Singapore is back on the tourist map because of the hit book and movie, “Crazy Rich Asians.” I was first there 25 years ago as a long layover on my way to India. I wasn’t prepared and didn’t love Singapore. But who can blame me, Singapore has changed dramatically in the last two decades and was really just becoming an economic powerhouse and not yet a premier tourist destination.
When I had the chance to return, I wanted to do it right. I was tired of saying, yes, I’ve been there but I couldn’t tell you anything about it …
And so, I planned, and over-planned my return to Singapore. I filled every minute of our time there and we saw almost everything on the list. And then I lost my notes in my recent move…. And so, from my second trip to Singapore, I can’t tell you everything I learned and observed from my meticulous notes; but I can tell you what I remember. And if you were a girlfriend, sitting over coffee (or better yet, a glass of wine), here is what I would tell you about the perfect day in Singapore.
Breakfast at the Clinton Street Baking Co. is the perfect way to start the day. We had their specialty blueberry pancake which were outstanding!
Walk to the water to see the iconic Merlion, the bay, the skyline, and the tourists.
Visit the Art Science Museum and/or Red Dot Design Museum in the heat of the day. In such an expensive city, I thought tickets were reasonably priced when compared to Tokyo, London or New York. When we were there the Art Science Museum had a Disney exhibit and a borderless lab exhibit. The Art Science Museum is also focused on education about climate change and what the future may look like. It was very informative (and scary). I would go to the Art Science Museum first as it can get busy with school groups and families. You don’t need as much time at the Red Dot Design Museum and it would be boring if you have kids in tow, but I found it extremely thought provoking with questions like – what does it mean to be human?
You are now right next store to the famous Marina Bays hotel and mall. The mall is a great place to find lunch and take a quick break by window shopping in the high end stores while soaking up the air conditioning.
Spend the afternoon at the fabulous Gardens of the Bay. It is a short walk from the mall and an easy place to spend several hours. There are 3 indoor attractions as well as the outdoor grounds. You can buy tickets on site.
Head back to the Marina Bay Sands hotel for an early dinner at the Spago Bar and Lounge. Spago is a Wolfgang Puck establishment and is on the top floor of the Marina Bay Sands. Make reservations ahead of time and if you time your visit right you can see the famous infinity pool, the skyline of the city, as well as sunset. The lounge is far more casual and less expensive than the adjacent formal dining restaurant with the same view. I had the grilled cheese sandwich with champagne which was outstanding. Their chicken gets rave reviews but everyone agreed my grilled cheese was much better!
Last stop of the day (if you don’t go out for the nightlife) is the light show at the Gardens of the Bay. The entire day was outstanding but it was pretty magical to lay on the ground and just immerse myself if the light and music. Perfect end to a perfect day!
If you have a second day in the city, I would add the following:
Stop by the historic and beautiful Raffles hotel. Old historic hotels make me wish I had been around at the turn of the century. Also get in line for a famous Singapore sling. Don’t worry, the line moves quickly and it is fun. It also has a lovely gift shop to just browse through.
Visit the WW2 bunkers the Battle Box. Make reservations as these are by tour only and fill up quickly.
Visit the National Museum of Singapore which will give you a lot of insight into the early days of Singapore’s founding, World War 2, independence from Malaysia, as well as current events.
Dinner at Haji Lane. I loved the vibe of this neighborhood and we ate here twice (different places but both were outstanding).
A couple of other ideas for Singapore:
Central Perk Café – I am not a mega fan, but I have seen every episode of Friends more than once. I thought going to the themed café would be a lot of fun – and I was right. The food is only ok but the atmosphere made it worth it.
Tiong Bahru’s street art. I love street art and this is in a fun neighborhood. But in addition to the beautiful art, these pictures (and accompanying stories) paint a picture of the past. Singapore is so modern but this gives you a taste of its history and culture. It is a quick stop but it was one of my favorites! I’ve included a link to a blog with a map.
Getting around is easy. Not only is Singapore a pretty walkable city, but the train goes everywhere and both Grab and taxis are easy to catch and very affordable. Unlike most cities now days, I was happier with a taxi than a grab but both are great options.
If you are in Singapore, you are probably traveling around Asia. Singapore is comparatively expensive. Think Tokyo, New York City and London – not Bangkok, Hanoi or even Shanghai.
While Singapore is definitely a destination in itself, it is also a great jumping off point for Malaysia, Indonesia (more than just Bali), and Thailand.
It was worth the wait. I enjoyed my second trip to Singapore so much. It is a vibrant fun city with so much to offer! I look forward to returning – hopefully it won’t take another 25 years!