- Singapore local Samantha Chan FCA loves Singapore’s parks and National Gallery.
- Singapore is famed for its amazing cuisine, from authentic dishes at family-friendly hawker centres to hip restaurants.
- Suntec City, Raffles City and Orchard Road are shopping meccas, and there are new attractions such as Design Orchard.
By Matthew Brace
Singapore’s history as one of the world’s great trading places has blessed it with a mouth-watering mix of cuisines. Chilli-coated soft-shell crab, beef rendang, fish-head curry on banana leaf, southern Chinese zongzi (rice dumplings), otak-otak (grilled fish cake), mee siam (vermicelli noodles)… the list goes on.
A go-to restaurant is Yellow Pot, in the Six Senses Duxton hotel in Chinatown, where the decor, staff, food and cocktails combine to deliver a truly memorable dining experience. You might even get some quick singing bowl therapy on arrival. Standout dishes include the tomatoes in Li Hing plum infusion, the braised short rib and the Ee-fu noodles. Two of the best cocktails are the whisky-based Canton Sour and the delicious Escape to Kaifeng (gin with a chrysanthemum infusion).
Another great choice is LongBeach at Dempsey, as recommended by CA ANZ’s Singapore office head Samantha Chan FCA. She also loves the city’s hawker markets. These low-key, family-friendly food courts are all over Singapore.
Check out the Maxwell Food Centre in Chinatown where it’s easy to grab a quick Hainanese curry rice with fish. Also, if you’re on a 24-hour transit and can’t get all the way into town, try the Changi Village Hawker Centre near the airport.
Recently the Six Senses brand came to town and launched two amazing properties: Six Senses Duxton and Six Senses Maxwell. The Duxton is the smaller and more intimate of the pair, with super-cute rooms and sexy loft apartments, and the excellent Yellow Pot restaurant (see above). The Maxwell is grander, has a more colonial feel, a cool lap pool, an awesome champagne bar and a really cosy Library bar – perfect for an evening martini. If you’re staying at the Maxwell, arrive in style by booking the London black cab airport pick-up.
The Pan Pacific at Marina Square is also excellent, especially if your accommodation deal includes access to the top-floor Pacific Club Lounge. Everything’s included in this peaceful eyrie: you can have breakfast, lunch and a light supper if you so desire. The 360-degree city views are spectacular, day and night, and the evening cocktail session can include free-flowing Taittinger Brut and Laurent-Perrier Rosé.
Picture: The Thian Hock Keng Temple is dedicated to Mazu, Goddess of the Seas.
A small pilgrimage to some of Singapore’s downtown temples is highly recommended. One of the oldest and most peaceful – despite it being hemmed in by skyscrapers – is Yueh Hai Ching on Phillip Street. Down Telok Ayer Street is the Taoist Yu Huang Gong temple in honour of the Heavenly Jade Emperor. Close by is the Thian Hock Keng temple, which is devoted to Mazu, Goddess of the Seas, as this was once the waterfront in old Singapore.
These and other temples are especially worth visiting during the Hungry Ghost Festival in August/early September, which is like Halloween, Singapore-style, and heaps of fun.
To get your head around how culturally diverse Singapore is, check out some of the cool neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, Little India and the mainly Malay precinct of Kampong Glam.
If you have time, head to one or two of the national parks, such as Fort Canning Park, which has a suite of gardens, and the wilder Labrador Nature Reserve. The Singapore Botanic Gardens night tour is also charming – and romantic if you’re in town with your partner.
Finally, shopping: Suntec City and Raffles City shopping centres are favourites. Orchard Road has stores that sell higher-end designer brands, but recently something new popped up on the strip – Design Orchard, which has shops promoting local designers as well as spaces for the designers to work in. Local talent is really stamping its mark on the city.
What the locals love: Food, drink and forests
Samantha Chan FCA, Head, CA ANZ Singapore office
I have lived in Singapore for eight years and the number one thing friends and family ask about is food. They want to know where to get the best local, authentic dishes. Singapore has lots of food courts called hawker centres. I like to take people to Lau Pa Sat in the CBD and the Newton Food Centre, a short subway (MRT) ride out of the city. At both of these you can get really good, traditional Singaporean foods such as chicken rice, curries and satays.
When it comes to restaurants, LongBeach at Dempsey is one of my favourite seafood places. The chilli crab there is really great.
Beyond the CBD, Singapore has beautiful natural parks and reserves. One I really like is MacRitchie Reservoir Park, where you can take long or short walks or runs through the forest and along the shoreline.
Back in the city, I highly recommend the National Gallery, which has lots of exhibitions. It’s also really good if you are visiting with your kids, because many exhibits are interactive. The gallery has some good places to eat, or go to the rooftop Aura bar for a drink – it has a fabulous view of the city skyline.
Gardens By The Bay is always worth a visit, too. It’s an incredible urban forest. You really can lose yourself in there, admiring the amazing foliage. The gardens are especially pleasant in the early morning, before the heat of the day, or in the evenings when the trees are lit up.
“Gardens By The Bay is always worth a visit, too. It’s an incredible urban forest. You really can lose yourself in there, admiring the amazing foliage.”
Need to know
- Try to avoid visiting Singapore at really busy times such as Chinese New Year (late January to mid-February), Formula 1 (18-20 September) and big global conventions, when hotels are packed and prices high. Late February is a good time and bargain hunters should also consider June-July for the Great Singapore Sale.
- Singapore is right on the Equator, so it’s hot but tends to be wetter between November and January.
- Singapore has toughened its duty-free allowances. You can bring in two litres of alcohol each duty-free, but no cigarettes or tobacco, on which you have to pay duty.