Food is one of Singapore’s national pastimes. Some eat to live and others live to eat. I think I fall into the second category and maybe that’s why, I have a special place in my heart for this city.
Singapore is perfect for a quick 3-4 days city break. Of course, if you have more time, the more you can do. I’ve put together a 4-day itinerary, something thats perfect for say, those of us who live in the UAE and would like to visit during Eid holidays this summer. Or for a long weekend.
The city has a good mix of activities surrounding the times you will spend eating. Unless you have to stick to a diet for religious reasons, or if you have some food intolerance, I suggest you give yourself a break on all the rice and noodles that’ll come your way. There’s not a lot of avocado to be seen here and lets be honest, you probably won’t remember it the way you will the chilli crab, or the uncle behind the counter at the hawker stall who has been serving patrons chicken rice for years.
Start your holiday off with a traditional local breakfast at Yakun Kaya Toast at the flagship shop on China Street. Sit out on plastic stools with the office going crowd, order the kaya butter toast value set meal which comes with 4 little brown bread sandwiches filled with kaya jam and slabs of butter, served with a soft boiled egg, and hot drink.
Wander around the area, taking in the architecture. Tummy satiated, head to the Asian Civilisations Museum which is devoted to preserving the cultural heritage of Asia, especially the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans. Explore the art and get a better appreciation of the rich history that has created Singapore’s multi-ethnic society.
Walk over to the National Gallery Singapore. Located near St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the gallery oversees the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia (over 1,000 pieces). It is housed in two national monuments—the former Supreme Court and City Hall—both of which have been beautifully restored. The Gallery features local, regional and international art in its long-term and special exhibitions. Head up to the terrace to enjoy this view!
Armed with all that art knowledge, lunch at National Kitchen located in the City Hall wing of the gallery. It is run by local celebrity chef Violet Oon, who is the grande dame of Singaporean cooking and is considered to be an authority on Asian cuisine.
After an afternoon snooze, time to head over to explore Gardens by the Bay. This sprawling garden within the garden city spans over 101 hectares of reclaimed land. Learn about Singapore’s diverse history and culture, told through the story of plants in the Heritage Gardens. Walk around the four themed gardens, marvel at all 18 Supertrees, and discover how plants are intricately linked to Singapore’s culture. Stroll along the 128-metre-long aerial walkway – OCBC Skyway – which at 22 metres in height provides a stunning panoramic view of the Gardens and Marina Bay skyline. Also visit the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome is the world’s largest glass greenhouse as listed in the 2015 Guinness World Records.
For dinner, head to Satay by the Bay which brings together an ensemble of hawker fare such as noodles, crab, satay, prata, steamboat, and more. You’d be happy to know that Singapore has one of the cleanest street food outlets in the world, with most maintaining Grade A hygiene standard ratings. It is mandatory for all stalls to show their ratings up on the wall so you can have a look for yourselves.
End your night taking in this gorgeous 360-degree view of the city from 1- Altitude, Singapore’s highest alfresco bar located in Raffles Place. Groove to the tunes of local DJs and sipping cocktails, bid adieu to day one.
On a clear day, this is the view you’ll get from 1-Altitude. One of the best vantage points, in my opinion
Book a walking food tour with Wok n Stroll. What’s a better way to familiarise yourself with the city than through its cuisine. Wok n Stroll call themselves “food explorers”. They have 17 different tours ranging from an intro to hawker centre fare to wet market visits, interaction with local chefs, cooking classes and even a Michelin star luxury experience.
You’re going to be stuffed after this tour so head to Singapore Zoo to walk it off with the animals. Singapore’s zoo is set within a lush tropical rainforest, with over 2,800 animals roaming freely in their natural habitat. There are animal feeding sessions, shows, and rides, making it a fun day out for kids and adults alike. Pre-booked tickets are cheaper, both for this and many other attractions around the city.
Then head to Chinatown which is a bustling mix of old and new. Chinatown is one of the few places where on one street alone, you will find a mosque, Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple. Start off at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and museum, then get lost in the alleys buying souvenirs from hawker stalls, and try local fare on Chinatown Food Street, a row of hawker stalls, shophouse restaurants and kiosks along Smith Street. Look out for a gelato stand selling specialty flavours like salted egg, durian, and chilli crab!
Next, head to Joo Chiat which is home of the Peranakans. Broadly speaking, Peranakans are a group of people who are Straits (as in the straits of Malacca) born Chinese. They are a group of Chinese descendents who migrated to parts of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and southern Thailand. Peranakans have a unique culture and blend of both Chinese and Malay, and even more influences such as British, Indian, and Arab.
Stroll past colourful two-storey shophouses and terrace houses with ornate facades, intricate motifs and ceramic tiles. Shop for Peranakan handicrafts and local treats. One of the main things about the Peranakan culture is their cuisine which is full of natural ingredients you’ll find throughout the Malay peninsula, paired with Chinese and Indian cooking techniques.
For a late lunch, head to Quentin’s Eurasian Restaurant where you will find Eurasian cuisine with recipes handed down over the years. Expect keluak chicken curry, vindaloo, tamarind pork curry, fish moolie, pepper prawns, and more.
The office crowd converges at Club Street and Ann Siang Hill after working hours. Home to heaps of bars and restaurants, its a great way to mingle with the younger expats and locals.
If you still have some steam left in you, head to Marina Bay Sands’ Skypark. Have drinks and nibbles at CÉ LA VI, Spago by Wolfgang Puck, or Sky 57 by Justin Quek. Then try your luck with a few rounds of roulette at the Casino. Open 24 hours.
This day is reserved for Sentosa island. I’d never been a fan (as it felt a bit like Palm Jumeirah) but this recent visit changed my mind. The sheer number of outdoor activities and themed attractions reminded me what fun it was to be a child!
Take a taxi up to Mount Faber Peak and from there, take a very picturesque ride on a cable car to Sentosa Island. Once there, head to Universal Studios, located in Resorts World Sentosa. Experience rides, shows, and roller coasters based on blockbuster films and television series, such as TRANSFORMERS The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle, Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, Battlestar Galactica, The Mummy, and more! Such an adrenalin rush! Suggest you buy the Express pass so you don’t have to queue at all the rides for hours.
Another cute attraction in Sentosa is the Trick Eye Museum. 2D paintings on the walls, floors and ceilings come to life once photographed. We had such a blast posing!
Lunch at Coastes which sits along the shores of Siloso Beach. It serves up classic beach club fare like burgers, pizzas and pasta. Get a pinacolada and enjoy the beach views while you’re sat on a sun lounger.
Time for some more activity! There is Luge – which is a wheeled gravity ride. You sit on this thing and speed downhill on a jungle trail for about 1.2 kms. For something a little easier, you can ride the Skyride – a 4 seater chairlift that gives you a bird’s eye view of the Singapore skyline and the South China Sea. But the one I tried and absolutely loved was the zip lining at MegaZip Adventure Park. A super fun adrenalin rush! Again, buying tickets online in advance is cheaper than onsite.
Coming down from that high, head to Tanjong Beach Club for sunset drinks. There are a few good options for dinner as well. The Cliff – yup located on a cliff – overlooks the South China Sea. Serving contemporary cuisine, you can seriously lose yourself in the nature over a delicious meal and wine. For something a bit more casual, there’s Trapizza on Siloso Beach. It serves wood-fired thin crust pizza and pasta.
There’s also Quayside Isle at Sentosa Cove, which is like the Marina walk of Singapore. For a casual Chinese meal like crispy egg noodles, Szechuan-style spicy chicken, and chilli pomelo crab, head to Blue Lotus. Or if you feel like burgers and beer, there’s &MADE Burger Bistro L’Entrecote Express.
Its been a long day but if you still have the energy, head back to your hotel, freshen up and make your way to Emerald Hill in Orchard. It is an area full of Chinese baroque and art deco styled shop houses. Used to be homes of wealthy Singaporeans but these days, the entire area has been converted to bars and restaurants. Some sweet drinks deals to be found!
Today is all about taking it easy. Start your morning by getting a cab to Dempsey Hill. Dempsey used to be old army barracks but the area is now converted to cafes and restaurants. Head to PS Cafe, sit outdoors and enjoy the greenery with breakfast and a glass of mimosa. Another nice spot is HOUSE which sits on the top of the hill and is designed like a green house. It has lots of sunlight streaming through but you can also sit outside, surrounded by lush greenery.
Next make your way to Orchard Road for some retail therapy. Weather permitting, you can walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens which is a beautiful, serene space. Else cab it to Orchard, one of the most famous shopping streets in Asia. It is home to every fashion brand you can think of, and then some!
Another great option for shopping is Bugis. While Orchard has the international names, Bugis Street is known for more random, trendy, affordable priced pieces. Look out for a store called ‘The Editor’s Market’ in Bugis Junction. Super stylish women’s clothes and pretty cheap! Remember tourists get 5% tax back over a certain amount so do enquire.
Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, make your way to Kampong Glam, possibly my favourite part of Singapore. Start off near the beautiful Sultan Mosque and wander around Arab Street and the various alleys surrounding it. Get lunch at Hjh Maimunah which serves a good nasi padang (Rice served with several Indonesian dishes). This place is very famous among locals and you know if its good for them, it must be pretty damn good. Another must-visit is Singapore Zam Zam, an Indian Muslim restaurant that has been open since 1908. This family-run business specialises in biryani.
Walk through Haji Lane, – a narrow colorful street with a mix of boutique stores, bars and cafes. Get coffee at &Why cafe, a New York inspired cafe that serves specialty brews.
After relaxing a bit at the hotel, your last dinner in Singapore should be at Jumbo Seafood. There’s a reason why chilli crab is a must eat dish while you’re here, and it’ll be one of the most memorable. Go to the Riverwalk location because from there, you can walk to Clarke Quay which is the party central of the city. From bars to night clubs to live music venues, there’s something for everyone looking for a big night out. Its your last night here and you want to make it a big one!
How to get there: Singapore Airlines flies once a day from Dubai at 8pm, reaching Singapore at 7:30am. Its perfect because you can sleep through the night, not wasting any time off, and you get there bright and early. They have a Premium Economy option with a wider seat and lots more leg room. Definitely a more comfy ride! Take your Boarding pass along as you play tourist during your stay as it gives you discounts on certain attractions, valid for 30 days.
Getting Around: Singapore has a very easy to use MRT network and a weekly pass is the best way to go. For times that might not be an option, the city is small enough for inexpensive taxi rides. Or there’s always Uber.
Where to stay: I recommend staying on Orchard Road which is like the Times Square of Singapore, always busy, everything’s close by, and you can walk the streets anytime of the day or night. I’ve also stayed at the Fairmont Singapore which has small rooms but also a good location, connected to centrally located Raffles Place MRT station.
DISCLOSURE – I was a guest of Your Singapore Arabia on this trip, however I’ve been to Singapore before and these posts are solely a collection of my favourites. All opinions are my own.
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