My first time in Singapore was short, but sweet.
With only a day to see the best of the city, I found myself jumping from sight to sight.
En route from Australia to Bali, I decided to extend a layover and spend a few days in Singapore.
I wanted to see even more of the clean, futuristic, cultural city that had piqued my interest a few months prior. And, at the time, a good friend was living in Singapore, so I was excited to catch up with her as well.
My return trip was everything I’d hoped it would be- I was able to see a few more sights I’d missed on my first visit, and relax at cafes around the city, experiencing Singapore’s coffee culture.
It’s common for travelers from Europe and the US to find themselves in Singapore at some point if they’re venturing to Asia.
With Sing’s airport being a major international hub for connecting flights around Asia, there are often flight deals to be found, with long layovers to see a bit of the city.
Whether you’ve got one day, as I did my first visit, or a few days to make your way around the city, these 10 things should be on your itinerary for consideration.
10 Things You You See, Do and Eat in Singapore
GARDENS BY THE BAY
Beautiful and futuristic.
Ever since I first saw a photo of the futuristic Supertree Grove, I knew I needed to make it there someday.
Gardens by the Bay is worth visiting not just because it’s ‘v insta’, but because of its mission to educate on the effects of climate change, and take steps towards conservation.
The Supertree Grove is free to visit- I arrived by 7:30 am because I wanted to wander the grove without dozens of other visitors, and before the day got too hot. The trees are covered with more than 200 species of orchids, ferns and tropical flowers.
While you’re here, don’t miss visiting the Cloud Tree Forest.
Admission to visit the conservatories in the botanical gardens is steep- but I’m happy to contribute to a cause like the one Gardens supports.
The Cloud Forest was incredible- I’m always at ease in botanic gardens and this was no different. Being the first person they let in meant I had the forest to myself for a few minutes.
Standing by myself below the thundering waterfalls was incredible.
For the next hour, I wandered the layers of the forest, taking my time so I was still in the forest at 10 am when the morning misting was scheduled. Try to time your visit with a mist- it’s so cool to watch the forest transform.
I’ll admit I visited this museum because of the glittering room I’d seen on Instagram.
Per ArtScience’s website, the museum is a world of art, science, magic and metaphor through a collection of cutting-edge digital installations.
Translation: Very cool exhibits that are fun to interact with (especially great for children), and in strong air-con.
I’d reserved a ticket ahead of time for the Future World exhibit, but needn’t have worried- it wasn’t busy when I visited.
NIGHT SHOWS AT MARINA BAY SANDS & GARDENS BY THE BAY
The Spectra show at Marina Bay Sands is a great welcome to Singapore.
The show is beautiful- lasers whipping through the night sky, shimmering lights, and a beautiful symphony as the backdrop.
Best yet? Flexible timings- there are 8 and 9 pm shows daily.
Next to MBS, Gardens by the Bay also runs two nightly shows. It’s possible to see both, but you’ll have to do Gardens first, then walk over to MBS to wait for their next one.
The best for cheap, street eats. In Singapore, these centres are the best way to try a variety of Asian foods.
Go during lunch or dinner, and scope out the stalls with the longest queues.
Locals always know best.
I loved exploring the streets of Little India- so much to see, smell and experience. The offerings, in particular, caught me off guard with their beauty. The colours and the patterns- just incredible.
I’d heard Tekka was one of the best hawker centres (markets with food stalls) in Singapore- more authentic and frequented by locals. I only came for a snack, but was practically drooling over how great everything looked. And, so cheap!
Wandering Chinatown for a bit, soaking up some seriously cool street art, I wasn’t feeling too great- exhausted from the heat and a tad jet lagged.
It was hot, humid, full on sunshine and I’d been used to grey, damp days in London. Opposite ends of the spectrum, to say the least.
So, I found a cafe with ace cold brew and chilled out (literally) for a bit. Bonus: Free the Robot had the cutest dog bopping around.
If you’re looking for a cool spot to have a few drinks in, check out My Awesome Cafe in Chinatown- colorful and vibrant, always packed with people in a good way.
And, if you’re in Chinatown at night, check out the walking street night market. Tons of restaurants and stalls along the sides, a good way to try new things, cheaply.
Love, love, love the neighborhood. It’s colorful and cultural, a great place to wander and have dinner if you’re not staying in the area.
When in this hood, don’t miss the golden mosque or Haji Lane, one of the most colourful streets in Singapore.
And, a few other recommendations for eats/drinks-
- Zam Zam: Legendary for meat eaters
- Tabbouleh: Great for a Middle Eastern food fix
- Symmetry: Ace flat white
- % Arabica: Some of the world’s best coffee. I had it for the first time in Japan years ago, and couldn’t get over how great it was. Delighted to see a branch in Singapore
KOON SENG ROAD
When I envisioned Singapore, I thought of skyscrapers. Koon Seng Road with its pretty pastel homes couldn’t have been farther from that image.
Decades ago, the area was inhabited by the first Chinese immigrants to come to Singapore from Malaysia. Koon Seng Road gets its name from Cheong Koon Seng, one of the first thirteen students at Singapore’s Anglo-Chinese school. Built in the 1920s, some of the houses are still inhabited by the original families.
The homes on Koon Seng are stunning- the colors and details are incredible. It’s a bit from Singapore’s centre, but worth the trek.
DRINK CHEESE TEA
Okay, the last two items on this list aren’t sights per se, but of equal importance in my opinion in getting the true Singapore experience.
Cheese tea may not have originated in Singapore, but it sure is popular in the city.
Cheese tea?!, you ask. Yes, cheese tea.
More accurately, cheese foam.
In actuality, it’s foam made of cream cheese and milk, topped with salt.
The first time It tired it, I had it on green tea and wasn’t a huge fan. The next two times, I had it with a fruit tea and a milky tea. Wow, what a difference the saltiness of the cheese foam makes in balancing sweet or creamy flavours. Now, it’s one of my favourite Asian treats to order.
- ParTea: My least favourite on this list, the benefit to coming here is that you can find ParTea’s in major malls (they’re an Asian chain), and they have a variety of teas on offer, so you can mix and match flavours to your preference
- Hey Tea: A chain that specialises in fruit teas, their cheese foam topping is excellent. Big fan of the strawberry and melon cheese teas, and love the location in Clarke Quay for its colorful surroundings
- Coffee Break Cafe: The promise of taro kaya toast is what originally brought me to Coffee Break, but when I saw hojicha milk tea with cheese foam on the menu, I knew I had to have it. Find this place on the upper flower of a hawker centre, and be sure to bring cash
EAT KAYA TOAST
A Singaporean breakfast delicacy, toast may look simple at first.
And it is, which is kind of the beauty of it.
My favourite places for brekkie in Sing are Ya Kun Kaya Toast, which has been around for over 75 years, and Toast Box.
At Ya Kun, order toast the traditional way- with butter and cinnamon.
And, at Toast Box, don’t miss having it with Kaya, a very sweet coconut jam.
If you’re looking for something more off-beat, check out Coffee Box (mentioned above). They’ve got a few different flavours on the menu, including a creamy, delicious taro toast option.
Wherever you order, top it all off with a sickly sweetened coffee or iced cheese tea.
EXTRA SINGAPORE TRAVEL TIPS
Getting There: Singapore’s airport is one of the best in the world, and if you’ve got a short layover, is well worth exploring. My favourite bit? The Jewel in T1, it’s a gorgeous free-fall waterfall, surrounded by lush vegetation.
Overnight layover? There are a few hotel options in Singapore’s airport, including the small, but cozy rooms at Yotel.
Getting to the City: Ther’s public transit, but with my luggage, I usually take a Grab if the prices aren’t surging. Often, it’s only £7-9 to get to the Kampong Glam neighbourhood I like to stay in.
Getting Around: Usually, for me, it’s a combination of Grab, bus/MRT and walking. Singapore is hot and humid, so I often skip out on walking places that are more than 15-20 minutes apart. Grab is pretty affordable, and the bus/MRT system takes contactless card, making it seamless ot hop on a bus or train on the fly.
WiFi: Lots of cafes have WiFi, or you can pick up a tourist SIM in the airport. Shop around before buying if you decide to grab one before heading into the city. Some places combine tourism offers with data, which marks up the price because of the overall benefits you’re paying for. On my last visit, I saw 2GB for £18 or 100 GB for £17 right next to each other. If you’re like me, and it’s more important to have plentiful data for work, you’ll want more bang for your buck on that front.
Where to Stay: I love the Kampong Glam neighborhood because it’s colorful, fun and packed with places to eat and drink. It’s also a mix of cultures, which means you can find everything from Middle Eastern to Asian to Italian food, and some seriously great coffee. I’ve also heard great things about staying in Chinatown or Little Italy, if you want to be in the thick of things.
In Kampong Glam, I’ve stayed at Airbnbs and the Pod Boutique Capsule Hotel. I enjoyed my stay at the Pod Boutique Hotel, but would forewarn the rooms around soundproof, so you’ll want to bring earplugs.
Have you ever been to Singapore? What would you add to this list?
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