24 Hours in Singapore

by Sabrina Smelko


Like most people growing up (myself included), Peiying Lim always dreamed of leaving her home town of Singapore. It wasn’t until she reached adulthood and lived abroad for years while studying that she came to appreciate her home and native land. Now, after living in Melbourne for the last while, she’s happy to be back living in and enjoying this great island city-state.

Singapore continues to defy categorization with its multicultural population, tropical climate, and eclectic and diverse neighborhoods. This year, Singapore proudly celebrates its Golden Jubilee (its 50th year of independence), so Peiying couldn’t be prouder to share everything Singapore has to offer. If you ever find yourself in charming and progressive Singapore for a day (or more!) enjoy this great 24-hour guide. –Sabrina

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9 am: Eat like a local at Tong Ah Eating House. The shop may not look like much at first glance, but they have been around since 1939 and still serve kaya (coconut jam) with white bread, which is a rare find these days. Order your soft-boiled eggs, kaya, and buttered or french toast with kaya, and wash it down with a cup of kopi (coffee).

woods in the books

10 am: Walk around Tiong Bahru’s Woods in the Books and Strangelets. Be charmed by their classic or new picture books for the young and young-at-heart, along with delicately crafted and sourced design items.

Before you leave the area, stop by Plain Vanilla Bakery located just beside the shop, for some to-go cupcakes, my favorite being their earl grey lavender cupcake!

plain vanilla

12 pm: Head over to Gardens by the Bay for a vibrant horticultural oasis of lush greenery and floral displays. The three highlights of the place include:

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Supertrees: You can’t miss these massive vertical trees when you enter! I especially love that they are actually used to convert sunlight into energy for the gardens. For just $5, you can walk on the elevated walkway between two supertrees, getting a heightened view of the gardens below.

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Cloud Forest: Escape the sweltering heat in Singapore and enter this mysterious world veiled in mist. In it is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, at 35 meters tall, surrounded by lush vegetation. Take the lift up and stroll along the two walkways for an aerial view of this magnificent place.

Forest Dome: Home to a collection of plants from deserts all over the world, Forest Dome showcases adaptations of plants to arid environments. There are multiple garden climates in the dome, including a Californian, South African, Australian, and Mediterranean garden.

2 pm: You’re sure to be hungry again by the time you’re done exploring Gardens by the Bay. Nothing is more uniquely Singapore than our local hawker food. If it is your first time in Singapore, you must try some of the popular hawker foods like: BBQ stingray, chicken rice, char kway teow, laksa, hokkien mee, wanton mee, and so on – stuff that you can never find elsewhere.

Head down to Lau Pa Sat, one of the most popular food markets in the city, surrounded by the tallest buildings in the heart of the financial district. It is a great spot to sample local cuisine as well as international dishes. Be sure to also get fresh sugar cane juice, the perfect choice of drink to go along with our local Singapore hawker food.

3:30 pm: Visiting museums is a great way to find out more about Singapore (and escape the heat!).

The National Museum of Singapore is the nation’s oldest museum, showcasing Singapore’s 10 National Treasures and presenting our short but rich history and culture.

The Singapore Art Museum focuses on international contemporary art practices, specializing in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Visit the Asian Civilisations Museum or Peranakan Museum to find out the histories and cultural life of other races in Singapore.

Lastly, the MINT Museum of Toys, the world’s first purpose-built museum for toys, showcases an extensive collection of vintage toys and childhood memorabilia, including rare and unique one-of-a-kind pieces. This museum wakes something within you, linking you to your childhood.

5:30 pm: Visit Cat Socrates and lose yourself in the variety of well-designed products including books and paper paraphernalia, home decor, kitchenware and furniture, fabric and sewing accessories, plants and pots, bags and fashion accessories, vintage memorabilia, even bicycles and homemade jams!

7:30 pm: End your night by enjoying live music from local bands, a bar and delicious food, all at Timbre. They serve pizzas (my favorite is one with a local twist of roasted duck topped with crispy popiah skin), pasta, steak and delectable finger food.

Make a trip to Mustafa Center anytime afterwards, if you’d like. It is a 24-hour store, where you can get anything and everything — even things you did not know you needed.

Other noteworthy places to visit:
Sentosa: one of the major tourist attractions in Singapore. Besides Resorts World Sentosa and Universal Studios Singapore, there are many more attractions in Sentosa. From Fort Siloso, to the Underwater World, Wavehouse, S.E.A. Aquarium, Trick Eye Museum Singapore, and the three beaches, there are plenty of things to do on Sentosa Island.

Haji Lane, featuring a row of multi-label indie stores selling vintage clothing and other quirky boutiques. There are many hip bars and cafes around the hood as well.

Holland Village Singapore, with its laid-back charm and a variety of cuisines and cafes to choose from, is the perfect place to spend the entire day relaxing or catching up with friends.

Dempsey Hill with its lush greenery and old world charm will captivate you. It is one of the hottest dining destinations in Singapore and has a wide range of shops from exquisite antique furniture, fine teak works, handcrafted carpets and exotic art pieces sourced globally.

Orchard Road, a shopper’s haven and cosmopolitan playground with huge angsana trees lining the street, is home to fashion favorites, specialist stores, upscale restaurants, ethnic wares, art galleries and relaxed hangouts.

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  • As a fellow returning Singaporean, artist, I absolutely love this post and the places you mentioned. I just would like to add that early AM in the Botanic Gardens is magical and very late PM in Little India’s Mustafa Centre is epic : )

  • I’d say Chinatown on a Sunday, Kampong Glam and Little India are fascinating places to wander around.

  • I would add a visit to the SPCA animal shelter (just take the Circle Line MRT to Bartley Station) and ACRES animal rescue centre! Both do excellent work and shows the best sides of Singapore, IMHO!

    Kuala Lumpur

  • Great to some guides in Asia now I am living in Hong Kong. I enjoyed quite a few of the suggestions on a recent weekend in Singapore

  • I love this post.
    It’ll be a nice getaway to Singapore from where I am in Taipei for a short weekend and see most of it :)

    x Tiff