The glistening “Jewel” is the latest addition to the Changi Airport portfolio, coming hot on the heels of Terminal 4 (opened in October 2017). Airport construction is typically a slow and laborious affair but Changi Airport shows no signs of slowing down with a third runway due to open next year and the behemoth Terminal 5, set to be the size of Terminals 1 and 3 combined, scheduled to open in the mid-2030s.
We took the opportunity to check out Jewel on the first public preview day – 11th April 2019. This is not a review as such, given that the facility isn’t fully open to the public yet and so can’t be considered to be in its final state. It should however give you a good idea what you are in for if you visit on or after the full opening next week – from 17th April 2019.
What is it?
Effectively a large climate controlled indoor garden inside an imposing steel and glass structure sat beneath the iconic control towel, you haven’t been able to miss the Jewel for some time now as you approach Changi Airport by road.
It was designed by Moshe Safdie, Benoy and RSP Architects and is a joint venture between Changi Airport Group and CapitaLand (one of Asia’s largest real estate companies, headquartered in Singapore).
Our (slightly joking) references over the years to Jewel as ‘Ion@Changi’ aren’t totally misplaced here – CapitaLand also developed that mall and its subsidiary CapitaMalls still manages it.
When was it announced?
It’s been a long time coming, “Project Jewel” was first announced in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech in August 2013. Initially, the project attracted a fair amount of criticism, both about the projected cost ($1.5bn) and the point of having yet another mall in the already crowded shopping scene of Singapore.
It’s an airport, right? Not a shopping mall/leisure destination!
Either way, the project marched on despite the criticism. Frankly as much as we dislike the idea of another shopping mall, especially at the airport, this is rather a remarkable building.
How big is it?
This massive steel and glass doughnut-shaped structure is perhaps not as big as it looks – at 137,000m2 (Terminal 4 is Changi’s smallest passenger terminal at 195,000m2). But it spans a total of 10 stories high, five underground and five above.
As anyone who has arrived at Changi Terminal 1 lately will also know, the T1 arrivals area has also been expanded with a larger baggage claim section and a meet and greet area which now links directly into Jewel.
How to access Jewel
Note: Jewel preview tickets are still required for entry into Jewel Changi Airport between 11th – 16th April 2019. The full public opening is on 17th April 2019.
If you’re already at Changi Airport, Jewel is directly accessible by foot from Terminals 1, 2 and 3, but not from Terminal 4 without first taking a shuttle bus.
- From T1: Walk directly into Jewel from the Arrival Hall (at L1) or the Departure Hall, having crossed the road at L2.
- From T2: Walk via the pedestrian bridge from T2’s Departure Hall (at L2, near Row 1). This takes 5-10 minutes.
- From T3: Walk via the pedestrian bridge from T3’s Departure Hall (at L2, near the Crowne Plaza hotel). This takes 5-10 minutes.
- From T4: You guessed it! T4 isn’t any closer to anything than it was before, and that includes Jewel. Take the free Airport Shuttle Bus to T2. From there, follow the T2 instructions above.
If you’re arriving at Changi by MRT, once you’ve reached Changi Airport Station (CG2), you can exit either via Terminal 2 or Terminal 3, then access Jewel via the link bridges located at level 2 of either terminal. Exiting via T3 is probably a bit quicker than via T2, as the pedestrian bridge is slightly shorter on that side.
If you’re catching a bus to Changi, all of these services operate to Terminal 1’s basement bus bays, from where you can head to L1 (Arrivals) and follow signs to Jewel. Bus numbers serving Changi are:
Finally, you may have noticed that the Changi Airport SkyTrain passes through Jewel. This is the original T2 > T3 public (landside) service, which had been closed for some time during the Jewel development and is now set to re-open.
It does not stop inside Jewel, so you can get a great view of the new facility, but you can’t get off! That’s a slightly odd decision, we would have thought they would build a station in Jewel itself to allow this, but there are likely sound reasons why this was not done.
After checking in just before our allocated time slot of 7pm on the first preview day, we took a little while to wander around.
Inside it’s a cooled glass dome, reminiscent of the Cloud Dome at the famous “Gardens by the Bay”, located near Singapore Marina. The layers run around the outside of the building and hollow out towards the centre. There are outlets extending below the surface level, down into the basement levels (which is also where you’ll find the car park).
The waterfall, or “Rain Vortex” is certainly a sight to behold. You can’t help but be awed by this 40m tall central feature of Jewel, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
After dark, lights, shapes and images are projected into the water flow creating a stunning visual effect. All the visitors on the first public preview evening seemed rather captivated by it, especially the first light show which was shown at 7.30pm.
For a sneak peak of the first light show, take a look at our video below.
There are a number of light shows scheduled from 8.30pm to 12.30am, so if you visit in the evening you’re bound to catch one.
It may be easier to list what isn’t. With over 300 different F&B and retail outlets, a hotel, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall (the ‘HSBC Rain Vortex’ in media speak) and even a cinema, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do here.
We ventured down to B2, the first level above the car park, to start exploring from ‘ground up’.
Here you’ll find the food court, the Shaw cinema featuring IMAX and a Fairprice Finest supermarket. It’s also where the ‘Immersion Garden’ sits at the base of the waterfall.
More dining and shopping outlets, many with a central waterfall view.
The best view of the Rain Vortex waterfall, this is a great place to watch the five nightly light shows running hourly at 8.30pm – 12.30am.
It’s also home to the Shiseido Forest Valley, two walking ‘trails’, East and West, which allow you to climb up the Jewel on foot all the way to Level 5.
The Level 2 viewing deck provides one of the best views of Jewel.
More formal dining outlets and the link bridges to the airport terminals are found here.
The ‘cabin hotel’ – YOTELAIR and the Changi Experience Studio are here, among more food and dining outlets.
The Canopy Park Attractions are here (opening mid-2019).
Also level 5 has a ‘Dine under the stars’ concept, with “alfresco” mid to high-end drinking and dining options.
Food and beverage outlets
The vast array of F&B outlets, quite a few of which will be open 24 hours for late night supper, include:
- Shake Shack – a famous American burger joint, and the first of its kind in Singapore.
- Pink Fish – a European seafood restaurant, also a first for Singapore.
- Violet Oon – a very famous local Singaporean institution, this will be the largest outlet so far. Serving up top quality Peranakan cuisine, this is not to be missed.
- A&W – a much-loved brand that hasn’t served Singapore for over a decade – famed for their root beer floats.
- Burger & Lobster – a London brand that famous for… exactly what it says on the tin (not fully open yet, with no announced date).
- Pizza Express – the popular Pizza restaurant, relatively new to Singapore with only a few outlets so far.
That only scratches the surface, there are many, many more!
- The largest Nike store in South East Asia.
- Uniqlo (yes, another one!)
- Jack Wills
- The Body Shop
- Marks and Spencer
Jewel is even home to an 11-screen (where do they put them all?!) multiplex Shaw Theatre cinema located at B2, equipped with IMAX.
Early Check in Lounge
Level 1 includes an Early Check in Lounge where you can check in your luggage and obtain your boarding passes provided your flight is departing more than 3 hours from the check in time, with a participating airline.
The facility will be available from the full public opening of Jewel on 17th April 2019, and complements the existing Early Check in Lounge at Terminal 1 (behind Row 5). It will be open daily from 6am to 11.59pm, the same hours that apply at the T1 facility.
Over 25 airlines allow use of the Jewel Early Check in Lounge, with a few notable additions not currently featuring an advance check in option including ANA, Asiana, Jetstar, Scoot, Emirates, EVA Air and Qatar Airways.
Exactly how early you can check in for your flight differs from airline to airline. For example if you’re flying with Qatar Airways your departure time will have to be within 12 hours of your check in time, for ANA it’s up to 24 hours in advance.
A full list of participating airlines and valid check in times is provided here at the Changi Airport website.
This then allows you to use the Jewel facilities without the hassle of needing to carry your luggage around or worry about checking in for your flight at the respective terminal. Boarding card in hand, simply head to your terminal and straight to the gate in time for departure.
If you’re not flying on from Changi but you still have luggage with you, there is also a baggage storage facility close to the Early Check in Lounge on Level 1.
That’s useful for example if you have arrived early in the morning and your hotel room downtown isn’t ready. Store your bags here and then use the Jewel facilities for a few hours.
This is Changi Airport Group’s first venture into the competitive and crowded market of pay-per-use lounges. We had a conversation with the manager and the key concept is a more seamless experience for passengers connecting through Changi to other modes of transport.
Cruise passengers have been deliberately targeted and they are partnering with some of the top cruise companies to allow you to disembark your flight, freshen up here, check in for your cruise and then hop onto your transport to the cruise terminal – all without ever having to touch your suitcase as it’s all handled for you, waiting in your cabin on board the ship.
The lounge is also available for any boarding pass holder, both before and after your flight (within 24 hours). Access will be paid, with rates to be determined but around the S$30++ per person for 3 hours mark.
Crucially for our readers, Priority Pass, Lounge Key, Lounge Pass and Dragon Pass holders will all be eligible for complimentary access.
This also represents one of the only ‘arrivals lounges’ at Changi (the other being ‘The Haven’ at T3 – see our review).
This lounge is located directly opposite the Early Check in Lounge, close to the T1 arrivals hall, which makes it very convenient. They have made a fairly significant effort here to make it a very classy, high-end affair. The decorations are specially curated from around the region, with unique artworks and ornamental plants.
The carpet is thick and plush, marble flanks the walls and the seating is based on rather artistic designer pieces. It certainly feels like an airline lounge.
The cruise check in desk is to the right through the entrance. Further through is a manned bar serving premium drinks (all alcohol is chargeable), and a complimentary small buffet food selection.
There are three shower rooms and four nap rooms, all available for additional charge. The nap rooms are available in 3-hour blocks (standing them apart from the nearby YOTELAIR where bookings start from 4 hours).
The pricing for this is yet to be decided but we’d expect it to be broadly in line with other pay-per-use lounges (Plaza Premium T1 – S$75 for 3 hours in a nap room plus 3 hours lounge access, see our recent review).
As mentioned above, Jewel is home to its own 130-room hotel in the form of Asia’s first YOTELAIR. This is the second hotel in the public area of the airport, adding an alternative option to the Crowne Plaza in Terminal 3 (see our review).
YOTELAIR is a ‘cabin hotel’, designed for short stays from as little as four hours to overnight if you wish. Features include a Club Lounge, 24-hour gym and 24/7 complimentary soft drinks. Rates start from SGD $80 for four hours.
Two room types are available, the Premium Queen which accommodates up to two people and the Family Cabin which can sleep four.
We stayed at the hotel yesterday, on its opening night, so look out for our upcoming review.
For those looking to plan their trip or check out which shops or dining outlets are where, Jewel has its own app with all of this information.
We haven’t used it extensively but it seems easy to scan around and navigate. You can download it from the links below.
Earn double rewards
If you’re a member of both the Changi Rewards and the CapitaStar loyalty programs, you can earn both Changi Rewards points and STAR$ in a single transaction when you shop and dine at Jewel.
Here’s how it works:
Find out how to link your two accounts together here.
We always had a natural scepticism over the necessity for another large shopping mall in Singapore, let alone at the airport, but we have to admit having seen Jewel up close for the last couple of days we can’t fail to be impressed.
Another factor which surprised us is that our expectations were set for a ‘soft opening’. Ok, not all the attractions are open yet, but we had visions of unfinished shops, and dusty corridors with work still going on. It is actually almost completely finished, and looking very polished in our opinion.
The developer has done a fantastic job and Jewel will be an attraction in itself for both visitors and locals. Those with long transits between flights at Changi will certainly benefit immensely from the shopping and dining options, the ability to watch a film or even grab a few hours sleep at the hotel.
The concept was “Where the world meets Singapore and where Singapore meets the world”. That’s probably not far off what Jewel will achieve.
If you want to join the crowds and see what all the fuss is about for yourself, the full public opening is on Wednesday 17th April 2019.
(Cover Image: MainlyMiles)