Expert guide to Singapore
Home to the iconic Gardens by the Bay, a thriving global financial hub, and recognised as one of Asia’s best dining and nightlife capitals. Hannah Carolan shares her travel secrets to make your trip more enjoyable.
Planning a trip to the Garden City? This is your guide to the best things to do and see in the greenest city on Earth.
Food & Drink
A visit to one of the many well-known hawker centres or markets in Singapore is an absolute must. Popular with both tourists and locals alike, hawker markets all started when Singapore's migrants took up hawking in the 1950s and 1960s, and the government became concerned about hygiene on the streets. Your first point of call should be the Old Airport Road Food Centre, one of the oldest and largest food courts in the city. Be sure to try one of the most popular fried noodle hawker dishes in Singapore: Hokkien Mee. Prepared differently at most hawkers, it includes a mix of yellow and white rice noodles fried in a wok with egg, accompanied with seafood (usually shrimp and squid), and bean sprouts - all for just $4 SGD!
Next, treat yourselves post-dinner to a Singaporean classic, the Singapore Sling, at its place of creation: Raffles Hotel. First served in the hotel’s Long Bar in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon, the gin-based luminous pink cocktail also contains pineapple, lime juice, Dom Benedictine, Grenadine, Cherry Heering brandy and Cointreau. Not forgetting the cherry on top of course...
For those wanting something a little bit more upmarket, a visit to Jing Restaurant, located directly opposite the Marina Bay Sands, is essential. Sit outside on the terrace where you’ll be given front row seats to the evening light show. Often referred to as one of the national dishes of Singapore, battle your way through an entire chilli crab and the Chinese dishes on offer, before finishing off your meal with a refreshing Ice Karang (a shaved ice dessert with different jellies, red beans, condensed milk, syrups and sweet cream corn).
For those who have packed plenty of Singapore dollars with them, a reservation at the Michelin-starred CUT restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands will supply you with some of Singapore’s best steaks, or try the Michelin-starred Waku Ghin for Wakuda’s Japanese-inspired French tasting menu. To gain access to the famous Insta-worthy rooftop infinity pool, you’ll need to book yourself a room ASAP as only hotel guests get access.
A nightcap at the highest microbrewery in the world, LeVel 33, will provide you with the best aerial shots of the holiday, as well as a huge range of house-brewed craft beers to choose from. Or, step outside of your comfort zone thanks to the cocktails on offer at Native – try the grasshoppers paired with Chalong Bay rum, lemongrass, wheatgrass, Thai basil and coconut ice cream.
No visit to Singapore is complete without taking a walk down Orchard Road. One of the most iconic buildings on this well-known street is Tang Plaza, and as Singapore’s oldest homegrown department store, Tangs is often credited with sparking the transformation of Orchard Road into the lively shopping haven it’s known as today.
Not keen on paying full price for designer gear? No problem, there are always plenty of deals available at IMM, Singapore’s largest outlet mall at Jurong East, where over 90 brands such as Michael Kors and Calvin Klein offer up to 80% discount all year round.
If you’re looking for quirky Singapore-designed products, then there is lots to choose from at Naiise. With a total of six outlets across the city, Naiise stocks over 1,000 brands selling household items, local books, cute stationery, unique touristy souvenirs and more.
A visit to Little India’s 24-hour shopping mall, Mustafa Centre, offers everything from electronics to groceries, or take your pick from goldsmith shops, sari stores and jewellery boutiques.
A trip on the MRT to Singapore’s Chinatown is a hub for all things Chinese. Most things here are made in China, whether you are looking for traditional items, imported toys or even antiques. The best place to shop in Chinatown has to be the colourful markets that line the lanes near the station.
Arts & Culture
With over seven galleries showcasing more than 2,000 artefacts from the civilisations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia, the Asian Civilisations Museum is one of Singapore's largest and most impressive museums. There are free daily guided tours and lectures where you can explore the vast galleries dedicated to trade, faith and belief and materials and design.
Opened in 1996, the Singapore Art Museum houses one of the most important collections of contemporary art from the region. The exhibitions change every few months so can be sure to see lots of different art forms, from paintings and sculptures to moving media and installation art. A former Catholic boys’ school, art and architect lovers alike will enjoy exploring the carefully conserved building that was established in 1867.
Situated on an islet in the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Symphony Lake, the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage is an idyllic venue for open-air concerts and picnics, with the audience sitting at the water’s edge. Of the monthly concerts held – from Latin, jazz and classical to R&B and pop – the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s free, biannual SSO in the Park is the most popular.
Located on Sentosa, you’re in for a full day of fun and heart-racing adventure at Universal Studios Singapore. Let your feet dangle off the world’s tallest dueling roller coasters, go on a space mission with Elmo from Sesame Street, and get soaked on a white water rafting experience that ends in a hair-raising drop. Scream if you want to go faster!
Head to the Night Safari (and the world’s first night zoo) at Singapore Zoo to see what over 1,000 nocturnal animals – including striped hyenas and other formidable beasts like leopards and lions – get up to after dark, in spacious natural habitats and without barriers, via the use of special lighting techniques.
Want to get away from the hustle and busy of the city? The Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir has a 250m free-standing suspension bridge connecting the two highest points of the nature reserve. A breathtaking and relaxing experience.
The Chinese Garden, in the West of Singapore, is a quaint park in Jurong with classical pagodas, lakes and a surprising turtle and tortoise museum. The13.5-hectare garden was built in 1975 by the renowned Taiwanese architect Professor Yuen-chen Yu.
And finally, go smell the roses at the Gardens by the Bay - the world’s largest glass greenhouses, which showcases exotic plant species, including dahlias, orchids and tulips. Later that day, make your way to the Supertree Grove – where gigantic tree-like sculptures come alive at night.