Why go to Singapore?
FOR THE FOOD! That’s primarily why I went but there are loads of other nice things to do in this tiny city state from exploring plants and waterfalls inside huge greenhouses, to a kitsch day out at Universal Studios. Like many cities there are lots of old, historic buildings right next to modern office blocks and shopping malls but it seems an especially stark juxtaposition in Singapore, which is a huge part of its charm.
We visited Singapore in November 2019 as part of our ‘real’ honeymoon (after the South Korean ‘mini moon’ which you can read about here) and used it for our base for Malaysia and the Philippines. This is another great reason to come to Singapore, it’s a major gateway to the rest of Asia with flights to an array of locations (including some hard to reach places like Bhutan) and an airport that’s a destination in itself. We used it as a jumping off point to both Malaysia and the Philippines.
How to get to Singapore
Flights from London take around 13 hours and you can fly direct with Qantas, Singapore Airlines and British Airways, with economy tickets starting at around £500. A number of other airlines fly indirect routes to Singapore with various European airlines (Lufthansa, Swiss, KLM) flying London to their home base and then on directly to Singapore and the Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar) doing the same via their own hubs. There is an almost unlimited number of flights from London to Singapore with myriad carriers daily so you will be able to get their using whichever loyalty scheme you use and at a time to suit your itinerary.
We flew a bit of a ridiculous route after getting amazing value business class tickets in Qatar Qsuites for about £950 per person return. Unfortunately these flights originated in Stockholm so we had to first fly London to Stockholm (and sit in Arlanda airport for several hours each way) before flying to Singapore via Doha. It was amazing value but I’m not sure I’d do it again, even in Qsuites! Typically, business class flights with Qatar are around £2,500 and more with British Airways and Singapore Airlines because the flights are direct. You can read my review of Qatar business class here.
Getting around Singapore
Singapore has a mass rapid transit system (MRT) which is clean, easy to use and will get you around most of the main sites and also connects Changi Airport to the centre. You can see the map here. We were short on time in Singapore so generally relied on taxis called via the Grab app, which is reliable and good value. Most malls will have an e-hailing pick up and drop off area so even in big buildings once you call a Grab, they will tell you where to meet the car and it’s usually pretty idiot proof.
A lot of the main sites in the centre are technically walkable but for me the heat is a bit overbearing to rely on walking and you just turn up everywhere drenched in sweat. I’d recommend planning your itinerary around strategic use of the MRT / taxis and limit walking to very short distances or after dark.
Singapore 3 day itinerary at a glance
- Fort Canning Park
- Raffles Hotel
- Clarke Quay – bumboat tour
- Chinatown (Hawker Centre, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple)
- Sri Mariamman Temple
- Gardens by the Bay
- Newton Hawker Centre
- Sentosa Island – Universal Studios
- Orchard Road
- Jumbo Seafood
- Geylang tour including Joo Chiat Road
- Nighttime sidecar city tour
Singapore detailed 3 day itinerary
Day 1 – Chinatown, Clark Quay and Gardens by the Bay
Fort Canning Park
A great start to your time in Singapore is a visit to Fort Canning Park, which is filled with history and things to see and do for both adults and kids. It’s in central Singapore, so it’s easy to fit into a walking tour of the city. It incorporates 9 historical gardens including the 160 year old botanic garden, which you can visit on a walking trail using an interactive app.
Fort Canning Hill, where the park is situated is the highest point in Singapore at just 48 metres but has been settled since at least the 14th century. It has also been called Government Hill due to being home to various governors. It was not until 1861 when a fort was built there that it got its current name.
There are always various installations to explore, as well as the general beauty of the surrounding flora and fauna, and some permanent points of interest like the Battlebox, now a museum, which was built in 1936 as the WWII British command centre right inside Fort Canning Hill.
Start your day here while it’s still cool (ish!) to walk through the various gardens. You can also visit the nearby National Museum of Singapore and Peranakan Museum, both of which border the park.
If you’re a fan of Crazy Rich Asians, you’ll probably recognise this building as the church where Colin and Minty get married and Rachael sticks it to the Young family in a killer Marchessa dress. Chijmes is actually a food and shopping complex (like most things in Singapore) using the 19th century convent buildings as a backdrop. Stop here for some shopping and a light snack to refuel after your walk around the park.
Raffles hotel is a Singapore institution, opened in 1887 and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of colonial era Singapore. If you don’t stay here then you should definitely visit (especially since it’s recently reopened after a re-vamp) to get a Singapore Sling cocktail in the Long Bar where it was invented.
Clarke Quay bumboat tour
For some reason boat tours are never my go-to on itineraries but they are such an efficient way of seeing some cities, and Singapore is definitely one of those cities. There’s so much to see from the water and it is far more pleasant to tour the city in an open boat than on foot in the 35 degree heat.
We hopped on one of the ‘bumboats’ available in Clarke Quay for a tour. The boats are also called twakow or tongkang and are small barges which were used for transport along the rivers in Singapore and along the coast to nearby islands. Now they’re used as tour boats and river taxis in Singapore.
From the boat we saw some of Singapore’s spectacular architecture both old and new, including the famous Merlion fountain, the symbol of Singapore, and the striking Marina Bay Sands hotel.
We headed to Chinatown for lunch, making a bee-line for the hawker centre which is home to Michelin starred Hawker Chan who serves his soya sauce chicken from various locations in the city (but this is the original one). A lot of the stalls were shut when we were there, but his was open and had a queue.
I’m actually not a fan of soya sauce chicken, I much prefer chicken rice, so I didn’t love the Hawker Chan food, but it was on my ‘must try’ list so I’m glad I went. We had great chicken rice from stall 169 if you can find it in the warren of stalls!
We had some really good chicken rice from a stall near Hawker Chan, so I definitely recommend checking that out, plus everything else until you get full!
The streets in Chinatown are pretty, with lots of old Peranakan architecture. You can also visit the beautiful Sri Mariamman Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple which are near the hawker centre.
Gardens by the Bay
After a bit of a rest at our hotel, we headed to Gardens by the Bay in the afternoon; I like to time these types of trips for sunset so I can see really iconic places during the day and at night. In Singapore the sun sets around 7pm, so we arrived around 6pm.
We were treated to a spectacular sunset that night, it was perfect timing to watch the sun set over Singapore from the raised walkways of the Supertree Grove.
If you visit at a similar time, just make sure the things you want to see are still open and plan accordingly as most attractions have an 8pm last admission, so if you want to catch the sunset you probably need to have visited them first (or get there very quick afterwards!).
We headed to the Cloud Forest after the Supertree Grove, which was amazing and which actually looked amazing at night. This is somewhere I wish I’d spent more time; you could easily spend a whole day at Gardens by the Bay but I wish I’d even spent a couple more hours so I could have visited some of the flower exhibits.
Newton Hawker Centre
This is the hawker centre featured in Crazy Rich Asians. I hadn’t planned to visit as I’d read mixed reviews but my husband’s family are locals and rated it so we went for dinner in a big group. We had some really delicious satay here (I may have eaten about 20 sticks!), some sting ray and char kway teow, among other things.
Unfortunately I didn’t take a note of which stalls we got food from, but everything we had was good and if in doubt, just go to the place with the biggest queue!
Day 2 – Sentosa Universal and Orchard Road
Sentosa Island – Universal Studios
We spent our second day in Singapore at Universal Studios in Sentosa Island. Sentosa is basically Singapore’s answer to Vegas with a huge casino, beaches and an aquarium, but Universal Studios is the star attraction. Try to go when the forecast is good as they shut rides whenever there’s a threat of lightening, which as far as I could tell was always! It made it quite hard to plan a visit but there are quite a few rides that won’t be impacted to keep you busy. My favourite ride was Revenge of the Mummy – I think I went on it 6 times!
We paid extra to skip queues which made the experience far more exciting. The food here was underwhelming, particularly given you’re in one of the world’s foodie capitals, so try to have a big breakfast and get out before you need lunch!
Some rides don’t let you take any belongings on (including sunglasses) but they have lockers at the entrance which you can programme with a code and are usually free for the first 30 – 60 minutes which usually gives you enough time to go on the ride several times if you’re not queuing.
Shopping in Orchard Road
Orchard Road is Singapore’s shopping district and home to all the big brands in individual boutiques and sprawling malls. How long you spend here depends entirely on your stamina for shopping! You can grab some lunch in one of the many foodhalls after your morning at Sentosa.
Jumbo seafood is THE place to eat Singapore’s famous chilli crab and no visit to Singapore would be complete without a meal here. There are several branches of Jumbo throughout Singapore; we visited the East Coast branch, which has lots of tables outside near the water.
Day 3 – Geylang and the Joo Chiat Road
Geylang walking tour
For some of the best Peranakan houses in Singapore, head to the area around the Joo Chiat Road. The best streets are Joo Chiat Place and Koon Seng Road. These roads are super popular with Instagrammers because they’re just so pretty – I got some really lovely photos here. Just remember to be respectful because they are people’s home – I’ve lived in tourist towns before and it can get really exhausting!
Walking around this area you’ll find loads of cute shops and cafes so you can easily spend a couple of hours wandering about (at least until you get too hot). There’s plenty to eat in the area so if you’re so inclined, you can book onto one of the many food tours in the area.
Night time sidecar city tour
My husband’s cousin bought us this as a honeymoon present and it was honestly amazing. I would never think to arrange something like this on a trip but I would highly recommend it.
We used Singapore Sidecars and were driven in vintage sidecars around the city at night, including on parts of the Singapore Grand Prix circuit, which was very cool. The views at night were amazing and I got some awesome photos. It was such a cool way to see the city.
Afterwards we headed off for some traditional Chinese desserts at Ah Chew Desserts.
I thoroughly enjoyed Singapore and would absolutely go back to explore more of the food scene.