In Asia PacificDestinations on 17/04/17


“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” Anonymous

Singapore is pretty much one big densely populated city yet it manages to be clean, tidy, safe and beautiful.  The world’s only island city state, it’s 277 square miles in size, 23% larger than the 1960s due to land reclamation and now offers world class shopping, dining and attractions.  Just 1° north of the equator it’s hot and humid year round but there are plenty of opportunities to escape the heat and discover something new.

In recent years Singapore seems to be trying to rival Dubai for iconic hotels and attractions, however the lush vegetation and steady temperatures somehow give it the edge.  The main attraction is now Marina Bay Sands resort and neighbouring Gardens by the Bay, both of which are only a few years old.  Yet there is still plenty to discover off the beaten track and unusually for a city, there aren’t any ‘no-go’ areas.

Gardens by the Bay

The gardens have several attractions with something for everyone; an indoor tropical cloud forest, flower dome, children’s area with interactive water fountains, sculptures and perhaps most famously a network of steel and electric trees up to 50 feet tall connected by an aerial walkway.  I’m not usually a fan of artificial interpretations of nature, but the trees (Supertree Grove) are very impressive.  At night they come alive with a light display to music, well worth a watch although perhaps best seen from Marina Bay Sands.  One of them has a bar on the roof with a gorgeous breeze and fabulous views of the bay and Marina Bay Sands resort next door.

Marina Bay Sands

The world famous resort is made up of a 2561 room hotel, enormous shopping mall featuring canals with gondolas, casino, theatres, ice skating rink and convention centre.  The real gem is the ‘SkyPark’ on the roof, with the capacity for nearly 4000 people it gets pretty busy, so if you’re planning to meet someone up there good luck!  That said, the views are stunning and the breeze refreshing given the 24/7 heat in the city.

There are few cities that captivate me, but the view from the SkyPark does it for me.  Despite the crowds and restricted seating – even for hotel guests – I never tire of the view.  Stand at the bar or grab a high table when they’re available if you want the avoid the significant minimum spend a perimeter table requires.

Sentosa Island

Sentosa means ‘peace and tranquility’ in Malay, and the island does have this vibe, certainly compared to the main city just 5 miles away.  The island is home to golf courses, hotels, Universal theme park, marina, beach and a boulevard of restaurants and bars, it’s much more developed than it looks as you drive through so it’s been cleverly camouflaged.  It’s worth taking a trip across for an afternoon or evening meal.  I ate by the marina and highly rate it.

Botanical Gardens

5 miles from downtown the gardens are well worth a half day visit.  They’re pretty big with several zones featuring stunning tropical plants, orchids, lakes and sculptures and they regularly host events in the natural amphitheatre by the lake.  Beware the middle of the day as it’s very hot and humid there with limited shade, but the gardens do offer an oasis from the high rise buildings that dominate the city.

Street Food Markets

‘Hawker’ street food markets can be found all across the city, they offer a wide range of food vendors serving delicious food with communal seating.  The markets are lively and friendly and offer an authentic local experience away from the more formal shopping malls and hotels.  I visited Lap Pa Sat market for a delicious plate of noodles, followed by a pleasant half hour stroll along the city roads, past the marina and in to Marina Bay Sands for rooftop drinks in the Skypark, a really nice evening experiencing two very different aspects of the city.

There are strict laws related to drinking, public indecency and drugs so gen up on laws before you go.

Getting there

There are direct flights to Singapore from most cities, unless you’re around the other side of the world.


MRT (mass rapid transit) and LRT (light rail transit) are the train networks linking the city and suburbs and reasonably priced.

Taxis are very good.  Hire cars are a possibility but parking is so limited you’d probably be better off with public transport.


Marina Bay Sands

The iconic three towered hotel topped with a rooftop area with bars, restaurants and an infinity pool. The ground and basement floors have a huge shopping zone.  It’s right by the water and Gardens By the Bay so it’s popular with tourists too.  The service is fantastic and the food in the ground floor restaurants is particularly good.

Park Hotel Alexandra is about 4 miles from downtown, with a mix of business and tourist guests.  They have a lovely pool and pool bar overlooking the city, a few shops and a food hall are nearby.  The rooms are very comfortable and the service is exceptional.

Airbnb – there’s a huge selection of rooms.  With Singapore being so safe, staying in an unknown neighbourhood isn’t an issue.  I stayed in the Outram district 3 miles from downtown.  There was a great cafe downstairs I had morning coffee in, and got chatting to an older local gentleman, our chat was one of the highlights of my visit, and something I would have missed out on if I’d stuck to the tourist districts.


Octapas is an informal bar and restaurant right by the Singapore River in the heart of Clarke Quay.  As the name suggests, it’s a tapas and fish restaurant.  The food and drinks are good but the location really makes it, great spot for people watching and soaking up the atmosphere, although this applies to many of the bars and restaurants in Clarke Quay.

Zafferano Italian restaurant and bar is great for groups or work parties.  Mains are £20-30.  Their sky terrace is a great spot for formal cocktails with views over the city.

The China Club is a members only restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Capital Tower in the central business district.  They primarily offer 8 course set menus which start at £60 per person.  Suitable more for businesses and residents who require exclusive entertaining.  The food, service and views are suitably impressive.Finally, don’t forget about the street food markets mentioned above.

Street food markets these are all over the city, see the link to find one that suits your location


Botanical Gardens is well worth a visit, you can get there by bus or taxi. Entry is listed as free but somehow it cost me SG$11 to get in, including entry to the orchid gardens

Gardens by the Bay are around £15 for all zones


Marina Bay Sands has a huge shopping mall in the basement levels with most medium to high end brands.

For souvenirs take a look around Clarke Quay’s street sellers and shops.


Above average in cost (similar to London), but your stay can be tailored to match your budget.  The main tourist areas are more expensive, but in many cases worth paying for.