Not all stopover destinations were created equal and some, such as Singapore, warrant a whole lot more exploration than a 12-hour respite can offer. In fact, you’re probably going to want to turn it into a sojourn of several days. How else will you have time to sample the hawker markets, explore the designer emporiums and witness Gardens by the Bay at nighttime?
Extending a stopover in Singapore with Qantas doesn’t add any cost to your flight – but it does add an extra whack of excitement to your trip. If you do choose a stopover in Singapore, make the most of your time with this list of must-eats, sees and dos.
Changi Airport, the city’s main international hub, is 30 minutes by car or an hour on the 36 bus that loops terminals 1, 2 and 3. There’s also a train service that runs between the airport and Tanah Merah station. It requires a change and takes about an hour.
What to do
Enjoy a traditional breakfast
Start the day at Toast Box at Bugis Junction, where you’ll find a modern take on an old-school kopitiam (coffee shop) serves a traditional Singaporean pick-me-up: toast laced with kaya (a jam made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar). It goes well with soft-boiled eggs and coffee sweetened with condensed milk.
Browse the National Gallery
The world’s largest collection of modern South-East Asian art – including paintings of Singapore when it was simply a fishing village engulfed by jungle – line the labyrinthine galleries of the spruced-up City Hall and Supreme Court buildings. The museum also runs free daily tours for visitors looking to delve a little deeper into the sprawling exhibitions as well as the building’s modern architecture.
Created by Japanese interdisciplinary art collective teamLab, the permanent but ever-evolving Future World (pictured above) exhibit at Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum plunges visitors into a mash of “art, science, magic and metaphor” in the form of exciting, immersive installations. Past and present experiences include the self-moving STRANDBEEST creations as well as mesmerising digital installations such as Crystal Universe that transport visitors to another world.
Savour chilli crab at Momma Kong's
This legendary sticky-fingered Singaporean dish is the city’s culinary staple and no stopover menu would be complete without it. The chilli crab version at Momma Kong’s is frequently lauded as the island’s finest. The only way to weigh in? Sample it – or the black pepper version – for yourself. Otherwise, take the cues of these culinary heavyweights in your quest for the best.
SEE ALSO: The Definitive Dining Guide to Singapore
Explore Gardens by the Bay
This lush, lavish, eminently stroll-able attraction is impressive by day but really dazzles after dark when its huge glass conservatories and towering ‘supertrees’ are illuminated. Time your visit to catch the mesmerising Garden Rhapsody light and sound show (nightly at 7.45pm and 8.45pm) – perfect for families with curious kids to distract.
Shop and eat in Little India
The vibrant ‘Little India’ enclave is a hypnotic treat for souvenir hunters. Fossick flea markets, Instagrammable shopping arcades and the 24-hour Mustafa Centre for colourful fabrics, eclectic antiques and vintage posters. If you're peckish, the hawker court in the Tekka Centre serves flavoursome Indian, Chinese and Malay fare.
Visit Fort Canning Park
This tranquil, leafy retreat looms above the colonial district. Wander through aromatic spice gardens, peruse the shrine of Singapore's last Malay king and delve into the bunker-style Battle Box Museum, which traces the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942.
Be pampered at Banyan Tree Spa
Singapore’s hustle, bustle and sweltering humidity can sap energy levels. Take it as an excuse to refresh with a Royal Banyan treatment. A massage using a herbal pouch dipped in sesame oil is a signature offering at the Banyan Tree Spa on the 55th floor of Marina Bay Sands – another great spot to peek at the glittering metropolis.
Saddle up: join a cycling tour
Running day and night, Biking Singapore’s absorbing, anecdote-packed tours have you pedalling through the fragrant lanes of Chinatown via CBD skyscrapers and past the futuristic architectural beacons of Marina Bay.
Get some perspective
Singapore is a city that’s meant to be viewed from above. Its loftiest alfresco bar Altitude-1 (an impressive 62 storeys up) is the place for cocktails and city views. It’s also home to fine dining restaurant, Stellar, where east meets west in the tasting menus (think foie gras parfait brioche, Japanese Hida Wagyu rib eye and roast turbot).
Where to stay
Close to the aiport
YOTELAIR offers an excellent stopover solution right in the middle of Changi Airport. It’s located in the much-vaunted Jewel Changi Airport complex (see below) and it’s made up of 130 ingenious cabins that can be rented for as little as four hours or overnight. There are self-check-in kiosks for easy arrivals and the hotel has a gym, co-working spaces and the KOMIUNITI space for eating, drinking and relaxing. Cabins come in Premium, Accessible and Family sizes.
Close to the city
Staying at a place such as the AMOY Singapore doesn’t just secure free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast and a great central location, it also guarantees a free pick up from the airport to save on precious travel time.
Planning a really quick stopover?
You’re in luck. Qantas flights between Australia and London on the dreamily refurbished A380s stop over in Changi, giving passengers a chance to disembark, stretch their legs and explore the wonders of Changi Airport. There’s so much to do at Changi, local families visit the complex despite the absence of plans to fly. There’s an exotic butterfly garden that boasts a six-metre waterfall and 1000 colourful inhabitants, a rooftop cactus garden for exploration and fresh air and in terminals 2 and 3, you’ll find cinemas that screen new releases, kids films and classics 24 hours a day. And then there's the new Jewel Changi Airport, the latest, erm, jewel in Changi Airport's crown.
It’s hard to categorise Jewel Changi Airport. Sure, it has 300 shops and restaurants, including Coach, Uniqlo, Shake Shack, Din Tai Fung and Marks & Spencer, but to call it a shopping complex fails to note the incredible attractions it houses. These include the Rain Vortex, a 40-metre indoor waterfall; the Forest Valley, a lush indoor park that spans five stories; a giant hedge maze; and a phenomenon that kids will go crazy for called Foggy Bowls. It consists of five “bowls” scooped out of the ground in which people can jump around, each impact releasing a puff of mist – it’s akin to playing in the clouds.