City Guide: Singapore
The City Guide Singapore gives you a comprehensive guide of the fascinating city-state.
Along with Monaco and Vatican City, Singapore is one of three modern day city-states. Located on the tip of the Malay Peninsula and home to 5.5 million citizens, this densely populated country is rich in monetary wealth and diversity. It also boasts a number of accolades like largest infinity pool and tallest manmade waterfall. Singapore, whose original name, Singapura, translates into “The Lion City,” appealed to my inner Leo. But there’s more to this former British trading colony than Michelin-rated hawker stalls and Frankenstein-esque Super Trees that are basically the fanciest solar panels I ever did see. Singapore is a melting pot of cultures—every sign is translated into the four languages that represent the population: Tamil, Bahasa, English, and Mandarin. The food is equally representative of the various cultures that have found common grounds in Singapore. One minute you’re snapping photos of Chinatown’s colorful shutters decorating the timeworn windows of heritage houses, the next minute, Singapore reminds you of its ultra modernity with its glittering skyline.
Talk Like The Locals! Don’t forget to soak in the distinct “Singlish” accent, which is by far my favorite thing in all of Singapore. Singaporean English is a mishmash of Indian, Mandarin, Malay, and British English. You can catch locals ending sentences with words like lah, or paiseh, or boleh!
Much love to my Singaporean spirit guides, Becca and Far, who equipped me local intel and primed me to find a friend in every Singaporean. And shout-out to a very special woman who made this trip happen, my cousin Joni. There’s nothing like Asian hospitality and family and friends to keep us going!
✱ GARDENS BY THE BAY
Step inside a world of tomorrow at Singapore’s top-rated attraction, boasting the world’s largest glass greenhouse, The Flower Dome, and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall in The Cloud Forest. At sundown, the Super Trees come to life, putting on an electrifying light and sound show. The shows start at 7:45pm and 8:45 pm, entrance to the Outdoor Gardens is free.
✱ HAJI LANE
Tucked down a small side street in the Arab Quarter is a hipster passageway to cute cafes, independent boutiques overwhelmed with quirky knickknacks, funky murals, and edgy bars with sweet Happy Hour deals.
✱ SENTOSA ISLAND
Looking for a great escape? Take a ferry or cable car to the manmade island that boasts a Universal Studios theme park, a TrickEye Museum, and a few artificial beaches. Be sure to drop by the original Merlion statue, a proud symbol of the city-state.
✱ LITTLE INDIA
The vibrant neighborhood is a mix of colorful Hindu temples, garland vendors, sari stores, and some of the most talented teh tarik “pullers” cascading hot milk tea from one vessel to the other. Don’t forget to snap a pic at Tan Teng Niah, the most colorful Chinese villa tucked away in Little India.
✱ MARINA BAY SANDS
An architectural behemoth, this striking three-building luxury hotel is crowned by the world’s largest infinity pool on the surfboard-shaped observatory desk.
TIP: Wanting to see the view from the top but not willing to spend $23 SGD to go to the Sky Deck? Take the elevator to the 1-Altitude Bar on the 61st floor and get the same view but spend your money on a drink instead of an elevator ride.
✱ SINGAPORE FLYER
Not enough time to see the whole city? Take a spin on the observation ferris wheel that boasts 28 air-conditioned capsules that can accommodate up to 28 passengers each.
Hawker courts that conceal Michelin-awarded food stalls and ancient medicinal halls vending curious cures are things you’ll find down the raucous streets of one of Singapore’s most beloved neighborhoods.
✱ ORCHARD ROAD
The main shopping drag and home to Singapore’s preferred mall experience, ION Orchard. You don’t have to be a shopping fiend to enjoy Singapore’s malls as they are home to some of the country’s best food courts. Also, during Christmas season, Orchard Road is transformed into a winter wonderland with 9-feet tall animatronics and relentless Christmas music abounds.
IF ‘ACCIO FOOD’ IS MORE UP YOUR (DIAGON) ALLEY
- PLATFORM 1094 – A Harry Potter themed-cafe made famous by their signature drink, “Mr Lich’s Brewing Brew” ($15 SGD), a neon blue cocktail, ahem “potion,” that flickers and sparks with a dash of cinnamon. Don’t forget to get into character: the restaurant owners have laid out a number of wands, robes, sorting hats, and even house ties so you can represent your Hogwarts house, while noshing on some Western delights like Drunken Clam Paste Pasta and Truffle Fries. (1094 Serangoon Rd, Singapore 328192)
PRICE: $$ ($7-22 SGD–quite affordable especially for a popular spot!)
IF YOU WANT MICHELIN BUT AREN’T WILLING TO SPEND THE DOUGH
- HONG KONG SOYA SAUCE CHICKEN RICE & NOODLE – Not to be confused by the flagship store on Smith Street, this no-frills food court stall was one of two hawker stalls (handpicked from a batch of over 6,000 candidates) to be honored for the FIRST.TIME.EVER in the history of Michelin with a star rating. Get there right when it opens. We were there at 11:15 am (it opened at 11 am) and still had to wait for an hour to be served our plate of chicken rice and noodle. Honestly, I thought it was a bit overrated and the noodles were better than the chicken, but where are you going to get a cheaper Michelin meal than that? (#02-126, 335 Smith Street Block, Chinatown Food Complex, Singapore 05033)
PRICE: $ ($3.80 SGD per serving)
IF YOU WANT SOME AUTHENTIC PERANAKAN FOOD
- 328 KATONG LAKSA – Arguably the best laksa in Singapore, this spot’s claim to fame was beating celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey in a laksa showdown back in 2013. Laksa is a Peranakan delicacy, made with noodles slathered in a creamy coconut-milk broth. 328 Katong’s reputation lies in a well balanced broth, where the coconut milk adds just the right amount of texture and fragrance and doesn’t overpower the umami of chili and dried shrimps. Order the lime juice to cut the effects of a highly savory aftertaste. (51 East Coast Road, Singapore 428770)
PRICE: $ ($5 SGD for a small, $7 SGD for a large)
IF YOU’RE NOT A FAN OF DISPOSABLE PLATES
- THE BANANA LEAF APOLO– Banana Leaf Apolo is considered the pinnacle of Little India’s food experience. Not only do you get to eat on banana leaf fronds instead of ceramic plates per Indian tradition, but their expansive menu caters to both Northern and Southern Indian palettes. Unanimously, the star of the show is the semi spicy, tomato-based fish head curry. If you’re not into stuffing your face with a whole fish head, the South Indian Vegetarian Thali set is complete with 4 types of vegetable curries, curd (yogurt), karai gravy, pickles, and sweet, milky pudding, and some slices of chapati and free-flow white rice. (54 Race Course Rd, Singapore 218564)
PRICE: $$$ (prices are inflated due to tourist status)
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A FAN FAVORITE
- SINGAPORE ZAM ZAM – It’s an easy marketing tactic to claim “Best ______ in Town” but when an establishment actually delivers on the promise, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. Zam Zam is a famous spot for Arab delicacies like murtabak, a thin-skinned turnover stuffed with eggs, minced meats, like chicken, mutton, and even deer, and deep fried to perfection, and biryani dam, a spiced rice dish. Don’t forget to order teh tarik, frothy milk tea, to wash down all the commotion of flavors. (697-699 N Bridge Rd, Singapore 198675)
PRICE: $ ($8 SGD for a medium-sized murtabak)
IF YOU’RE INTO FIGURING OUT THE SNACK SCENE
- YA KUN KAYA TOAST – With locations all around the city, this fast food chain excels in the art of kaya toast: toasted slices of white bread smeared with kaya spread (aka coconut jam) and then paired with either butter, cheese, and even peanut butter. From my Singaporean friend Becca, she advised me to order the Cheese Toast set, which comes with a soft boiled egg. You sprinkle pepper and soy sauce into the eggs and the proceed to dip the kaya toast in the mix. Sounds offbeat but when in Singapore, do as the Singaporeans do.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL WITH CHILI CRAB
- DRAGON PHOENIX RESTAURANT – When it comes to true blue Singaporean Chili Crab, Dragon Phoenix Restaurant takes home the prize. The original Chili Crab recipe is attributed to a pushcart madam, but what Singaporeans know of the recipe today can be credited to the owner of the Dragon Phoenix, who added sambal (chili paste), eggs, and tomato paste to the dish, creating that rich and robust flavor. Service is sub par, but remember what you came for. (177A River Valley Rd, #06-00 Novotel Clarke Quay, Singapore 179031)
PRICE: $$ ($80 SGD for Chili Crab, one side dish, drinks, and service)
IF YOU HAVE A HARD TIME DECIDING ONE PLACE
- POTATO HEAD FOLK – A favorite of my Singaporean friend Far, Potato Head Folk is an Indonesian lifestyle brand that has broken into the social fabric of Singapore to become one of the top hangouts on a Saturday night. Maybe its because the four-story spot is housed in a photogenic heritage building, or maybe its because you can get good drinks, good food, good music, and good people all under one roof. It’s a space that exudes cool at every turn. Make sure you visit all four floors. (36 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089143)
✱ KEONG SAIK ROAD – The stylish stomping grounds of Singapore’s nouveau riche. Bear in mind, the pitfalls to all the flash is you won’t find a cocktail for less than $25 SGD (~$18 USD) and so many businesses turnover due to the high competition. Try Neon Pigeon, The Guild, Old Man, and a long-time resident, Potato Head Singapore for some food and fun in the city.
✱ TIONG BAHRU – The oldest housing project in all of Singapore, it’s known as “coolest tourist neighborhood tourists forgot.” You can check out Art Deco flats from the 1930s, a lineup of the best indie bookstores in town, and a food market that’s so cool, it warranted its own 8-bit interactive map complete with food stalls that you can filter by category.
✱ NAIISE – A curator of homegrown brands like Souvenirs from Singapore, which sells Singapore inspired designware. Buy online or go to their brick and mortar stop at 277 Orchard Road.
✱ THE BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE AND MUSEUM – A reliquary for all things Buddhist, owing its name to the sacred object it protects—what is believed to be the left canine of Buddha recovered from his funeral pyre, but there is also a teahouse and theater on the premise. (288 South Bridge Road)
✱ SULTAN MOSQUE – Considered the heart of historic Kampong Glam. The mosque is the capped with two golden onion domes but that’s not the most impressive feature: take a closer look at the base of each dome and you’ll see glass bottles decorating the support, donated by poorer members of the Muslim community during the construction so that every citizen, no matter their socio-economic background could contribute. (3 Muscat Street)
✱ BEE CHENG HIANG – The most famous of all Asian barbecue purveyors, selling bags of the sickly-sweet strips of sliced pork and beef barbecu. Iit’s the gift that keeps on giving and you can get it all around the island.
✱ SUPERHERO CAFE – Comic book devotees can geek out at this restaurant/bakery paying homage to all things DC Comics, complete with diner booths overlaid in comic strip wallpaper and a wide assortment of superhero-themed treats. (2 Bayfront Avenue, Bay Level, 01-03, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands)
RECOMMENDED MODE OF TRANSPORT
BY MRT The Singapore Tourist Pass is the ULTIMATE investment in Singapore. Depending on how many days you purchase for, you can take unlimited rides on the MRT, LRT, and local buses. The MRT begins running at 5:30 am with the last departure at 12.00 AM. When you visit Changi Airport, follow the signs to the MRT and at the bottom of the escalator, the Tourist Pass stand is to your left.
PRO-TIP: Before you depart the country, don’t forget to drop off the pass at the kiosk, where you’ll be given your refundable deposit back of $10 SGD that’s inclusive of the initial fee.
BY FOOT As my friend Becca says, “Don’t walk in the sun. What are you, a tourist?” Also her words verbatim: “Kind of like Hong Kong, you can kind of get from A to B to D by walking through malls, buildings and underground. No one actually walks in the sun. Two of the largest is through a huge tourist area. Here’s a map.
WANT TO BUY A SIMCARD?
The price of a Tourist Simcard at the airport has gone from $15 for 5 days to $45 for 3 days.
PRO-TIP: Head to Chinatown where a number of telecommunication shops still carry the Singtel hi! Tourist 3-in-1 simcard where you pay $15 for 5 days. The simcard includes 500 minutes local call, 100 locals SMS, and 30 minutes international.
Interested in learning more about Singapore? Check out the resources below:
45 Things to Do in Singapore by Lady Iron Chef
Miss Tam Chiak: Food Blogger in Singapore
Top 10 Experiences for the Newbie Traveler by Bobo & Chichi
15 Things to Do in Singapore that You Can’t Miss by Adventure in You
👉 Have you ever been to Singapore? Share your tips for seeing the city in the comments below!
Give me a shout-out on Pinterest pretty please?
Izzy, you’re simply the queen of city guides. Truly, your posts are stunning. I’d love to get to Singapore, I’ve been so close several times, but just never made the plunge – story of my life. Haha. You know I would be representing #TeamGryffindor at Platform 1094. I’m a sucker for anything Harry Potter related. The Gardens by the Bay are obviously a huge dray, and your photos of you and Tim there are just darling. Great tip on the tourist pass, by the way!
I just love this post so much. I wish I could have traveled with you as I feel like it’d be akin to journeying with Anthony Bourdain. This is an incredible post chock full of valuable info. We recently visited Singapore for the first time ever on a visa run, and I was completely smitten. It was such a nice respite from the pure chaos of HCMC and I actually want to return for a few more days to relax and check out some spots we didn’t get to see.
I had many stopovers at Changi airport when I lived in Australia. really wished I took the opportunity to visit the city for a few hours. I would love to see the Gardens of the bay. Such a good spot for photos. Singapore also seems like great place to try different food. I hope I can go to Singapore and explore 🙂 Thank you for sharing your tips 🙂
I absolutely love the food in Singapore. I lived there for a year and really miss the food. I am sad that I never tried the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. It’s so impressive that it has a Michelin star rating!
I’d love to go to Singapore, ever since I first saw those space-ship like trees in the gardens by the bay I’ve wanted to go! I’m glad entrance to the light show is free – and that the Harry Potter themed restaurant is so affordable, I travel on a budget so am always on the lookout for bargains!
Great guide, I loved Singapore. We did not spend enough time there to try a lot of the things on this list, especially food, but we realised that at the time and are hoping for a return visit. We loved little India, and also went on a Chinese Junk boat and took the night zoo safari. However, next time I’d love to explore a bit more and I would love to see the super trees in action, we did not realise they lit up. Thanks for sharing.
This is an awesome guide to read about Singapore, not only because you have mentioned everything important in this post, but the way you have presented everything with collage of pictures and different points and headings in commendable. Nice recommendations for every kind of food lover and traveler. Got inspired by this. Where do you design the website – wordpress or somewhere else?
Great post. We’ve just come back from Singapore and loved it. We saw most of those but sadly never got a chance to do Sentosa so we’ll need to go back. I especially liked Little India, walking around the marina and the Gardens by the Bay (especially the Cloud Forest). Thanks for sharing.
More than the content of your post, I like the way you present the information. It is like a big infographic with all the practical information required to visit Singapore. Brilliant that you also give further resources for those who may want to deep dive. There is a certain quirkiness and well as fresh energy in your post. Keep it up.
Love the way you presented this article — I’m a visual reader so I definitely love all the graphics! I’ve been to Singapore many times in the past, so there are some things on this list that I know about though some are new to me. I definitely love all the foodie suggestions — I’m already getting hungry reading all of this. I will have to check out Singapore Zam Zam and the Dragon Phoenix next time.
Very interesting presentation! I have never seen a post organized like this. It gives the usual city guide a new lease of life 🙂 Would love to try out the banana leaf restaurant. It reminds me of local restaurants in South India .
Truly Singapore is a nice place to visit too 🙂 I loved my experience at the Gardens by the bay and I could definitely stay the entire day touring and walking around.
I wish I get to visit the Harry Potter restaurant though 🙁 but it opens pretty early at 9 or 10 I guess? maybe more to explore on my next visit.
Great details and very comprehensive… I like how you have systematically structured this post. Great to find the Little India part. I knew that there is an Indian diaspora in Singapore but wasn’t sure how big it is.
I have an odd fascination with city-states! Singapore is definitely on the list of places I want to visit. You’re guide in quite thorough and information packed which is a pretty awesome thing if one is planning a trip to Singapore. The Dragon Phoenix Restaurant seems like a pretty great place to eat in your “For the Foodie” section! What an interesting and unusual place the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum seems to be. Religion is both fascinating and strange sometimes. And thanks for all the information about the Singapore Tourist Pass! That’s definitely a helpful bit!
Looks like Becca and Far were great hosts! Little India sounds like a colorful, fun place to spend some time. The Singapore Tourist Pass looks like a good investment for someone wanting to see the top attractions.
Singapore has a foodie’s heaven! You can get authentic Chinese, Indian, Malay food there. I miss Singapore, hopefully I will revisit sometime soon!
Superb, inspirational and informative post. I love Singapore, beautiful place to spend time. I liked your presentation, keep doing the great work and inspiring.