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The truth is every person who has lived in Singapore, or even visited briefly, will have different ideas on the country’s must-see sights and attractions. This list of activities will be largely influenced by each traveller’s budget and personal interests. But for the best overall experience of Singapore, this 48-hour itinerary will provide a whirlwind tour of the Lion City.
Start your day with a traditional coffee and breakfast at a ‘kopi tiam’ (coffee shop). To order your coffee, you must ask for ‘kopi’ followed by what you would like in it. Some helpful terms are ‘peng’ (with ice), ‘oh’ (no milk) and ‘kosong’ (no sugar). For breakfast, try a classic Singaporean breakfast of ‘kaya’ toast, which is coconut jam, sugar and eggs served on toast. To add a savoury kick, you can dip your toast into a soft boiled egg. Be ready for a shock if you choose coffee to go – the drink will be served in a plastic bag!
Next, head to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. First opened in 1859, the botanic gardens are one of Singapore’s oldest parks and home to over 10,000 species of plants. Sitting on 80 hectares (200 acres) of land, the gardens never feel crowded, but the vast size also means visitors must pay attention to where they are entering and exiting the park! There’s also the opportunity to explore the on-site National Orchid Garden, one of the premier orchid research centres in the world, displaying over 1,000 species of indigenous flowers as well as 2,000 hybrids.
For lunch, make your way to Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle in Chinatown Complex and sample what must surely be the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal. Luckily, the queues are much shorter than when the award was announced last summer, so you shouldn’t have to wait more than half an hour. From there, it’s a quick MRT ride to the next destination: Singapore’s ArtScience Museum. Have a wander through the latest permanent exhibition, Future World, a fully immersive and interactive digital art installation.
From the museum, take a leisurely stroll across the Helix Bridge towards the durian-inspired Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. Just before you reach the Esplanade Theatre, you’ll come across a large, outdoor seating area: Makansutra Gluttons Bay is one of the best places on the island for eating Singapore’s national dish of chilli crab, without paying exorbitant rates for it. If you still have room for dessert, check out the stall Co+Nut+ink, which serves up coconut ice cream in a coconut bowl inspired by the same dish from Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market. Finally, end your night with drinks in Telok Ayer on Club Street and Ann Siang Hill. Here you’ll find the street closed to revellers, and dozens of bars competing for attention from expats and young Singaporeans.
Start your second day in the Lion City with brunch. If it’s Sunday and you’re willing to splurge, the free-flow champagne brunches offered by many restaurants are a great way to kick-start the day. If you’re looking for a more affordable and less boozy option, head out into café districts like Bugis or Tiong Bahru. After lunch, it’s time to head to another island. Get down to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal because the next stop on our whirlwind tour is one of Singapore’s last remaining traditional villages on Pulau Ubin. From the ferry terminal, take a short boat ride across to the island for just $3 (£2.44) per person. When you arrive at Pulau Ubin, turn left at the end of the jetty towards the row of shops where you can rent a bike and stock up on water. Spend the afternoon exploring the island by bike, making sure you don’t miss the Chek Jawa wetlands and Balai Quarry.
Once you’ve had your fill of the island’s charms, it’s time to return to the city. Keep in mind that the boats will only leave the island once they are full (12 people), so don’t wait too late to leave. Alternatively, you can pay the boat drivers the full boat fare ($36/£21) if you don’t want to wait. Once you’re in the city, go to the historic market of Lau Pa Sat in the Marina District, where you’ll find a street dedicated to serving some of the best satay on the island. Pick a mixed set so you can try different kinds of meat and prawns, and flag down one of the beer ladies to get a pitcher with your meal – you’ve earned it, after all that cycling! After dinner, swing by your hotel and change into the nice clothes you always pack in your suitcase but never get around to wearing, and head to Cé La Vie in Marina Bay Sands. Here, you can soak up the staggering views of the city before your flight the next day.