Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is constantly evolving, reinventing and reimagining itself. The Singaporean’s balance of Feng Shui, blended culture and commitment to do everything they do well, shines strong. There is a buzz about, one born of success and potential, of urban gardens that burst with life and of the promise of the future.
Orchard Road, Singapore’s premier shopping belt is ideal for retail therapy whether you’re hunting for a bargain or chasing the latest trends from international labels. The urban landscape is dotted with parks and lush green sanctuaries, the futuristic Gardens by the Bay and impressive Singapore Botanic Gardens the best of them.
Eating is said to be a classically Singaporean past-time, and it’s not difficult to see why. Besides internationally acclaimed establishments, the city’s diverse culinary landscape is reflected in its street food culture. The Chinatown Complex Food Centre and Maxwell Food Centre house hundreds of food stalls, including the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred meal – Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.
There is a multitude of world-class galleries and museums, including the National Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Art Museum and National Gallery Singapore. Alternatively, discover some of Singapore’s most iconic street art in the neighbourhoods of Bras Basah, Bugis, Tiong Bahru and Little India.
Sri Mariammam Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple provide a spiritual reprieve and a boat cruise on the Singapore River a step back in time. Of course, the Merlion that spurts water over-excited tourists should be visited.
Singapore’s traditional design includes functional Malay houses, hybrid shophouses and black and white bungalows. A range of places of worship reflects the cultural and religious diversity of the city-state. Singapore is the idyllic designer city, well-kept and much loved. Whilst there, enjoying a Singapore Sling or two at the Raffles Hotel Long Bar, is always a good idea.
If you care too much about Singapore, first it’ll break your spirit, and finally, it will break your heart. – Alfian bin Sa’at is a Singaporean writer, poet and playwright.
An island sovereign-state, Singapore was built on passion and possibility and is constantly evolving, reinventing and reimagining itself with the Singaporean’s balance of Feng Shui, blended culture and commitment to doing everything they do well, shining strong.
The landscape is dotted with parks and lush green sanctuaries, with the futuristic Gardens by the Bay and impressive Singapore Botanic Gardens the best of them. Eating is said to be a classical Singaporean past-time, and it’s not difficult to see why. Besides internationally acclaimed establishments, the city’s diverse culinary scene is reflected in its street food culture.
The Chinatown Complex Food Centre and Maxwell Food Centre house hundreds of food stalls, including the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred meal – Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.
There are a multitude of world-class galleries and museums, including the National Museum of Singapore, the Singapore Art Museum and National Gallery Singapore. Alternatively, discover some of Singapore’s most iconic street art in the neighbourhoods of Bras Basah Bugis, Tiong Bahru and Little India.
The Merlion near One Fullerton that spurts water over-excited tourists, should not be ignored. A mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish, it is widely used as a mascot of Singapore. Singapore is known as the Lion City, gets its name from the Malay words singa, which means lion, and pura, which means city.
A good start for anyone who wants to experience Singapore today, with its mixture of old and new, is to have a drink on Boat Quay in the late afternoon. The renovated harbour district is packed with bars and restaurants. People from the financial district also meet here after work to socialise. A boat cruise on the Singapore River offers a step back in time.
Another traditional watering hole is Raffles Hotel, where the distinctive pink, gin-based Singapore Sling, the famous cocktail developed in 1913 by Ngiam Tong Boon, the bartender at the hotel’s Long Bar, is embedded in mystery and tradition.
Explore the Arab quarter of Kampong Glam where the historical buildings are bursting with colour and culture. See the gold-tipped Sultan Mosque, while aromatic Middle-Eastern cafés dot every street corner. If you’re needing a break from all the walking, duck into The Projector, Singapore’s famous indie cinema.
Singapore’s traditional design includes Malay homes, hybrid shophouses and black and white bungalows. A range of places of worship reflect the cultural and religious diversity of the city. Sri Mariammam Temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple two that provide a spiritual reprieve.
Singapore is the idyllic designer city, well-kept and much loved.
Linger in the Gardens by the Bay where the shimmering super trees tower 50 metres above you. Walk the aerial walkway for stunning views of the city skyline. A sanctuary for nature lovers and budding horticulturalists alike, the gardens comprise of three distinct spaces spread over 101 hectares namely Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden.
The Singapore Flyer stands out among the skyscraper skyline. A scenic spin will take you 165 metres, or as high as 42 storeys, as you marvel at the iconic and historical sites from Marina Bay to the Singapore River, Raffles Place, the Merlion Park and Padang from one of the 28 fully air-conditioned glass capsules.
Walk along the Marina promenade and visit the world-class exhibits at the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum, with its unique innovation and design concepts. Watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand at KuDeTa rooftop bar on the SkyPark Observation Deck. By night Marina Bay comes to life, so don’t miss the dazzling light shows from across the river.
The Peranakan Museum is the go-to destination for Peranakan heritage and culture. It houses what is reputedly the world’s finest collection of Peranakan artefacts—such as jewellery, furniture and textiles in ten permanent galleries over three floors.
The Singapore government has invested in a number of striking building projects, leading to the constant remodelling of the city. Tanjong Pagar Centre, currently the tallest of the skyscrapers in Singapore. The iconic Marina Bay Sands, a world-class integrated resort with three main towers linked by a continuous lobby and a 150m infinity swimming pool, gardens and jogging paths on the top of the complex. The centre of numerous financial corporations in the city, Ocean Financial Centre promotes the use of sustainable energy. (Solar Energy) featuring a vast ‘solar array’ which is the need of the hour. The Esplanade, Theatres on the Bay, a performing arts centre at the mouth of the Singapore River. TreeHouse, an eco-friendly condominium and the world’s largest vertical garden.
Where to Stay
Even though Singapore is quite small it has many unique districts, each with their own feel. As to where to stay, Four Seasons Hotel Singapore on Orchard Road is ranked of the best in the city, while the nearby luxurious Shangri-La Hotel has a perfect location with world-class service, six hectares of tropical gardens, a swimming pool, pond, waterfall, orchids galore, and plenty of palm trees it’s a true oasis.
A personal favourite is Hotel Jen Orchardgateway with its 19th-floor infinity swimming pool, excellent view of Singapore’s Skyline and modern take on no-frills, efficient and chic contemporary accommodation. You will find many of Singapore’s biggest and most luxurious hotels in Marina Bay, among them the luxury Marina Bay Sands with its iconic shape of a ship.
Connected to the Singapore River and occupying the area between the old Colonial District and the Central Business District lies Clark, Robertson and Boat Quay. Here the spacious Somerset Liang Court apartment-hotel is perfect for families or extended stays.
In Kampong Glam with its mix of cool Islamic cafes and restaurants are some of the most beautiful boutique hotels in the city. Hotel Naumi is a beautiful example of these, filled with designer furniture and art from big international names. The Fullerton Bay Hotel offers pure luxury with a great location, while on Sentosa resort island, the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa has a gigantic swimming pool set in a lovely garden on the shoreline, making it ideal for families.
I was lucky to stay at four different establishments on my first visit and with a friend who lives on Orchard Road on my second and third times there.
The Essential Details
Singapore’s public transport system (MRT) is fast and efficient and will get you to most places without fuss. If you’re there for an extended period of time consider getting a Singapore Tourist Pass. This ticket gives you access to bus and boat tours, plus unlimited access to the city’s public transport. Don’t confuse the Singapore Tourist Pass with the Singapore Pass, which is a ‘smart card’ that gets you to over 30 of the city’s top attractions. The Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a good way to get an overview of the city. Grab (the alternate to Uber) works very efficiently across the city, as do regular taxis.
There are convenient direct flights with Singapore Airlines from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Singapore daily. In Johannesburg, you simply stop for extra passengers to embark or disembark. Numerous other airlines service the route, including Emirates, Ethiopian, Qatar and Etihad Airlines.
Singapore, true to its South-East Asian location is generally hot and humid, with May and June the steamiest months. A year-round destination, do bear in mind that the wettest months are between November and January, but don’t let that deter your plans as there is much to do either way and the rain doesn’t stay for long. March and April have perfect weather.
* This post forms part of my 100x Magical Places series that over an introduction to my favourite cities.
* All pics are mine, except for the first 4 that are sourced.