An extra day in Singapore is an opportunity to be relished
An extra day in Singapore is an opportunity to be relished

Singapore guide: Where to eat, drink, shop and stay in Asia’s slickest city

How to take the ultimate trip

Natalie Paris
Thursday 19 December 2019 09:39

Singapore may have a clean-cut reputation but innovative attractions, a multi-layered cultural heritage, diverse food scene and sophisticated nightlife make it one of Asia’s most enjoyable cities. This year’s bicentennial celebrations aimed to demonstrate how the city has evolved into one of the world’s most modern, while the upmarket Raffles Hotel – one of Singapore’s colonial landmarks – has completed a major overhaul. Contrary to popular belief, it is quite possible to see the city on a budget, with capsule hotels almost as commonplace now as the hawker food centres that serve up cheap eats.

The Independent’s hotel recommendations are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage.

What to do

Enter the lotus

The lotus-shaped, Moshe Safdie-designed ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay merges the worlds of art and science to mind-bending effect. The must-see Future World gallery is home to interactive installations for all ages that include room-sized animations created by visitors and a passage through beads of light that shimmer in interpretations of intergalactic events.

Head to Gardens by the Bay and see the majestic ‘supertrees’ (Getty)

Embrace Asian art

Overlooking the historic Padang cricket field, the superb National Gallery has cavernous halls filled with pan-Asian art spanning the mid-19th century to the modern day. Look out for the wry humour of Thai artist and activist Manit Sriwanichpoom and exhibitions that include a rooftop garden containing plants taken from land reclaimed from the sea.

Wonder at flora

Misty and lush, the domed conservatories of Gardens by the Bay contain plants from all over the world. One maintains a cloud forest habitat and has a walkway that leads to the top of a 35m-high indoor waterfall, cloaked in foliage. Outside, stand under the majestic “supertrees” – giant, vertical gardens that glitter with colour during twice-nightly free sound and light shows.

China town in Singapore

Get lost in Chinatown

For guaranteed bustle, pick your way through Chinatown and alleyways lined with market stalls – the brave can sample a foul-smelling (but sweet and creamy-tasting) durian fruit. Be sure to pop into the Tang-style garnet-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which contains what Buddhists regard as the tooth of the philosopher.

Step into India and Arabia

Little India is another of the city’s vibrant neighbourhoods. Start at the candy-striped Chinese merchant’s house of Tan Teng Niah, built in 1990, and loop past market stalls to Sri Veeramakaliamman, a landmark Hindu temple, keeping an eye out for street art along the way. More murals can be found in the Arab Quarter at Kampong Glam. Have a mooch along Haji Lane, lined with colourful shop fronts that are now hipster-style cafes (including one that prints a selfie on your coffee) and arty boutiques.

Where to stay

Romantics should consider The Fullerton Bay Hotel, an Art Deco haven set on a historic pier beside the marina. The pretty Lantern Bar, above the water, is the perfect spot for a sundowner. Doubles from S$519 (£306), B&B.

Fullerton Bay Hotel’s jacuzzi is a luxurious spot for a sun set

The Warehouse Hotel occupies a restored heritage building on the riverside at Robertson Quay and has a rooftop pool above 37 loft-style, boutique rooms. Doubles from S$258 (£152), B&B.

Destination Beach Road Singapore is a comfortable high-rise hotel with a rooftop pool and city views, a five-minute walk from Kampong Glam, opposite a popular hawker centre. Doubles from S$180 (£106), B&B.

Where to eat

Candlenut is the world’s only Michelin-starred Peranakan (Chinese mixed with Malay and Indonesian) restaurant. It is based in Dempsey Hill, an area of upmarket eateries in a former army barracks. Try the earthy black nut sambal (buah keluak).

Birds of a Feather is a plant-filled cafe/restaurant that serves modern Sichuan food with a European influence. At weekends the brunch is popular, or try the spicy oriental bolognese for dinner.

For Malaysian specialities, The Coconut Club in Ann Siang Hill attracts a crowd by getting its nasi lemak just right.

Street hawker Chan Hon Meng has been awarded a Michelin star for his stall 

For more affordable bites, Lau Pa Sat is one of Singapore’s most well-known hawker centres set in a wrought-iron market hall with a night market running alongside it. Sample as much as your belly will allow.

Hawker Chan, meanwhile, serves one of the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meals (the two restaurant outlets mean you can avoid queueing at the original stall). His soy sauce chicken is superbly tender.

Where to drink

Artisanal cocktails rule in Singapore. In Ann Siang Hill start at Nutmeg and Clove for a botanics-inspired concoction, then seek out slick, underground bar Operation Dagger.

For a quieter neighbourhood social with mid-century furniture, head to Kampong Glam for bespoke drinks at Bar Stories. Craft beer fans can also try one of a growing number of options, the Good Luck Beerhouse, nearby.

Sink a Singapore Sling at Long Bar with head bartender Priscilla Leong

The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel has been recently refurbished and is the ideal place to sink a Singapore Sling alongside a sack of monkey nuts. Or alternatively, go upmarket at one of the world’s top 50 bars, Native, where creative drinks are infused with foraged ingredients.

You’ll find well-stocked juice bars on Haji Road, such as the colourful Juice Clinic, while the Bhai Sarbat stall, on nearby Bussorah Street, has been selling speciality “pulled tea” to locals for decades.

Where to shop

Orchard Road is the place to go for shopping centres. Local brands to watch out for include Charles & Keith, which sells designer, vegan-friendly shoes and handbags. For a calmer experience, escape to Haji Lane, which is lined with heritage shophouses selling vintage clothes and knick-knacks. Fickle is a customisable flip-flop shop, while The Silver Triangle sells tribal jewellery designs from Laos. The market stalls of Chinatown are the best place to hunt down souvenirs including painted tea sets.

Orchard Road entices fashionistas from all over the world to its shops

Architectural highlight

Singapore’s National Gallery is a clever joining of two historic buildings, the old City Hall and the Supreme Court. Once standing side by side, they are now connected by a sweeping, gold-tinged atrium supported by branch-like pillars that conceal bridges between the two buildings. Original features like the court lobby and a few jail cells can still be seen.

Nuts and bolts

What currency do I need?

Singapore dollars (S$).

What language do they speak?

English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil are the country’s official languages.

Should I tip?

Tipping is not customary.

What’s the time difference?

8 hours ahead of GMT.

What’s the average flight time from the UK?

Daily, direct flights from London Heathrow take around 13 hours.

Public transport

The MRT train system (Mass Rapid Transit) is a joy – easy to navigate, efficient and scrupulously clean. That said, you can still expect to walk between stations a fair bit. Taxis are available at tourist attractions though are fairly pricey.

Best view

It is both expensive and a tourist trap but if you want to touch the sky and really get a sense of a city built on land once belonging to the sea, head to the Sands SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands. The infinity pool is reserved for hotel guests but lifts that whizz up 57 levels to the observation deck cost S$23.

Insider tip

Get to Gardens by the Bay when it opens at 9am to visit the conservatories early on, before they get very busy. You can return later in the evening to watch the sound and light show in Supertree Grove.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in