The basics — Going from swamp to metropolis in a century would be impressive, but Singapore managed to make the transition in less than 50 years. Renowned for its impressive investment in public transport and built environment, it’s without a doubt one of the easiest cities in the world to get about in. Luckily, that ease of movement makes getting into the city’s nooks and crannies all the more straightforward. But it’s definitely a lot more than that — don’t assume that a good set of tracks is all the city has to offer.
What a reputation you have Changi — and it’s mostly deserved. While we’re not much for butterfly enclosures (yes, this really does exist), we certainly appreciate the remarkable efficiency that this facility operates at, and its commitment to investing in its growth. Local flag carrier Singapore Airlines has one of the finest in-flight products in the world (though its hub’s lounges leave a bit to be desired). Other airlines in the region, such as Qantas and Cathay Pacific have invested a lot in building beautiful lounges to spend time pre-flight. Connections to the city are swift and cheap, with a direct integration to Singapore’s MRT train network, as well as plenty of friendly (and opinionated) taxi drivers at the ready.
One of the world’s best train networks, Singapore’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) hums. In parallel with its comprehensive bus infrastructure and safe, well-priced taxis, getting around this city is a joy. Of course, you’d expect no less from a city that cares as much about future-proofing as Singapore does. We’ll always lean towards rail here, but if keeping sweat-free is important, those affordable Ubers, Grabs and taxis are always an option.
While we enjoy running in the heat, Singapore can sometimes push the friendship a bit. But don’t fear; this city happens to also be particularly gym-friendly. You’ll never be far from one, so it’s an easy way to stay trim on the road. But what if you’re looking for something a bit more in tune with the locale? Hot yoga is a good choice here, as is simply joining an early-morning tai chi class in one of the many lush parks that dot the city. There are also a number of impressive new cycling routes along the coastline if that’s more your speed.
Sleep — We haven’t always been impressed with Singapore’s hotel landscape but things are looking up, and have been for a while, with even more good-looking openings on the way. That said, there a couple of long standing stalwarts that deliver consistency and reliability in the heart of the action. This makes avoiding the city’s hotel show ponies an easy decision.
Eat — With minimal physical and geographical assets, Singapore has always relied on its people. And what fuels them? Some damn good food. It’s a cliche to say that you go to Singapore to eat, but it’s a cliche for a reason. From the longstanding — and fabulously affordable — hawker centres (Singapore’s appropriately-regulated answer to street food) to the newest hotspots powered by the skills and influences delivered from abroad, it’s a city that knows how to eat well.
In what is arguably one of the most lush dining rooms in the city, Pollen is housed inside the Gardens by the Bay Flower Dome. Typically, the eateries you find at tourist ground zeroes can be more style than substance, but Pollen delivers dining worthy of the location. The set menu at lunchtime is a great way to sample what this clever kitchen can do, while tying the experience into some sightseeing nicely.
#01-09, 18 Marina Gardens Drive
Despite franchises of the outlet popping up around the world, the original sits here on Killiney Road. This is the place to read your copy of The Straits Times over the breakfast set — soft-boiled eggs, kaya toast and a cup of kopi. If you’re staying at Lloyd’s Inn, you’ll even have breakfast here included, just a short stroll down the road from your bed.
67 Killiney Road
PS.Cafe at Harding Road
Despite operating several outlets across the city, the Dempsey Hill location is easily the most picturesque — in fact, it’s arguably the city’s most attractive dining spot. The modernist building is enveloped in a canopy of green, making a meal here peaceful and completely in tune with Singapore’s lush reputation. Efficient, friendly staff give the experience some polish too, so it’s a great spot to bring company and while away a few hours in the trees over a long lunch.
28B Harding Road
Coffee — With its own coffee (kopi) history, Singapore is no stranger to the stuff. But with a well-travelled population and a large number of students who’ve spent time in the coffee heartlands of Australia and New Zealand, the city has its fair share of modern coffee joints to rival those coffee famous spots further south.
Monument Lifestyle is nestled into the traditional (and colourful) shophouses of Duxton Road. You’ll find some smart retail, geared towards men, up front, with coffee down the back. We recommend this as a nice little destination to enjoy a pastry and coffee while exploring this very happening neighbourhood.
5 Duxton Road
Common Man Roasters
With an experienced team behind it, Common Man Roasters takes good coffee and inventive brunch-appropriate dishes and melds them together in a tasteful fitout. Just another trendy breakfast spot? Sure, but knowing how to make a mean brew and serve good food alongside should never be taken for granted. Buzzing and inviting, Common Man is a top pick in a city that is starting to get some serious caffeine credibility.
22 Martin Road
Brawn & Brains
This raw, light-filled space gives you a good indication of where Singapore’s coffee scene is headed. Having moved into this space, the cafe has given as much focus to its well-made, hearty food as it does to its ever excellent coffee. This versatile venue is somewhat Australian in style, making it the kind of place we’re equally happy to choose for a leisurely breakfast, working lunch or coffee meeting.
#01-02, 100 Guillemard Road
Drink — Singapore’s straight-laced reputation slips out the door come sundown. Despite a generally pricier alcohol and strict licensing here, you’ll find some splendid spots to spend your evening. The humble roadside joints with cheap snacks and decent beer can often be just as good as the most daring cocktail joints.
Bincho In Hua Bee
During the day, Bincho is a classic mee pok spot. Come night, it transforms into a thriving restaurant. To be honest, that’s our thing — what’s the point in clever cocktails if food has to be found elsewhere? This fun little outpost delivers a solid menu of sharable yakitori, along with those aforementioned cocktails. It’s your one-stop shop for an enjoyable evening out.
60 Boat Quay
Singapore’s got a penchant for hidden, unmarked venues and Operation Dagger is delivering these qualities better than most. Dimly lit, yet boasting a rather spectacular backdrop of lightbulbs, the bar is an ideal hideaway from the city at large. Drinks err on the side of daring, making this spot a real adventure.
#B1-01, 7 Ann Siang Hill
28 Hong Kong St
This award-winning little perch has been the talk of the town for several years now. While it’s no longer fresh on the scene, 28 Hong Kong St has found its groove with prompt service, expertly-made drinks and cosy interiors. Grab a booth and a friend and settle in with a cocktail and some bar snacks, and let this clever team look after you.
28 Hongkong St
Shop — Ask anyone what you should do in Singapore and they’ll probably tell you to go shopping. We would tend to agree, but our selections tend to veer away from the large shopping malls. Independent retail here is booming, and it’s not just the new places — many have been around for years.
Basheer Graphic Books
Hard to find, humble in appearance, but arguably one of the most underrated magazine and book stores we’ve ever come across. The range is comprehensive, stocking many titles you won’t find elsewhere in the region, and beating any airport newsstand for range. The only downside? Most magazines are sealed, so you’ll need have to take a gamble before getting a geeze inside your purchase. The range of design, architecture, fashion and art books deserves a special mention, so leave room in your luggage.
#04-19, Bras Basah Complex, 231 Bain Street
We realise this is another place to buy printed material, but a trip to both BooksActually and Basheer will yield very different purchases. BooksActually is where you’ll pick up Singapore’s best home-grown literature, as well as the odd tome from elsewhere in South-East Asia or beyond. Grab something for your travels, or pick up a local book to take a peek into Singapore’s fledgling literary scene. If you weren’t already conviced , a couple of cats also call BooksActually home.
9 Yong Siak Street
When you walk through the door of Scene Shang you’ll be served tea. It’s a nice touch anywhere, but it really makes sense in this generously proportioned, yet small-footprint, retail spot for the home. As well as selling wares from Singapore and abroad, the brand hand-produces its own furniture. Great shopping you’re putting down roots here in town, maybe not so much if you’re back to the airport in 24 hours. Despite this, Scene Shang is still well worth a nosey.
263 Beach Road
See — As a city that’s (not so) slowly building its tourism arsenal, your weekend in Singapore will introduce to you some bold sights. Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Bay Sands complex and their surrounding area make up the typical sightseeing hit list (the former is well worthy of the acclaim), but some lesser-known also make for an interesting time.
Henderson Waves Bridge
A 36 metre-high bridge may not sound particularly impressive, but when typically flat Singapore does it, it’s worth taking notice. The eccentric, yet earthy, timber-clad Henderson Waves Bridge is utilised by hikers exploring the Southern Ridges Walk, a lush, park-crossing voyage through the tiny city’s green heartland.
Described as a ‘a reading room and tea salon’, the charmingly named Looksee Looksee is a beautiful space where you can stop by for tea and a browse of their expertly-curated selection of reading material. Featuring quirky international titles, the most notable books are the excellent local reads that often fail to be seen outside of the city. Allocate some generous time when planning a visit.
267 Beach Road
K+ Curatorial Space
Showcasing some of Singapore’s most interesting up-and-coming designers, K+ Curatorial Space is a gallery and retail space located right on Orchard Road. Home to a well-curated selection of books, ceramics and furniture, this gallery provides an excellent sample of local design tastes.
#03-11/12/13, Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road
Families — Singapore is built in a way that offers a lot to families. In addition to the many public and private institutions catering to parents, the city is also ridiculously green, and has a surprising number of open (and free) spaces for young ones to explore.
Gardens by the Bay
If you wanted to remind people that you’re the ‘garden city’, what would you do? Singapore spent $1 billion SGD on Gardens by the Bay, to great effect. Ideal for families, this site will impress and inspire awe with its architectural scale and logistical might. For young ones, this fairytale space offers plenty of territory to explore. Come for the greenery, stay for lunch at Pollen. Keep in mind access by road is tricky, so best it’s to plan your route ahead of time for any less-able bodied family members.
18 Marina Gardens Drive
Woods in the Books
We’re clearly obsessed with books, and Singapore is has become the surprise literature champion of the region. Woods in the Books, a bookstore just for young people, can be found nestled into the charming Tiong Bahru neighbourhood. Located near Books Actually, actually, this store offers books, comics and other print beauties for an audience that is all too often forgotten.
3 Yong Siak Street
This spectacular construction is more than just a pretty face. One of the city’s better museums, between spot-hopping around the Bayfront area, families will find more than enough to keep them entertained. Exhibiting shows that offer a crossover between the arts and sciences, the museum manages to be a space of creativity and enlightenment for those curious young ones. (Photo: teamLab)
6 Bayfront Avenue
Events — Thanks to its strategically superior geography, superb land infrastructure and world-leading airport, Singapore naturally plays host to the many events looking to attract crowds from both the northern and southern hemispheres. While we’re partial to the smaller creative events that are starting to pop-up, the big events are here too, and are well worth working into your trip.
Singapore Art Week
St Jerome’s Laneway Festival
Chinese New Year
Singapore Design Week
Singapore International Jazz Festival
Dragon Boat Festival
Hari Raya Haji
Singapore Grand Prix