Singapore is a great gateway to the Far East. Eastern and western forces have owned it, but now it is a sovereign state in its own right, with a very special identity. It’s slick, modern, easy to explore and great for families.
Walk through Singapore and you’ll travel the world – through Little India and Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Clarke Quay. Eat from an international buffet at every street market and enjoy how the city lights up its every corner by night. Singapore is a shopper’s paradise: consumers have a huge appetite in the capital and the city has grown to meet their needs, from iconic Orchard Road to the jamboree of street markets. For all its polish, the jungle is never far away. From the wild wonders of the bird park to the super trees of the Gardens by the Bay, it’s the greenest city in Asia – but its hawker markets sell saris in every colour. Discover kaleidoscopic holidays in Singapore.
Shopping heaven, Orchard is more than just a street. This 2.2km stretch of road is flanked by the most visited shopping malls in Singapore. There’s Ion Orchard, an architect’s fantasy crammed with familiar shops: Apple have opened a concrete-clad flagship here. For something a little different, head to Far East Plaza on Scotts Road. At Christmas time, the over-the-top decorations in the region border on the ridiculous.
This area of the city is dominated by the Marina Bay Sands hotel, designed by Moshe Safdie, who also dreamed up the nearby ArtScience museum. For a view over the bay, you can walk across the futuristic fritted glass Helix Bridge to the Singapore Flyer, a supersized Ferris wheel. Go on a clear night and try and count the city’s innumerable lights from 165m up. But be down in the Gardens by the Bay by 7:45pm or 8:45pm, when the daily light shows start.
Clarke Quay is for all hours of the day. Restaurants serving world cuisine line the waterfront, ready for lunch and dinner, their roofs lit up in neon. With nearby Robertson Quay they make up the historic riverfront area of the city, near the Colonial landmarks of St Andrew’s Cathedral and the Raffles Hotel. You can depart from Clarke Quay on the Singapore river for a cruise and watch the bustle of the city from the serenity of the water. Nightlife begins at Zouk, the old club, with its legendary Mambo Jambo theme nights.
Architects have made modern Singapore a clean-cut fortress, but the Thian Hock Keng Temple in Chinatown – built without nails and with mosaics made of broken pottery – remains one of Singapore’s most beautiful buildings. Visit the Buddha tooth relic temple, also in the area, which houses one of Gautama Buddha’s teeth in its reliquary. Outside, among the street stalls and markets, look out for the first street food stand to gain a Michelin star: Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle – the queue is an attraction in itself – it’s often hours and hours long.
A rainbow in a blender: Singapore’s Little India is madly colourful, from its temples to its stalls hung with garlands and saris. This compact district centres around Serangoon Road. Many artists live in the area and it is great for food. You won’t miss the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. It’s covered with 640 statues and topped with a rare silver flag post. In Kampong Glam, experience Malay culture and the way of life of the local Muslim community as you walk down Arab Street. Here you’ll find Haji Lane – a tiny side street which is found by following the hipsters. They’ll be feasting on gourmet burgers and hanging out at the selfie café.
An area of Singapore with a real resort feel. The city’s beaches are here, as are hotels like the W, which seems to have brought its holiday spirit in from Miami beach. The island has history as well as sandy beaches: Fort Siloso, built to defend the coast in World War II, once turned its guns 180 degrees to fire inland on the approaching Japanese troops. The walk around the fort is interesting. Sentosa also hosts a smaller, but by no means small, Universal Studios full of 3D rides.