West Side Story: The Ultimate Guide to West Singapore

Everything You Need to Know about in West Singapore

Whether you’re a business traveller or a digital nomad, Singapore’s West Coast and its inland neighbourhoods won’t come as the first choice. You’d think of staying in residential towns in and around Singapore’s Central Region, such as Orchard Road and Sentosa Island. But the West Region of Singapore has more than its fair share of unexpected offerings you don’t want to miss.

A Brief History of West & Southwest Singapore

The first thing you might think of is the bustling district of Jurong East, Singapore’s second Central Business District. But the West Region of Singapore is expansive—it’s the largest region in Singapore in terms of land area.

Jurong, now the heart of Western Singapore, first gained significance in 1595, on maritime documentation of oriental trading routes. The journal, authored by a Dutch writer, mentions a location called “Selat Sembilan” that must be crossed to the east after reaching the southernmost point of the Strait of Malacca. That suggests that the straits near Jurong played a significant role in pre-modern trade routes; there were already small settlements along the coast of Jurong and its nearby islands.

The first settlers in the region are the Orang Laut, who were sea and river-based nomads. But as Singapore became colonised in the early 1800s, Chinese and Malay migrants began to settle there. During the earlier period of British rule, plantations large and small percolated the area, which produced and harvested crops such as pineapple, pepper, and nutmeg, with gambier dominating the plantations.

Postcolonial Boom

But Jurong West saw some fascinating developments: brick manufacturing and earthenware production. The soil there could yield plenty of terracotta and clay. The earliest brick factories opened in 1920 and supplied construction materials to constructions across Singapore, and even Malaya. 

The beginnings of its industrial ambitions began in the 1950s, when manufacturing plants sprung up to produce goods like kaya, curry, and even peanut butter. But postwar Singapore faced skyrocketing unemployment rates. An estimated 200,000 were unemployed. 

The government then was pressured to keep Singapore economically strong. With an economic agenda, the People’s Action Party won Singapore’s first general election. They set about industrialising the nation, planning and building a host of heavy industries in shipbuilding, steelworks, and chemical products. In May 1965, Jurong Port opened, cementing the region’s position as Singapore’s industrial heart.

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Singapore’s West Today: Modern Ambitions

There are quite a few planning areas under the West Region, from Tuas and Pioneer to its far west, Bukit Batok and Bukit Panjang towards the north. Meanwhile, Clementi covers its eastern border and West Coast towards the south.

Like most of Singapore, the area has everything you need. You can find amenities like wet markets, food centres, sports facilities, places of worship, schools, and libraries in North West and South West Singapore. It’s home to quite a few heartland malls as well.

Public housing estates now sprout across the region. But plenty of private residential developments springing up by the 2000s. Today, you can find Singapore condo rentals and apartment rentals throughout the area. The latest development includes J Gateway, Hillion Residences, Twin Vew, Midwood, and Dairy Farm Residences. You can find plenty of Singapore serviced apartments too.

Many of the industrial estates for manufacturing have been relegated further west, while most of Singapore’s oil, chemical, and petrochemical plants have moved to Jurong Island. But the next phase of economic development in the West Region is the Jurong Lake District, the site of Singapore’s next Central Business District.

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Education Institutions in West Singapore

With that, there are plenty of educational facilities in Jurong East and Jurong West, ranging from the elementary to the tertiary level. Prominent secondary institutions include River Valley High School, as well as Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic. There are also junior colleges, namely ITE College West, Jurong Junior College, and Pioneer Junior College.

The West Region is also home to Singapore’s legacy tertiary institutions: Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore. But there are newer universities as well, like the Singapore University of Social Sciences and the Singapore Institute of Management.

For specialised schools, you can look at Grace Orchard School (a special needs school), APSN Delta Senior School, Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre, and the NUS High School of Math and Science.

What to do in the West of Singapore?

Now, we’re being a bit more expansive on our take. Because most Singaporeans would consider anywhere west of the city centre to be considered West Singapore. Such is the malleability of the borders in our head. So, we’re also going to take a wider look at the West Region and look at the neighbourhoods of Bukit Merah, Kent Ridge and Bukit Timah.

Nature in West Singapore

Nature lovers will adore West Singapore. There are plenty of parks and nature reserves all across the region. But the West Region boasts a stunning variety of biomes. Not to mention, parks in West Singapore can all lead to parks closer to the city centre through a comprehensive system of paths and park connectors. You can even cycle from the Jurong Lake Gardens all the way to Mount Faber Park or Kent Ridge Park along the Southern Ridges.

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Jurong Lake Gardens

Jurong Lake Gardens is the third and newest of Singapore’s national gardens. It’s an amalgamation of several gardens from the past. Newly opened in April 2019, the Jurong Lake Gardens comprises Lakeside Gardens, the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, as well as the Garden Promenade.

It covers over 90 hectares, thriving with flora and fauna. There are plenty of green spaces for everyone in the family: Neram Streams with its ecosystem of aquatic plants and dragonflies in its naturalised streams; Forest Ramble with its 13 child-friendly installations; Clusia Cove with its low sandy dunes and shallow water, just like a coastal shore for your kids to romp about.

Looking to workout instead? Head to the ActiveSG Park @ Jurong Lake Gardens. It has a swimming pool, gym facilities, and plenty of workout classes to boot.

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Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve is the closest you can get to searching for untouched wildlife in Singapore. It was first discovered in 1986, as a group of birdwatchers from the Malayan Nature Society ventured into the area. By 1993, it was converted into a nature park.

Today, the sprawling 87-hectare ecological site hosts a vibrant ecology. Migratory birds from as far as Siberia would rest here before they continue on their way to warmer climates in Australia. Meanwhile, mudskippers, crabs, and mud lobsters burrow themselves in the wetlands. 

To fully immerse yourself in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, join the free guided tours organised by the National Parks Board. The guided tours can be in English, Mandarin, or Japanese. Do register before you get on the tour.

West Coast Park

Just in case you need some seaside action. The West Coast Park covers 50 hectares of parkland that runs parallel to the West Coast Highway. Built to be the ‘Play Centre in the West’, it was first conceived as a mini-version of the East Coast Park in the mid-1970s.

Now, the park boasts a freshwater lake, an observation tower shaped like a lighthouse, and a maritime walk. For a spot of kite flying, head to the Grand Lawn, a 3-hectare open space in the park.

Historical Attractions

From ancient times to the present day, there’s no shortage of ways you can reconnect with the region’s rich and varied history.  

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Yes, there is a natural history museum in Singapore. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) is Singapore’s first and only natural history museum, built with the help of $56 million worth of philanthropic gifts.

Here, you can examine the breadth and depth of Singapore’s biodiversity through the ages. The museum has accumulated over 2,000 natural history specimens. Take in the sheer size of the museum’s three diplodocid sauropod fossils, or the 10.6-metre-long female sperm whale.

Former Ford Factory

Yes, there is a natural history museum in Singapore. Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) is Singapore’s first and only natural history museum, built with the help of $56 million worth of philanthropic gifts.

Here, you can examine the breadth and depth of Singapore’s biodiversity through the ages. The museum has accumulated over 2,000 natural history specimens. Take in the sheer size of the museum’s three diplodocid sauropod fossils, or the 10.6-metre-long female sperm whale.

Thow Kwang Potter

By now, Thow Kwang Pottery stands to be an institution that stood the test of time. It was first established in the 1940s. Tan Kim Seh bought it in the 1960s, and since then, the Tan family has maintained the continuity of the tradition of wood-fired pottery produced; they have the last remaining dragon kilns in operation.

Thow Kwang Pottery has since shifted from commercial mass production to a more artisanal approach. The collective now nurtures new potters through its workshops, programmes, and even practises pottery as rehabilitation therapy for the elderly.

Where to Stay in West Singapore

Experience the vibrant energy of West Singapore, where endless possibilities for accommodation await both locals and travellers. From luxurious Singapore condo rentals to affordable hotel rooms, there are plenty of places to stay in West Singapore that cater to different lifestyles and preferences. Some popular areas to stay in West Singapore include Jurong, Bukit Batok, and Bukit Panjang. These western neighbourhoods in Singapore boast easy access to shopping malls, dining options, and entertainment hubs, as well as scenic parks and nature reserves. Whether you are a business traveller or a digital nomad, West Singapore has plenty of accommodation options that will suit your needs.

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J Gateway embodies the pinnacle of modern life in the West. The stunning development is just 5 minutes away from Jurong East MRT Interchange (NSL1 / EWL24), as well as the bustling commercial district surrounding the station. Residents can indulge in a range of amenities that cater to their every need, including a 50-meter lap pool, a children’s playground, a fitness corner, and a tennis court.

Escape into your own sanctuary in the heart of Bukit Timah. The Asana is surrounded by lush greenery and nature reserves. It’s just an 8-minute walk to either Tan Kah Kee (DT8) or Botanic Gardens MRT (CC19). The Asana exudes quiet elegance across its 48 exclusive units, with its quality finishes and state-of-the-art appliances. It also boasts world-class facilities, including a swimming pool, a gym, and a BBQ area.

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An exquisite space to call your own. With three 5-star awards under its belt, Principal Gardens merges urban living with peace of mind. The development also boasts an exquisitely designed garden, curated by award-winning landscape architects, Sitetectonix, providing residents with a peaceful and serene environment to relax and unwind. Comprising 663 residential units spread across four 24-storey towers, it has a wide range of condo facilities, with 13 (13!) swimming pools, a tennis court, a reading room, sky gardens, and even a wine cellar.

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Step into the beating heart of Bukit Panjang. Hillion Residences integrates modern contemporary living with a vibrant lifestyle mall and bustling transport hub. Hillion is the first mixed-use development in West Singapore to integrate residential living with a retail mall and transport hub that includes an MRT station, LRT station, and bus interchange.

As for its residences, it takes inspiration from the namesake of its neighbourhood – Long Hill. The development is filled with lush greenery and open spaces, perfect for getting together. Enjoy the company of loved ones by hosting a relaxed barbecue gathering or indulging in exquisite culinary experiences at the gourmet dining options available. You can also enjoy recreational facilities, including a tennis court, gymnasium, fitness stations, and outdoor pools, which can contribute to maintaining fitness and health.

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Hillside views and modern conveniences? Who says you can’t have it all? Get the best of both worlds at Hillside Residences. Each unit is designed with functionality and style in mind, complete with high-quality finishes and modern appliances. Its extensive range of facilities caters to the needs of urban life, including a swimming pool, a fitness corner, and a rooftop garden. Plus, it’s just minutes away from the Bukit Panjang Transport Hub and the adjoining Hillion Mall.