Singapore is one the most popular stop over destinations for New Zealanders. Whether we are on our way to Europe or off to the islands of Indonesia, we have all spent our fair share of time window-shopping Changi airport. I often hear that this is as far as many of us go and Singapore isn’t given the chance to be stamped in our passports. It’s just another big city, it’s too much hassle or too expensive to stay a few days or we just want to get the 30 odd hour flight to London over and done with.
Well, Singapore is one of my favourite cities, I go every year and fall more in love each time. So I want to share some of my favourite experiences then that next time you book your flights, you will go beyond the walls of Changi, stamp your passport for the first time, take the $25 – $40 cab into the city and fall in love just as I have.
But where on earth do you start when trying to plan two days in such a bustling, diverse city of must dos? Well, Booking.com are celebrating their latest campaign ‘First Times’ and have asked me to partner with them to share my love and inspiration for those first time travellers to Singapore (and every booking made via this Booking.com link over $80 will receive $40 back!) Yes, you can hop on Google and tick off the token attractions but in my experience it’s not the attractions that pull on my heart strings, it’s the little less frequented spots, unique to Singapore that in most cases only the locals and expats (and now me) know about.
I’ve pulled together the best bits to squeeze into a two-day stop over that I guarantee will have you booking a full ten-day holiday back!
Grab a coffee and an almond croissant while you gather your thoughts in one of Singapore’s oldest heritage sites. I think we can all agree that the biggest struggle for travelling kiwis is trying to find a café that can serve a decent coffee, but nestled amongst the local eateries is Tiong Bahru Bakery. Where east meets west, it’s become a tourist attraction in itself with the smell of their freshly baked pastries and ground espresso drifting down the streets each morning luring in crowds of addicted expats and locals. Sit outside and watch groups of friends chattering away or grab your coffee takeaway and …
Wander through the streets! Dubbed as the Ponsonby of Singapore, Tiong Bahru offers a more relaxed, boutique, local experience than the bustle of Orchard Road or the arctic temperatures of the shopping malls. Keep an eye out for these spots:
- Tiong Bahru Market – full of fresh fruit, flower stalls with Orchids for $15, little clothing stalls and local food like the famous chicken rice guy who is up for a Michelin Star this year! It’s here that I bought the blue dress above everyone asking me about!
- The street murals by Yip Yew Chong that pop up in the alley ways. There are four so see if you can find them all!
- The art deco architecture along Eng Watt St
- Plain Vanilla Café for a delicate sweet treat (has an air-conditioned work space if you need to email or cool down!)
- Tiong Bahru Club for a beer on the street while listening to some smooth southern jazz
- Books Actually. I always like to visit a new bookstore. B A has a gorgeous selection of locally published books capturing the Singapore charm plus the literary classics and out the back shelves of second hand books.
Walk to Bakalaki Greek Taverna for an early lunch – 5 mins walk
The quality of the eateries in Singapore is setting a very high standard for international gastronomy. Beautifully decored spaces preparing equally beautiful dishes are what I have come to expect from this city, and Bakalaki is one of my latest additions. Whisked away to the heart of Greece, we sat outside in the balmy breeze enjoying THE BEST Greek salad served with a big slab of decadent feta and a lamb Moussaka. The darling men running the restaurant treat you like family, a genuine welcome as if it were their home. We were treated to fresh Baklava to take home and a shot of their delicious Lemoncello.
Cab to Blair Rd – approx. 5 mins from Tiong Bahru
The Shop Houses of Singapore paint the city with their vibrant colours, striking tiles and cute shutters. You can’t miss them and like me will find yourself hanging out of the cab window trying to snap a picture. But the residents of Blair Road have taken the ‘pretty colourful shop house’ to an entire new level. Their homes are pieces of art with detailed trimmings, delicately painted tiles and mix of bright, bold colours. Unlike some of the other neighbourhoods, Blair Rd is relatively quiet making it the best area to take pictures without cars parked outside and the distraction of the shops and cafes on the street level.
Cab to Chinatown – approx. 10 mins/$10
Now time to experience the hustle and bustle! The jam-packed lanes of Chinatown are filled with little knick knacky shops, but thankfully no knock offs or overpowering vendors hassling you. Wander through the fashion stalls; especially the little Indian ones as the women have an eye for beautiful unique fabrics and I have picked up a few of my favourite pieces here.
Walk down Smith St, across South Bridge Rd and up Ann Siang Hill Rd a bit to Club Street
A popular Friday night drink spot where crowds of expats and locals spill out onto the streets as they hop from wine bar to boutique beer cafes. But during the day Club Street takes on a calmer vibe as it shows off its rows of charming, quaint shop houses dressed in leafy vines and hanging birdcages. Catch some shade and cool off over a beer or lemon iced tea at Jerry’s.
Cab to Haji Lane and Kampong Glam – approx.15mins /$10+
Haji Lane and around, is the heart of the colour of Singapore! I could shoot in these streets all day, in fact we nearly did! From the blue and white tiles that frame the Turkish restaurant to the black and white smiling faces painted on the walls – as if they are photographs! Haji lane has compacted a burst of colourful, culture and ambience into its surrounding neighbourhood. It is also where you can find the up and coming local fashion designers. Reasonably priced yet influenced by the trends coming off the catwalks, I found my mustard high wasted pants here for $20 and my red stilettos for $60. I’m often asked about both of those purchases and I love how I can say that my style is truly influenced from my experiences abroad.
Cab to Atlas, Park View Square – or take the 5min walk from Haji Lane.
Anyone with a taste for art deco decadence will be left speechless walking into this grandiose establishment. Inspired by the glamorous architecture of Europe and New York, Atlas has created an experience like no other. Take a seat at the bar and peruse one of Asia’s finest collections of gin, spirits and champagne or settle into one of their booths for an afternoon tea.
Cab to PS Café Tiong Bahru – approx. 10mins/$10
Enjoy a glass of wine from their vast collection and one of their famous hand made pizzas. The decor and ambience of the eatery contrasts with the takeaway-dining concept, but that’s what I like about it. With walls of wine against the black tile and brass fit out, you would expect a full fine-dining experience. But at PS Café the pizzas come out in takeaway boxes with plastic cutlery, all made to share over a glass of wine or G+T. Feeling like you might be in the streets of New York, each pizza is served with their home made hot sauce, just a little Singaporean twist so you don’t forget where you are!
Yes, Chijmes is featured on all the Trip Advisory sites however it is still one of the most picturesque landmarks I’ve explored in my travels and something anyone new to Singapore must experience. What was once a Catholic convent, providing a school for girls, and an orphanage and housing for nuns, is now home to a range of charming restaurants covered in lush hanging greenery and European inspired verandas. Take a walk through the old archways, white spiral staircases and tiled corridors of this magical slice of serenity.
Cab to The Fullerton Bay Hotel 10mins / $10
Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea at Clifford Pier. Another grand establishment Clifford Pier, part of The Fullerton Bay Hotel, is a fresh, white, elegant dining room set under a curved sky-high ceiling. It is positioned looking out over Marina Bay. A grand piano plays to its elegantly dressed guests as they sit to enjoy an afternoon high tea. I find myself fascinated by the tables of wealthy looking people and families, wondering if this is their version of a Sunday roast? Even without the high tea experience, stroll the boardwalk around the pier, which is completely open to the public even though it is part of the hotel. Some of Singapore’s magnificent modern architecture can be seen from the boardwalk surrounding Marina Bay.
From the lobby area, take the lift to…
The Lantern Bar, on the rooftop of Fullerton Bay Hotel. Curving around the infinity pool are lounging whicker chairs and pool cabanas perfect for an afternoon cocktail served with crispy-coated peanuts. The Lantern Bar in my opinion provides the best view across to Marina Bay Sands, elevated above the busy Collyer Quay you can sit back and enjoy the view in a relaxed atmosphere.
Cab to Duxton Hill and Tanjong Paga Road 10mins / $10
Duxton Hill will have you holding your phone out at each step. A series of larger shop houses, Duxton Hill is another popular dining destination for expats. Here you will find one of my favourite shops houses – the canary yellow double shop house complete with its fanned white shutters tucked amongst the trees. Enjoy an afternoon stroll up the hill peeking into the mix of fine dining and casual beer gardens. Plan out a few additions to the next trip like I did!
Take the two min walk back down the hill to enjoy a …
Cocktail at Tipling Club. If you are a cocktail enthusiast like me, then Tipling Club is where you want to spend your final night in Singapore. Located in a shophouse, on the corner of Duxton Hill and Tanjong Pagar Rd, Tipling Club has been featured as one of the worlds best bars, a statement I can now second. The bar is cocooned under a ceiling of hanging spirits. On the corner of the bar you will find little perfume sticks used to capture the scent of each cocktail allowing their guests to “taste test” each cocktail before ordering. Each cocktail is designed to reignite a memory. I had The Grass while mum stayed in her old ways and ordered a classic dry martini (her staple). The whole place has been restored to retain the Singapore ‘of old’
Cab to Merci Marcel in Tiong Bahru 10mins / $10
I spent my last night dining at Merci Marcel, the newest eatery to join the Tiong Bahru family. A French Bistro so pretty a photo simply cannot recreate. With leafy tropical plants and yellow and gold tones, its sumptuous interior was capturing the attention of all passersby. Sit inside at the bar or couches, or the chic (Instagramable) outdoor courtyard. The menu offers a range of shared plates and larger dishes. We had the Duck Rillettes, Chickpea Crème, Roasted Asparagus and Sautéed Mushrooms. Having spoken to a few other neighbouring diners it sounds like you cannot go wrong with this menu!
That’s it! My ‘how to fall in love with Singapore in two days’ made easy! Print this out and you cannot go wrong AND to make your planning even that much easier, every booking made via this Booking.com link over $80 will receive $40 back! Booking.com guarantee the best prices for any type of property from small independents to five star luxury and no booking fees … ever!
Looking for accommodation in Singapore? M Social is centrally located on Roberston Quay. Not only close proximity to the CBD and Marina Bay it also has the most romantic night walk along the river. Perfect date night stroll.
The boutique hotel offers a range of cute, cozy rooms, roof top pool and bright colourful dining spaces, an easy inner city stay for your stop over. Pop over to Booking.com to check out their rooms and rates.
What experiences have you had in Singapore? I go back every year so would love to hear some of your finds and experiences.
* $40 NZD credited back to your nominated account through Booking.com once you have successfully completed your stay. Deal valid for one booking only.
Disclaimer: Booking.com uses third party cookies to help provide personalised ads and analyse their traffic. This information may be shared with our advertisers, where it may be combined with other information you’ve given their website.