Bras Basah Complex is situated right in the middle of town, between Cashin and Bain streets, south facing North Bridge Rd and north facing Victoria St. This area was also a traditional location for book shops. Under the urban renewal plan, Bras Basah Complex was built in the early 80s as a 25 storey high building, with the 1st to 5th storeys being utilised for commercial purpose and the rest for residential flats. The authority named it as Bras Basah Complex hoping to retain the special feature of book stores. This not only attracted many tenants who were once well-known book merchants along Bras Basah Road, but also book stores from other districts. After more than 20 years, the other name for Bras Basah Complex is “City of Books” (Shu Cheng). On the completion of its upgrading, the authority placed its name (in Chinese) In bright red on the walls facing the main road and this has brought about some complaints from people who had thought that the BBCMA had replaced “City of Books” with Bai Sheng Lou (Bras Basah Complex in Chinese). This goes to show that the image of “City of Books” is already well acknowledged. Today, beside bookstores, BBC also has other trades, like stationery, arts and crafts materials, musical instruments, art gallery, framing, pottery, festive cards, religious items, art/design and commercial schools, watches, optical, food, photo-copying/printing’ photo developing, sports goods, CD/VCD, medical clinic, hair salon, dressmaking and 24 hour convenience shop etc. In order to better reflect the unique feature of today’s Bras Basah Complex, we are now working towards our target of being the “ACE Hub - Arts, Cultural & Educational”.
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User rating summary from: 12 user(s)
Bras Basah Complex is your go-to place for books, musical instruments and art materials. Being a design student myself, I have come here several times to get materials from Art Friend as well as some design publications from Basheer Graphic Books.
Apart from the shops, the place is largely open-air, which I think is a very good “green” practice. I feel that the unairconditioned corridors give a nostalgic vibe to the place and brings me back to a time before all the shiny, sprawling malls of today.
Bras Basah Complex is also home to a restaurant and retail store that I really like, Ssikkek Korean Grill BBQ Buffet and Cat Socrates. Drop by any of these two places and you won’t be disappointed! :)
Basah? Betul. Tak ada air con.
Shock! Horror! No air conditioning. Why go lah?
Because it is a destination shopping place with the most wondrous collection of book shops, art shops, music shops, artifacts stores, art and antique galleries and a few lower priced jewelers and watch places with great repair facilities almost as good as at Bencoolen.
You go here because it has great stores in the 'education, arts and culture' fields. The service is great. The range is fantastic. The quality s good. The prices are sensible.
If you want to browse around stores that are different, this is the place to go. And if you are sweating because if the lack of air con, don't worry, a few paces will get you some relief, even if it is next door in the Odeon's Maccers, or just go to Jacks on the ground floor.
I understand it will be renovated soon. They are remaking Suntec and renovating Bras Basah. What is the difference?
Enjoy Bras Basah. No wonder the National Library is just next door. They deserve each other.
Old but different
I don't particularly like old places especially shopping centres but had to go to Bras Basah complex to get some materials from its Popular store (which is huge).
The shopping complex was different from those swanky new ones at Orchard but had a lot of things that you can not find at other places. Ten year series, ACCA / CFA books, Geography textbooks - Mostly second-hand can be found at shops there. Even old National Geographic Magazines are on sale there at a cheap price.
I found an interesting bookshop there that sold designer books.
An interesting place to be at if you have the time, and is quite accessible.
Students love to go there to get materials!
Bras Basah situated just beside the National Library, though it is a bit old and run-down, it is an essential complex for many students. There are a lot of bookstores selling not only stationeries buy also second hand textbooks. This is really beneficial for the students who couldnt afford to buy new textbooks, they can go to Bras Basah to get those second hand textbooks which are selling at much lower price!
Also, they also have other stores selling handicrafts materials and art materials which are quite convenient for the arts students at La Selle and NAFA to get their materials for their projects from the Bras Basah complex since their schools are just in vicinity.
Never a shopping place!
I know Bras Basah Complex for its Art Friend and 3-storey high Popular. I seldom visit the complex unless I know to buy some materials from either the Art Friend or the Popular, for it looks rather run down. Secondly, whenever I visit the complex, I notice that a lot of stores are actually closed. To be exact, there are just a handful of bookstores, if not the cheer, which will be open for business. Thus it is not a place for us to shop. In addition, I only know of Jack’s Place being the only food catering restaurant over there, correct me if I am wrong, for that is what I have realized. Maybe there are other food catering restaurants which are closed when I visited the complex, I don't know. Thus it is definitely not a place for shoppers!
Huge range of books
Books, books and more books. Bras Basah is a great place to go if you are an avid reader, or simply looking for a place to browse books. Located within the complex is a 3-storey Popular Bookstore, and they do carry a huge range of books and stationery.
For artists and designers, you can always visit Art Friend at the 3rd floor, and it's significantly bigger compared to the one at Buona Vista MRT. There's also a food court at the ground level if you're hungry, and look for our books sales at the open area.
There are also a few printing services available here, and you can find many cheap and second-hand stationery as well. Definitely worth a visit for the bookworm.
Bras Basah is my favourite place to go – to get stationery! Yes, it might sound stupid. Why travel all the way down to central just to get stationery? For me, I love what I get to do after shopping. The National Library, Raffles City and many more are all just in the vicinity! These places are definitely great for walking or window shopping.
Of course, the stationery at Bras Basah is amazingly cheap too! They sell second-hand books, magazines, provide printing services; you name it, they have it! Want assured quality? Head over to Popular at the top! Nevertheless, they do have other services and stores; such as Swee Lee, a store which sells musical instruments and accessories.
Apart from that, it is one of the oldest shopping complexes in Singapore. It just gives you that mystic and nostalgic feel as you walk through the concourse of the building. I would recommend it to tourists and photograph lovers; they are many old shop houses in the complex, though they will be taken back by the government soon. These are one of the pioneer types of housing in Singapore and will definitely be an eye-opener to even locals.
I would not recommend it to young children or young teenagers as it is not exactly family friendly; there are some suspicious characters occasionally. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth the trip down from wherever you are.
Great place for getting your instruments, books and craft-related products!
I believe that every student should know or at least heard of this place. It is located beside National Library building, a stone’s throw away from Bugis MRT. This is the place where most students sell their textbooks and assessment books after their secondary school education. Also, most students tend to get their assessment books from the stores here as they are way cheaper from that in Popular though the books might be lightly used. There is a store, at the far corner beside the post office. It is one of the stores which I frequent to get novels, textbooks and even dictionaries. A great bargain for those who are looking for certain books/reference books!
This is also the place where most Art students would not miss. There are several stores selling Chinese instruments, Guitars, Drums, music books and CDs, etc. Swee Lee is located at the top floor for those who need to get accessories and instruments. A fairly reasonable price to pay for your goods as compared to various music stores like Yamaha, for instance.
This is one of the best places to visit, probably for the locals in Singapore. If you are a book-lover and wishes to hunt down some good-old books, this might be the place for you.
Go-to place for art-related resources
Every art student must know Bras Basah not just for Art Friend, which has now gone mainstream, but also for Basheer Books, located on the fourth and top floor of the building. When you take the escalator, turn right and you'll see it. There, you can get a massive range of design- and art-related magazines - my favourite section. You can find lesser known titles, even publications in foreign languages!
Then there's Art Friend for equipment and materials, of course. It's the undisputed king of art resource stores in Singapore. But you don't have to go to Bras Basah anymore to visit Art Friend, now that they've opened branches elsewhere.
Apart from these two stores, I don't see much reason to visit Bras Basah. For example, Popular store has plenty of other outlets, and I'm sure the Bras Basah outlet is not the only large one. There aren't many food options too, unless you think Jack's Place is still good... I'm somewhat surprised the management of Bras Basah Complex haven't exploited its location near to all the major arts institutions to develop itself into a specialist mall dedicated to the arts.
A step back
I would never have chanced upon the building or even stepped foot into the building knowingly if not for my mother's introduction to the place. The old complex is nothing attractive and it can be said to be a run down dull building shaded away from the likes of the bustling streets.
Unlike its more attractive neighbor counterparts, the building is not air-conditioned and looks like it has not been maintained since the 80s. I personally feel that it is a little bit of an old tradition that has been preserved and kept right smack in the middle of the city. Located just a walk away from city hall MRT, it is accessible and easy to spot. The complex has many different shops that cater to specific needs of people. Famous for the old textbooks that it used to sell, the place has many book stores both old and new and even has a huge art friend store at the top level. The complex also has various camera shops for the photography enthusiasts to be kept entertained. One might find it a little stuffy to walk around for no aim or reason because of the weather, however it is something different from the typical shopping malls. I would say that the camera shops do have quite a variety and can be rather cheap.