Compared to the locales highlighted in our five other Weekender Guides, Holland Village is by far the smallest of them all, but don’t let that fool you. It’s an enlivening area jammed pack with things to see, do, and eat.
Once established by the Dutch Community during the early 1900s in Singapore, Holland Village has grown to become quite an eclectic enclave in Singapore, retaining a sizeable European influence and community still in the area.
While it was the Dutch who settled in the area, the Holland Village we know today was interestingly named after Englishman Hugh Holland. Hugh was one of the early residents of the area, and a respected architect known for his acting pursuits.
Holland Village’s European imprint was cemented further when members of the British army and their families lived in the many semi-detached and terrace houses in the neighbourhood (present-day Chip Bee Gardens).
With the steady rise of the upper-class Europeans settling down in the area, more establishments started popping up, with the express intention of catering to the needs and wants of these foreign expatriates.
A creative commune with a diverse food scene, Holland Village is for anyone who wants to experience a small slice of European life in sunny Singapore.
See and Do
If boutique shopping and art appeal to you, boy are you in for a treat. There are plenty of enchanting options here to while away the hours, and before you know it, it’s getting dark.
Lim’s Holland Village
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“Holland Village has great importance to our family,” says Audrey Lim. “It started from my father, CK Lim, being his own delivery man for his arts and crafts shop out at Changi. His clientele was mostly expats, so he passed through Holland Village on his delivery runs to the black-and-white houses in Wessex Road and Chip Bee Gardens. CK Lim ended up falling in love with “Holland V”, or Singapore’s oldest bohemian enclave” as it’s often referred.
Hidden on the second floor of Holland Village Shopping Centre is Lim’s Holland Village.
Established by one of the co-founders of Lim’s Arts and Living in 1970, Lim’s Holland Village has become somewhat of an institution in Holland Village Shopping Centre, offering up a unique collection of Southeast Asian antiques and furniture.
From intricate wood carvings to Indian lampshades, Lim’s offers up an eclectic range of creative furniture that is sourced from around the region.
Thambi Magazine Store
If you’ve been to Holland Village, you’ll no doubt have come across the iconic Thambi Magazine Store, sitting right at the “mouth” of Holland Village as I like to call it.
Thambi Magazine Store is one of those places which is seemingly stuck in time; a décor and façade that has hardly changed, third generation owner Sam Thambi is now running the business with a historic lineage.
What has been consistent throughout these decades are an extensive collection of international magazines that can put some of the more established bookstores to shame. If you’d like a quick read, or something that will help to pass your time in any of the cafes in Holland Village, Thambi Magazine Store is there for you.
Across the road from the main part of Holland Village is a row of shophouses that constitute Chip Bee Gardens, the neighbourhood where several members of the British army once called home.
This is where you’ll find Bynd Artisan, a family-run, historic craft leather shop that has a legacy that stretches back to the 1940s. More accurately, the Bynd Artisan today was founded in 2014 by husband-wife duo James Quan and Winnie Chan, built upon Winnie’s grandfather’s legacy who established Singapore’s oldest bookbindery.
The company today runs an experiential retail concept that prizes premium paper and leather goods to create elegant craftsmanship in the form of notebooks and stationery. So, if you’re looking for some well-crafted gifts, look no further than Bynd Artisan.
Eat and Drink
Truth be told, it’s the food and beverage scene that is the heart and soul of Holland Village. From the famous long-snaking queues of Nakhon (Thai food) to upscale restaurants like Original Sin, Holland Village has a wide range of dining options.
Tiong Bahru Bakery
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One of my favourit bakery in Singapore @tiongbahrubakery . Serving delish croissant (one of the best!) and coffee. Love the space and vibes here at Chip Bee Garden's branch. Tucked in a quiet neighbourhood, non-touristy spot, peaceful enough to enjoy my Me time. I was staying about 2km away from this cozy spot, and I tell myself that this will be my destination for my morning run. Just for their croissant and coffee. I can tell you, that combination is perfect for post-cardio session. Can I carry that 'papercup' home? ?
The newer kid on the block, Tiong Bahru Bakery has brought their excellent range of French pastries to Holland Village. The outlet here possesses the exact same laidback café vibe that its flagship outlet in Tiong Bahru, perfect for any late morning start.
Their croissants are to die for – flaky and crispy on the outside, fluffy on the side – paired with a cuppa joe and maybe a book in hand, I could spend the entire day there. Don’t give it a miss if you happen to be in the area.
Of the myriad of things that warrant a return trip to Holland Village, Sunday Folks is arguably the sole reason that I constantly go back to Holland Village – that’s just how good it is.
Order a plate of waffles topped with their elegant pistachio soft serve ice cream (or any flavour you fancy) and get ready to be blown away by rich flavours and incredible textures that you can hardly find elsewhere.
It’s the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.
And for those that want a little taste of local food culture, Holland Village Market and Food Centre is an excellent choice whether you’re an expatriate or a local.
Prices can be a little steeper than other hawker centres in Singapore, but the variety and quality of stalls don’t necessarily lose out. Don’t underestimate the nasi lemak here which is surprisingly good, and there’s seemingly a perpetual queue for Ming Fa Fishball Noodles.
For a relatively cheaper food option in Holland Village, the central food centre might just do the trick.
WALA WALA Café Bar
No list on eating and drinking at Holland Village would be considered finished without mentioning WALA WALA Café Bar.
Tucked in the corner at the end of Lorong Mambong, the café bar is essentially a monument of Holland Village with a loyal legion of fans; its draw is part nostalgia, part festivities.
Established since 1933, WALA WALA is one of those watering holes famed amongst pub crawlers in Singapore. Its menu has grown extensively since its opening and has since become an all-out event space with nightly live music of all genres.
If you ask me, the allure of a place like WALA WALA isn’t something you can explain in words, the chill vibes are almost homely even, as you sit around and drink with friends. It’s a community, much like the people that live, eat, and breathe Holland Village.