The Central Urban Loop is a network of parks connected up by narrow green corridors, called Park Connectors, in Singapore. This network is all administered by the National Parks Board. In the urban heartland area, the network covers 36-kilometres, encompassing several fascinating nature parks that have been reclaimed from city streets, to bring joy to residents in Bishan, Ang Mo Kio and Whampoa.
As well as connecting all the parks in the centre of Singapore, the narrow green corridors that are the Park Connectors of Singapore also connect this section of town outwards to the coast. You can walk or cycle east to reach the Park Connectors that make up the Eastern Coastal Loop or go north to reach the freshwater lakes and riverside walks of the North Eastern Riverine Loop.
We’ve done the legwork for you, so take a walk and explore the Central Urban Loop. Even if you think you already know Singaproe, we guarantee you will discover something new along the way.
Things to do at the Central Urban Loop
1. Go vintage at Toa Payoh Town Park
Nestled in one of the earliest satellite housing estates in Singapore is Toa Payoh Town Park, rustic spot that boasts nostalgic decorations of the seventies, including cascading pools and an observation tower.
Developed in the 1970s, the town garden was a popular venue for outdoor wedding photography. Today, the park has a distinctly Southeast Asia aesthetic, with a display of willows, bamboos and the brilliant reds and yellows of the Delonix regia trees. Enjoy a stroll around the picturesque pond, which contains a small waterfall and a cluster of artificial islands linked by photogenic Chinese-style arched bridges.
Toa Payoh Town Park is designated as a hub of biodiversity, so the park is carefully planted with flowers and plants designed to attract dragonflies and damselflies such as the Common Scarlet and Ornate Coraltail. Over 18 species of unique insects have been identified as residents of the park. Kids also enjoy spotting the myriad of small fishes and tortoises that populate the garden pond.
2. Have brunch near the Kallang River
The Kallang River is Singapore’s longest river, flowing for over 10 kilometres. This river extends from the Lower Pierce Reservoir and cuts across mainland Singapore to the Kallang Basin. Now the river is mostly contained in a big concrete drain, to prevent flooding. But it’s still home to fishing birds like herons, and to otters. Residents often see wildlife here.
Tired from the morning hike? You can grab brunch at the various food joints along both Whampoa and Kallang Park Connectors. Notable spots nearby include Wheeler’s Yard, an old warehouse that contains both a bicycle shop and a cool industrial chic cafe. The photogenic blue wall at Wheeler’s is definitely worth snapping a photo or two for your social media. Signature menu items at the café include brunch favourites such as Halloumi Cheese Toast ($19.90) and Chilli Crab Pasta ($18.90).
Address: 28 Lor Ampas, 328781
Tel: 6254 9128
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Wed. to Sun.); Closed on Mon. + Tue.
Reserve on Chope here.
3. Kayak along the Kallang River at Sungei Kallang
Kallang Park Connector is a narrow green corridor that mostly runs parallel to the Kallang River. This Park Connector in Singapore provides a vibrant community space, with a playground and plaza area integrated right into the connector, along the river’s edge.
A floating pontoon and boat shed has also been constructed to allow for kayaking on the river. To rent a kayak, head over to the Singapore Sports Hub, just a 10-minute walk from Kallang Part Connector. Rates at Singapore Sports Hub start from $12 for two hours. If you’re wondering whether certification or a license is needed to kayak in Singapore, the answer is no! For most kayak rentals (Singapore Sports Hub included), a wide range of kayaks and canoes are available to rent, to suit beginners right through to advanced kayakers.
The sit-on-top kayaks and canoes are good for beginners, whilst closed-deck kayaks suit those with at least one-star certification in a kayaking Personal Skills Star Award Course. Most rental services are suitable for families as well, but children aged seven to 13 must be accompanied by an adult.
If you’re not too busy paddling, you can enjoy a splendid view of the National Stadium from the river. And if you kayak as far as Marina Bay, you can see the whole city skyline, and maybe the famous family of wild otters that live in Marina Bay.
4. Refuel at Bendemeer Hawker Centre
A rustic, traditional market, Bendemeer Hawker Centre is not fancy. But it’s famous, because many of the original stalls are still here, boasting delicious old school flavours at an affordable price. If you fancy a slice of vintage Singapore, here’s a good place to visit.
When it comes to must-try stalls and dishes, the Prawn Noodle ($4) at the stall called Bendemeer Prawn Noodle has many fans. The broth is thinner compared to other prawn noodle places, but it has lots of umami flavours. The cooks here use fresh prawns and real prawn shells to make the stock, instead of chucking in handfulls of MSG. For dessert, try Granny’s Pancake, a stall that specialises in traditional mee jiang kueh – a steamed, fluffy pancake filled with crushed peanuts, coconut and palm sugar or sweet red bean paste. At only $1.20 a pop, they make a satisfying snack.
Bendemeer Hawker Centre
Address: 29 Bendemeer Rd., 330029
Tel: 6225 5632
Opening hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Daily)
5. Relax at the Therapeutic Garden at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Walking further along the Park Connectpors in Singapore that make up the Central Urban Loop, you come to a pleasant park with natural stone ledges that lead down to river with fish, wild otters, kingfishers and all kinds of wild birds.
Yet just a few years ago most of this area was a giant concrete drain. Then the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the National Parks Board of Singapore got together to yank up all the concrete and transform the space into a park full of plants. It’s such a sucessful transformation the park has won international awards for urban renewal.
The park is designed to get everyone out into nature, so you can volunteer to help with gardening here. For example, you might be weeding in the Therapeutic Garden. This was designed in collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s Mind-Science Centre to sooth your emotions and improve mental health with a mindfullness landscape of plants divided into four zones: Fragrance, Biodiversity, Edible and Medicinal, and Colours and Textures.
6. Butterfly Habitat and Inclusive Playground
Just a short stroll away from the Therapeutic Gardens in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park is the Butterfly Habitat. This area has been planted with flowers and plants that butterflies love, so the park is now home to more than 30 species of butterfly. To help visitors of all ages identify the butterflies, there are big signs near the trees that point out the different species and how they help the environment. Challenge your kids to try and identify as many different types of butterflies as possible, and see how many they can find!
If the kids are still still energetic after all this, you can take them over to the park’s Inclusive Playground to burn off some of that energy. The Inclusive Playground has been made to accommodate children of all abilities. Here, you can find a wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round and a wheelchair swing.
7. Dine under the stars (Garden-style!)
Being one of the biggest parks in Singapore, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park is filled with a wide range of stylish dining options, including a McDonalds with an outdoor play area and several restaurants with lovely plant-filled patios. Canopy Garden Dining & Bar is a Western restaurant with an outdoor patio area that is smothered with flowering vines and plants. It’s especially magical at night – and your pets are welcome here.
The menu includes Lobster Pomodoro ($20) and Canopy Angus Cheese Burger ($19).
Canopy Garden Dining
Address: 1382 Ang Mo Kio Ave. 1, Bishan Park 2, 569931
Tel: 6556 1533
Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.); 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Sat. + Sun.)
Reserve on Chope here.
8. Exercise along Buangkok Park Connector
Popular amongst fitness enthusiasts, Buangkok Park Connector in Singpore stretches from Serangoon Park to Punggol Park. An uninterrupted 1.5 kilometre route, this Park Connector is perfect for jogging, cycling and roller-blading — amongst other ctivities. The view’s not exceptional, unless you are interested in the residential estates that flank the park connector, but at least you can cycle here without worrying that you’ll be knocked over by a car.
9. Enjoy the views of Punggol Park
Finally, at the end of this series of Park Connectors in Singapore, you arrive at Punggol Park. The first thing that strikes you is the park’s scenic five-hectare lake. The park itself is split into two distinct zones, the Southern Active Zone, which houses facilities for major activities. And the Passive Zone to the north of the lake, which is home to quiet wooded areas that are perfect for a walk. With large shady trees that provide a cool area to rest in and a plaza where children can run around, this park is a great recreational space for any family.
Off the Beaten Trail
Birdwatch along Kallang Park Connector
Take a detour from Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and you’ll find yourself at the rustic 1.2 kilometre stretch of Kallang Park Connector. The oldest Park Connector in Singapore, it has large and shady trees here that serve as hubs of biodiversity, supporting birds, insects and flora. Commonly spotted birds include the Collared Kingfisher and White-bellied Sea Eagle; so take out your binoculars and get ready to snap a picture of these majestic creatures.
By Sabrina Ng, July 2021
More on The Finder:
Park Connectors Singapore: Guide To North East River Loop
Park Connectors Singapore: Guide To Northern Seashore Explorer Loop
Park Connectors Singapore: Guide To Western Adventure Loop