Upper Thomson has it all. From nature parks, to hip cafes and relaxing spas – this is a neighbourhood worth exploring.
Situated on the fringes of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Upper Thomson is a hip neighbourhood that still maintains its old-school charm. The area is famous for boasting both great food and green spaces, with Macritchie Reservoir being a magnet for hikers and plenty of brunch options around to reward the early birds.
With the Thomson-East Coast Line set to make it more accessible than ever, the best days of the neighbourhood are ahead of it. So whether it’s your first time exploring, or you’re returning to old favourites, with our guide of things to do and where to eat, drink and shop, you will be navigating Upper Thomson like a pro before you know it.
Please note there will be further changes to the Covid-19 restrictions post the Phase 2 Heightened Alert on 13 June 2021. It goes without saying, the safety of everyone remains a top priority.
Things to do in Upper Thomson
1. Explore Windsor Nature Park
Many will recognise Windsor Nature Park as the fastest route into the MacRitchie Treetop Walk, but locals know it is home to so much more. Located off Venus Drive, the 75-hectare park boasts three trails for every mood. The 350-metre Hanguana trail is an educational trek perfect for a short, easy walk. Challenge yourself to spot the pink-red fruits of the Hanguana rubinea, a critically endangered plant found near streams. The more adventurous can test themselves in the swampy habitat of the Squirrel Trail. Our favourite has to be the elevated Drongo Trail, which allows one to experience the forest at sub-canopy level, making for easy birdwatching.
Windsor Nature Park
Address: 30 Venus Dr., 573858
Opening hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (daily)
2. Get wild at Thomson Nature Park
While MacRitchie Reservoir remains the undisputed jewel of the Upper Thomson crown, Thomson Nature Park is a gem waiting to be discovered. At the site of a former Hainan village, the park boasts a rich cultural heritage with beautifully preserved ruins. Five trails totaling 3.8 kilometers takes you around the former village and back in time to experience the kampung way of life. The 50-hectare site is now home to a rich wildlife ecosystem, so be on the lookout for wild animals such as langurs, bulbuls or even the rare pangolin.
Thomson Nature Park
Address: Off Old Upper Thomson Road
Opening hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (daily)
3. Visit Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple
If you love exploring a place through history and architecture, this is the site for you. Otherwise known as Bright Hill Temple, this Buddhist monastery dates back to the 1920s. It is the largest Buddhist monastery in Singapore! Look around this beautiful and expansive site along your neighbourhood walks.
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple
Address: 88 Bright Hill Rd., 574117
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (daily)
4. Check out Bukit Brown Cemetery
Today defunct, Bukit Brown was first established as a public burial ground for the Chinese in 1922. Bukit Brown was open to all, from pioneer businessmen and ordinary people. Take advantage of Wayfinder @ Bukit Brown, a free, self-guided walk launched with support from the National Heritage Board. Appreciate the ornately designed resting places that reveal the beliefs of the people buried there, and witness how nature has since reclaimed Bukit Brown for itself. Learn how the cemetery has lived on today, continuing to hold significance for the living who are working to preserve our collective memory of the past.
Bukit Brown Cemetery
Address: 36C Lor Halwa, 298637
Opening hours: Open 24 hours (daily)
5. Chillax at Ancient Dynasty Massage & Spa
Upper Thomson is home to various spas including Ancient Dynasty Massage & Spa, which has a range of different massages – from Deep Tissue Oil Massage ($40) to Shiatsu Massage ($40). In addition, if offers cupping and scraping, reflexology, body scrubs, aromatherapy, ear candling and even a Power Nap Service (from $25 for 30 minutes on up to $80 for 120 minutes). Check the site for regular promotions.
Ancient Dynasty Massage & Spa
Address: No.5 Thong Soon Ave, 787433
Tel: 6458 4948
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. (Sun. to Thurs.); 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. (Fri. to Sat.)
6. Express your arty side at Splat Paint House
Put your preconceived notions of art jamming aside – Splat Paint House is more Jackson Pollock than Bob Ross. Singapore’s only dedicated splatter paint studio, Splat embraces expression and play, in all its chaotic glory. On selected Friday and Saturday evenings, Splat holds yet another surprise with glow-in-the-dark UV paint parties. Paint with brushes, syringes, water guns, squirt bottles or your hands – the only rule seems to be that there are no rules at all. So grab a friend or the fam and unleash your creativity at Splat. Coveralls, shoe covers, safety glasses and gloves all included.
Where to eat in Upper Thomson
At WellSmoocht, you will be able to find fantastic vegetarian and vegan options that reward your tastebuds for eating clean. Popular hits include the Suka Suka Jack Bowl ($13.50), a delicious rice bowl with pulled jackfruit, tofu pillows and house-made sour cream. Save some space for dessert, though, as WellSmoocht’s cakes are simply irresistible. We enjoy the Tira-Miso Good ($12.5), a vanilla sponge cake layered with aromatic coffee ice cream, or the It’s Not Se-Same Mochi ($10.5) if you are craving something lighter. You’ll be spoilt for choice at WellSmoocht – and the passionate team is ever ready to point your nose in the right direction.
Address: 01-03 Sin Ming Centre, 8 Sin Ming Rd., 575628
Tel: 6456 6431
Opening hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (daily)
2. One Man Coffee
One Man Coffee specialises in the art of making espresso. This hip cafe also has a range of scrumptious pastries and an all-day brunch menu to pair with your perfect cup of joe. Order the classic Smashed Avocado on Sourdough ($14) or spice it up with Tom Yum Prawn Pasta ($18) alongside your your espresso ($3). Sounds like the perfect start to the morning, right?
One Man Coffee
Address: 215R Upper Thomson Rd., 574349
Tel: 9658 1658
Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (daily)
3. Habitat Coffee
You’ve probably heard of this one, and for obvious reasons. This well-loved cafe brings together coffee blends from different regions for all coffee lovers to try. With hearty breakfast favourites like Big Ben ($17), scrambled eggs with maple glazed bacon and sausage on toast, or going for something sweeter like Mama’s Banana Cake ($15), as well as delicious fusion pastas like the Chilli Crab Linguine ($17), it’s no wonder Habitat Coffee has stayed on top.
Address: 233 Upper Thomson Rd., Thomson Ridge, 574355
Tel: 8750 5258
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Tues. to Sun.)
4. E-Sarn Thai Cuisine
While there is no shortage of Thai food amongst Upper Thomson restaurants, E-Sarn stands out the most. Here, you’ll find authentic, homestyle northeastern Thai dishes cooked that are truly comfort food. Popular dishes include Papaya Salad ($10.50) and Minced Meat Salad Larb ($12.50).
E-Sarn Thai Cuisine
Address: 9 Thomson Ridge, 574637
Tel: 6554 4174
Opening hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (daily)
5. Woodlands Sourdough
Woodlands Sourdough is the brainchild of local couple Nurhasanah “Nur” Johari and Chalith Kariyawasam. First opened in Bukit Timah, the pair decided to close that bakery in 2018, taking the opportunity to travel around the world and master the art of the dough. Since late 2019, their Woodlands Sourdough has been an Upper Thomson mainstay, serving a rotating menu that naturally highlights the famous fermented sourdough. While most will have a delicious loaf to go, treat yourself to a sweeter option if it is available – the cinnamon bun is not to be missed! Do note that Woodlands Sourdough closes when it sells out, so be sure to go early to avoid disappointment or a long wait.
Address: 01-03 Longhaus, 183 Upper Thomson Rd., 574332
Opening hours: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Thu. to Sun.)
6. Upper Thomson prata joints
Upper Thomson is home to not one, not two, but three of the best prata spots in Singapore. For the uninitiated, roti prata is an Indian-style flatbread, best enjoyed with curry and typically eaten for breakfast or a late night snack. Each of Upper Thomson’s prata joints has its own claim to fame. The Roti Prata House is well known for its crispy prata, with a large sign board that proclaims “The Best Crispy Prata” for all to see. On the other hand, Casuarina Curry is known for its decadent curries, including the wonderful mutton curry. Finally, Springleaf Prata Place keeps it simple with a mean egg prata. With all three spots on Upper Thomson road, you can make an evening excursion out of it, prata-hopping to find the best joint in town.
The Roti Prata House
Address: 246 Upper Thomson Rd., 574370
Opening hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. (daily)
Casuarina Curry (Thomson)
Address: 136-138 Casuarina Rd., 579526
Tel: 6455 9093
Opening hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (daily)
Springleaf Prata Place
Address: 1 Thong Soon Avenue, 787431
Tel: 6459 5670
Opening hours: 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. (daily), closed every first Mon. of the month
If there is one thing that seems to unite Singaporeans, it is affordable yet fantastic Japanese food. Tucked away in sleepy Thomson Plaza, Omoté promises some of the best bang-for-the-buck Bara Chirashi Bowls around. With a menu (and decor) that changes every six months to keep the experience fresh, you can be sure to find a new favourite dish every time you visit. Our tip? You simply can’t go wrong with the upsized Chirashi Bowl or the Umami Soy Chirashi (both under $20) that will leave you feeling indulgent or less.
Address: 03-24A Thomson Plaza, 301 Upper Thomson Rd., 574408
Tel: 9450 1020
Opening hours: 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Mon.); 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:45 p.m. to 9 p.m (Wed. to Sun.)
PocoLoco’s claim to fame? Having been on was one of the first Italian restaurants to open in the heartlands of Singapore, with its first outlet in Ang Mo Kio. Today, its outlets in Upper Thomson and Royal Square@Novena still offer fresh pasta at an affordable price tag. Enjoy classics like Fettuccine Carbonara ($12.90) or try an Italian-Japanese fusion dish like the Mentaiko Pasta ($14.9), featuring spicy cod roe in a cream sauce. And don’t forget about the desserts, be it Panna Cotta ($5.90) or Tiramisu ($7.90)!
Address: 215f Upper Thomson Rd., 574349
Tel: 8436 3363
Opening hours: 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.); 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Sat. to Sun.)
Got a sweet tooth? Pop by popular homegrown brand Udders for dessert or an afternoon pick-me-up. Taste unique flavours such as Singapore Chendol, Hojicha, Durian, Coconu, and more. Plus, you can enjoy a delicious scoop with waffles. Yes, please!
Address: 246D Upper Thomson Rd., 574370
Tel: 6452 0803
Opening hours: 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.); 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Sat. to Sun.)
10. Chocolat N’ Spice
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Trust us, Chocolat N’ Spice is Upper Thomson’s best kept secret. Located at the Shunu Mart hawker center, Chocolat N’ Spice is a humble outfit that bakes sweet satisfying muffins. Fast, easy on the wallet and delicious, we recommend the signature Banana Walnut ($1.30 each) or Double Chocolate ($1.50 each) muffin. Slightly crunchy on the outside with a yummy warm center, Chocolate Chip ($1.30 each) is the simple muffin, perfected.
Chocolat N’ Spice
Address: 02-12 320 Shunfu Mart, Shunfu Rd., 570320
Opening hours: 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Tue. to Sun.)
Where to shop at Upper Thomson
1. Crafted Identity
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Crafted Identity is a great place to go for nature-inspired furnishings and accessories. It’s got everything you need to be one step closer to that beachy, Bali home decor vibe. Think exotic plants, crystals, seashells, basket wares, woodcraft and more. And rest assured, these products are handcrafted with the greatest care.
Address: 301 Upper Thomson Rd., #01-K15, Thomson Plaza, 574408
Tel: 9652 0313
Opening hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon. to Sun.)
2. The Green Party
Eco-decor store The Green Party brings environmental living into your home environment. Looking for charming kitchenware? Decorative cushions? This store has all that and more. We especially love the extremely cute and comfortable plushies.
The Green Party
Address: 301 Upper Thomson Rd., #03-25, Thomson Plaza, 574408
Opening hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Mon. to Sun.)
3. Secret Chamber
This one is for the young and young at heart. Secret Chamber in Thomson Plaza is an independent LEGO specialty store with an extensive selection of kits and other products. The display makes for an impressive sight with classic favourites such as Star Wars sets and Architecture models. For aficionados, Secret Chamber is one of the few places where older and rare kits can be found. And on the odd occasion that Secret Chamber does not stock what you are looking for, the team is also happy to place an order for you.
Address: 01-18 Thomson Plaza, 301 Upper Thomson Rd., 574408
Tel: 6552 4338
Opening hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (daily)
4. The Burrow
For animal lovers, The Burrow is a specialty pet shop that aims to promote the standards of rodent care in Singapore. At Singapore’s first and only hamster-centric pet store, you won’t find hamsters trapped in tiny cages. Rather, each hamster has a luxurious enclosure almost a meter long, with ample bedding and plenty of boredom breakers to keep them entertained. If you’re not already a hamster lover, The Burrow is sure to make you fall in love, and you may even find yourself leaving with one, responsibly, of course!
Address: 21 Jasmine Rd., 576587
Opening hours: 12:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (daily)
5. Gnome & Bow
At Gnome & Bow, leather goods meet the fantasy world of storytelling, with collections such as the Hitchhiker Space Capsule Collection inspired by Douglas Adams’ iconic franchise. Smartly crafted accessories for the discerning gentleman and lady line the shelves of Gnome’s flagship store at Tagore Lane. Each creation is united by a sense of wonder and stylish, functional sensibilities. Shopping here in person rather than online allows you to experience it for yourself.
Gnome & Bow
Address: 02-05 421 Tagore 8, Tagore Industrial Ave., 787085
Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Mon. to Fri.), 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Sat. to Sun.)
By Thomas Soh Zhengjie and Isabel Wibowo / Images courtesy of the brands featured.
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