Singapore is one of those rare places where everything just seems to click into place. The entire island has been built with a ubiquitous balance of function and beauty, its population is made up of a melange of different cultures resulting in such a rich history. Everything is systemised, efficient and well looked after. And whilst it isn’t the cheapest country in Asia to explore, there are a lot of beautiful things to see and amazing dishes to try that won’t set you back too much. I love this city and wanted to put a little guide together for all of those planning a quick getaway to Singapore. If the opportunity ever comes up to have a long layover there – take it. Whether you are stopping briefly in the (world’s best) airport or planning a few days here, hopefully you will find the information below useful!
One of the easiest ways of getting around in Singapore is public transport, it’s clean, efficient and has air-con! It’s also worth noting that if you have a contactless card like a Monzo, you can actually use this like an Oyster card on the metro system and buses! You just need to register it online first, but it doesn’t take long. For me this was so useful since I was also using the card for everything else and was automatially updated through the app on how much I’d spent. You can of course also buy tickets and pay with cash on buses but bear in mind you have to give the correct amount since the drivers don’t usually have change! I didn’t get any taxis this time, just because I found the public transport system great for getting around. But from past visits I know you can pay by card in most taxis, and like most of South-East Asia, Singapore no longer uses Uber it uses Grab. So it might be worth getting this app installed and set up before you visit!
The Jewel only opened back in April 2019, so if you’ve been before it’s definitely worth coming back just to check this out. It is a public space that is connected to Changi Airport – which is great if you have a connecting flight and a bit of time to kill. There are link bridges from the Departure Halls of Terminal 2 and 3 (level 2), and the Arrival area of Terminal 1 (Level 1). If you are coming from the new Terminal 4 like I did, there are free airport shuttle buses in operation every 10 minutes that will take you to Terminal 2. In my opinion the best thing to do is to visit on your way back from Singapore, just turn up super early for your flight to give yourself plenty of time to explore. I found that at Terminal 4 I could check-in up to 24 hours before the flight – which is great if you want to drop of any heavy bags before you look around.
In terms of viewpoints, it’s pretty hard to take a bad picture of The Jewel. But the place to get the best view (in my opinion) is if you find ‘Din Tai Fung‘ then go up the escelators right outside and turn right there’s a narrow bridge that’s kind of hidden that will give you the above view point.
Once you’ve taken in the view, you can then explore the rest of the Jewel; there are so many places to eat and shop. It’s worth noting that there’s a food hall in the basement where you can see the Rain Vortex through a glass screen – it was so mesmerising to watch, I felt like my brain had been cleansed. What brought me down here was The Alley. This is a really popular Taiwanese bubble tea shop that people had recommended to me so I had to give their brown sugar ‘Deerioca’ a try! The pearls and the milk tasted super fresh compared to other places, I would give it an 8/10. I also really enjoyed Liho bubble tea whilst in Singapore aswell! Will definitely explore more bubble tea places next time – I always find a way to weave it into my itinerary somehow.
Supertree Grove is part of Gardens by the Bay and this part is actually free to walk around along with the rest of the Botanical Gardens. You can get here by either going across a bridge from the Marina Bay Sands mall opposite, or by getting a lift just outside the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The nearest MRT is the ‘Bayfront’ stop, just turn right when you leave the station until you reach the lifts. If you’re there in the evening you may catch the ‘Garden Rhapsody’ light show. These take place at 7:45pm and 8:45pm daily!
The other part of the Gardens is made up of two greenhouse domes: the ‘Flower Dome’ and the ‘Cloud Forest’. These areas, along with the Supertree walkways cost, but definitely worth seeing. You can purchase the tickets online before you arrive in Singapore and then pick them up at a ‘Changi Recommends‘ kiosk in the airport.
It is also worth noting that to keep the atmosphere nice and humid, the Cloud Forest waterfall has ‘misting’ times at certain times of the day: 10.00am, 12.00pm, 2.00pm, 4.00pm, 6.00pm and 8.00pm.
I had wanted to visit Two Men Bagel House before I had even booked my flights to be honest – this is what usually steers my choices in places I want to visit. Everything is made fresh in front of you and there is so much choice! The place itself is quite small and kind of hidden in the corridor of a mall, but still very in-demmand. The staff were so friendly and helpful and pretty much every customer I could tell was a loyal regular. There was a bit of a wait, but definitely worth it. Since being in the Philippines I have been craving some good (none-sweet) bread, so I really enjoyed this place. It’s one of those businesses that you feel really happy helping because you can tell it’s someone’s passion project that they’ve turned into a reality.
Zam Zam was another place I’d researched beforehand after discovering it through Mark Wien’s youtube channel,
Migrationology – a great channel for finding good places to eat around the world! Even though Singapore is a very modern city I still felt compelled to find a good hole-in-the-wall type place. I wanted to taste some food that had been perfected by a family throughout the years and this was that place. I tried the Mutton Murtabak, this is essentially a roti prata but with an extra filling folded in to the middle to make it more substantial, it came with a bit of curry on the side for dipping. I also ordered a Teh Tarik and just expected this to be a strong milk tea but I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. I think there is a little bit of condensed (or maybe evaporated) milk in there that makes it sweet like a bubble tea and cuts through the strong tea flavour nicely. This was meant to be a light snack but ended up being really filling. It was quite a cheap eat too, would recommend. You can find this near the colourful Haji lane area.
Hawker Centres are a must-visit when you’re in Singapore, they feel authentic and not like the gentrified food halls/festivals we see in the UK. The recipes have usually been passed down through generations, and each stand is usually known for one specific dish. You can find a good variety of food in these places for reasonable prices.
I would definitely recommend double checking Tripadvisor before you visit a place – some of the best places I’ve eaten at have been found through here. And yes, I’m all for spontaneity, but at the same time, if you’re only visiting a city for a few days you will want to make the most of your trip – a quick check on whether a place is worth going to will prevent you from wasting your time.
Next on the list was Din Tai Fung – it actually has Taiwanese origins but when presented with the opportunity, you have to take it. They have a few branches dotted across the world but all maintain the same quality that has kept them so popular over the years. The main dish that they are known for is the xiao long bao (or soup dumplings). These are delicious little parcels that will definitely ignite a new love for eating dim sum. Training to work here can take years since forming each dumpling requires exactly 18 folds, it is meticulous but this is the golden number that ensures the xiao long bao are perfect every time. If they were heavier they would be too doughy, if they were lighter they would break from the weight of the filling when cooking. Definitely worth trying for a quality dim sum experience.
After you’ve had the chance to eat, the Art Science Museum is a great place to go to walk off some of those calories. This is located in the Marina Bay Sands area next to the mall. I managed to check out the Future World exhibition whilst there which was created in collaboration with Teamlab – who you may recognise from their Tokyo exhibition. It was awesome! I believe they also had two other exhibitions going on at the same time.
Another great place to visit is the Singapore version of Notting Hill – the Peranakan Houses. These are a little bit out of the area compared to the places mentioned above, but worth visiting
if you have an appreciation for pastel coloured architecture. This street is beautiful.
I really hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful! I will be posting my mini Hong Kong guide soon – you can get notified for when this is live by following on Bloglovin! You can also stay up to date with my recent travels on Instagram @philippa_v.
I was originally going to tack some flight-booking tips onto this, but I think it’s worth its own separate post; stay tuned!