Behind the futurist sky-scrappers and luxious shopping centers, you will find many unique and authentic neighborhoods, tasteful local food, and an extremely creative art scene in Singapore. This city-state, a tiny island named Temasek at its beginnings in 1365, was once a former British colony. The smallest country in south-east Asia is a buzzing melting pot of cultures, civilizations, and religions, influencing every inch of Singapore. Don’t overlook this rich and unique nation vibrating between future and feng shui.
Don’t forget. Singapore is a tropical island. With 75% humidity and temperatures ranging between 24 ans 33 degrees Celsius all year-round, be ready to feel hot in Singapore. Avoid the rainy months of November, December, and January during the heavy Northeast Monsoon.
Singapore boasts one of the busiest and best connected airports in the world: Changi Airport (SIN). It handles over 100 airlines flying to approximately 300 cities around the world. No wonder it has been voted the World’s Best Airport in 2015. Changi is jam-packed with amenities and activities, making it a world-class attraction in its own right.
Once in Singapore, forget about a car. The local metro, MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is modern, cheap and very effective. The taxis and river taxis are also a wonderful option.
The technicolor background of Singapore, rich of multi influences, presents so much to do and see. Get off the beaten track to discover some unique gems in Singapore.
Of course you can visit extraordinary museums such as the National Museum, the Asian Civilization Museum or the Art and Science Museum, but you can also just wander the streets. Art is everywhere in Singapore, in the striking architecture of the highrises and modern hotels, in the color block fronts of the Peranakan shophouses, in the sculptures spread around the city or in the colonial monuments.
Tanjong Pagar, the birthplace of the new Singapore, represents a great example of mixed architecture styles. Visit the fascinating Baba House at 157 Neil Road to experience a glimpse into the old Peranakan life. Go up the highest HDB The Pinnacle @Duxton for a breathtaking view of Singapore from its roofttop.
The first Indian settlers arrived with Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. They established their foundation around Serangoon Road and it soon became Little India. Do some shopping in Little India Arcade or the sprawling Mustafa Centre. Wander around the alleys of Tekka Centre, a bustling wet market filled with spices, exotic fruits, and local vegetables like the curious water chestnuts. The beautiful Indian temples of Sri Srinivasa Perumal and Sri Veeramakaliamman, the stunning Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya buddhist temple, and Abdul Gaffoor mosque are located in this charming neighborhood.
To the east of Little India, Kampong Glam means “village of the gelam tree” in Malay and was the home of the first Arab settlers. No trace of this tree anymore, but this lovely enclave offers plenty to see and do. Don’t miss Arab street for its cosy cafes, tasty restaurants, and lively shops. The tiny and colorful Haji Lane is the temple of cool and trendy shopping with an amazing street art background, some from the famous artist, Ernest Zacharevic, in the neighboring streets.
Chinatown’s history dates back to 1819 and the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles, him again. The Chinese, the largest group of immigrants, were given the entire area southwest of the Singapore River. Medicine shops, delicious bakeries, and exotic fruit stalls fill the streets with strong scents such as the famous Durian. The Sri Mariamman temple and Jamae mosque stand alongside the magestual Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Don’t miss the night market along Pagoda, Temple or Sago streets to catch the pulse of the city.
Follow the Heritage Trail in the quaint district of Tiong Bahru to discover Art Deco designs typical of the pre-war architecture unique in Singapore. Some examples are the colored shophouses, the spiral staircases, and kitchen airwells. Take a stroll in Tiong Bahru market and eat at the hawker center at the top of the wet market. On the corner of Tiong Bahru road, find the famous and charming bird singing corner.
Kampong lorong buangkok, the last surviving village (kampong) in Singapore, is a place frozen in time since 1956, with its colorful bungalows and black and white houses. You will experience the old Singapore here. Visit a mushroom farm in Jalan Kayu to learn how oyster and shitake mushrooms are locally grown.
The quirky park of Haw Par Villa, known as the Tiger Balm Gardens was built in 1937 by the creators of the famous pain-relieving ointment, Tiger Balm. Stroll amongst thousand of colorful statues and diorama in a charming chaos for a journey into Chinese folklore and traditions.
Yes, the Botanical Garden is a magical place. It just made it into the Unesco list. Another rare oasis of natural wonders and peace awaits you in the 130-hectares of Sungei Buloh, a wetland reserve. This green belt is a favourite of migratory shorebirds, otters, monitor lizards, and even crocodiles. Boardwalks take you safely through the mangroves, mudflats, ponds, and secondary forest to catch sight of tree climbing crabs, mudskippers, leaf oysters, and oriental whip snakes.Watch your step!
Eat and Drink
Singaporeans love food. You will find an incredible array of cuisines and fresh products. Whether you eat at a hawker center, food court or wander the wet markets or street stalls, be sure to taste the fresh and delicious exotic fruits widely available (mangosteen, longans, dragon fruit, lychees, jackfruit), devour one of the iconic dishes of Singapore like the famous chicken rice or take a sip at a cendol.
Enjoy a traditional breakfast with the locals at Ya Kun Kaya Toast (67 killiney Road). Freshly brewed coffee or hot tea, kaya (egg and coconut jam on toast) served with an half-boiled egg. Don’t forget to bring back a jar of kaya home with you.
Dive into local seafood specialities like chili crab, black pepper crayfish, and buttered prawns at East Coast Lagoon Food village (1220 ECP, Singapore 468960).
Have a bite at a nyonya rice dumpling, a typical Peranakan food at Rumah Kim Choo (109/, 111 E Coast Rd, Singapore 428801).
Enjoy a well-deserved dinner at ColBar Cafe after a walk in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, one of the only two-city-located tropical rainforest in the world (9A Whitchurch Rd, Singapore 138839).
The Long Bar stays unmissable for its iconic cocktail, the Singapore Sling, invented here in 1915. Located in the emblematic Raffles Hotel, the bar and cocktail were both favorites of Kipling (1 Beach Rd, Raffles Hotel, Singapour 189673).
The original Wanderlust Hotel in lively Little India attracts an eclectic clientele (2 Dickson Rd, Singapour 209494).
Located in a quiet street in Chinatown, the New Majestic Hotel has only 30 rooms each individually decorated by young local artists, creating a unique atmosphere (31–37 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapour 089845).
For an art-deco interior, choose the elegant Hotel 1929 established in former shophouses (50 Keong Saik Rd, Singapour 089154).
If you want to splash out on a luxury hotel, book a room at the sumptuous Fullerton Hotel. It is the chicest address in Singapore (1 Fullerton Square, Singapour 049178).
For more information on Singapore, including the best deals and most interesting sights, visit the SmartLocal website.
Check out the website of YourSingapore to gather useful information on the city-state.
Visit the Food Chapter blog for great travel and food tips about Singapore.
Last updated on: January 21st 2017