At just 31 miles long and 16 miles wide, it’s hard to believe such a small island can contain such a vast array of smells, colors, sights, and sounds.
Singapore is home to such a variety of cultures and people groups that it’s created a culture of it’s own, making it one of the most unique and fascinating stops in Asia. From the rainbow painted colonial buildings of Little India to the high-rise glass sky scrapers in the Financial district, Singapore is a history of old and yet-to-be-written, an identity unto itself and still being defined, and a land of beauty and intrigue that is a joy to explore but impossible to completely experience as it continues to grow and create.
We’re only scratching the surface, but hope today’s city guide leads you to amazing places on your next visit to Singapore.
Public transportation is fabulous in Singapore, and though the city has four official languages (Mandarin Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, and English) nearly everyone speaks English, making it easy to ask for help and get around.
I recommend you purchase a “Your Singapore” tourist pass when you arrive at the airport for unlimited bus services, MRT (subway) and LRT trains. The buses and trains are really clean and easy to use. To get the Your Singapore tourist pass you need to purchase it at the Terminal 2 MRT ticket counter located underground. You have the option of purchasing 1, 2, or 3 days unlimited services at a time, for more time you need to refill your card at one of the MRT stations. They will also charge you $10 per card as a down payment, so remember to turn your card in for a refund before you leave.
Not into public transportation? Taxis are pretty reasonable as well, and Singapore is a small island, so for the most part you’re not going more than 20 minutes. Not into public transportation or using cash? Singapore even has Uber!
Pro-Tip: download the “Go There” app or use their website for the clearest information on directions. It even allows you to compare time duration and the cost of taking the train, bus or taxi.
Most places have free Wi-Fi, but I recommend renting a pocket Wi-Fi at the airport. There are plenty of options at reasonable prices and I found them to be invaluable; it’s the most reliable option, will help you get around while you’re on the go, and allow you to post selfies from your own phone whenever your heart desires.
No trip to Singapore is worth it if you don’t dive into the extensive culinary sea of options. Here were some of our favorites:
Chinatown Complex Food Centre
The heart of Singapore cuisine is found in the hawker stands located throughout the city. Which one is the best? This is a great debate between locals, but I say it’s a win-win situation because they’re all fantastic. My personal favorite was the food center at the Chinatown Complex. It’s easy to get to on the metro and all the local favorites that Singapore is famous for can be found there. I recommend the chili stingray and crab, barbecue chicken wings, ramen noodle bowls and chicken satay washed down with a Tiger beer.
I’ve been a fan of Super-Loco’s design since its opening, so I was excited to finally get a chance to go. It seems to always be packed, but in the fun way; they’re well staffed and everyone is very friendly and happy to be there. They call it Mexican Street food though the freshness and presentation make it feel a bit elevated. No detail has gone unnoticed, including the extensive menu. Do not leave the table before ending your meal with their churros — unbelievable.
Pince and Pints
As an island nation, seafood is at the center of Singapore’s local cuisine. At the top of my seafood delicacy list is lobster. When you walk into Pince and Pints, everything feels well thought out: from the graphics found on the menus and coasters to the light box on the wall that states the restaurants menu.
The menu is intentionally brief; your option is lobster, and there are just four ways to have it prepared. Don’t worry, that’s all you’ll need because they’re all fabulous. The lobster roll is delicious and the cleanest option for your hands and cute outfit. The chili lobster is for those looking for a Singaporean touch to the dish, as Singapore’s unique chili sauce is also added to crab and stingray. The third and fourth options are the classics- either grilled or boiled. I recommend these last two options personally, but of the two, the boiled option is the juiciest. Roll up your sleeves, grab a branded bib, and get your hands in there and enjoy.
There’s nothing better than stumbling into a small, unknown eatery and being blown away. That was Lagnaa for me. The staff of this little Indian restaurant is cheery, attentive, and loves to welcome in tourists. Their decor is simple yet refreshing.
When you sit down you’ll immediately notice strings running down the length of their walls with clothespins hanging with names written on them. You’ll come to find out that there are up to 10 levels of spice that you can make any of the dishes you order and that if you get up to Level 3, you’re awarded a clothing pin and a spot on the line. Think you can handle it? No one has gotten to Level 10. The highest anyone has gotten is to level 9, and that guy was from Nepal and grew up on a chili farm. The wall is littered with clothing pins, names, and pictures of previous challengers.
Me? I tapped out at 1.5 and absolutely loved my chicken tikka masala with naan. The masala is a bright orange, creamy dish that hits your nostrils the moment they place it on the table. The garlic naan is the perfect compliment to the rich Indian spices.
… it’s hard to believe such a small island can contain such a vast array of smells, colors, sights, and sounds.
One Man Coffee
If you’re a graphic design freak like me, you’ll sit on a bus for 45 minutes to go across town to see their logo up close and personal (yes, its that good). Assuming you don’t care (or are satisfied with looking at it online), well, then their food and coffee is more than enough reason to visit. I suggest going at brunch; their French toast is to die for.
Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roaster
This is by far my favorite roaster I found in Singapore. Coffees are roasted on site and fill the large, bright space with floral and citrus notes. Offering a range from pour-overs, espressos, lattes and mochas there’s sure to be a drink to satisfy most any coffee lover. Additionally, they serve incredible brunch and dinner.
With just a tiny logo on the wall above a glass door, this basement bar could be easy to miss. But walk down the steps to the underground and this apothecary-style basement bar serves some of the best drinks in town. You won’t find any brand name bottles here, they distill a their own alcohol in-house and the bartenders concoct drinks so elaborate they could be mistaken for mad scientists rather than bartenders. Over the top? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely.
… [at Operation Dagger] they distill their own alcohol in-house and the bartenders concoct drinks so elaborate they could be mistaken for mad scientists rather than bartenders.
One of my favorite stops on our trip to Singapore. Nestled atop the popular Haji Lane, Bar Stories is an all around unique experience. There are no menus. The bartender will ask you some simple questions: “What liquor do you prefer?” and “What flavors do you like: sweet, sour, refreshing?“ and then they take it from there. The drink they came up with for me was in my top five, ever. Small and simple and beautiful, it may just be your perfect evening in Singapore if you’re up for the adventure.
Need something healthy or a refreshing break from the hot Singapore sun? This small but beautiful shop serves organic, cold-pressed juice. After your night out at Bar Stories, pick up a “Hop Over, Hangover.” It’s the perfect blend of cayenne, celery, cucumber, ginger, lemon, and watercress.
House of Tan Teng Niah
You’ve probably already seen this building on Pinterest. Located in Little India this is possibly the most colorful building I’ve ever seen, with every color of the rainbow featured. This two-story, eight-room Chinese villa was built in 1905 as a home but now is used for commercial purposes. However, you can roam around the outside and take as many pictures as you want.
MAD: Museum of Art & Design
MAD was privately founded in 2009 with the sole purpose of promoting and making art and design accessible to everyone. And I think they’ve done just that. It’s free of charge for everyone to roam this two-story art space. One of my favorite things about MAD is that almost all of the art that’s featured here is for sale, unlike most art museums. The cafe downstairs is equally amazing.
Local favorites include the:
The Working Capitol
This recently restored, 1920’s building is a gorgeous co-work space with brass and marble detailing through out the space. There’s been great thought put into the place from the wooden laptop lockers to the showers for the bike commuter. Filled with natural light and speedy Internet, it’s the perfect place to get some work done while traveling or mingle with young local professionals. There are affordable day rates and it’s hard to resist hanging out in this gorgeous space. I found myself wanting to have work just so that I could hang out here. No sold yet? They also have conference rooms, a beer garden, and are situated above a darling little cafe filled with creatives from Singapore and around the world.
Gardens by the Bay
Now a national icon, Gardens by the Bay came to be because of an international design competition in 2006. The park is a perfect blend of architecture, horticulture and sustainability. Three waterfront gardens with cooled conservatories are filled with flowers and plants from nearly every continent. If you’re anything like me bring a sweater because it can get cold! It’s a little pricey but completely worth it.
Located in Little India, this hotel is filled with lots of character, just like the neighborhood it sits in. Each floor of the hotel is uniquely themed and designed by a different local design firm, with every single room being unique as well. I stayed on the “Pantone Floor” where each room is designated a single color that fills the whole room from top to bottom. The staff is over the top friendly and helpful. A breakfast buffet is included when you book here and it’s located in the Hotel’s French restaurant, Cocotte. It’s the perfect way to start the day and their rainbow colored jacuzzi is a relaxing way to end it.
For a cheaper option, The Pod hotel is a boutique capsule hotel located in Singapore’s Central Business district. Unlike many other capsule hotels, there is actually lots of breathing room. The Pod not only has free Wi-Fi, coffee and breakfast but they offer free laundry and dry cleaning services! Minimally and beautifully designed, it offers a clean and social place to rest your head at night.
Is Singapore on your bucket list?
Images provided by Nina Hans