Day 1: Iconic Singapore
Start your day with a train ride toward Bayfront MRT station (US$0.60-2.20). If you arrive early enough, the sea breeze will be cool and the sunlight gentle enough to enjoy a morning stroll through the 101ha Gardens by the Bay. Follow the scenic walkways to the eye-popping Supertree Grove, where a US$6 entrance fee to the OCBC Skyway — a walkway raised 22m off the ground — brings you up close with the garden’s towering vertical plant ecosystems.
After you’ve had your fill of smelling the flowers, make your way back to Bayfront MRT and take a 10-minute ride on the Downtown Line to Bencoolen station (US$0.65). By this time, it will be just around noon. Head over to Pu3 Restaurant at 51 Bencoolen Street for a massive US$7 lunch of nasi ambeng — that’s a mini buffet of rice topped with traditional Malay curried meats, veggies and spicy sambal sauce. Afterward, walk off the calories by heading to the National Museum (93 Stamford Road; entrance fee of US$11) to browse artifacts, dioramas and other memorabilia from Singapore’s history. Housed inside a 19th-century British colonial building, the museum also features a souvenir shop with quirky Singapore-themed items.
Stay within the cool vicinity of the museum until the midday heat wanes. Then, walk over to Dhoby Ghaut MRT station for a one-stop train ride to Clarke Quay (US$0.65). Not far from here is a water taxi pier, where you can ride down the Singapore River on an old-school bumboat for US$3.70. The route boasts some impressive views of the financial district’s skyscrapers, and even passes by the famous Merlion statue before reaching the Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay. Catch a free performance at the Esplanade’s concourse or outdoor theater (check the schedule on esplanade.com) before grabbing dinner at one of the many restaurants in the complex. We recommend Old School Delights for a classic and very affordable Singaporean meal of about US$8.
Day 2: Heritage ‘hoods
Skip the hotel breakfast and head to Chinatown to see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Get there by 9am to see the monks perform their daily prayer and chanting rituals. Also tour the rest of the massive four-storey shrine — don’t miss the pagoda on the rooftop, which is a serene meditation space. Head back down for a long, leisurely brunch at Yum Cha at 20 Trengganu Street for its dim sum — get filled up for about US$12. Next, spend an hour or two checking out the nearby streets of this traditional Chinese enclave, before heading to Chinatown MRT to get on a train bound for Little India (US$1.20).
While it’s not quite a miniature of India, there are plenty of overlaps with its sights, sounds and smells. Follow Serangoon Road northward and take in the spice markets, the open-air bazaars, jewelry shops and Hindu pooja (ceremonial worship) supply stores. If you’re feeling peckish at this point, then sit down for an US$5.80 snack at Azmi (166 Serangoon Road) or Usman’s (238 Serangoon Road) — both streetside eateries offer delectable South Asian flatbreads and curries. And while you happily digest that tasty tiffin, hail a taxi to take you to yet another heritage neighborhood (US$5). Kampong Glam was the Arab quarters of old Singapore; today it retains Arab and Southeast Asian Muslim flairs with traditional stores and Turkish, Lebanese and Malay restaurants clustered around the imposing Sultan Mosque, while also offering some hipster touches in the form of gyms, cafés, vintage boutiques and bike shops. Shop around for a Persian rug, Turkish lamp or Indonesian batik fabric. Soak up the mosque’s call for sunset prayers, walk over to dinner at FOMO (38 Sultan Gate), a newly opened food court known for its hipster stalls selling wallet-friendly (about US$15 a meal) Asian-Western fusion fare.
Day 3: The scenic route
Put on comfortable walking shoes and get yourself a taxi to Gillman Barracks (about US$10 from areas around the city center), a former military barracks that is now a cluster of art spaces, restaurants and a gallery shop. Check out the masterpieces at the private displays and the public installations from up-and-coming artists from around the world. Then, indulge in a heavyweight lunch at Handlebar (10 Lock Road), an open-air biker bar that serves up excellent steaks, ribs and burgers. A burger and a pint of draft beer will set you back about US$20.
Burn off that massive lunch by strolling the 1.5km to the next destination, Telok Blangah Hill Park. The way is scenic and encrusted with trees, so you don’t have to worry too much about the hot and humid weather that Singapore is known for. If you want to save energy for what’s coming next, spend US$5 on a taxi from Gillman Barracks to the Telok Blangah Hill carpark instead. From Telok Blangah Hill, it’s a stone’s throw to the picture-perfect, treetop walkway called the Henderson Waves. Saunter down the entire length of this wood-paneled pedestrian bridge. Suspended 36m above the ground, it features novel architecture that depicts the movement of waves, hence the name. Continue on foot through clearly marked forest pathways toward Mount Faber Park. At 105m above sea level, this is one of Singapore’s highest natural points and from the viewing deck you can see the country’s southernmost reaches. It should be well into the afternoon when you get here, but stick around to watch the sun set over the city. Top off your Singapore holiday by using the footpath to walk over to the cable car station at Mount Faber Peak — just 100m away — to enjoy a quick, scenic ride to HarbourFront MRT station below (US$12).
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Singapore’s bus and train systems are highly efficient and should get you easily to most destinations on the island. They’re also hooked up to Google Maps, which can help plan your route and tell you exactly which buses and trains to take. For location-based information on arrival times and traffic reports, download the government’s MyTransport mobile app.