Got some friends coming to town and not sure where to even begin on your potential itinerary? Here’ your Ultimate Guide to 48 Hours in Singapore.
7am – Beat the jetlag at Singapore Botanic Gardens
Mornings are blissful at Singapore Botanic Gardens. Jog or stroll through parts of the 60-acre UNESCO World Heritage Site, especially the Swan Lake, home to a pair of gorgeous mute swans from Amsterdam. The new Learning Forest wing, which opened in April 2017, is a refuge for 120,000 plant species and fauna native to Singapore and the region.
Tel: +65 6465 0196
Hours: 5am – 12am daily
Visit Singapore Botanic Gardens website
8am – Breakfast at Maxwell Road Food Centre
Breakfast like a local at this humble temple to Singaporean food of every ilk. Chinese pork porridge and you tiao (fried dough fritters), Indian roti prata, Malay mee rebus (yellow wheat noodles in a thick beef and potato gravy), and Nonya kueh (traditional Straits Chinese cakes) are just some of the delicious things on offer across the 100 stalls.
1 Kandayanallur Street
10am – Wander around Chinatown
A few streets from Maxwell Road Food Centre is Chinatown, a now gentrified neighbourhood that is still home to many of Singapore’s elderly who have lived here since the early days. Mosey around Kreta Ayer Market and stop to watch wizened old men hunch over a game of Chinese chess, pick up a souvenir from one of the many shops that occupy the ground floor of historic shophouses, and check out hipster cafes and boutiques along Club Street and Ann Siang Hill.
12.30pm – Lunch at National Kitchen By Violet Oon
From Chinatown, walk over to National Gallery to build up your appetite, which you will definitely need for this meal. The menu at National Kitchen located at the National Gallery is created by Violet Oon, Singapore’s answer to Julia Child. It comprises elegant interpretations of the island’s culinary canon, with delights such as chilli crab and beef rendang. Ask for a seat on the veranda framed by grand Corinthian columns where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Singapore’s historic Civic District.
1 St Andrew’s Road, #01-02, National Gallery Singapore
Tel: +65 9834 9935
Hours: Daily, 12pm – 3pm and 6pm – 11pm
National Kitchen by Violet Oon’s menu
Visit National Kitchen by Violet Oon’s website
2.30 pm – Wander around the National Gallery
Post lunch, stroll around the National Gallery and take in one of the world’s largest public collections of modern and contemporary Southeast Asian artwork. The building itself is a work of art: housed in two national monuments — City Hall and the Supreme Court buildings — it is joined by link bridges and a marble and glass canopy designed to replicate the leaves and branches of the city’s verdant greenery
1 Saint Andrew’s Road, #01–01, 178957
Tel: +65 6271 7000
Hours: Sun – Thurs, 10am – 7pm and Fri – Sat, 10am – 10pm
Visit National Gallery’s website
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5pm – Succumb to a Singapore Heritage Massage
An urban sanctuary nestled within the Shangri-La Hotel, CHI, The Spa offers qi-revitalising healing treatments including Chinese foot massages, body massages and facials. Try the Singapore Heritage Massage, which combines traditional Asian massage and modern therapeutic techniques to relax the body and lift the spirits.
8pm – Dinner at Palm Beach Seafood
Palm Beach has collected accolade after accolade in the more than 60 years since it was first established as a roadside pushcart stall in 1956. Aside from purveying Singapore-style seafood classics like chilli crab — a dish its founders Cher Yam Tian and Lim Choo Ngee are credited with having created — Palm Beach has also kept up with the times and serves some modern creations such as Golden Milk Prawns coated in a buttermilk crumb and Hokkaido scallop sashimi.
#01-09, One Fullerton, 1 Fullerton Road
Tel: +65 6336 8118
Hours: Daily, 12pm – 2:30pm and 5:30pm – 10:30pm
Visit Palm Beach Seafood’s website
Find Palm Beach Seafood on Facebook
10pm – Drink your way around the Marina Bay
Walk off dinner in the surrounding Fullerton Heritage Precint, one of the island’s most gorgeous historical sites. Stop along Clifford Pier to gaze across the waters at the iconic Marina Bay Sands, then make your way to Customs House to enjoy a drink at the rooftop of hip urban Japanese joint Kinki. Follow with a cocktail at Spago on the 57th floor rooftop of Marina Bay Sands, then adjourn to neighouring Cé La Vi Club Lounge to dance the night away against breath-taking panoramic views of the city and beyond.
Hai Di Lao
After a big night out in Clarke Quay, Hai Di Lao will sort you right out with steaming Sichuan style hotpots packed with good eats like thinly sliced mutton, beef and fish balls, handmade noodles, dumplings, and veggies. Extras include fruit and popcorn while you wait for a table, endless soup and drink refills, and plastic cell phone protectors.
Hai Di Lao, 3D River Valley Road #02-04, Singapore 179023. p. +65 6337 8626. Open daily 10:30am – 6am
8am – Kaya toast and kopi at Tong Ah Eating House
A veritable institution, this no-frills traditional coffeeshop has been purveying that quintessential Singaporean breakfast of kaya (coconut egg jam) toast, half-boiled eggs and thick local coffee since 1939.
35 Keong Saik Road
10am – Discover Peranakan culture at the Peranakan Museum
Housed in a mansion built in 1912, this museum pays homage to the fascinating cultural traditions and distinctive visual arts of the Straits Chinese. It houses the world’s finest and most comprehensive collection of Peranakan artefacts, and provide a glimpse of how today’s Peranakans have evolved their culture.
Visit the Paranakan Museum’s website
12:30pm – Lunch at Samy’s Curry
Opened in 1950, Samy’s is a stalwart of the Singapore Indian dining scene. This no-frills, family-run spot serves up ginormous portions of rice, veggies, and curries on banana leaves. The signature dish to try is the fish head curry with a whole snapper head in a rich, spicy gravy. The biryani sets are also super pocket-friendly and include two vegetables, gravy, and bottomless pappadums.Samy’s Curry, 25A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249670. p. +65 6472 2080. Open daily Wed – Mon 11am – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm
2.30pm – Universal Studios Singapore
Adrenaline junkies will love the rides and attractions at Universal Studios Singapore. The first Hollywood movie theme park in Southeast Asia, USS features breathtaking rides unique to Singapore, including Transformers The Ride: The Ultimate 3D Battle ride where guests fight evil forces in 3D combat, and Battlestar Galactica: Human vs. Cyclon.
8 Sentosa Gateway
Hours: Daily, 10am – 8pm
Visit Universal Studios website
6.30pm – Sunset at Gardens By the Bay
Sundown is the best time to wander through this stunning horticultural attraction anchored by award-winning conservatories and those iconic Avatar-esque Supertrees. Head to Bay East, the second largest part of the gardens, which offers a jaw-dropping view of the city’s skyline.
18 Marina Gardens Drive
Tel: +65 6420 6848
Hours: Daily, 5am – 2am
Visit Gardens by the Bay’s website
7.30pm – Eat, drink and shop at Haji Lane
Singapore’s original hipster enclave, Haji Lane, in the historical Kampong Glam area, is home to charming watering holes, cafes, restaurants, and shops. Rifle through vintage knickknacks and clothes at Grammah, fashion forward menswear at Ninos, or traditional Muslim garb at Hamzah Lucky Store (57 Haji Lane). Then nosh at Cicheti or one of the many restaurants along the street before following the strains of live music to one of the many pubs and bars for a post-prandial cocktail or three.
10pm – Discover the world’s most diverse collection of gin at Atlas Bar
In the grand Art Deco-clad lobby of Parkview Square, this ornate Great Gatsby-esque lounge houses one of the world’s most diverse collections of gin, with several bottles dating back to as far as 1910.
Tel: Mon – Thur, 10am – 1am, Fri 10am – 2am and Sat, 3pm – 2am
Hours: +65 6396 4466
12am – Dance the night away at Kilo Lounge
Party on at this always jumpin’ club whose entrance is hidden away in a grotty back alley off Tanjong Pagar Road (which is, incidentally, LGBT party central). Its unisex toilet is in itself a draw.
Late-night Chicken Rice at Five Star Restaurant
No one should leave Singapore without a taste of Hainanese chicken rice. It’s good thing then that one of the city’s finest purveyors of this delicious, humble dish opens till 5am daily.
Visit Five Star Chicken Rice’s website
Image of Singapore skyline by Nicolas Lannuzel via Flickr.