Heritage shophouses, incense-scented temples, high-tech green spaces: Singapore offers a fascinating mix of old and new. From exploring the tiny city-state’s vibrant multicultural neighbourhoods and world-class museums to sampling the ever-evolving food scene, here’s a week’s worth of must-sees (and -eats and -dos).
Begin your visit with a stroll around Singapore’s famous Gardens by the Bay. Futuristic and lush, the 100-hectare grounds at Marina Bay encompass misty biodomes, winding trails, whimsical sculptures and 50-metre-tall Supertrees – awe-inspiring vertical gardens with over 162,000 plants. Don’t skip the observatory at the top of the tallest one, which opened in 2019.
Time to check into your hotel. Singapore is brimming with top-notch stays: former spice godown and distillery The Warehouse is ideal for creative types who appreciate boutique touches, while glam Marina Bay Sands boasts the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool. But for grand old-world charm, it would be hard to beat Raffles. As much a historical landmark as it is a luxury hotel, the iconic establishment dates back to 1887 but reopened in 2019 following a meticulous multi-million dollar refurbishment. Each of the 115 suites is outfitted with separate sitting areas, lavish ensuites and traditional design flourishes such as wicker chairs and trunk-style cabinets.
There’s a bevy of excellent options for dinner, from three-Michelin-starred French chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s ultra-chic La Dame de Pic to Chinese fine dining at Jereme Leung’s Yi.
Spend the morning exploring the largest public collection of modern art in South-East Asia at the National Gallery. Housed within the former Supreme Court and City Hall, you’ll find over 9000 works, as well as fun hands-on educational spaces for kids. The Asian Civilisations Museum, filled with decorative arts and antiquities like the 1100-year-old Tang Shipwreck, is also nearby.
No trip to Singapore is complete without eating at one of Singapore’s vibrant hawker centres, which were awarded UNESCO status in 2020 for their cultural significance. Located in an octagonal, cast-iron clad structure in the heart of the financial district, bustling Lau Pa Sat is an ideal spot to tuck into local favourites like Hainanese chicken rice.
Thian Hock Keng Temple, the city-state’s oldest Chinese temple, is a five-minute stroll away. Stay in the area for the evening, bar hopping and dining at the newly opened Firangi Superstar, a dapper, eclectically decorated restaurant that bills itself as “a foreigner’s love letter to India”.
Today’s adventure starts in Little India, where brightly-coloured shophouses spill over with antiques and aromatic spices. Get your step count up across the city with these free walking trail maps, which cover everything from early 20th-century landmarks to shopping hotspots.
The cool Kampong Glam neighbourhood is a quick cab ride away. Wander down Arab Street and Haji Lane to take in vibrant street art, independent boutiques and plenty of casual eateries (the Swiss rolls at Rich & Good Cake Shop are crowd-pleasers). Escape the heat at the Vintage Camera Museum – the kooky lens-shaped facade is a social media moment in itself.
Head back to the hotel to cool off by the pool, sip a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar and tuck into saffron risotto with scampi and seaweed butter at Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse.
Ready to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre? Pulau Ubin – a 1020-hectare island 15 minutes away from Changi Point Ferry Terminal by boat – makes for a mesmerising day trip. Dotted with old granite quarries that closed during the 1970s, today it’s considered the last kampung (village) in Singapore.
The best way to get around is by hiring a bike: take the eastern trail to Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems where flourishing mangroves, secluded beaches and coastal forests meet. You might spot monkeys and wild boars en route, plus there’s Ubin Fruit Orchard, overflowing with durians, breadfruit and more, to wander through.
Finish the day with a meal at one of the restaurants by the main jetty. It’s a no-frills situation, but the seafood is fresh and the sunset views are incredible.
Orchid enthusiasts could easily spend the whole day at the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens, but this morning’s visit is to see the new Gallop Extension opened in 2021. It’s home to COMO Adventure Grove, where kids can swing, slide and climb on a giant root-like playground, and the Botanical Art Gallery that showcases more than 2000 paintings, sketches and photographs.
It’s a 10-minute cab to Orchard Road, Singapore’s shopping mecca. The 2.5-kilometre strip is a go-to for dazzling mega-malls and high-end international designers but don’t skip smaller Singaporean brands like Love, Bonito. You’ll also be spoilt for choice come lunchtime: stop for laksa, a burger and frozen custard at Shake Shack, or French fine dining at Les Amis, ranked 13 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for 2021.
Recover from all that retail therapy with a spa session back at Raffles – try the aromatherapy steam room, a Biologique Recherche facial or lapis lazuli stone massage.
Dinner is at Magic Square, a “pay-it-forward project” to incubate up-and-coming culinary talent. Originally opened as a pop up in 2018 and with a permanent location on Portsdown Road as of 2021, the chef in charge and nine-course set menu rotates monthly.
Check out of Raffles and take the 30-minute drive to drop your bags at Capella hotel on Sentosa, your destination for the night. The island is packed with attractions: tick off family-friendly Universal Studios, Mega Adventure or the S.E.A. Aquarium, ride the cable car, play a round at one of the award-winning golf courses or simply spend a few hours at the beach.
Once you retire to Capella you likely won’t want to leave. Set on 12 hectares of lush rainforest, each of the 112 rooms comes equipped with elegant furnishings, complimentary snacks, and baths with incredible views; splash out on a villa for your own private terrace and plunge pool.
Unwind with an alfresco Pandan Spritz at Bob’s Bar followed by contemporary Chinese at Cassia. Order wok-fried lobster, barbecued duck served with fresh mango and lemon sauce, and chilled green tea jelly with aloe vera yoghurt for dessert.
Make the most of your morning at Capella with a yum cha breakfast, restorative yoga class at the Auriga Spa, mahjong lesson or by taking a dip in one of the three spectacular pools overlooking the South China Sea.
Give yourself plenty of time at Changi Airport. It’s a destination in itself, with the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, a hedge maze, butterfly garden and myriad shops and restaurants.