Singapore has been called the "Geneva of Asia," owing to its banking conglomerates and conservative nature of its people. Once dubbed the most boring city in Asia, the city state now marries its old-world charm with gleaming and vibrant modern culture including the most vigorous arts and events scene in Southeast Asia.
Singapore is wonderfully manicured, lush and green, spaciously laid-out, efficient and easy to get around in, and relative to much of Asia, refreshingly clean and tidy. One of the "Four Asian Tigers," Singapore boasts the world’s second-largest port, an airline, Singapore Air, that is often awarded the best in the world and home to the legendary Raffles Hotel. One of the world's great economic success stories and is a world leader in several industries, including the world's 4th leading financial center. In recent times, Singapore now hosts world-class arts venues and shows, world-class dining (it's street food is renowned throughout Asia), and major architectural achievements. Formula One takes place each September at the Singapore Grand Prix.
If you are flying Singapore Airlines into Asia, or passing through, let us plan a day or two canvasing the historic and modern architectural gems and arts for which the city-state stands out, as well as delicous cuisine. Less known, Singapore also offers an escape into nature, including lush jungle national parks.
"A person who gets deculturalised—and I nearly was, so I know this danger—loses his self -confidence. He suffers from a sense of deprivation. For optimum performance a man must know himself and the world. He must know where he stands. I may speak the English language better than the Chinese language because I learn English early in life. But I will never be an Englishman in a thousand generations and I have not got the Western value system inside; mine is an Eastern value system. Nevertheless, I use Western concepts, Western words because I understand them. But I also have a different system in my mind."
—Lee Kuan Yew, Founding Father of modern Singapore
Take in the unique historic and modern architectural gems and dynamic art spaces for which the city-state stands out, as well as its fabulous cuisine, from legendary “hawker” street eats to world-class dining venues. Less known, but worthwhile, Singapore also offers an escape into nature, including lush jungle parks not far from the city center.
Asia’s high-tech, low-stress metropolis, efficient, safe, and clean
Now Southeast Asia’s world-class events and cultural hub
Multicultural melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian
Compact, with most sights all within a small area, much of it walkable
Incredible, eclectic cuisine from street food to world-class dining venues
Colonial architectural grandeur: elegance from another era
The better weather is late December through June during the dry season, though in tropical Singapore it may rain anytime. Peak travel is during the Christmas and New Year holiday period, and the Lunar New Year (January 22, 2023 & February 10, 2024). Location near the equator means temperatures are warm and remain consistent throughout the year, and over the dry season are from lows in mid-70s at night to highs in the mid-80s. Rains may arrive anytime, even during the “dry” season, but are often brief tropical storm bursts, warm and humid. February and March are the driest, but also the hottest months. May can feature thick smoke from the crop burnings across the region.
Singapore Events Calendar
Chinese New Year Festivities
The biggest festival of the year. Activities take place all over town but are centered on Chinatown with street- lighting ceremonies, the spectacular Chingay parade, lion dance competition and a grand pageantry fireworks.
Contemporary art takes over the city as international and local artists present exciting and challenging new works across a number of venues.
Late April-early May
World Gourmet Summit
Cook and dine with the culinary masters at this summit spread across the city’s top restaurants and bars.
Asia Fashion Exchange
Featuring emerging local labels and world-class collections by international designers.
Mid-May through June
Singapore Arts Festival
Running for more than 30 years, this festival celebrates the music, dance, theater and visual arts of Singapore’s diverse community.
Colonial Quarter Architecture, Sights & Parks
Our first day in Singapore begins with the founding of the city state. Building styles range from ultra-modern towers in the commercial areas, to colorful temples and shophouses in the Chinatown, Indian and Malay districts. Our Singapore “architour” this first day will canvas the grand landmarks from the British colonial period of Singapore during this walk.
During our tour, learn about Singapore’s period as a British colony and influences, while we stroll the riverfront, historic lanes, visiting cathedrals and administrative buildings, including the neo-classical Supreme Courthouse and what was once the most famous luxury hotel in the world - The Raffles (below), Fort Canning, Merlion and Esplanade Parks.
One of the city’s three ethnic enclaves, Chinatown remains largely unchanged from its early days. Ancient traditions and practices still flourish and are on full display in the district featuring period shophouse-lined streets bustling with activity. With its rich heritage, Chinatown is the place to discover Singapore’s founding culture. Chinatown retains vestiges of old Singapore, albeit with a mix of the new and hip.
Hawker centers and traditional dried-goods merchants vie for space with upscale bars, clubs, restaurants, lifestyle and fashion stores and cool boutique hotels set in restored shophouses. Temple Street is a highlight, with colorful shophouses of traditional Chinese medicine, souvenir shops and supply stores. The temple located here is the most revered Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, one of the city’s icons. We’ll also visit the majestic Thian Hock Keng Temple, one of Singapore’s oldest places of worship. Our stroll also takes in the Chinatown Heritage Center, an early 20th-century Chinese shophouse that is part museum and part heritage collection. By lunch, we’ll reach the Maxwell Food Center, a fabulous hawker food court.
Gardens by the Bay
Fast becoming an icon of the city, the futuristic botanical gardens features Supertree sculptures, sky walkways and biodomes. One of Asia’s most remarkable green spaces, created on 101 hectares of reclaimed land. Enormous biodomes rise out of the greenery, housing over 800 species of plants from different climate zones. Our visit to the gardens is part of our Marina Bay touring (below)
Singapore’s famed shopping, food and boutique corridor, featuring an abundance of fashion and designer shops, excellent food courts, and dealers of Asian art, ornaments, and sculpture. Also a great destination for people watching to see the region’s trend setters live and in person.
Kampong Glam & Haji Lane
In olden days, Kampong Glam was a village of wealthy Malays, later designated as a district for Malay and Arab communities for which it now remains a central area for Singapore’s Malay and Muslim communities though in recent years has attracted hipsters and designers of all creeds. For younger travelers, the area has become a top destination, and specifically an alley of colorful old shophouses along the narrow Haji Lane with a variety of cool boutique shops, hipster bars and artisan cafes, art spaces, and ethnic restaurants. Note: Haji Lane shops closed on Sundays.
Our visit to the Marina Bay, a reclaimed massive development, includes the sprawling ArtScience museum, the first in the world to combine art and science on a large scale. Our visit may co-inside with featured exhibitions to be announced. After exploring the reclaimed and developed area by foot, including the Gardens by the Bay (above) and park, enjoying a sunset cruise, we’ll ascend 63 stories up to the city’s highest rooftop bar, 1 Altitude to enjoy stunning panoramic views of the bay and city skyline, including the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel. After, at 8:00 PM, the entire bay is illuminated during the Spectra light show.
Little India features busy scenes of life as it is on the streets of New Delhi and Mumbai, with the pungent smells of curry, incense and perfume wafting through the air. Our stroll through the district witnesses colorful temples, busy bazaars, and backpacker alleys. Of course, a highlight of our visit will be the food, and we’ll stop into the famous and busy Tekka hawker food center.
Singapore’s fine dining is world-renowned, but for a taste of the dishes locals enjoy everyday, you must visit a hawker center. These casual food courts are a uniquely Singaporean food experience, down-to-earth and featuring amazing street food by hawkers (cooks) who specialize in serving up just one or a few dishes which they have perfected over many years. Singapore’s legendary hawker cuisine features a delicious and unique variety of freshly cooked Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian cuisines. Sample favorite dishes such as Hokkien Mee (yellow egg noodles sautéed in a rich prawn and pork broth and served with fish cake, squid, prawn and pork slices), tasty satay (grilled meat skewers) served with delicious sauces, and popular Laksa, a spicy noodle dish of rice noodles, stir-fried tofu, fish cake, mollusks, shrimp and eggs bathed in a coconut curry broth. During our almost daily crawl of hawker food courts, learn about dishes, ingredients and essentials of food court etiquette.
Marina Bay Sunset Cruise
Take in Singapore’s magnificent skyline with the best views possible cruising on the bay during the sunset.
Bukit Timah Hike
An equatorial tropical climate and history of active conservancy and parks creation means Singapore is blessed with green and often lush nature escapes. Enjoy a morning excursion to Bukit Timah Nature Preserve, only minutes away from the city center yet verdant with original tropical forest (the 81-acre forest is believed to be over one million years old). During our moderate 2-hour hike, we’ll reach the summit, a vantage point in the preserve offers scenic views of the city from its high point.
If you haven’t made it to Africa, this experience in the renowned Mandai Wildlife Reserve offers exceptional close-up encounters with wild animals at the world's first nocturnal zoo. Wildlife at the reserve include Malaysian Tigers, orangutans, “Fishing Cats” (who hunt the streams), elephants, lions, and hippos. Note: Open Thursday - Sundays.
Singapore Art Encounter
Our unique art crawl takes in the best of the city-state’s traditional and outstanding modern arts. We’ll spend time over two days canvasing museums, galleries, spaces, and any pop-up spaces and events that may correspond with our trip dates. Highlights include the the Asian Civilisations Museum with exhibits featuring Singapore’s multicultural roots, the acclaimed ArtScience museum during our visit to the Marina Bay (above), and the Red Dot Design Museum (an offshoot of the famous red dot museum in Germany, the largest exhibition of contemporary design in the world) spotlighting contemporary product and communication design made by winners of the prestigious Red Dot Design Awards.
Experience old-world craftsman’s work during this visit to a paper-crafts maker and crafts shops making and spotlighting vanishing trades.
Famous for cuisine, but equally and even more so for its shopping, from antiques, modern design, to fashion, Singapore has it all. During your free time, do explore Orchard Road (above), but also Tekka Market (Indian Quarter), Tiong Bahru, Haji Lane, and Dempsey Road (for antiques).
Explore other links (above) for further information on touring, hotels, and activities in Singapore.