Singapore is one of those interesting, urban, metropolitan cities, with a nightlife scene which can be both local yet transport you to a whole other city at the same time. While one friend would be-cry the loss of the ‘authentic’ experience, another would revel in the unquestionably urban delights that reminds him of the fancy bars in London or New York. It would be hard to please both of them, but at least this list would attempt to reconcile them, somewhat.
Spago, Marina Bay Sands
Regular readers would know of my affinity for Spago, at the Marina Bay Sands. Sure, it may be filled with tourists, and yes, it adjoins the (in)famous Marina Bay Sands infinity skypool, but I admit, I keep coming back for the cocktails, and view. Let’s not forget the view.
Unlike the other rooftop perches in Singapore, it does not feel, well, full of itself. Staff are friendly, clientele open to random conversation, drinks are reasonably priced by Singapore standards, and the drinks are good.
While Level33, another rooftop bar over at the similarly named and nearby Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, is also high on my Singapore list, Spago gets a leg up for their cocktail selection, which I adore.
The views are spectacular up here, and both the bar and seated area has stunning views of either Singapore’s spectacular skyscrapers in the CBD, with the beautiful sunset, or the ships in anchor at harbour facing the South China Sea, also paired with a beautiful sunset, looking out towards the Port of Singapore.
Atmosphere: The airy, wall-less space overlooking the Singapore CBD and Singapore Harbour will remind you that you are in a major international port. The variety of clientele would also remind you of the strength of trade in this city.
Drinks: good cocktails and nice selection of wines.
Price Point: Agreeable prices for a posh destination. SGD 25/+ drink
Feel: Relaxed atmosphere with a good mix of tourists and locals, good place to chill on a lazy afternoon
Address: 10 Bayfront Avenue, Level 57, Sands Skypark Tower 2, Singapore
Nearest Station: Bayfront MRT Station
The first time I was introduced to this place was by a friend who casually mentioned that he might not be able to meet my ‘requirements’ for rooftop perches. Yes, I have that reputation. So, instead he decided to wow me with a speakeasy.
Now, this speakeasy is, as I later found out, a ‘chain’, whose original bar is in New York. The entrance can easily be missed, is very unassuming and purposely distracting, and a quick ‘password’ of ‘Employees Only’? would suddenly see a door open, where you pass through thick, velvet curtains and enter a world which looks more at place in Amsterdam, London or New York, than a tropical international finance centre.
Drinks are pretty good, but the place can get awfully full very easily. This spot is very popular, despite the slightly more expensive drinks. Predominantly expatriate clientele, with music from the 80s, with the random spot of 90s, expect the unexpected.
The Cuba Libre is a particular favourite here, amidst the impressive list of cocktails. The frozen version is worth the wait, even at bar ‘rush hour.’
Atmosphere: That ‘whizzed away to another world’ feel, almost surreal. Expat heavy, dark wood and a slightly posh feel. Not sure if you want to bring your first date here, maybe second date.
Drinks: Impressive cocktail selection, but go for the frozen Cuba Libre.
Price Point: A bit pricey for a non-rooftop bar by Singapore standards, around SGD 25.
Feel: After-work office crowd, professional setting setting and the very occasional tourist. Very white collar.
Address: 112 Amoy St, Singapore
Nearest Station: Telok Ayer MRT Station
28 Hongkong Street
Another speakeasy, but this one in the middle zone between the crazy Clarke Quay and After-work Boat Quay. We almost missed this spot when we were looking for it. Located on a non-descript street, like all good speakeasies, the street was so quiet, with hardly anyone outside giving the spot away, it can easily be missed.
Once you enter past the old school Southeast Asian colonial shophouse doors, you will enter a nice darkly lit, grungy bar located in a well preserved old shophouse, with the old beams well maintained.
The long bar gives it a darkly cool feel, and the R&B beats makes you feel as if you are in a Manhattan speakeasy. The cocktail list is impressive, and the service is cool without being arrogant.
The place is narrow but long, and the very limited seats makes a cosy spot to sit down a premium here. Expect to stand most of the time, especially when it gets busy.
Atmosphere: Grungy and dark, but without feeling distant. The high ceilings and well preserved beams will remind you that you are in a colonial Southeast Asian shophouse and not a Manhattan warehouse.
Drinks: Decent cocktail selection and pretty stiff drinks
Price Point: Not outrageous but not cheap either, at SGD 20
Feel: Cool, chill R&B club, with a healthy mix of locals and expats, unlike the other entries in this list
Address: 28 Hongkong Street, Singapore
Nearest Station: Clarke Quay MRT Station
When we went to this bar, the Andaz Singapore was still at pre-opening, but the skydining, called ‘Alley on 25,’ at the 25th floor was open. While we missed the pre-opening of the rooftop bar, we were invited to the bar in the F&B floor, which, I must admit, pretty good.
Small and intimate, with just a long table as the main bar, with a few tables on one side facing the plate-glass windows overlooking the Singapore CBD, seated by the bar feels like seated at an Omakase session in a very intimate Japanese sashimi bar.
The cocktail selection may seem at first glance a bit limited, but have a chat to the friendly bartenders and they will whip something up. At my round 2, I was not sure what to have, and I told bartender Ryan I wanted something with vodka. Without saying a word, or perhaps reading my mind and my ‘preferred drink’ history, he whipped out a vodka martini with espresso.
The spot is a nice place for a drink if you want an intimate drink, a nice view of the city and a very relaxed place to unwind. Not as posh or as out of the ordinary as the others in this list, but it has a charm as unique as its destination. Kinda.
Atmosphere: Chestnut and oak wood panels give this a Japanese cabin feel, with clean lines, simple minimalist decoration and a close, intimate bar
Drinks: Good cocktail and wine selection. If in doubt, the bartenders can always whip something up
Price Point: Average by Singapore hotel standards. SGD 20+/drink.
Feel: Japanese omakase meets bar. It is so intimate, you and the bartender share the same bar, and there is no separation between bartender and guest areas on this bar
Address: 5 Fraser St, Singapore
Nearest Station: Bugis MRT Station
What is my criteria?
-Atmosphere: Similar to feel, but the overall layout and space in the bar
-Drinks Selection: Beer? Wine? Cocktails? Variety helps with the view.
-Price Point: Rooftop bars are known to charge a premium, but is it reasonable?
-Feel: Now this is hard to quantify, but a fantastic view can be spoiled by that intangible thing called ‘feelings’
Jason is a world traveller and avid seeker of high perches, on a mission to capture the unique experiences that makes destinations iconic.