Forty-eight hours in Singapore is quite a limited visit, but if you are ready to pack a lot of sightseeing into each day – you should still have enough time to see the best mix that the Lion City has to offer.
This itinerary is a combination of heritage architecture and local foods, bright new futuristic structures, and excursions into the jungle parks that help develop the reputation of Singapore as a “Garden City.”
Day One – Singapore History and the Local Experience:
Head to Maxwell Road Food Center for a genuine local food court experience, and start your first day with a roti prata, a fried and flaky indian bread, served alongside thick spicy curry gravy.
Every Singaporean or long-term expat has their favourite style (cheese maybe, or onion) and favourite stand to pick up this star of Singaporean cuisine – but prata is just one of the many dishes that are making Singapore known as hub of fusion cuisine.
Other headliners for local eats include: chili crab, laksa curry, and Hainanese chicken rice.
Wander around the Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar neighborhoods, or book a walking tour to check out the bright and beautiful shophouses. These structures are a charming and nostalgic feature of traditional Singaporean architecture.
Built in narrow rows with shared walls and a unique design to hold both businesses and living quarters, their bright colours and beautiful tile detailing add a real sense of character to the city.
Definitely make a stop to visit the NUS Baba House at 127 Neil Road – a gem of restored Straights Chinese history.
Get a glimpse into the British Colonial history of the country by making an afternoon stopover at the legendary Raffles Hotel. Wander through the sumptuously decorated lobby and pop into the shops in the adjoining mall for some quick retail therapy.
Before you move on, a Singapore Sling and some bowls of peanuts (you can throw the shells on the floor!) in the hotel’s Long Bar is a mandatory tourist stop.
The drink is an acquired taste, to be sure, but the fruity cocktail represents an interesting transition in the history of the country – having been developed right around the time that British control of the country was slipping, and the new independent local government began to define Singapore’s identity as a country of its own.
Make your way to Little India for an opportunity to se a quarter unlike anything else in Singapore.
While the majority of the city can feel quite empty and quiet, the streets of Little India bustle with shops selling sundries, snacks, and offerings for the many Hindu temples of the area. Stop in the Tekka Market to get a glimpse into one of Singapore’s remaining wet markets and to grab a small Indian sweet before stopping into a local restaurant for some of the best Indian food of your life.
For South Indian specialties, including biryani and fish dishes, make a stop at Banana Leaf Apolo. Those who prefer North Indian curries can stop at Jaggi’s North Indian for a more budget option, or Mustard – just next door – for a fancier meal.
Walk off some of that curry by making your way to Kampong Glam, the historic Arab quarter, about a 15-minute walk away from Little India. The traditional Masjid Sultan is beautiful at all hours of the night, and if you time it just right, you can hear the sweet sounds of the evening call to prayer buzzing throughout the Singapore sunset.
Make your way to Haji Lane for another example of shophouses that have been turned into hip boutiques and cafes. Stop for a nightcap at Bar Stories, where a bespoke cocktail will be crafted spontaneously to respond to your tastes of the moment.
If you happen to be in town on a Thursday, head to The Beast for Open Mic Night, or spend your Friday or Saturday at Going Om, where the acoustic music serenading late into the night gives the city a distinctively cosmopolitan, yet cozy feel.
Day 2: New Development and the Outdoors
Pre-purchase your ticket for one of Singapore’s Hop On, Hop Off bus services – which will take you throughout the city for an opportunity to get a glimpse at how the country has developed and modernised quite rapidly over Singapore’s 50 year history.
Different companies have different routes, itineraries, and pricing options, but all of them generally visit each stop about every 30 minutes. Here is a general suggestion of attractions to see and how you should plan your day:
Get an early start so you have the opportunity to wander in the Singapore Botanic Gardens before it gets too hot. The park is a UNESCO world heritage site, recognised for it’s remarkable preservation and landscape design of indigenous plant life.
It opens at 5 AM every day, so if you arrive by 7, you should be able to get a few good hours in, ending your trip at the world famous Orchid Gardens.
Orchard Road should be your next stop. Shopping Malls are a mainstay of Singaporean daily life, and the legendary shopping street is home to some of the most beautiful complexes in the city.
Wander through the luxury stores, cafes, and art galleries found in the malls for a great option to escape the hottest part of the day. There are countless restaurant options with economical lunch sets for you to stop and recoup some of your energy.
Get back on the bus and ride around a little. You may pass through Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar, and some other areas you already visited on your first day – but this will be a nice breezy break, and a chance to hear some historical context from the tour guide, as well as get a different view as you look down on the shophouses, temples, and other sights to see.
By the mid afternoon, make your way to the Gardens by the Bay.
Prepare to be blown away by the towering structures of the Supertree Grove – an artwork fusing nature and science, harvesting solar energy to power the attractions below, and featuring the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
Only a few minutes walk away is the famous Merlion sculpture. The fountain combines the tail of a fish and the head of a lion, and is said to represent the identity of the city. Take advantage of the sunset views, as well as the nightly light and water show that happens across the Bay.
If you still have energy, make your way to the Singapore Zoo’s Night Safari, the perfect wrap up to your visit. The feature attraction of the park is the guided tram tour that will take you on a wander through 7 different geological ecosystems including the Himalayas, equatorial Africa, and Southeast Asian river forests.
Additional walking trails get you deeper into the habitats for the opportunity to get up close and personal with wallabies, leopards, and flying squirrels. Because it is a nocturnal park, business hours are from 7:15 pm to midnight daily.