The Singapore River is just over 3 km long from its source at Kim Seng Bridge to where it empties into Marina Bay. The river has been beautified with pedestrianised walks down either side and bars, restaurants and sculptures. It’s great for just a casual stroll, a place to have a beer or even a full-blown meal in one of the many restaurants offering cuisine from around the world.
The river, like the rest of Singapore, is very clean. However, it wasn’t always like this. The mouth of the Singapore River was the old port of Singapore. The city of Singapore initially grew around the river mouth as it was the centre of commerce and trade.
The start of modern Singapore happened around January 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles landed. Raffles was quick to realise Singapore’s potential. The very same year the North bank was drained from the marshes it was. Three years later the Southbank was reclaimed too. In the olden days, the river was the city’s sewage system, a rubbish dump and occasional morgue.
Back in 1977, the then Prime Minister implemented the Singapore River cleanup program. The envisaged a prosperous and vibrant neighbourhood along the river. The cleanup involved the restoration of a proper sewage system resettlement of squatters and street hawkers and the relocation of heavy industry.
Relocation, relocation, relocation
The Port of Singapore is now located to the west of the island and uses pretty much most of the south-west coast.
It took 10 years to complete the cleanup relocation and in the late 80s, the Singapore River became a clean and beautiful place that could be enjoyed by the city’s residents.
What was once wharves and docks, have now become an area of waterfront apartments restaurants and entertainment spots. They are spread along Boat Quay, Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay. It has become an area popular with both tourists and locals alike and the trading vessels have been replaced by river cruise boats.
With so much land being reclaimed from the sea, the Singapore River now empties into Marina Bay. Situated at Marina Bay is Singapore’s Merlion, a mythical creature that is half lion half mermaid. Because, of course, cats and water go together like fish and bicycles.
We stayed at the Msocial Hotel on Robertson Quay right on the banks of the river. Of course, it’s free to take a wander up the river but the boat trips cost. If you’re doing Singapore on a budget this is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. Stopping occasionally at a bar for a beer and watching the world go by makes a great way to spend your time when you visit Singapore. And, of course, Singapore’s warm climate is conducive to sitting outside.
I can also highly recommend limoncello restaurant at Robertson’s Quay. It does great pizzas and southern Italian food at comparatively reasonable prices. Boat Quay, Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay is also the centre of pubs clubs and late-night partying. So whether you just want a bite to eat, chill and hang out or party hard, there’s something for everybody on the Singapore River.
Day or Night, the Singapore River has something to offer.
Getting to the Singapore River
The MRT, which is Singapore’s Metro network is a great way to get to the Singapore River from any part of the city. There are three MRT stations that will take you there, Raffles Place, Clarke Quay and Esplanade. Check out my MRT-how to get around Singapore blog post for more information
Singapore River Conclusions
I love the bridges crossing the river which are also lit up at night. Different types of cuisine from around the world and its general feeling of peace and tranquillity made the Singapore River a must see.
More of our Singapore and Indonesia adventures
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