Day 1: Heritage designs
Start your tour by exploring one of Singapore’s precious architectural gems. Built around 1895, Baba House is a meticulously restored three-floor townhouse that was once the ancestral home of a Peranakan (Straits Chinese) family. Visitors can take guided tours of the building from Tuesdays to Fridays and self-guided tours on Saturdays.
From here, take a stroll through the neighbouring historical areas of Keong Saik Road, Duxton Hill and Ann Siang Hill to take in more examples of the city-state’s unique shophouse structures. Depending on when they were built, shophouses display different architectural influences, though their most distinguishing features are the bold use of colour and patterned tiles.
Along the way, pop into the Singapore City Gallery to gain an insight into the nation’s various planning challenges over the years. A massive architectural model provides a bird’s-eye view of the city centre. Once the hunger pangs hit, make a beeline for Lau Pa Sat hawker centre a short 10-minute walk away. Take in its striking 19th-century architectural features – soaring arches, fretted eaves and slender Victorian columns topped with intricate filigree work – while you feast on local fare such as chicken rice, satay and popiah (spring rolls).
A five-minute taxi ride will get you to the National Gallery Singapore, an expansive art space that houses the world’s largest public collection of Southeast Asian art. Besides the artwork on display, the building itself consists of two restored national monuments: the former Supreme Court Building and City Hall. Around the corner lies the revamped Capitol Building. Completed in 1933, the Neoclassical structure features a retail arm, Capitol Piazza, where the flagship stores of local designers such as Sabrina Goh and the Reckless Shop can be found; Capitol Theatre, with its distinctive Art Deco entrance; and the recently opened Capitol Kempinski Hotel.
Day 2: Green dreams
Despite Singapore’s small size, the Garden City boasts many urban parks and is a leader in constructing sustainable buildings. There’s no better place to take in Singapore’s greenery than at the country’s only Unesco World Heritage site, the Singapore Botanic Gardens. This 159-year-old tropical garden houses attractions such as the National Orchid Garden and is perfect for a morning stroll. For a late breakfast, head over to The Affogato Bar at Cluny Court. Besides the café’s hearty bagels, you can also order an over-the-top affogato.
If you’re still looking to clock some steps, go on a self-guided walking trail of neighbouring Dempsey Hill. Once a nutmeg plantation and a military camp, this lush enclave is now a lifestyle destination of shops and eateries. For lunch, go green at Open Farm Community. The restaurant uses ingredients they grow themselves on their 3,250m² property, as well as items from local farmers. After lunch, take a taxi to Mount Faber and walk off your meal by hiking the Southern Ridges, a leafy belt in the country’s south.
From Mount Faber Park, cross through to Telok Blangah Hill Park via the futuristic Henderson Waves Bridge. The undulating, 274m-long construction has shell-like niches where you can sit and soak up the views. As you make your way towards HortPark, look out for the striking Interlace. This condominium encapsulates the city’s focus on innovative buildings and is comprised of stacked apartment blocks, sky terraces and balconies with cascading greenery.
Take a cab back into the city and reward yourself with dinner at Skai, a new grill restaurant on the 70th floor of Swissôtel The Stamford, where you can also drink in panoramic views of the city and the iconic Gardens by the Bay.
Day 3: Along the river
Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at Merci Marcel’s Club Street location. The casual French restaurant boasts a breakfast menu that features buttery pastries and scrambled eggs served with truffles and aged Parmesan. After filling your belly, take a short stroll over to the picturesque Singapore River, which is lined with a mix of restored historical buildings, towering skyscrapers, futuristic hotels and condominiums.
Once you get to the Promenade jetty, hop on a leisurely Singapore River Cruise that takes you through the modern Marina Bay and past Boat Quay, Clark Quay and Robertson Quay. Disembark at the Robertson Quay jetty and make your way to The Warehouse Hotel. Once a storehouse for spices, it’s now a 37-room boutique bolthole that picked up an award for restoration and innovation at last year’s Architectural Heritage Awards. For lunch, bag a table at the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Po. This modern Singaporean concept dishes up an array of elevated local classics such as prawn noodles and seafood congee.
It’s a half-hour walk back down the river (or a 10-minute taxi ride) to The Arts House, a multi-disciplinary arts space that sits in an almost 200-year-old building that was Singapore’s very first Parliament House. This Neo-Palladian structure is possibly Singapore’s oldest surviving building, and you can take a pictorial journey through two centuries of its history at the exhibition “Standing Through Time: The Arts House from the 1800s”.
Once you’re done, fast forward in time and head to the Red Dot Design Museum. Its architectural features, such as a full glass façade and a large overhanging roof, make it one of the Marina Bay area’s most cutting-edge structures. There are also over 300 design works on display. For dinner, take a quick cab ride to Jypsy along Martin Road. Tuck into modern Japanese dishes including yellowtail sashimi served with lime-soy dashi, ikura and dill, as well as the divine coconut matcha pannacotta.
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This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine.