Follow the river and you’ll quickly come to Red House Seafood Restaurant (which some would argue is home to Singapore’s best chilli crab), Boomarang Bar and Restaurant, and Publico Ristorante, part of the InterContinental Robertson Quay. Publico is great for date night, or a night out with the girls – grab a rattan lounge and dine alfresco, surrounded by twinkling lights and greenery. For superb steaks check out Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, and hidden around the corner is Decker Barbecue, another one for the meat lovers!
Head further along the river for some more relaxed dining options. Pizza Art offers up classic Italian style pizzas, TAP Craft Beer Bar combines great beer (20 rotating international craft beers on draft!) with a menu packed with comfort food classics, and Bar Black Sheep – better known as the bar with three separate kitchens – serves Indian, Thai and Western cuisine.
On the far side of the Pier is Robertson Walk, also affectionately known as the ‘the Courtyard’ as it resembles a Mediterranean Town square. Popular hangouts here include the Wine Connection Tapas Bar & Bistro and Ju Shin Jung for authentic Korean BBQ. There are HEAPS of options for Japanese food in this area, but our pick is Yakiniku YAZAWA for excellent Wagyu, which you grill yourself at your table. Along Mohamed Sultan Road you’ll find some impressive fine dining options. The renowned Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse is always a solid choice, while Marco Pierre White’s The English House is perfect for a special occasion and Pixy combines elegant cocktails with contemporary Japanese.
Further along River Valley Road, neighbourhood fave Cibo Italiano works for date night, girls’ night AND family dinners, while Peperoni Pizzeria on Zion Road is great for, well, pizzas. If you’re looking for something more local, the neighbouring Zion Road Food Centre has been around forever and is an important River Valley institution (check out their No 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow – considered by some to be the best in Singapore!).
MANY of the aforementioned restaurants also have excellent drinks menus, but if you’re specifically looking for a bar you’ve got plenty of options. For a more relaxed option just head to the middle of Robertson Walk and you can take your pick – there are so many to choose from – and most will be screening the latest sporting event. If you’re feeling brave, head to Ziggy’s for karaoke – it’s a high-end experience with private rooms, bar menu, and even costumes. For something fancier, head to the dark, moody bar at The Warehouse Hotel; check out Maison du Whisky or Japanese bar Coffee Bar K– you’ll pay an entry fee of $15 but they keep you well stocked with intriguing bar snacks, the service is exceptional and they have a spectacular selection of whiskey!
So there you have it Mama! If you know of any hidden gems that we’ve yet to discover, drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll be sure to check it out.