1. Wandered the colonialbarracks in search of art
Situated just across Alexandra Road from Hort Park is Gillman Barracks, a contemporary arts cluster housing 16 international art galleries. A former British military camp from the 1930s, its sprawling site is larger than 8 football fields. Unlike galleries in the cities, Gillman Barracks lies amongst lush greenery which envelopes the area in a blanket of serenity. Not many seem to know about this place which is fairly deserted even on a weekend. The quietness and space you get upon entering Gillman Barracks wouldn’t fail to calm you and bring into the state best suited to appreciate art.
The galleries are scattered in 8 blocks around the barracks. From Alexandra Road, turn into Malan Road where you’ll find a couple of galleries before the entrance into the carpark. Afterwards, turn left into Lock Road or continue on Malan Road to the right where more galleries can be found stretching along the roads. See the map here.
The exhibitions cover a diverse range of art forms, from woodprints, videos, art installations to paintings, sculptures, photography and even graffiti. With so many choices around, I am sure anyone can find something they can appreciate.
There were hardly any visitors while I was there and most of the time it was just us and the people running the galleries. Some are friendly and eager to tell you more about the exhibitions while most would just leave you to you and your thoughts. If you would like to have a more involved experience, try signing up for their weekly tours from Fridays to Sundays. Tours are free and run for about 1.5 hours.
Just to hop from one gallery to another and browsing casually, a visit could already take up to 3 hours. Hide from the sun and recharge at any of these 3 restaurants.
9 Lock Road, Singapore 108937
Opening hours: generally 12pm to 7pm | Tue to Sat | 12pm to 6pm | Sun | closed on Mon – check individual gallery pages for exact opening hours
2. Strolled through the forest canopy
After the art feast, head back towards Alexandra Road where you’ll see the Alexandra Arch, a bridge distinguished by its leaf-like arch spanning across Alexandra Road. This bridge marks the entry to the Forest Walk of the Southern Ridges. There are two trails on the Forest Walk – the Elevated Walkway and the Earth trail. The Elevated Walkway is a zig zag metal bridge which makes for an easy stroll through the secondary forest of Telok Blangah. The bridge of 3m to 18m tall puts you at eye level with the forest canopy, perfect for catching a glimpse of the native birds, dragonflies and butterflies. If you’re looking for a more ruggard experience, the Earth trail with its steps and steep terrains might be right up your alley. Unfortunately, the Earth trail is currently closed for slope stabilisation works till further notice.
3. Enjoyed a 360-degree view of Singapore
From the Forest Walk, continue to the Hilltop Walk that runs through Telok Blangah Hill Park. Head uphill towards the Terrace Garden, the highest point in the park which gives you a 360 degree view of Singapore. Though often overshadowed by Mount Faber, its popularity among wedding couples pays testament to its beauty and grandeur.
If you’re lucky, you may even encounter a family of monkeys hanging out around the park. Or better still, chance upon an ice-cream man with his motorcycle to help fend off the great Singapore heat!
4. Dined in a mansion of the social elites
Nestled deep in Telok Blangah Hill Park is Alkaff Mansion, a colonial bungalow built by an Arab trader in 1918, when the area was a gathering spot for the flourishing trading communities. Back in those days, the two-storey Tudor-styled bungalow overlooking the 19-hectare park hosted high society parties and social functions for notable members of society.
After a period of being left in disrepair, the mansion is now refurbished to its former glory and home to an award winning Italian restaurant – Alkaff Mansion Ristorante. Grab a table on the second storey to enjoy the view or if the weather permits, have an al fresco meal out on the terrace. The restaurants serves brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and even features a full bar. See the menu here.
Perfect for any special occasion, the restaurant did not disappoint with its quality food and superb service, all without breaking your wallet. The Pan Seared Hokkaido Scallops with Cauliflower Puree & Avruga Caviar is highly recommended. (Random side note, everytime I see scallops, a mental image of Gordon Ramsay screaming “it is f***ing raw!!” never fails to pop into my head. Perhaps these scallops would make him go “it is f***ing awesome!!”)
And don’t forget to make a reservation! The place is popular for weddings and events and you will be disappointed if they can’t find you a seat at the last minute.
Alkaff Mansion Ristorante
10 Telok Blangah Green, Singapore 109178
Tel: 6510 3068
Lunch: 11.30am to 2.30pm | Mon to Fri
Afternoon tea: 11.30am to 3.30pm | Sat
Dinner: 6pm to 10.30pm | Mon to Sun
Brunch: 10am to 3.30pm | Weekends and public holidays
Date timer: ~6 hours
I was really surprised at the lack of visitors at Gillman Barracks even on a Sunday. Are Singaporeans really not interested in art at all? Or perhaps nobody knows of this place?
* Images designed by Freepik