When you step inside Jewel, the shiny new mall at Singapore’s Changi Airport, the first thing that draws you in is the mighty Rain Vortex. The indoor waterfall — the tallest in the world — drops 40 meters through a circular opening at the roof. Beneath it are the suspended tracks of the Skytrain, which passes by every three minutes, ferrying passengers between the airport’s terminals. The four-storey gardens of Forest Valley provide a lush background.
This fantastic landscape looks like a scene straight out of a sci-fi utopia, but it’s all part of what made the opening of Jewel in April of this year such big news for shoppers and travelers alike: More than just your ordinary mall, it’s a design marvel, one that seamlessly integrates lush greenery with airport facilities and spaces for shopping and dining.
The 10-storey complex stands on what was once an open-air parking lot at the center of Changi Airport. The idea for a multi-purpose complex first came about in 2010. Operator Changi Airport Group (CAG) saw the need to expand Terminal 1 in the face of increasing passenger traffic. Instead of just meeting operational requirements, however, CAG saw the opportunity to take its service offerings up a notch. They decided to build a destination that would enhance Changi’s reputation as stopover hub and, in the long run, keep Singapore as a top-of-mind destination among travelers.
To make the ambitious project a reality, CAG brought together a group of designers, engineers and experts. Safdie Architects, led by Moshe Safdie, who also designed Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands, helmed the collective. The legendary architect envisioned Jewel to echo Singapore’s reputation as “a city in a garden”. To execute that, he designed what is essentially a huge greenhouse at the heart of the airport.
Jewel’s distinctive doughnut-shaped façade comprises a continuous grid shell of steel beams supported by 14 tree-like columns and a ring beam at the roof. Covering the grid are 9,000 panels made of a special glass that lets plenty of sunlight in, reduces heat gain and provides sustainable cooling. All this helps create an environment that enables plants to thrive.
Jewel boasts one of the largest collections of indoor plants on the island — 2,000 trees and 100,000 shrubs. There are 120 plant species sourced from Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, China, Brazil and the United States — carefully selected not just for aesthetics, but their ability to thrive indoors.
Retail And Dining Haven
Aside from the exciting attractions, Jewel’s 280 shops and eateries are also a draw. “I purposely arrive at the airport up to three hours before I have to check in for my flight so I can explore Jewel and check out the shops,” says Roman Gatchalian III, who travels to Singapore from Manila often for work.
Jointly developed by CAG and CapitaLand, the 135,700m2 mega mall has a well-thought-out mix of tenants that “gives Singapore residents access to top global brands while providing international travelers the opportunity to bring home a piece of Singapore,” says Tan Mui Neo, Jewel Changi Airport Development’s head of leasing.
You’ll find familiar names here such as Nike, whose 1,000m2 duplex at level two is the brand’s largest store in Southeast Asia. Apple, which launched its first Singapore store on Orchard Road in 2017, recently opened its second outpost in the country at Jewel. It’s the tech giant’s first store located in an airport.
Jewel also houses a number of brands that are completely new to Singapore. They include Pokémon Center and bag brand Anello, both of which opened their first stores outside Japan here. Spanish women’s clothing retailer Oysho made its Singapore debut at Jewel as well.
To round out the lineup are homegrown brands, such as souvenir shop Supermama, hip ready-to-wear clothing brand In Good Company, lifestyle store Naiise and resort wear label Yacht 21. “Being in Jewel allows us to gain exposure among locals and tourists at the same time,” says Jaren Ho, owner of Yacht 21. “We love meeting new customers and potential business partners from around the globe, especially within Southeast Asia.”
All the exploring and shopping is bound to make you hungry, and you’re sure to find something appetizing at the 112 dining options at Jewel. “The range of dining options is one of the things I love most about Jewel,” says Lux Trongjittipanya, a visitor from Bangkok who’s in town on a business trip. Established local eateries such as Toast Box, Jumbo Seafood and Song Fa Bak Kut Teh have outlets here alongside international brands such as Pizza Express and Paris Baguette.
Shake Shack, Burger & Lobster from the UK, fast-casual seafood restaurant Pink Fish, Swiss artisanal chocolatier Läderach and Yun Nans (the largest casual dining restaurant chain from Yunnan, China) have all opened their first Singapore outlets at Jewel.
The combination of all these features has dramatically transformed Changi Airport into more than a transport hub — it’s become a popular destination in itself. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Transport, 24 million people had already visited Jewel before it was even two months old.
Chris Elemos, a Filipino expat who has been living in Singapore for 12 years, was among them. “I’ve been to Jewel many times, but I’m always excited to visit,” he says. “It feels like I’m taking a step into the future of shopping, recreation and relaxation.”
Check out these must-see attractions:
- HSBC Rain Vortex — At night, the majestic waterfall becomes the canvas for a light and sound show. Catch it hourly between 7.30pm and 12.30am.
- Shiseido Forest Valley — Have a relaxing stroll on the Forest Valley’s trails. See an interactive art installation along the west trail and walk past the cascading waterfalls on the east.
- Canopy Park — Explore the gardens of this 14,000m2 park located at the topmost level of Jewel. The restaurants and bars at this level are open for late-night eats.
- Canopy Bridge — This bridge 23m above ground features glass panel flooring at the center, providing a unique vantage point for the Rain Vortex.
- Manulife Sky Nets — Walk, bounce or just lie down on this play attraction that takes you up close to the roof of the mall.
- Discovery Slides — This interactive play structure also features a viewing deck at the rim for picture-perfect views.
- Hedge Maze and Mirror Maze — Fancy a challenge? Try to find your way through either of these mazes. Make sure you have enough time before your flight!
- Changi Experience Studio — Learn more about Changi Airport through interactive games, projections, immersive shows and exhibits.
Here are some pointers that will help you make the most out of your visit to Jewel:
- If you want to get some shut-eye before your redeye, or if you’re arriving in Singapore in the wee hours, check in at YotelAir on Level 4. Rooms can be booked by the hour (with a minimum stay of four hours).
- Free WiFi is available. Search for #WiFi@Jewel to connect.
- Entry to the Canopy Park is S$5, which includes access to the Discovery Slides, Topiary Walk, Petal Garden and Foggy Bowls. If you plan to try out the rest of the attractions there, it’s best to purchase a bundle package. Check online or at any of the electronic terminals on Level 5.
- Many of the stores and restaurants offer items exclusive to Jewel, so be sure to check with the staff.
- Want to bring a taste of Singapore back home? Head for the cluster of food souvenir stores on Level 1. Among the brands, there are bak kwa (Chinese pork jerky) seller Bee Cheng Hiang and bakery Bengawan Solo.
- If your phone is running low on juice, you can borrow a power bank for free from the concierge on Level 2.
- You don’t have to haul your stuff around when you explore Jewel. Store your luggage at the left baggage counter on Level 1. The rate for cabin-sized luggage up to 10kg is S$10, while the storage fee for check-in luggage and backpacks is S$15 per piece (for 24 hours).
This story first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Smile magazine.