Singapore has an air of high elegance and style, prestige, success and power, which simultaneously collides with a unique system of forward thinking, environmental awareness and advanced infrastructure that are years ahead of where some of the world’s most advanced cities are today. Our visit to Singapore was brief, but we were thrilled to take in some of their best sights, notable dishes and recommended exhibits.
- Background on Singapore’s colorful history: Singapore is a young four decades old, having broken away from Malaysia in 1965. It has grown to be one of the strongest economies in the world.
- There are just under 4 million residents in Singapore with an ex-pat population of close to 3 million, bringing the total population just shy of 7 million.
- Uber is much cheeper than cabs. Wifi is available in most places so you shouldn’t have any problem ordering one.
- Credit cards are taken everywhere (including taxis).
- No need to tip.
- Extreme cleanliness. Singapore is known as the cleanest city in the world, a status it’s Prime Minister has achieved by banning chewing gum, spitting, littering and tossing of cigarette butts onto the ground. Note: If caught misstepping any of their guidelines you can be severely fined, so do look into them before visiting to avoid any unwanted encounters from the undercover law enforcement!
- Attention to detail. Every single aspect of this city’s livability has been thought through. The result is a carefully mapped infrastructure where everything is clearly marked and constructed. This includes an orderly traffic system which frowns upon jaywalking.
- Night Safari. You can see a number of the world’s most endangered species in their zoo habitats at night. Insider tip: Unless you’re with kids, we’d recommend skipping the performances and instead spend your time on the walking trails. The tram is also a great way to see the entire park, but wait until the crowds have passed to take the ride. The middle seats are also the best so try for those if you get the chance.
Insider tip: Check the weather before you buy your tickets as it won’t be as much fun in the rain!
- Gardens by the Bay. Visit the Conservatory Cloud Forest, an enclosed dome housing some of the world’s rarest rainforest vegetation, and the Supertree Grove, a collection of photovoltaic tree formations. There is a Flower Conservatory dome that you can visit as well. If visiting in April, you can catch the Tulip Mania.
Insider tip: Unless you’re interested in the city views, we don’t recommend buying the ticket for the Skywalk in the Supertree Grove as it isn’t set up as a way to learn about the trees, but more to offer visitors with a better vantage point of the city’s skyline.
- Chinatown. With its winding streets lined with vibrant Chinese lanterns, vendors selling everything from souvenir bracelets, scarves and off-brand watches, to authentic chopsticks and tea sets, this is a shopping experience you don’t want to miss.
- ArtScience Museum’s permanent exhibit, “Future World”. Featuring works by teamLab, “a group comprised of over 400 members who come from backgrounds as diverse as engineering, mathematics and, of course, art, the Japanese collective are known for exploring how the natural and digital worlds interact with each other.” Future World is a true reflection of their collective genius, with interactive instillations that challenge and trick your mind, and invite a sense of play. Make sure to give yourself at least an hour to make it through; longer if you’re with kids.
Insider tip: There are set times for entry to prevent overcrowding, so do make sure to check the times online before you go.
- Go to Maxwell’s Food Centre in Chinatown and head to the following stalls:
- Hainanese chicken and rice at Tian Tian.
- Congee with Century Egg (if you aren’t quite that adventurous, there are traditional chicken and pork options as well.)
- Chicken steam bun (found in heating ovens of many stalls)
- Juice stalls. Try the any or all of the exotic options. We’d recommend the dragonfruit juice and/or aloe juice.
- Sliced candied pork. Also found in Chinatown, at various storefronts. Insider tip: If you don’t want to buy a full slice, you can just taste various samples)
- Indian food. We weren’t able to save enough room for the renowned Indian food of Singapore, but were told to skip all the rest and head straight to Banana Leaf Apolo for the “best of.”
Singapore is home to some of the best coffee in the world, therefore, home to some of the best coffee shops in the world. Here is a great article highlighting some of the city’s top independent shops, but there are many more, unmentioned, that you’ll surely run into simply by wandering around.
- Marina Bay Sands. There are three full restaurants – Justin Quek’s Sky on 57, Wolfgang Puck’s SPAGO, and Ce la Vi Restaurant – and one lounge, Flight, on the rooftop of the magnificent Marina Bay Sands. For a treat, you can make a reservation at one of their restaurants, but if you’d rather simply enjoy a Singapore Sling as you overlook the enchanting skyline, you can head to Flight atop Tower 1. Do make sure you time your night properly to catch the water show. It’s a glorious spectacle to see, high above the city.
Note: Sky on 57 and Flight enforce a smart casual dress code, but the other two restaurants are business casual, so do make sure you have the right attire before making a reservation.
Insider tip: Given our backpacker wardrobes, we chose Sky on 57. We were seated indoors with a view of the cityscape through glass but were invited to walk around outside while our food was being prepared. After dinner, we were given a private table on the balcony at Flight where we were able to watch the water show. The food surpassed our expectations, having enjoyed the Penne Duck Confeit and Black Cod.
- Level 33: A microbrewery in the sky. Floating 33 levels up from the ground, this is a great place for small bite and cold craft beer flight, as you take in views of the city’s port and expansive skyline. Insider tip: We recommend the fish and chips as well as the bread and dips small bites. Do try their seasonal brew as well if you don’t go for their flight.
- Si Wei Mao Cai. The unassuming next door neighbor to Momma Kong’s, Si Wei Mao Cai serves incredibly savory authentic Chinese food. A perfect option if Momma Kong’s is filled up for the night (or if you’re simply looking for great Chinese food in Chinatown)
- Momma Kong’s. Best king crabs in Singapore. Get the black pepper chili crab and the traditional chili crab. Insider tip: Based on the season, crabs may be more limited at certain times, as they are imported from Sri Lanka. Also, given their popular reputation, we’d recommend making a reservation.
Foot reflexology [massage] in Chinatown. A bit pricey, but truly worth it after a long day of exploring the city!
Suggestion cred: Thank you Kelly for all you wonderful and thoughtful suggestions!