Known to many at the Lion City, Singapore is the urban darling of Southeast Asia. The nation state sits at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, sharing borders with both Malaysia and Indonesia, making Singapore a convenient destination to tack onto larger trips to Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. I’d previously visited Singapore as a stop en-route to The Philippines, and realized my quick three-night detour was not nearly enough time, and a return visit was in order. Below is my complete travel guide to a week in Singapore including the best places to visit, hotels, restaurants, photo locations, itinerary ideas, travel tips and more.
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This colorful structure is the Residence of Tan Teng Niah.
FOUR DAYS. Singapore is one of the only places in the world where it’s possible to see most of the country in less than a week. It’s smaller in square mileage than Rhode Island, and the compact size makes it pretty easy to maximize time when planning a trip. Four full days offers a good taste of Singapore – simply tack on an extra day or two if you want to explore at a more relaxed pace.
Fort Canning Tree Tunnel.
Singapore is a tropical destination where weather can change in an instant year around. Typically, dry season is considered February through June (although rain is still very possible). While wet season is November through January.
Sultan Masjid Mosque.
It’s a bit of a journey to reach the Chinese Gardens, but if you have the time, it’s worth the visit. The gardens are an expansive public space, home to dazzling red & white pagodas, abandoned tea houses, a Bonsai garden, statues and water features. A very serene place to spend a couple of hours.
One of the most popular attractions inside Gardens by the Bay is the Cloud Forest, a climate-controlled tropical wonderland enclosed in a massive greenhouse dome that houses one of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls, lush vegetation, orchids, rare plant species and more. Timed tickets can be purchased in advance online (book the first ticket of the day to avoid crowds of tourists).
Fort Canning is a hilltop park that is home to gardens, trails and historical landmarks, but it’s an underground spiral staircase that has made the place Insta famous. The Fort Canning Tree Tunnel is an underground crossing that resembles a manicured open-air cavern – look up and you’ll see blue skies, trees and lush vegetation surrounding the opening. Sang Nila Utama Garden is also in Fort Canning, a recreation of a 14th century palace garden (reminds me of the cham temple ruins in Vietnam).
FUTURE WORLD, ARTSCIENCE MUSEUM
Future World is an ongoing exhibit inside the the ArtScience Museum of the Marina Bay Sands. The exhibit is a completely immersive digital art experience from TeamLab, featuring 16 installations.
GARDENS BY THE BAY
Definitely the most iconic spot in Singapore. Gardens by the Bay is Ferngully meets Avatar with its futuristic Supertrees measuring 25 and 50 meters tall. The gardens occupy 101 hectares of Marina Bay with an array of viewpoints, trails, exhibits and walkways. It’s worth visiting both during the day and evening for two very different experiences. Must visit attractions within Gardens by the Bay are the Cloud Forest, Flower Dome and Floral Fantasy. The Garden Rhapsody Show takes place daily at 7:45 PM and 8:45 PM.
The Hive is a building located at the Nanyang Technological University. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a quick stop just to see the exterior design of the learning center, described by many as resembling stacked dim sum baskets.
JAPANESE CEMETARY PARK
It’s a short journey to get to the Japanese Cemetery Park that sits tucked away in the Hougang residential district of the city. During the spring season, there is a beautiful tunnel of blooming pink flowers that cuts through the cemetery.
I normally don’t include shopping centers as must-visit destinations when traveling, but The Jewel at the Changi Airport is truly an experience. The futuristic dome resembles a steel beehive that houses shops, restaurants, a hotel and movie theatre, as well as a living, breathing jungle and massive indoor waterfall. Light shows at the waterfall take place daily at 7:30 PM, 8:30 PM, 9:30 PM and 11:30 PM.
JOO CHIAT PERANAKAN HOUSES
Joo Chiat is a small neighborhood in Singapore made up of pastel patterned homes – popular spot for photos. Intersection for the neighborhood is Koon Seng Rd. and Joo Chiat Rd.
Lined with funky boutiques, eclectic murals and bright cafes, the pedestrian lanes of Kampong Glam burst with color and good energy. The neighborhood is known as Singapore’s Muslim Quarter, and it’s where you’ll find the beautiful Masjid Sultan Mosque, as well as quirky Haji Lane.
This ultra modern library sits inside the Orchard Gateway shopping center. It’s a two-story bookworm retreat designed with blinding white wavy shelves that are filled with colorful paperbacks, novels and magazines.
Formerly the Old Hill Street Police Station, this building now serves as the Ministry of Information, Communication & Arts. While that might sound a bit dull, this is actually one of the most striking places in Singapore. The building has 927 windows that have been painted the colors of the rainbow – an absolute kaleidoscope of color. It sits on a very busy street with cars, buses and Grab taxis constantly obstructing the view of the building – best to visit early when the street is quiet.
MUSEUM OF ICE CREAM
Similar to its sister locations in New York and Austin, Singapore’s Museum of Ice Cream is a series of interactive pink rooms where visitors will find sprinkle pools, a unicorn playground, a pink California beach and lots of sweet treats.
This popular beach on Sentosa Island offers up a crescent bay of calm water lined with palm trees and tropical greenery. It’s not on par with Palawan in The Philippines, but it’s a pleasant beach escape from Singapore’s urban center. Cross the cute boho bridge to Palawan Island and you’ll find yourself at the southernmost point in continental Asia.
PEOPLE’S PARK COMPLEX
A yellow apartment complex in Singapore’s Chinatown that is reminiscent of Hong Kong’s iconic Monster Building.
A short walk from Little India, Petain Road is a corridor of classic Peranakan-styled home – lots of pastel greens, rosy pinks and decorative tiling. It’s a picturesque photo detour.
REDHILL MRT STATION
Visit the Redhill MRT stop to experience a perfectly pink subway station. If you’re trying to snap a photo without people, best to visit at night.
RESIDENCE OF TAN TENG NIAH, LITTLE INDIA
This iconic Chinese villa is one of the most colorful buildings in Singapore, a kaleidoscope of blues, greens, yellows, reds and purples. One of my favorite photo locations in the city. It sits in Little India a bustling corridor of shops, restaurants and cafes.
SELEGIE ART CENTER
A quick stop in front of the Selegie Art Center is all you need to capture the rainbow shutters and trim of the colorful building.
SINGAPORE BOTANICAL GARDENS
This dazzling botanical garden is almost 170-years old, and it was the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Singapore. The gardens feature more than 10,000 species of plant, flora and fauna. Entry into the botanical gardens is free, but the National Orchid Garden is a paid ticket.
SRI VADAPATHIRA KALIAMMAN TEMPLE
A beautiful Hindu temple located on the outskirts of Little India, Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman is a blur of color and sculptures of deities.
Breakfast with a view.
Andaz sits sandwiched inside the city’s mixed-use Duo building, home to more than 340 rooms scattered amongst the hotel’s 15 floors. This is one of my favorite mid-range properties in Singapore. Rooms are outfitted with large floor-to-ceiling windows that open up to hardwood floors, plush linens and a lovely modern design. The hotel is also home to a spectacular infinity pool on the 25th floor that overlooks sweeping views on Singapore’s urban skyline.
A stay at the Four Seasons is always my go-to luxury option, and the brand’s Singapore location is nothing short of fabulous. Rooms are bright and airy thanks to a white and neutral color palette, and oversized windows offer sweeping views over the city. The hotel’s Orchard Road location is ideal – close to lots of shopping and restaurant options. Hotel offers an on-site spa, pool and Michelin-starred restaurant.
A stay at the Fullerton Hotel feels pretty epic thanks to its location inside a former government building. Rooms are spacious, but the design is nothing memorable. It’s the pool at the base of the hotel’s towering stone columns that gives all the feels.
Mandarin Oriental occupies a stellar location on Marina Bay offering easy access to the city’s main tourist attractions. The property boasts 527 rooms and suites, luxurious retreats outfitted with neutral colors, floor-to-ceiling windows, lavish bedding, plush floral carpets and spectacular views of Marina Bay.
This is by far the most beautiful hotel in Singapore, and also one of the most expensive. Raffles is the crown jewel on busting Beach Road, resembling a creamy French colonial mansion with rows of arched windows and gold trim. The property offers a range of suite accommodations – all designed with dark wood, white interiors, high ceilings and colonial-styled accents.
The location of the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore is ideal – very central to all the main tourist sites, restaurants and shopping. Book one of the Grand Marina rooms for unobstructed views of Marina Bay, as well as a plush king bed, daybed with a view, walk-in closet and oversized bathroom. Rooms with Club Access include extra amenities – personalized check-in and check-out, delicious breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, garment pressing and limo service within the area.
The Jewel is a futuristic creation connected to the Changi Airport, home to the world’s largest indoor waterfall surrounded by a lush forest valley.
You’ll also find loads of food inside The Jewel – cafes, restaurants, bakeries, gelato and desert shops.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY CAFE
Cute cafe with four themed corners – pink florals, safari adventure, cozy & homey and a beer garden.
The 2D cafe craze has arrived in Singapore! The dazzling black & white sketch design is the draw here – it feels like sipping coffee in a comic book.
Ridiculously popular French creperie that serves authentic sweet and savory crepes from an extensive list of homemade fillings.
KOMA is the Japanese cuisine concept from the Tao Group. The dark, gorgeous restaurant is located inside the Marina Bay Sands, and serves up a deliciously overpriced menu that’s a mix of meats, seafood and raws.
The cookies are crunchy, soft and chewy all at the same time! Menu of flavors include cookies n creme cheesecake, matcha, strawberries n creme, chocolate mint, chocolate chip, dark chocolate chip, biscoff, choco bueno, smores, white choco macadamia and red velvet crumble.
NATIONAL KITCHEN BY VIOLET OON
Violet Oon is the premier authority on all-things food in Singapore, and her restaurant inside the National Gallery has become a destination of sorts to foodies in Singapore. National Kitchen serves Peranakan cuisine in a stunning space outfitted with French colonial design cues including wood panels, patterned floor tiles, black leather and rich accents of jade, gold and blue. The restaurant offers both a traditional menu, as well as plant-based menu.
NEWTON FOOD CENTRE
One of the most popular food courts in Singapore serves an overpriced, delicious variety of hawker dishes including chili crab, oyster omelets, satay, carrot cake and more.
The popular Tokyo ramen shop has expanded throughout Asia, and now includes a Singapore location in Suntec City. Ramen is made to order.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Open air bar that sits on the rooftop of the National Gallery overlooking a sweeping panorama of Marina Bay.
Surrounded by the iconic Supertrees of Gardens by the Bay.
The city’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system is the easiest and most affordable way to get around Singapore. Alternatively, Grab Taxi is also an option – simply download the app, and order a taxi with the click of a button (similar to Uber).
Twinning is winning at the Joo Chat Peranakan Houses.
Singapore is home to Changi Airport, an international hub that connects the country to international destinations around the world including Dubai, Istanbul, San Francisco, Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Zurich and dozens more.
Chasing rainbows all over Singapore.
Cafe Monochrome is the city’s iconic 2D cafe.
This archway is inside the National Orchid Garden, that’s located in the Singapore Botanical Gardens.
Dinner at Violet Oon.