If you find yourself flying from one side of the globe to the other, or just travelling through Asia, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in Singapore at some stage. It’s one of those places a lot of flights tend to pass through, so if you get the chance, it makes sense to spend a couple of days exploring the island for yourself.
With only a few days to explore, you don’t have any time to waste. Thankfully, the size of the island makes it very easy to cover a lot of ground quickly. Today I wanted to share with you my ultimate guide on how to see, do and eat your way through the very best of Singapore, in 48 hours! Strap on your walking shoes, kids, cos it’s adventure time.
Watch our ‘Singapore for first-timers’ video
Breakfast at LoKal
Start your day off right at the delightful cafe, LoKal, located on the edge of Chinatown. This place is a favourite with the locals, serving up fresh, delicious food using homemade ingredients. A must-try item is the Kaya Toast, the traditional local breakfast of Singaporeans. Beautiful, crunchy toast is served with homemade Kaya (a delectably sweet coconut jam), butter and slow cooked egg. Wash it all down with a fantastic coffee.
It’s time to visit one of Singapore’s best-kept secrets, the insanely good rooftop of Pinnacle @ Duxton. For some reason, tourists don’t seem to know about this place, which is perfect for people like us. The 50th story skybridge opens at 9am and only allows 200 people up per day, at a cost of $5 per person. You’ll need an EZ-Link card to pay, which you can get from the MRT station. If you only put one rooftop on your list, make it this one, it’s a photographers dream come true.
Harbour front exploring
Catch a cab to Collyer Quay and stroll along the waterfront. You’ll be able to take in some fantastic views of the harbour, including boats, waterfront bars and restaurants, Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum and the Merlion. This is a great spot to get some iconic photos of Singapore. If you’re an early riser, it’s also a great place to come at dawn for awesome sunrise shots. If you see a guy with a cart selling $1 ice creams, served in-between two wafers, buy one, eat it, then buy another one.
Discover Little India
Make your way over to Little India and wander around on foot. You’ll find yourself on the main street, Serangoon Road, but the hot tip is to find one of the smaller back streets, just one street back. This is where you’ll find colourful buildings, small stores and photo opportunities galore. Visit the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, get your hands expertly Henna’d and shop for gorgeous textiles.
It’s time to dig a little deeper into Singapore’s famous food scene. Visit the inconspicuous Komala Villas Restaurant, located on Buffalo Road. This place is my favourite spot to eat at in Singapore as it serves up the most delicious, authentic vegetarian Indian food that’ll make your tummy and your wallet very happy. Try the Masala Dosai meal, a large chickpea-flour flatbread that’s insanely light and crisp, stuffed with perfectly curried potato, served with vegetables and dips. It’ll cost under $10 to feast like a King! (Note: there are two locations for this restaurant, but my favourite is on Buffalo Road).
Time to shop
Singapore is known for its amazing shopping scene, so it’s time to unleash your credit card and let it rip! Make your way to Orchard Road and explore the myriad of shopping centres that line either side of the road. If it’s all too overwhelming, good places to start are Ion Orchard and Takashimaya. For a bit of on-the-cheap shopping, take a stroll through Lucky Plaza. If you find yourself at Orchard Central, take the elevator to the top floor and then catch the escalator to the very top, for a hidden rooftop spot.
Dinner with a view
After a post-shopping rest, you’re going to need a big meal to refuel. Catch a cab up to Faber Peak to catch the sunset and enjoy a few cocktails at Spuds & Aprons. It’s a place that isn’t over-run with tourists and offers you a really great view of the sunset, that you probably wouldn’t see otherwise. You can even get a great view of Sentosa Island.
Drinks, drinks, drinks!
Singaporeans love to have a great night out! If you do too, I suggest you take in some of their fantastic bars. One of my all-time favourites is Bitters & Love. This super-cool space is totally hidden at the back of a restaurant, where they create bespoke cocktails based on what you love to drink. Seriously, what they make here are the COOLEST cocktails, most beautiful, unique cocktails I’ve ever had. If you’re keen to stay out late for more drinks, take the short walk to Club Street, right around the corner, where you’ll find loads of cool bars to drink the night away.
Breakfast in Tiong Bahru
The start of day two calls for food and coffee. Get yourself over to Tiong Bahru, the heart of Singapore’s hipster cafe scene. You’re spoilt for choice with great places to eat in the area, but for a hearty, fresh breakfast and divine coffee, the pick of the bunch is 40 Hands.
Explore the area
Tiong Bahru Estate was built in the 1930s and the buildings here are unlike any other you’ll see on the island, so take the time to explore on foot, photographing the British-Colonial style houses and spotting installation art pieces from local artists. You can also check-in at the famous Tiong Bahru Bakery or wander the Tiong Bahru Food Centre, perusing the wet market and trying local treats at the food court, for a true locals experience.
Lunch in Chinatown
Hop a cab and make your way toward Chinatown, where you’ll find the Chinatown Food Complex. Every local Singaporean knows the very best food isn’t found in restaurants, it’s found in Hawker Centres and Food Courts all over the island. Not only is the food here delicious and authentic, it’s also dirt cheap! I suggest trying a few local favourites, like Hainanese Chicken Rice, Popiah and Carrot Cake (which is not a cake and contains no carrots). If you have no idea where to start, find the longest queue and join it. Singaporeans LOVE to queue and are willing to do it when the reward is worthwhile. Big queues mean great food!
Wander on foot
Now you’ve refuelled, it’s time to explore the local area. Just outside the Food Complex, you’ll find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, an impressive temple which is free to enter and well-worth exploring. If you’re lucky, you’ll find Monks, adorned in red and gold robes, chanting among the huge statues and ornately decorated walls and ceilings. Afterwards, step outside onto the street and explore the surrounding market stall. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs and you’ll spot the retired men, or ‘Uncles,’ playing some pretty intense games of checkers.
Drinks with a view
Let’s get real, you’ve earned yourself a drink! Thankfully, Singapore has a few amazing rooftop bars you can visit, to soak it all in (the booze and the views). Head up to the top of Marina Bay Sands and visit rooftop hotspot, Ce La Vi. For the best views and photographs, go just before the sunset. The drinks here are on the pricey side, but it’s a treat that’s well worth it.
Gardens by the Bay
A trip to Singapore isn’t complete without a visit to the insanely gorgeous Gardens by the Bay. Now the sun has set, you’ll be able to explore the amazing Sky Trees, all lit up. It’s free to wander through this part of the gardens, which come alive with bright and beautiful lights, illuminating the 25 – 50-metre tall trees. If you have time, I’d recommend exploring the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest and Sun Pavilion, too. These gardens are really, really amazing and unlike anything else I’ve seen. You should only need about an hour to buzz through all three if you’re speedy.
Dinner at Potato Head Folk
It’s time to test out Singapore’s trendy eateries and bar scene, by taking a visit to Potato Head Folk. The space has a fun, whimsical theme to it, with large murals on the walls and an open rooftop adorned with glowing festival lights. The place is split over three different levels, serving up some pretty spectacular cocktails and really delicious burgers. It’s the perfect place to spend your last night in Singapore. If you fancy more drinks and more views, I recommend a trip over to LeVel 33, by the water, or 1-Altitude, with amazing views over the water.
Where to stay
You’re going to need a sweet place to base yourself for your Singapore adventures! I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Orchard Road, located a few metres off Orchard Road, but tucked away from all the hustle and bustle. The hotel offers a fantastic location, with buses and the MRT (train) station a short walk away, for budget travellers. It’s centrally located, making it easy to explore then retreat back, and it’s super easy to hail a cab if needed.
The rooms are small but mighty, with the space being used really cleverly, without compromising on style or comfort. You’ll find plenty of space to spread out, with a big comfy bed, great bathroom, desk for working and an armchair for relaxing. The focus at Holiday Inn Express is on keeping things simple, by sticking to the basics. You’ll find great quality free wi-fi, a simple and delicious complimentary breakfast buffet and a room that serves as the perfect oasis during your stay. I really loved it and would definitely look to stay at this and other Holiday Inn Express locations again.
The team at Holiday Inn Express are set to open their first Aussie location shortly at Macquarie Park, Sydney. Just like its Singaporean cousin, this spot will offer classy, comfortable and effortless accommodation at cost-friendly prices. The team also signed me up to their IHG Rewards Club, which earns you points each time you book a stay at one of their 4,600 hotels worldwide. Each booking earns you points, which you can redeem for things like meals, late check-outs or even a free stay!
Watch our video ‘Exploring Singapore’s heartland’s on the Makan Bus’ video
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.