Singapore is often overlooked as merely a place to touch down on the way to somewhere else – and with an airport that has the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, a butterfly house and free movie screenings it’s easy to see why. But there’s so much more to this island city-state beyond the airport terminals, from Michelin-star dining and rooftop bars to show-stopping sky high gardens.
Read on to find out where to eat, what to do and where to sleep when you have 48 hours in Singapore – even if it is just for a stopover.
Eating is one of the locals’ favourite pastimes – and what better way to start the day? Sit down to a traditional breakfast of kaya toast, toast – a concoction of coconut jam, sugar and beaten eggs – best eaten alongside a hot cup of coffee.
Fuelled up, hop in a vintage vespa with Singapore Sidecars for an off-the-beaten-track tour of the city. Experience the sights, sounds and smells as you drive down alleyways and get snap-happy with plenty of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. And with a number of tours available – from heritage-focused rides to bespoke tours taking you to the filming locations of Crazy Rich Asians – you’re sure to find something to pique your interest.
For lunch, taste your way through Singapore’s melting pot of cultures at Folklore. Championing the idea of “heritage food” chef Damian D’Silva serves up dishes inspired by China, Malaysia, India and Europe using artisanal cooking methods. If there’s one dish you can’t miss out on, it’s the fried rice – the New York Times says it’s a “must try”.
This afternoon you’ll have the chance to engage in Singapore’s second favourite pastime – shopping! On the Treasures of Kampong Glam Passion Tour you’ll walk your way through the charming neighbourhood of Kampong Glam, with its cool cafés, live music venues and cocktail dens. Browse artisan shops including spice traders, perfumers and rattan handicraftsmen to pick up a unique souvenir to take home. Or head to The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands for high-end brands like Louis Vuitton.
Time for a little pre-dinner entertainment with the Garden Rhapsody Light Show. Held every evening at 7.45PM and 8.45PM this music and light display at the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay is free and open to everyone – we love that the show changes every month.
Then it’s on to another round of eating with dinner at Po. The flagship restaurant of the sophisticated Warehouse Hotel, dishes here are inspired by classic comfort food served up by popos – grandmother in Mandarin – and taken to the next level of fine dining. The speciality here is the popiah platters, similar to a spring roll – half the fun is wrapping the ingredients up yourself! Elevate your dining experience by pairing your selection with a glass of champagne.
End your evening with after dinner drinks at The Long Bar, a quintessential Singaporean experience. On the second floor of Raffles Singapore, this tropical-inspired bar is famed as the home of the pink-hued Singapore Sling. Created in 1915 by barman Ngiam Tong Boon, the cocktail – with gin, lime, pineapple and Bénédictine – was designed to look like fruit juice, as it was socially unacceptable for women to drink alcohol in public at the time.
After an action-packed first day, it’s time to take things slow, starting with tai chi in the Botanic Gardens. Over 150 years old and one of only a few gardens to make it onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this is an oasis within the urban landscape. After your session, feel free to explore the vast grounds – the National Orchid Garden with over 600 plant varieties on display is unmissable.
Lunch today is an elegant affair at Clifford Pier in Fullerton Bay. Dine on signature heritage dishes including soup kambing, a traditional mutton soup infused with local spices while listening to the sounds of piano and jazz. Weekends here are well-known for their dim sum menus and buffet dining with live cooking stations.
Relaxation continues as you chill out beside the 25-metre long rooftop swimming pool at The Mandarin Oriental. Inlaid with lilac and purple mosaics and lit by fibre optic lighting in the evening, this is one of the most impressive pools in the city thanks to its spectacular views of the city skyline, including Marina Bay Sands.
After sunset explore the Marina Bay area on two wheels with a Let’s Go Bike tour with a local guide. Spend two hours cycling the riverfront promenade – this time of day is perfect with a gentle night breeze often blowing – passing by the iconic Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Flyer observation wheel.
Hungry again? Dine al fresco at Makansutra at Gluttons by the Bay where local dishes are served up by street food hawkers. Aside from satay, noodle and rice dishes, this is one of the best places on the island to try the famed chilli crab, a seafood dish where stir-fried crab is covered in a sweet, savoury and spicy tomato based sauce.
Your final stop is Atlas for gin-based cocktails. Ranked as one of the top bars in the world, the interiors pay homage to art deco style with a definite 1920s Great Gatsby-esque feel with plenty of gilded gold, velvet and leather. The standout feature is the three-storey case housing over 1,000 varieties of gin from all over the world – but if you’re after a different kind of tipple, there’s a rose gold Champagne Room, too. Our recommendation? Book your seat in advance!
Staying For Longer?
If you have an extra day spare to spend in Singapore, take the cable car over to Sentosa Island. You’ll easily fill your hours at Universal Studios Singapore, on the beach, trying out activities like the skyline luge or swinging your clubs at the golf course.
Where To Stay
It has to be the Mandarin Oriental, Singapore. A standout hotel since the late 1980s, this is one of our go-to hotels thanks to its incredible staff, excellent dining and amazing views of the bay. Read our full review!