Review: The Jewel Changi Airport

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As a kid I used to love going to malls. I’m not sure why, exactly, because I’ve never been into shopping. Over the years my desire to visit malls changed, and at this point I think the only time I visit malls is when I’m in parts of the Middle East/Asia, because that’s just what people do.

Well, the Jewel Changi Airport opened earlier this year, and suffice to say that it piqued my interest. I think at this point just about everyone has seen pictures of the Jewel, and before visiting I asked myself if this was even real, because it looks so futuristic. Well, even after visiting I have the same question. The centerpiece of this has to be one of the most visually stunning things I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Jewel Changi rain vortex

First some basic facts — the Jewel cost about 1.7 billion SGD to build (~1.25 billion USD), it attracts about 300,000 visitors per day, it’s 10 stories (five above ground and five below ground), and it has amenities like a canopy park, indoor garden, and rain vortex.

The whole concept behind the Jewel seems counterintuitive. While the Jewel is intended for those passing through the airport, it’s equally intended as a place for locals to visits. Virtually every other city/airport in the world does everything in their power to minimize traffic around the airport, given the amount of congestion.

But in this case a majority of the visitors are coming to the airport premises just to visit the Jewel. Fortunately Singapore has excellent public transportation and traffic management, so it’s not a huge issue. Don’t get any ideas, LaGuardia!

The Jewel has more than 280 stores and restaurants, and in areas it looks just like a typical very high end and modern shopping mall…


Jewel Changi shops


Jewel Changi shops

The mall has all kinds of international brands, like Apple, Shake Shack, and Starbucks Reserve.


Jewel Changi shops


Jewel Changi Apple store


Jewel Changi Starbucks Reserve


Jewel Changi Starbucks Reserve drink

The great dining options here really are endless, as you also have options like Tim Ho Wan and Din Tai Fung. Towards the lower floors is a food court, an area that’s supposed to replicate a hawker stand, and a bunch of other dining options.


Jewel Changi food court


Jewel Changi dining


Jewel Changi dining

The top floor has even more dining, which almost feels like dining outside, given the amount of natural light and trees.


Jewel Changi dining


Jewel Changi Singapore

Of course what really sets this “mall” apart isn’t the shopping as such, but rather what’s in the center of it. Is this unreal-looking, or what?


Jewel Changi water vortex


Jewel Changi water vortex


Jewel Changi water vortex

In addition to just admiring the rain vortex, there are endless paths you can roam around that make you feel like you’re in a forest.


Jewel Changi forest


Jewel Changi forest

Most of these areas are free and open to the public, though there are a few things you need to buy tickets for, including the canopy bridge, hedge maze, and sky nets.

I decided to buy a ticket for the canopy bridge (which cost 8 SGD, or ~6 USD), which is essentially a bridge on the fifth floor that’s supposed to give you a unique vantage point. Below is a view of the bridge.


Jewel Changi canopy bridge

The bridge is made of glass and is 23 meters above the ground.


Jewel Changi canopy bridge

Truth be told I thought it was a waste of money, because it didn’t actually give much of a view. That’s because it’s not that far from the train system, so your view is somewhat obstructed by that.


Jewel Changi canopy bridge view

I suppose the novelty here is that the bridge is glass, but other than that you can get better views from other parts of the Jewel, in my opinion.

Bottom Line

This is by far the most impressive mall I’ve been to in my life. The concept of building a mall largely for locals that’s at an airport is fascinating to me, but Singapore really pulled it off.

Apparently the Jewel has been wildly popular, and they exceeded their visitor targeted for the first year in less than six months.

The mall as such is impressive, but what really sets this apart is the design of the center area, with the waterfall, forest, etc.

This is a great place to spend some time if you have a long layover at Changi.

That being said, I do think to some extent this is a “been there, done that” bucket list item. In other words, if Singapore were my destination in the future, I might just visit once again on arrival or departure if there was a restaurant I really wanted to eat at, but that’s probably about it.

If you’ve visited the Jewel, what was your experience like? What do you make of the concept of a shopping mall like this at an airport?

Comments
  1. “The centerpiece of this has to be one of the most visually stunning things I’ve ever seen anywhere.” It is pretty cool (probably the coolest thing to in an airport) but for somebody who travels as much as you do around the world I find this statement a bit sad. I can think of many more things more stunning that I have seen around the world than this. Maybe you need to leave the airports and hotels more!

  2. bizarre. looks rather empty in many of those photos. wonder how long some of those f&b tenants will be able to stay open. Airport authority must be practically giving the rent away to attract and retain some of those prestigious brands. that apple store has got to be bigger than most of their downtown flagship stores (where there is actually demand). if they built jewel post-security, it would surely have a large, captive audience. Building all of those amenities on the airport grounds, but before security seems like a tough play. unless your layover is 5+ hours, doesn’t seem like it would make sense to clear immigration, hang out there, and then re-clear security to get back airside. and once novelty wears off, will locals really travel to the airport to get a snack or go shopping? surely there are some nice enough malls located in the city itself?

  3. The airport is a popular weekend destination for locals. Free aircon and endless food options (great food court in the basement at T3). Whilst yes their initial visitor numbers will be high, they will continue to have a lot of locals visit. I worked close by and would sometimes go to T3 just for lunch. It is a great option if you live East Coast.

  4. @henry everything at singapore is pre-security as each gate (or cluster of 3-4 gates) has their own security, so post-security at changi is just seating.

  5. Have to agree with @Bill here, Ben… You’ve seen way too much for a mall, no matter how stunning, to be the most visually appealing thing you’ve seen.

    Touristy things usually are incredibly appealing; that’s why they are so touristy… For me, off the top of my head, Zhangjiajie National Park is the most visually stunning thing I’ve seen.

  6. It’s very beautiful in the evening, when the free light and water shows take place. Witnessed two shows in a row, and the program was completely different – so that’s something to look out for.
    Tim Ho Wan is one of my favorite spots in Asia, delicious and very cheap Michelin-quality meal. Don’t expect much service, just expect delicious food, and you’ll be fine.
    Also, there are promotions for travellers in the Jewel sometimes. I managed to stumble upon a tapas bar that was pouring free alcohol to anyone holding a boarding pass for this or the following day (no order required and no tip expected). That was unexpected, and the cava I had was great.

  7. People judging this complex fail to realize how shopping malls are part of the daily life in pretty much every asian city.
    They also fail to understand that Singapore is not a big country and that way before the Jewel, Changi Airport was a place that singaporeans would spend part of their weekends.

  8. Just to clarify re locals visiting the place. Changi Business Park (CBP) is close by. Lots of MNCs have large offices there. There is a free lunch time shuttle that goes from CBP to the airport. It leaves from my old office. Everyday it was full. Throw in the fact that parking is really cheap (most I ever paid was SGD $2.50) – you get lots of people both on weekends and business people during the week.

  9. @George.

    Exactly right! Some lazy people here are so quick to be judgemental without knowing the backstory. To pick out just one reason – among several – there is the climate. There is no cool, pleasant winter change. It’s either hot or hotter. That means it’s exceedingly humid and often downright unpleasant to be in the open air during the day. That’s reason enough to retreat to an aircon mall. Unless you live in the tropics, this is something you can never understand. I won’t even start on the social reasons.

  10. I concur with @John and @George. Malls are ubiquitous in a city like Singapore. I was told that in Singapore, people roughly categorize malls into “local/neighborhood” malls and “destination” malls. The local malls are more utilitarian and used for day-to-day business, whereas the “destination” malls (ie. Marina Bay Sands, Orchard Road malls, Jewel, Suntec/Marina Square etc.) tend to be bigger, flashier and are where families and young people will go to on the weekends to hang out, dine, watch a movie, window shop.

    Climate is one of the reasons, but the fact that Singapore is such a small market means that online shopping is also not nearly as developed as it is in the U.S.. Day-of Amazon deliveries just don’t exist in Singapore. Also, housing tends to be much more constrained than in the U.S., so kids and families want to leave their houses and get out more.

    One other thing to point out. Immigration at Changi is the most efficient in the world, there are rarely long lines if any lines at all (from my experience), so yes, being able to duck out of the sterile international zone during an extended layover, cross immigration and come back is much more do-able than in any other airport.

  11. I can’t believe this is all pre-security. That is not how a post 9/11 airport should work.

    Even as a frequent traveller I dislike the Centurion Lounge at LGA precisely for the fact that I have to contend with how long the security line is as I am supposed to be relaxing there. Putting this Jewel after security would reduce everyone’s stress levels immensely, especially for less-frequent travellers.

  12. Maybe this Airport Mall concept works out well for this place I can’t even begin to imagine the nightmare of increased traffic congestion and parking at the major US airports I transit on a regular basis, especially my home airport Lindbergh Field in San Diego. Agree that the rain vortex is stunning.

  13. @Sam and others as was mentioned all of Singapore airport is “pre security” You have to do security at each gate.

  14. @George, John, Justin – I fully realize it is part of the culture and have travelled all over Asia. I also don’t mean to diminish the Jewel because it is amazing and beautiful (especially when you compare it to a US mall). With that said, at the end of the day, it is a mall. Spare me the climate/aircon argument – every building in Singapore, including the metro, is air-conditioned. You know what’s nicer than air conditioning? Being outside and swimming – go to the beach at Sentosa if you want. My point is, there are many beautiful places, even in Singapore where it’s mostly just the city, that aren’t a mall. The argument I will agree with is the social aspect. The original argument was it’s the “most visually stunning thing I’ve ever seen” and I stand by that at the end of the day, it’s a mall, regardless of social aspect.

  15. @Peter: I’ve lived in Singapore, my partner is Singaporean. Both her immediate family and grandparents don’t have air conditioning. HDB void decks are not air conditioned. And trust me, Singaporeans prefer to be indoors with air conditioning than outdoors swimming. Sentosa beaches are a hassle to get to and aren’t that popular. East Coast beaches there aren’t used much for swimming at all.

    I’m not trying to argue the beauty of Jewel, but I am trying to argue why the concept exists in Singapore as others here seem to be baffled by it having little understanding of Singapore culture or urban development.

  16. @Justin, all valid points but you are completely changing the topic/argument. The first comment argued that a shopping mall should not be the most visually appealing thing Lucky has seen, and I agreed with that. No one is arguing the social construct of malls in Asia/Singapore. The point is that at the end of the day, no matter how beautiful the Jewel and its waterfall is, it is a shopping mall filled with Western stores and restaurants, and should not be compared to natural or historic, visually stunning things around the world.

  17. First of all, I was told the main Jewel mall part is landside and out of the sterile area, which makes it a difficult prospect on a short layover.

    Having said that, you can pass through the main hall and see the forest and the vortex on the train between Terminals 2 and 3. Granted, it’s quick, but for me it was enough to appreciate the beautiful design without having to go to the actual mall.

  18. “The great dining options here really are endless, as you also have options like Tim Ho Wan and Din Tai Fung.”

    Little know fact… Tim Ho Wan is the distant cousin of Tim Horton (of donut fame).

  19. Undoubtly, it is a wonderfull place, which it was allready before the Jewel appears.
    To reply to some people who says that Asians/Singaporeans look for malls to spend some time and made a day of it, correct. But that happens in many points of the world, even in Europe (more in the south).
    The one I will never forget and be sure, it’s not my vision I know i.e. in São Paulo they call Malls their “Beaches.”
    “Where do you go Sunday? To the beach. which one?”… Believe me, your choice is very wide!

  20. Ben, what time of the day we’re you there? I was there in the summer and it was so crowded I could barely move. The waterfall is impressive but the absolute pack of people made it difficult to enjoy my visit.

  21. How come you didn’t try out the sky nets? Those seemed to be the most quirky element of the Jewel when I first read about them.

  22. @Zach – don’t think I ever stayed there longer than an hour – even when picking people up – worked close by so would wait for the plane to land and then head there. It is SGD 0.04 / min at T2 & T3 so still incredibly cheap in comparison to other airports. Most times if was going from work I either took the MRT or a taxi.

  23. @Peter

    You poo poo-ed humid climate as a reason to go indoors. And yet, by listing all those many, many things/places of Singapore which are air-conditioned, you’ve (inadvertently) affirmed humid climate IS a valid factor! Otherwise, why the ubiquity of A/C?

    Methinks you shot yourself in the foot? What matters is what Singaporeans like, and want to do with their time (going to socialize, cool down and shop in malls); not what you think is best for them (i.e. going to some beach, being ‘outside’ etc). I’ve never told a foreigner how to live their life in their own country. I’m not going to start now.

  24. Pre-passport control and pre-security WORKS WELL in a developed country like Singapore because they HANDLE STAFFING WELL: it’s not like some third-world country like the USA where there’s always a line and you can never predict whether it will be 10 or 45 minutes long.

    And a mall co-located with the main airport works well in a developed city where planning is centralized and includes extensive public transportation and a closed number of cars. It would fail in the unregulated free-for-all model (see Los Angeles and its gridlock, not only at the airport, but on every single road leading in and out of it.

    Singapore has a lot to teach the world!

  25. Are there any good restaurants? In my experience the restaurants at Changi are crap fast food. They want you to shop, not have a nice meal.

  26. My goodness, for a travel blog there are sure a lot of people with strong opinions who blatantly have never travelled and embedded themselves into Asian culture or even been to Singapore (all the comments about pre-security). The comment on post 9/11 construction is laughable! Ugh.

  27. Despite the Instagram mobs, I have it on good authority the retail is doing very poorly (F&B is doing better). My bet is the novelty will wear off for the locals and then it will be mostly curious first-time tourists.

    Even if it will become an enduring success, was it worth spending US$1.25B of government money on an extravagant shopping mall at an airport? These questions are apparently not asked in Singapore, but if they were asked pretty much anywhere else the answer would be a resounding “no”. And that’s not necessarily a sign of short-sighted governments.

    Now, let’s wait for the real extravagance of the new (and unnecessary) Terminal 5…

  28. What many of us, especially hailing from stateside failed to notice is how small Singapore is and how bloody efficient their version of TSA is. Guys don’t forget they are also tasked to catch offender of the boarding pass tax exemption rule. If we add that to our TSA’s load, a strike will occur.

    By having everything pre security you are attracting and accessible to a wider clientele, throw in the proximity of the airport to the nearest commercial and residential neighborhood which is less than 5 clicks away, you have a winner. Singapore has among the most intelligent government out there, they never build things that losses money.

  29. I concur. The only thing of interest is the vortex waterfall. I found the shops to be middle of the road, nothing deluxe that I saw. Once you see the vortex, the rest is forgettable, just another shopping mall. The bridge is a waste of money.

  30. Not all airports are actively discouraging non-passengers to come by. I am wondering where you got that claim. Given the competitive market airports are in and active cost-cutting that is happening, airports are more and more looking for ways to attract new income streams. Examples of this are the Schiphol business district or the one at Brussels Airport they are currently developing. By attracting companies and stores, airports are trying to lock in a revenue stream for the future.

  31. How much time do you need to spend at the Jewel just to look at the vortex and gardens ? No food or window shopping !

  32. Wow for a travel blog Im shocked to still see so many ignorant Americans outraged that a foreign country values malls as a huge destination and part of daily life. Here in Sao Paulo we have over 50 malls and like someone said above, the malls are our “beaches”. We have everything we need to pass the time and for convenience in modern air con malls.

    No, our malls arent like your average american run down crappy mall with a Macys and a Cinnabon, they are huge and beautiful and modern and luxurious and definitely a one stop shop destination for tourists and locals, both in Asia and here in South America.

    Maybe travel some more out of your midwestern suburb where a trip to Walmart and a meal at Olive Garden is your “outing” and you’ll see how different the world is. 😉

  33. I visited the Jewel for the first time in October and was underwhelmed. The retail is meh, certainly above a neighborhood mall but utterly generic and nothing compared to a place like Marina Bay Sands. And while the water vortex is certainly impressive, I found that it made much of the mall humid even with a/c. Plus, having been to Gardens by the Bay just 48 hours before, the only real wow factor (if you can call it that) for me was the idea of building all of this at an airport.

    I am certainly not anti-mall – I love the “beaches” in Sao Paulo, especially JK Iguatemi and Cidade Jardim. The fact that I rarely buy more than a pastry and a coffee is not the point – it’s the experience – but I didn’t feel The Jewel was remotely in that league.

  34. @Janet I ate in the SQ dining area when I was there, but I did walk around the food court in the jewel and the food choices looked really good better than typical airport fare.

  35. I agree with several posters that just how ignorant some of the American posters are, on multiple aspects of how SIN is run, as well as the Mall Culture in Asia and South America.

    If you have never been at SIN, also ONLY are accustomed to the Post Security airport type, you have absolutely No Clue to speak about SIN, nor its efficient in handling many aspects that in US airports are ridiculously time-consuming.

    I find it extremely laughable, if not insulting, to tell the Singaporeans go to have a swim at Santosa instead of the preference to visit a mall. Talk about ignorance in other cultures as well as the disrespect to such areas.

    I am very glad to see the Singaporeans and the Brazilians speak out on how they prefer their own lives be run in their own cities, and not being affected by the ignorant Americans.

    Disclaimer: am American but tries hard to understand other cultures, thru world travels, having friends from different countries, and a lot of readings.

  36. @Bea

    We were at SIN in October with an overnight transit to PER the next morning. We spent about 30 min at the 2nd or 3rd floor at one of the enclave that facing the water votex – there were quite a few locals there, all waiting for the light show, which went on 3 times a night at fixed intervals. We watched a full one after waiting a bit for it to start, then headed to dinner. Having a morning flight by 8am, we did not want to spend more time to explore, other than just ate the dinner and went back to Crown Plaza connected to T3 to call it for the night.

    I believe night time the light show would be much nicer than the day time which has no color I imagine.

    We did pass Ding Tai Fong which was jampacked, also the spicy crab place which had at least a doz or more people waiting for a table. We ended up eating at an independent restaurant (non chain) with meh foods.

    Many restaurants did not have enough patrons at 8pm other than the famous ones.

  37. @miafll

    You have a great attitude! Open to learning other cultures and respectful of their choices. In other words: the ideal traveller (in my opinion). I approach my travels the same. I’m not Singaporean but I pass thru frequently and the rest of S.E. Asia. It was that boorish comment by some benighted ignoramus imagining he knew better, and telling Singaporeans basically that were stupid not to go Sentosa Beach and to stay “outside” in the burning hot equatorial sun, that made me realize how simple-minded some of our (supposedly) well-travelled readers really are! Amateur critics should realize when you point a finger, three fingers will point straight back to you.

  38. Fascinated to read comments here!

    Firstly it’s called Jewel (not The Jewel)

    Secondly – the photographs and description, though reasonably detailed do not do Jewel justice.

    I visited some weeks ago and it is visually superb. Having travelled extensively and worked in airports and airlines for over 30 years I can honestly say my jaw dropped and my cynical face smiled when I visited for the first time.

    I cannot begin to outline just how well done, how detailed and well executed Jewel is. Changi Airport Group have shown the world what can be done at an airport. Given the cost of construction at airports (and yes I am familiar with costs due to my experience) I would say this is extremely good value for $1.25bn

    Jewel also has early check in with ICM auto bag drops, a dedicated lounge for passengers on ships cruises and a cinema.

    I would urge those who have yet to visit to go and see for yourself. Like most travel – there really is no substitute.

  39. @miafll.

    Thanks for the info concerning Jewel. I am really expecting my trip to Singapore and to visit Jewel at Changi . However, since we will be arriving late in Singapore from Tokyo and leaving early for London, I have to plan accordingly.

    It will be my first trip to Asia and I am really looking forward it -even trying to learn Japanese for the last 2 years

  40. @Drew So refreshing to see a comment like yours-you know what you’re talking about. Cidade Jardim and JK Iguatemi are a true relaxing haven in the midst of Sao Paulo chaos. I too go for a walk sometimes just for a drink or a snack. I think NYC has something of the sort with Hudson Yards, but who knows, still a rare thing for America.

    @miafll Thankful to read a comment like yours and see there is still hope for Americans who truly try to see and understand different cultures through their eyes and not look down upon it cuz its “not how you do it in America-therefore wrong or stupid”. Totally agree with you! 🙂

  41. @sam & @peter Clearly you never been to Singapore or understand its culture/climate/sociology/anthropology

  42. I seriously sense so much jealousy here amongst all the ignorant people commenting here. Look, that’s the reason why the best Airport is in Singapore and not in Europe, China, australia or the US.

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