Don’t dismiss Singapore as one giant shopping mall. Yes, there are quite a few of those but Singapore is also a fascinating melting pot of culture and traditions reflected vibrantly in its food, architecture and people. You’re never far from expansive green spaces or new and exotic flavours – and if you need any tips on where to eat, rest assured the locals are more than happy to share their favourite spots with you. If you’re stopping over in the bustling city, make the most of your time with this list of must-eats, sees and dos, perfect for a few days in the city.
Changi Airport, the city’s main international hub, is thirty minutes by car or an hour with 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 but this requires a train change and takes about an hour also.
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 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
Changi Airport’s Aerotel is a great place for flying visits to the capital. Conveniently located in terminal 1, this modern hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre facilities and the helpful option to book and extend rooms by the hour.
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. Singapore’s Changi Airport is a rarity amongst the world’s places of transit – there’s so much to do, local families visit the complex despite the absence of plans to leave the country. 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.