The sleepless energy of high-flying business, combined with inspirational architecture, a multitude of cultural influences and unique, world-class attractions make Singapore one of the most dynamic cities in Asia. Although it's most frequently a stopover destination on Selective Asia holidays, it's still worth exploring - but where to focus your time? Our Destination Specialists have shared their top tips for getting the most out of 24 hours in Singapore.
Singapore isn’t nicknamed the Garden City for nothing. An array of green spaces which bring soft breaks in the city skyline each offer something different, but the futuristic fusion of art and nature at the Gardens by the Bay is truly unique. If you’re an early riser (or jet lag has made you into one!), head down to watch the sunrise at around 7am (the park is open from 5am.) Position yourself by the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes and watch the Supertrees cast otherworldly silhouettes against the fiery dawn sky. Wander through the Sun Pavilion and Heritage Garden by first light to get some stunning photos before the crowds arrive.
Having worked up an appetite strolling through the gardens, there are plenty of tempting eateries waiting to satisfy that hunger; it’s just a question of following your craving. For quick, filling street food, head for the hawkers' markets (or food halls) dotted around, and try some local specialities. For a sweet carb hit opt for a plate of kaya toast, with or without eggs, or for something spicier, the traditional Chwee Kueh with a strong cup of coffee alongside. If your 24 hours happen to fall on a Sunday, Louise suggests treating yourself to a now-famous Champagne Brunch at one of the city’s top hotels. With a banquet of delights to dine on, from lobster, caviar, oysters to head-clearing curries, sushi and satay, all served with plenty of bubbly, it’s breakfast, Jim, but not as we know it! The Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La both serve a Sunday brunch spread to write home about.
Central Singapore is relatively easy to navigate your way around compared to some cities. Nevertheless, spending too much time on travel between activities reduces the fun stuff you can fit into your day, so we recommend hiring a bike to zip about on. Bike hire is inexpensive, convenient and flexible, getting you swiftly from place to place without fuss, and burning a few calories in the process – ideal! Wheeelers (yes, three ‘e’s!) offer bike hire and also have their own ‘bike playground’ where you can go for a ride to get used to your wheels, or just allow the kids to let off some steam on the in-house pedal-powered vehicles. If cycling isn’t for you, the hop-on-hop-off tour buses wind their way around the city all day long – just catch them as and when you need a ride.
Fuelled for the day and with transport sorted, Singapore’s sightseeing scene is your proverbial oyster. If you’re in the mood for a mooch in a market, make your way over to Chinatown where you can grab a few bargains, wander round temples and eat some more tempting treats. This Chinatown hawker has been awarded a prestigious Michelin star! So get in the queue to taste their top-class chicken and rice noodles for yourself.
For a taste of beach life, take a look at East Coast Park (Martin’s favourite spot) where long stretches of picture-perfect golden sand backs onto palm-shaded avenues to ride your bike along. Get sporty with a game of volleyball, or enjoy a long cool drink in the sun. The park is only a 15 minute taxi ride from Changi Airport too, so if you’ve got a long stopover between flights you can get out and enjoy some fresh air.
To see the city from a fresh angle, Kate signed up for a bumbung boat cruise along the river, sailing leisurely past Clarke Quay, Marina Bay and the Merlion statue, and loved it.New skills learned while on your travels make the best souvenirs, and Maria says that a food workshop or cookery course at Corriander Leaf is a great way to spend a couple of hours in Singapore. Gain some culinary expertise and stay for dinner afterwards to round off your experience.
After a busy day’s explorations, the time comes to search out some dinner. Nick and Martin both wax lyrical about one of Singapore’s best-loved specialities: crab. Cooked either in a thick chili sauce or with a fiery black pepper spice rub, the crabs are served whole from dozens of hawker stalls and restaurants all over the city, so you’re never far from a plate.
Louise and Kate both enjoy the authentic banana leaf curries found in Little India, the colourful quarter offering a condensed sample of India’s vibrant sights and flavours. Banana leaf is a traditional way of serving South Indian cuisine, and usually consists of a mound of rice topped with a vegetable curry surrounded by assorted side dishes, chutneys and breads. If you’ve got more than a day, try a couple of different versions and find your favourite.
There are so many delicious dishes to be sampled from the various hawkers that you could simply walk around and feast on street-food until you’re fit to burst. From curry puffs to popiah, dim sum to durian, to more substantial dishes like nasi lemak, these stalls have everything. Take a look at this up-to-date blog for an idea of what to try and where to get it.
As night falls
With a full belly and weary legs, your whirlwind day draws to a close, but there’s time for a few last-minute delights. Get dressed up in your finest and enjoy a drink at the Marina Bay Sands Skybar. Sit in chic, contemporary surroundings sipping a specially-designed cocktail from the hotel’s ‘mixologists’ as you enjoy panoramic views towards Indonesia and Malaysia and see evening fall over the city.Last, but definitely not least, pay a visit to Singapore’s legendary Raffles hotel for a nightcap. Soak up the atmosphere with a single malt in the Writers’ Bar (named for the many literary celebrities, from Noel Coward to Rudyard Kipling, who have stayed at the hotel) or have a classic Singapore Sling mixed to perfection in its place of origin.
If our suggestions have inspired you, get in touch with our Destination Specialists to discuss spending some time in Singapore during your next holiday in Asia.