So you have found yourself in Singapore, on a layover, because well – that happens quite a lot.
I found myself at the airport wondering what I could do in such a short period of time, not wanting to miss out on everything that this metropolis of a City-State had to offer so I googled articles furiously, only to find that many of them were either outdated or featured way too many things to accomplish an a short period of time. I ended up enlisting the help of the VERY knowledgable concierge at the Four Seasons Singapore (where they had graciously put me up), and referenced a local friend of mine, and ended up with a much more concise list which you can find below. There is no reason to do any of these in any particular order, but this is the order in which I did them. You won’t be rushed, but you’ll certainly have a great time exploring Singapore in a single day! I also have made no assumptions about what part of the day you’ve had 24 hours to spend, so you might want to start and end at a certain spot, but just know that Singapore is more or less a 24 hour city so many things are open late except for some of the parks!
- HAWKER MARKETS: So there are quite a few of these, and by hawker market, they mean markets where people “hawk” items. In Singapore, the most famous of these are the food hawker markets. Now it just so happened that the one I wanted to go to initially was closed (The Tiong Bahru Market). Luckily, there are many more – and the one which I ended up in was the Maxwell Food Centre Hawker Market. This is one of the more famous ones, with over 100 stalls, and is centered right in Chinatown. You might ask, should I walk around Chinatown? My answer is – no – if you’ve been to one Chinatown, you probably know what you’re gonna see in another one. However, the Maxwell Food Centre Market had some of the most delicious and cheapest noodle soups I have ever had. Don’t wait in line for the “famous” chicken and rice here, because the truth is, there’s a ton of places around Singapore that you can get this famous dish and there’s no reason to waste your precious 24 hours with 30-45min in line here.
- TIONG BAHRU BAKERY: So you want pastries? Well, I’m not particularly a pastry type of person, but then I came here. Known for their caffeinated concoctions along with their incredible croissants and Kouign Amann’s, this place is a must drop by spot. There’s not much to say except for, have a pastry, get one to go if you must, but don’t skip this bakery, they make some incredible concoctions. I thought that a croissant was a croissant was a croissant, until I came here. Keep in mind they have THREE locations, so just choose the one closest to you, knowing that one of them closes later than the other two.
- THE GARDENS BY THE BAY: I usually love museums, but many times one can get burnt out going to them, because unless you are deeply attached to the exhibit, things can get dull very quickly (all you Art History majors/buffs please don’t hate mail me on this). The Gardens by the Bay is a great exception. There are actually multiple exhibits here but the two which I believe are worth your time are the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome is really a quick walkthrough of an incredibly intricate (and really great smelling) indoor flower garden, while the Cloud Forest is Singapore’s rendition of a vertical forest. You’re going to want to spend some time in the Cloud Forest, because there’s a fun walkway that takes you through the interior and exterior of the vertical growth as you explore all the exhibits hidden throughout the zig-zagging path. There’s really nothing quite like it and out of everything in Singapore, this probably “wow’ed” me the most.
- RAFFLES CITY (Plaza): So you’ve heard of Raffles City, named after the famous Standford Raffles who had the vision to put Singapore on the map as a mercantile trading capital of the world. Raffles City and the nearby Plaza is a mix of modernity and history, with some really cool architecture that is a pure throwback to the colonial days, mixed in with newer hotels and office spaces. It is certainly a great place to just stroll and take in Singapore, with a mix of restaurants nearby (if you still happen to be hungry). Of course it’s worth stopping by to have a cold concoction at the original home of the Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel, but DO NOT actually order the Singapore Sling. It’s a jumbled mess of pure sugar with no complexity or redeeming value, and overly priced at that.
- THE MARINA BAY SANDS: Not quite sure what kind of architectural statement the developers of the Marina Bay Sands were trying to make, but one thing is for certain, up close the hotel is pretty awe-inspiring. It resembles a ship on stilts, or a bauhaus designed flower planter. It’s definitely worth checking out this hotel and having high-noon tea at the restaurant upstairs. The view is worth the price of admission alone, and being such an iconic part of the skyline – the Marina Bay Sands should be on every visitor’s list. There’s a pool and two bars upstairs, but most of it is inaccessible except for hotel guests, but don’t let that stop you from visiting the bars and enjoying the glass balconies and the views they impart.
I’m sure I have missed a thing here or there, and there will always be some degree of argument about what bakery or hawker market is best, but lets just say after visiting a few failed spots from some other lists, this one did me good on my quick excursion into Singapore. Oh, and if you’re wondering about transportation, I recommend taking taxis or Ubers, because as great as the public transportation is, it’s just that much quicker to taxi from spot to spot.