Singapore may be small by geographical standards but it punches well above its weight for fantastic food, shopping and culture. Whether you’re here for business or pleasure, we’ve canvased this glistening metropolis to bring you the best 48 hours in Singapore possible.
Stay in style
Singapore boasts some of the most original and stylish hotels in Asia. Those here for business will appreciate the fast and always free wifi and opulent business facilities many hotels offer.
For old world charm, stay at the famous Raffles Singapore.
Opened in 1887, the hotel exudes 19th century charm and is immaculately kept in pristine white condition. Add your name to the register of famous guests which includes the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, George Bush, Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Louboutin. Hang out in the writers’ bar and your emails to your boss may be infused with the same essence which inspired Rudyard Kipling as he sipped gin brought in from the Old Dart.
A fan of modern chic? Book a room at the Ritz Carlton, overlooking Marina Bay and the CBD. Sitting at your desk or lounging on the almost too-sumptuous bed you’re treated to quite the sight: the view from the Deluxe Marina Bay view rooms is spectacular, especially at night.
Combine a business stay with great nightlife by staying at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, located right on the water at Marina Bay. Inside, The Clifford Pier is a sumptuously renovated wharf; the cavernous space and enormous glass windows give you sense of the size of the shipping trade once done there. Stylishly done in glass and ultra modern grey, crème and copper furnishings, you’ll get that rockstar feeling.
The rooftop bar pulses with live tunes and great cocktails nightly, though Friday and Saturday evenings are by far the most popular. It’s where Singapore’s young and well heeled come to party.
Eat like a local
Between meetings head to one of the city’s famous hawker centres for an inexpensive and tasty bite to eat.
Originally conceived in the late 1950s as a way to clean up the chaos of street food vendors, hawker centres are now a Singaporean staple. Larger centres will feature 50 or more individual stalls, each specialising in a particular dish or dishes, and it’s commonplace for Singaporeans to eat there any time of day or late into the night, 7 days a week.
Among the most well-known is Maxwell Food Centre, located at the corner of Maxwell Rd and Tajong Pagar Rd in the CBD. Locals and tourists alike visit because of its central location and to sample what has arguably become known as the “best” example of Singapore’s national dish, Hainanese Chicken Rice. The Tian Tian Chicken Rice stall is so popular they’ve doubled up, with two stalls operating side by side during peak times.
Go truly local and head to the Airport Rd Hawker centre for some of the cheapest beer in Singapore, perfect with a hot beef noodle soup or Nasi Padang selection. For something with a bit more zest tell a taxi driver to take you to the East Coast Seafood centre situated in East Coast Park, which is well known for Singapore’s other national dish, Black Pepper or Chilli Crab.
East Coast Park itself is worth a post – meal meander along its 15km length, a true park of the people. It’s best seen at night when you’ll see a city of floating pale lights coming from the ever-present fleet of commercial ships awaiting their berth in port.
Live it up at Marina Bay Sands
Although a recent addition to Singapore’s skyline, Marina Bay Sands is by far the most iconic structure on the island. Part luxury hotel, part entertainment and shopping multiplex, it has everything the pleasure seeking visitor could wish for.
Start at The Shoppes, a luxury mall featuring some of the top brands from around the globe. Inside you’ll find The Shoppes has it’s very own indoor river and floating gondolas … if you like that kind of thing.
Feeling peckish? You’ll be spoilt for choice: some of the world’s most famous chefs have signature restaurants here. Mario Batali’s Osteria and Pizzeria Mozza is the go to for imaginative Italian food accompanied by fine examples of Italian wines. Expect some interesting background music choices (Nirvana and the Rolling Stones are on high repeat).
Steak lovers’ should visit Cut by Wolfgang Puck, who has now opened a second restaurant, Spago on level 57, which celebrates Californian inspired cuisine. Lovers of Asian flavours should try Adrift by David Myers, the Foie Gras Bánh Mì is a must.
For a dining experience that approaches art, book a seat at Tetsuya Wakuda’s Waku Ghin. Each dish delivered by your dining room’s own private chef is a masterpiece of Japanese influenced cuisine.
Tetsuya has been awarded the first official Sake Ambassador title outside of Japan, so you’re guaranteed to sample the best Sake in the world.
After you’ve shopped and eaten ’til you drop, why not perk yourself up with an Espresso martini at Flight Bar and Lounge, part of the Skypark on Level 57.
You’ll enjoy gobsmacking views of the city and coast; it’s truly a must-see by day or night.
Excite your senses in Little India
All the colour, smells and flavours of India can be found in Little India, a few city blocks celebrated by Singapore’s Indian population. Dating back to the early 1800s, it was established by freed Indian prisoners of the British Raj, an example of the conflicting legacies left by British colonialism.
Walk down Serangoon Rd or a parallel street and see an eclectic mix of Hindu and Chinese temples, mosques and churches. The Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple is one of the oldest in Singapore and a colourful example of the Hindu religion. Highly figurative scenes featuring major players in Hinduism crowd the roofs of the temple in every colour of the rainbow.
No matter where you are in Little India you’ll smell the rich spices of Indian food, sure to set your stomach rumbling. For the best South Indian vegetarian food head to Komala Vilas on Serangoon Road. Take a seat and choose from a selection of over 40 dosai, then offest the spice with with a mango lassi (made from real mangos) or rose milk.
Wander Singapore’s cultural heart
Bras Basah-Bugis (or the three B’s as it’s become known) is the centre of Singapore’s preserved history, home to old-style shophouses, museums and the arts.
The National Museum of Singapore is located here. You’ll see exhibitions featuring stories and artefects from Singapore’s history, along with a powerful exhibition detailing Singapore’s time under Japanese occupation during WWII. Until the 29th of May, the venue is playing host to Treasures from the world of the British Museum, featuring artefects from ancient cultures around the world.
Wander over to Haji Lane and Arab St for a slice of Middle Eastern food and culture. At night call by Blu Jaz cafe along Bali Lane for a dose of live music. Sit back and enjoy the tunes while puffing lazily on a Shisha, if you’re so inclined. The smell of apple tobacco wafts over the venue, it’s like you’ve been transported to downtown Cairo. The place is frequented by locals out for a relaxing time and the after work business crew keen to unwind with a beer. It’s comfortable and communal and you’ll feel right at home.
… We’ve only scratched the surface
Singapore’s densely packed urban landscape hides a wealth of great food, shopping and cultural experiences. Orchard Road is home to Singapore’s super malls featuring the world’s top brands, Sentosa Island features a casino, Universal Studios and more restaurants than you could poke a stick at… the list goes on. Hopefully we’ve given you enough to set you on your way. Enjoy the Lion city!
PS – if you’re in the region and need to kill some time in Tokyo, check out our 4 hour guide here.