Located on the southern tip of Malaysia, mere hours from Bali, Bangkok and Phuket, Singapore is an ideal stopover before further adventures in Asia. Its vibrant culture is a melting pot of Malay, Indian and Chinese influences and offers an endless variety of experiences for the savvy traveller. If you’re visiting for just a couple of days, skip the tourist traps and see Singapore like a local.
Food is absolutely central to Singaporean culture so there’s no better introduction to the island than a meal at a hawker centre. Chinatown Complex Food Centre is a favourite among locals and home to Liao Fan Hawker Chan – the world’s first hawker to receive a Michelin Star. The must-try dish here is soy sauce chicken with noodles or rice. At just under £2 a plate, it’s also the world’s cheapest Michelin Star meal.
After lunch, it’s well worth exploring the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, located right in front of the food centre. Just a short walk down South Bridge Road you’ll also find Sri Mariamman Temple. Once you’ve toured the temples, head to the neighbouring Tanjong Pagar area and wander its lanes of colourful Chinese shophouses.
While Clarke Quay might be Singapore’s best-known nightlife district, we’d argue that Telok Ayer offers far more intriguing options. Tucked away in this quaint neighbourhood you’ll find innovative modern Australian cuisine at Cheek Bistro and Mediterranean nosh at Moosehead. You can also sample hearty barbecue platters at Meatsmith or grab a burger at New York import Burger Joint.
After dinner, bar hop your way through the charming Telok Ayer neighbourhood. If craft brews are your thing, Freehouse will dazzle with its impressive variety of international and local beers on tap. For a truly one-of-a-kind cocktail, Native is on hand with an eclectic range of cocktails crafted using only Singaporean and Southeast Asian spirits and ingredients.
Start your second day at the glitzy Marina Bay district to explore Gardens by The Bay. The sprawling nature park is one of the city’s most iconic attractions. If you need a little respite from the balmy weather, take a stroll through the park’s two cooled conservatories – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. For a bird’s-eye view of the park, ascend the Supertrees – artificial structures that house a variety of vines, ferns and orchids – and amble along the suspended walkways.
For lunch, return to the Flower Dome to dine at Pollen. The scenic fine dining establishment offers a variety of elegant dishes showcased in multi-course menus. For a more casual meal, Fennel Cafe on the floor above is known for its stellar afternoon tea.
Next, make your way to Haji Lane, an eclectic hipster enclave home to independent local boutiques, cafes and bars. On weekends, the narrow lane is a hive of activity with tables spilling out onto the streets and buskers belting out classics. The alley walls also feature vibrant murals painted by local artists.
Come sundown, bookend your trip with a final hawker meal at Lau Pa Sat Food Court. Right before the dinner crowds arrive, the nearby street closes and roadside stalls begin peddling freshly grilled satay – skewered slivers of meat grilled over a charcoal fire and served with a savoury peanut sauce. Pair your meal with a glass of ice cold Tiger Beer. We can’t think of a better way to end your sojourn through Singapore.