For a tiny island city-state, Singapore packs a mighty punch – a home to Indian, Chinese and Malay communities, it’s long been a place where Asia converges to do business. The heady mix of cultures shows everywhere from its markets to its temples – and above all in the famous cuisine.
A five-storey Buddhist temple built in the style of the Chinese Tang
Dynasty, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
opened in Chinatown in 2008, and is home to what’s believed to be the sacred
tooth of the Buddha (288 South Bridge Rd; free admission).
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
is home to more than 840 flowering plants and 240 animals – including a
lemur-like gliding mammal, the colugo – and is the highest point of Singapore
Island. The visitor centre has exhibitions on flora and fauna, and maps of
walking trails through the park (177 Hindhede Dr; free admission).
Little India is a colourful district with a predominantly Indian
community. Visit the lively Tekka Centre, a market selling everything from
saris to sheep’s heads. The stalls at the adjoining hawker centre also sell
Indian food (dishes from £2.50).
Housed in a former boys’ school, the Singapore Art Museum focuses largely
on Singaporean and Southeast Asian artists. Exhibitions range from Chinese
calligraphy to contemporary art (71 Bras Basah Rd; admission £5).
Pulau Ubin is a small island that’s one of the last vestiges of rural
Singapore. Make for the Tanjong Chek Jawa, a wetland area on the island’s
eastern edge. To get there, small ferries run from Changi Point Ferry Terminal
on Singapore Island (from £1).
Eat and drink
Café le Caire is a well-loved
Middle Eastern establishment on Arab Street – the textile district. The kitchen
serves up crowd-pleasing meze, falafel wraps and skewered kebabs. Enjoy
alfresco dining here in the evening (39 Arab St; meze from £3).
Din Tai Fung is the
Singapore outpost of an immensely popular Taiwanese dumpling and noodle chain.
Menu highlights might include shrimp and pork wonton soup – have it with their
excellent fried rice (290 Orchard Rd; dishes from £4).
Chef Chan’s has a
credible claim to be Singapore’s best Chinese restaurant. Interiors are
opulent, while the menu showcases classic Chinese techniques – try the
signature crispy roasted chicken, complete with the head (93 Stamford Rd; set
lunch from £19).
Raffles Hotel is Singapore’s
most exclusive address – a colonial-era hotel with majestic interiors and rates
to match. Head to the Tiffin Room for high tea or the North Indian buffet for
lunch or dinner (1 Beach Rd; high tea £28).
The striking, contemporary Chinese restaurant My Humble House has an enticingly
inventive menu – try a double boiled seafood consommé in coconut (27-29
Esplanade Mall; set lunch from £35).
With modest but thoughtfully decorated rooms, the Perak Hotel is a longstanding favourite
in the Little India district. The handsome colonial façade provides little
indication of the Oriental-style interiors, replete with Buddha statues and
meditation spaces (12 Perak Rd; from £75).
Occupying what was once a row of shops on the fringes of Chinatown, Hotel 1929 sees small but perfectly formed
rooms decked out with eclectic furnishings. Black and white photos of old
Singapore are scattered about the place (50 Keong Saik Rd; from £100).
Located in the Chinatown district, the New Majestic Hotel offers occupants
the choice of 30 rooms featuring works by different artists. These artworks
range from the intriguing to the downright wacky, while attic rooms come with
loft beds and six-metre-high ceilings (31-37 Bukit Pasoh Rd; from £155).
The plush, idyllic Changi
Village Hotel is located about as far away from Singapore city centre as
you can get without crossing the water. The hotel is set among verdant gardens,
and the rooftop deck has views across the straits to Malaysia (1 Netheravon Rd;
The Fullerton Hotel is
housed in one of Singapore’s most magnificent pieces of colonial architecture –
a restored post office that also served as a hospital in World War II. Some of
the most regal rooms look out onto the river (1 Fullerton Sq; from £215).
When to go
Singapore is hot and humid year round, though rainfall peaks from
November to January. There is a festival almost every day – bigger dates
include Hindu festival Thaipusam in January or February, Chinese New Year, and
Buddhist Vesãkha celebrations in May or June.
How to go
flies to Singapore from Heathrow (from £790), while Singapore
Airlines flies from Manchester (from £765) and Heathrow (from £790). From
the airport, take the MRT subway system
to downtown Singapore (£1).
Singapore’s bus network is
famously efficient, with fares depending on the distance travelled (from £1).
The MRT is the city’s
subway system, with four main lines extending across the island (from £1).
The article 'Mini guide to Singapore' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.