Watch: Here’s how you can spend a great day in Singapore. Credit: Produced by SilverKris
Given that international leisure travel has been put on hold for the time being, there’s no better time than now for residents of Singapore to get out and rediscover their own backyard. In this series, we have put together a timely, varied and action-packed guide to having the perfect day in the Lion City.
The places on this list offer something for everyone: spanning various sights and attractions, from nature trails and foodie gems to thought-provoking exhibitions and unique shopping spots. While those who are feeling particularly ambitious can aim to follow the itinerary to a tee, you can also pick and choose as you wish.
Since February marks the Lunar New Year celebration, we’ve included an obligatory visit to Chinatown and a stop to shop for some new threads for the festive season.
Start your day bright and early by heading to MacRitchie Nature Trail & Reservoir Park for an energising morning hike. The popular and expansive park in central Singapore is a veritable paradise for lovers of all things nature, with trails of varying lengths and difficulties to cater to different individuals. For the full experience, you can take on all (or some) of the 11km-long loop that circumnavigates the entire reservoir. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as long-tailed macaque monkeys, squirrels, monitor lizards, flying lemurs and owls.
For some post-hiking fuel, you have two choices in the vicinity: Sin Ming Roti Prata for their impossibly crispy coin prata, or Woodlands Sourdough for their acclaimed sourdough bakes. At the former, the dough is made fresh daily before being expertly flipped, folded and fried into golden-brown discs. We recommend the signature coin prata set, complemented by some mutton curry, fish curry or chicken curry.
For those who opt for Woodlands Sourdough (which operates on a takeaway basis), simply peruse their offerings for the day and go for whatever strikes your fancy. The menu rotates daily, though favourites such as cardamom buns, cinnamon rolls, sandwiches, bialys and strawberry brownies make repeat appearances throughout the week. Be sure to grab a loaf of bread to take home with you.
After heading back to freshen up, make your way to Funan in the Civic District. The buzzing shopping mall houses plenty of local and international labels, and is an ideal place to pick up a new outfit for Lunar New Year or perhaps a Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone.
Retailers here include fashion and design brands such as Love, Bonito and Beyond the Vines; sustainability collective The Green Collective, where you can browse eco-friendly products from over 40 homegrown brands; menswear labels such as The Shirt Bar and Benjamin Barker; and chic furniture store Grafunkt if you’re looking to give your home a little pre-Lunar New Year makeover. If you need a mid-shopping caffeine boost, there’s PPP Coffee on the ground floor.
Lunch will be at National Kitchen by Violet Oon, located a short walk away. The lauded homegrown restaurant serves a tantalising array of Peranakan-inspired cuisine. Try the Tau Hu Goreng, which is composed of fried bean curd with julienned cucumber, fresh beansprouts and a sweet and tangy peanut sauce; the Sambal Bajak Barramundi, where crispy fish fillet is topped with a fragrant caramelised chilli padi sambal; and the signature Dry Laksa, in which fresh rice noodles are tossed in a special gravy and topped with juicy prawns. The brand has also just expanded the plant-based and gluten-free menu at their Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill location in Clarke Quay to cater to a wider array of dietary restrictions and preferences, so consider checking that out if you’re in the area in the evening (they only open for dinner).
Walk off the food coma by taking a stroll and checking out some art at the National Gallery Singapore. The 64,000m² museum is the crown jewel of the local contemporary art scene, housing one of the world’s largest public collections of modern Southeast Asian art. Currently on show is Georgette Chen: At Home in the World (until 26 September 2021), a landmark exhibition that marks the first museum retrospective of the celebrated Singaporean modern artist in over two decades. Visitors will be immersed in Chen’s world, and can view 69 prominent works and a rich body of archival materials spread across two galleries.
Alternatively, you can also head to Once Upon A Time on The Orient Express, where you can explore the iconic luxury train that used to ferry wealthy travellers from Paris to other parts of Europe in the 19th century. This marks the liner’s first stop outside of France, and it will be stationed at the West Lawn of Gardens by the Bay until June 2021. Find out more about the storied history of the carrier by exploring exhibitions in its various carriages, viewing informative clips and even taking part in an escape room-style experience.
Once you’re done taking in your choice of exhibition, it’s time to take full advantage of the season by wandering the streets of Chinatown during the Lunar New Year month. Hop on a quick MRT or bus ride over to the area and take a meandering stroll through the colourful streets that have been decorated specially for the holiday. Do take the chance to pick up some festive goodies to stock your pantry with, such as bak kwa (sweet barbecued dried meat), pineapple tarts and shrimp rolls.
For dinner, head over to Maxwell Food Centre, which is just a five-minute walk away. The establishment boasts a plethora of excellent delicacies that you can take your pick from – such as fragrant chicken rice, moreish Thai food, braised duck noodles, popiah, goreng pisang, popiah and silky tau huay.
You can pair your dishes of choice with a cold one from craft beer stall Ren Min, which recently underwent a refresh and rebrand (they were formerly known as 3rd Culture Brewing Co.). Try the Aerodome, a highly quaffable session IPA which yields citrus and tropical fruit tones; or go for the Eureka, a farmhouse ale brewed with fresh orange peel and pink peppercorns. The company is in the process of building their own brewing facility in Sembawang, which is slated to open in late 2021.
Cocktail aficionados can continue their evening at newly opened bar Set of Six. Located along Craig Road, the establishment is named after one of Joseph Conrad’s novels and takes inspiration from the writer’s excursions at sea. He made a number of voyages to Singapore, including as part of captain James Craig’s crew, from whom Craig Road derives its name.
Take a seat on one of the plush chairs in the moody, tropical-themed interior and order one of their specialty drinks themed around different geographic regions. We recommend the Hermione Street (gin, oloroso sherry, dark rum and citrus oil) for those who want a spirit-forward tipple, or the Blessed Earth (tequila, mezcal, grapefruit, citrus and agave) for something with a little fizz and fun.
Some of these images were taken before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.