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48 hours in Singapore

48 hours in Singapore

A stopover in the “Lion City” has far more to offer than shopping and Singapore Slings. It’s a feast for all the senses...

Day 1


Join the locals at one of the many Toast Box cafes dotted around the city for the perfect Singaporean pick-me-up combination: Kopi-O (strong black coffee made with a big dash of sugar and optional condensed milk) and toast with kaya (jam made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar). Served with soft boiled eggs sprinkled with white pepper and doused in soy sauce, it’s a weary traveller’s heart-starter in anyone’s book.

A stone’s throw from glitzy Orchard Road shopping precinct is Fort Canning Hill, a nature-filled city landmark that’s home to the newly re-opened Battlebox, a must-see for history buffs. The underground bunker was where the British made the fateful decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese during WWI and, today, visitors can walk through its 29 rooms, with many original artefacts and relics from 1942 preserved.

If there’s anything to be learned about the island’s history, then the nearby National Museum of Singapore on Stamford Road is a one-stop shop. Don’t be fooled by its colonial exterior, however. This cutting-edge museum brings history well and truly into the modern age, with high-tech installations blending music and imagery, and special events such as film screenings and festivals year round.


Head to the Downtown district and look for the iconic clock tower of Lau Pa Sat, a famed hawker centre where suited workers and tourists sit side-by-side at communal tables and dive into local specialities like chicken rice, char kway teow and Hokkien mee.

A couple of minutes in a car, bus or the MRT from Downtown will land you in the spectacular Gardens by the Bay, a natural yet futuristic attraction no other city in the world has been able to replicate. Free to enter, it is 101 acres of perfectly manicured landscapes with more than one million plants representing all corners of the globe. Tickets are required for the main attractions, the Cloud Forest and the largest glass greenhouse in the world, the Flower Dome. Free tours are available so it’s best to plan your visit to make the most of it.


When the sun is nowhere to be seen is when Gardens by the Bay really shines. The stars of the show are the 18 “Supertrees” – 22-metre high man-made frames covered in more than 200 species of tropical climbers. Grab a spot on the OCBC Skyway, an aerial walkway linking some of the super trees, for a bird’s-eye view of the mesmerising Garden Rhapsody Sound & Light Show at 7:45pm and 8:45pm every night.

Dinner options are aplenty in this neck of the woods. The waterfront hawker market Satay by the Bay is an easy stroll from Supertree Grove. You’ll be able to smell the smoky grill filled with charred skewers of beef, chicken, lamb and prawns well before you arrive at the casual alfresco space. It’s open until 10pm.

With some clever planning, you can also catch the nearby Marina Bay Sands laser and water jet show, Spectra, which lights up at 8pm and 9pm daily. It’s visible from all around the waterfront precinct, but if you want go high or go home, take the 57 flights up to the Marina Bay Sands observation deck. Senior citizens pay just $20 for arguably the best views to be had in the city, day or night.


Day 2


Kick off the day with a hearty serve of nasi lemak, the national dish of Malaysia that’s equally popular in Singapore. There are many variations, but traditionally it comprises of rice soaked in coconut milk and cooked in pandan leaves served alongside anchovies, peanuts, boiled egg, and either sambal fish, rendang or fried chicken.

Before the humidity hits, don’t miss a stroll through Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, the Botanic Gardens. If walking isn’t your speed, Let’s Go Tours has a bike option that takes visitors through the tree top walk, and orchid and ginger gardens.


For visitors short on time, Chinatown offers plenty of bang for your buck. Not only is it the cheapest place for souvenirs, but there are also countless restaurants and hawker food vendors around every corner, as well as spas, night markets and notable historical sights.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre on Pagoda Street tells the tales of original groups of Chinese immigrants who built Singapore in the very beginning. The district is also home to the Thian Hock Keng Temple, the oldest temple in Singapore, and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Foodies flock to this part of town for many reasons, but a plate of succulent glazed chicken and noodles from the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle stall in the Chinatown Complex is the biggest drawcard. At $3 per serve, it’s the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world. Prepare for a queue – and if all else fails, try the recently opened second outlet on nearby Smith Street. If you want to go behind the scenes of the food scene, take the Chinatown Food Walk from Betelbox Tours, which run daily until 1:30pm.

To say Singapore is proud of its art history is a huge understatement. The National Gallery holds the world’s largest display of modern South East Asian art, with more than 8,000 pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries. For cultural enthusiasts, it’s a sight not to be missed.

While Singapore transport options are some of the most modern and economical in the world, there is still a chance to travel around the old fashioned way, on a trishaw: a bicycle with a sidecar. Tour company Trishaw Uncle can have you meandering along the Singapore River, through Little India and past iconic city landmarks in a relaxed change of pace to the rest of the city’s hustle and bustle.


The riverside district of Clarke Quay near the city centre comes alive at night, and its glittering lights are only made more spectacular by the reflection of the Singapore River along its edge.

Visitors can take a cruise on a traditional bumboat from the quay, then take in dinner and a drink with a view along restaurant row.

If you find yourself with time to spare, head to Changi Airport where numerous entertainment options await. You could park yourself there and enjoy the butterfly and cactus gardens or one of several cinemas; or take a dip in the pool, or take one of the free tours of the city. You’ll need to register at the tour desk in the transit area of your departure terminal an hour prior to the tours, which run throughout the day and evening.

Singapore: key facts

Population: 5,995,991 (July 2018 est.)

Ethnic groups: Chinese 74.3%, Malay 13.4%, Indian 9%, other 3.2% (2017 est.)

Singapore is not just made up of one island – it is actually 63 islands

Top tips

Before you leave Australia, download the Grab app, the local version of Uber. At time of print, Airbnb is illegal in Singapore, so best to stick to hotels and serviced apartments. The MRT system is cheap and easy to use. Follow the signs in the airport arrivals hall.