For a country just two-thirds the size of New York City, Singapore packs a big punch, with entertainment, shopping and dining options matching the world’s best. And with a super-efficient (not to mention economical) transport system, it’s possible to visit most of Singapore’s top sights and neighbourhoods in a single day.
With a day to play with, you can sample the best of what’s on offer. Grab your water bottle and umbrella (for rain or shine) and dive into the Lion City.
Get up early for breakfast with the locals in ever-so-trendy Tiong Bahru; a 1930s housing estate reveling in its unofficial status as the hippest ‘hood in Singapore. Nab a seat on the 2nd floor of the Tiong Bahru Food Centre and order a typical ‘breakfast set’: a dash of soy sauce and white pepper on eggs and a smear of kaya (coconut egg jam) on toast, washed down with a traditional kopi (coffee). If a Western breakfast is more your style, head to 40 Hands; its legendary coffee and ‘big boy breakfast’ will fill you right up. Once fueled, explore the wet markets where shop ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ sell an eye-popping array of tropical fruits, meats and famous Singapore orchids.
If you’re hankering for another caffeine hit or need a mid-morning snack, duck into Tiong Bahru Bakery, where the fresh croissants and kouign amman (Breton-style pastry) are a must-try, before jumping on the MRT (metro) to Gardens by the Bay, the blossoming centrepiece of this garden city. Arrive early to beat the crowds and experience the heights of the OCBC Skyway and the Cooled Conservatories (both open at 9am), both well worth the ticket price. Outside, the Heritage Garden takes you through the history and culture of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups and colonial past via interactive exhibits.
For a quick rundown on Singapore’s vibrant history, stop by the National Museum. Like Singapore itself, it’s well organised – take a trip through 700 years of Singapore’s history while admiring the building in which it is housed. Art and architecture lovers should not miss the National Gallery Singapore, where a world-class collection of 19th-century and modern Southeast Asian art adorns the walls of the recently renovated and connected historic City Hall and Old Supreme Court. Kids (young and old) will love the nearby MINT Museum of Toys, packed with over 50,000 vintage toys.
Feeling peckish? Enjoy a foodie staple of Singapore’s Indian community and order a roti prata (fried buttery flatbread) from any of the colourful shophouses lining the streets of Little India, a short MRT ride away. Grab a cold beer or fresh coconut water and drink in the vibrant atmosphere while mopping up curry sauce with freshly made roti. Fingers licked, head off to explore the laneways brimming with spices, fabrics, oils, medicines and the odd fortune teller. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple will give you a glimpse of Hindu rituals.
If the bright lights of the Orchard Road shopping strip beckon, make sure to drop by Naiise in Orchardgateway; stocked with wares by local designers and artisans, this is the perfect place to find something uniquely Singaporean. Street level is ideal for strolling and people-watching – be warned that if you enter the underground shopping labyrinth of ION Orchard, you may need a GPS to find your way to the surface again. Alternatively, wander south from Little India until you hit boutique-lined Kampong Glam hot spot Haji Lane.
As the sun sets and temperature drops, head to a rooftop bar to watch the Singapore skyline light up. For a bird’s-eye-view, perch on the balcony at CÉ LA VI, housed on the top of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Or go to Lantern at the Fullerton Bay Hotel for a front-row seat to the Spectra light-and-water show.
Once you’ve squandered your savings on your drink bill (alcohol is notoriously expensive in Singapore, and even more so at ritzier bars), it’s time to search out another famous Singaporean cuisine – satay. By night, city worker’s lunch spot Lau Pa Sat morphs into a giant bustling outdoor barbecue party from 7pm, with wafts of grilling meats enticing diners from near and far. Each stall offers up its own unique flavours, so order a few satay sticks from one and then move on to the next.
If you’ve still got energy in the tank, wander over to the Chinatown nightlife hub of Club Street and join the throngs of people tasting their way through a mind-boggling range of cocktail concoctions, craft beers and wines in its quaint shophouse bars (ask for the daily specials, which can be easier on the wallet). Friday and Saturday nights see revellers spill into the street to enjoy drinking al fresco, with the street closed to cars to make room. By now thoughts of bed are probably starting to fill your mind, and we don’t blame you. That said, the DJs at Zouk, Attica and Headquarters by the Council are only just warming up…
Last updated in December 2017