A long weekend in Singapore or a short Singapore stopover is a fabulous way to explore its colourful, exotic world and enjoy an easy taste of Asia.
Here’s how to spend a three-day break or a short break in Singapore, but you will need more than a Singapore stopover to get under the skin of this varied destination.
I’ve marked all the places I like best on the map below which shows you how easy it is to get around Singapore. Depending on where you are staying (and I’ve marked my favourite hotels) most are withing easy walking distance. Catch a cab if you prefer.
Where to stay for a Singapore stopover
For a Singapore stopover, stay somewhere central such as Sofitel City Centre in the heart of historic Tanjong Pagar. I found the hotel was within easy walking distance of two of Singapore’s favourite hawker centres, Lau Pa Sat and Maxwell Food Centre.
This hotel will turn your head with its shimmering nine-metre entry chandelier, barrel-aged cocktails and 30-metre infinity lap pool. There’s also a handy phone which gives guests free access to local and international calls to 10 countries plus Wi-Fi on the go.
Another great place to stay is The Fullerton, a grand neoclassical landmark built in 1928. Gazetted in December 2015 as a National Monument, it was once home to Singapore’s General Post Office, the Exchange Room and Exchange Reference Library, and the prestigious Singapore Club. Now it is a 400-room hotel.
A new favourite is the just renovated, high tech Swissotel The Stamford. The views from the rooms here are so good you won’t want to go to sleep. It’s right next door to a huge shopping centre so there are so many inexpensive dining options at your fingertips.
Day 1 – Your long weekend in Singapore starts here
It begins at Changi International Airport where the arrival experience is as quick and painless as the speedy, 20-minute ride into the city centre. It is just eight hours flying time from Brisbane or Sydney.
Singapore is a safe city for travellers, so venture out on with gusto. Take to the streets for a look at the traditional two-story shophouses of old-world Singapore. Wander through the colourful, textile and accessory filled bazaars at Arab Street in Kampong Glam. In Chinatown, the shophouses offer art and antiques, souvenirs and clothing.
For the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in Singapore, head to Liao Fan Hawker Chan in the Chinatown Complex where chef Chan Hong Meng’s soya sauce chicken rice costs just S$3.80. Unfortunately, long queues mean you might have to wait up to three hours for a meal, but another airconditioned off-shoot across the road at 78 Smith Street has much shorter queues.
They say Singaporeans live to eat and shop. Some even pick their homes based on easy access to their favourite hawker centre because that is where you find the street food for which this city is justifiably famous. Expect flaming satay cooked on super-hot coals, tender dumplings, fish head curry and chilli crab.
Day 2 of your Singapore short break
Forget the hotel buffet breakfast, head out to a hawker centre to explore the real Singapore. At Amoy Street Food Centre, you will find Coffee Break, where they fuse local coffee with western flavours like Sea Salt Caramel and Back Sesame.
This hawker centre was built in 1983. It is where you will find classic hawker dishes such as lor mee (noodles in starchy braised gravy) and char kway teow (stir-fried rice noodles). Amongst the tenants are a salad shop, a muffin shop, and a Singapore-style ramen stall. There is plenty of seating where you can enjoy your purchases.
Fit in a visit to the National Gallery of Singapore and the lotus-inspired ArtScience Museum to see art and science fuse in a world of wonderment. This is a fully immersive interactive digital universe, where 16 spectacular art installations are brought to life and evolve in real-time through visitor presence and participation.
The MINT Museum of Toys is where you will catch Astro Boy, Popeye and Tintin.
A magical, human-made plant kingdom awaits discovery at Gardens by the Bay which has been created from 101ha of reclaimed land. Explore the Flower Dome, one of the most extensive glass greenhouses in the world and the Cloud Forest, (my favourite) a mountain of waterfalls with a walking trail through misty walls of tropical vegetation and flowers.
Walking through the 22 metres high Skywalk in the upper levels of Supertree Grove’s sculpture trees which stand up to 50 metres tall offers amazing views. It’s also beautiful to see at night. gardensbythebay.com
For a pre-dinner cocktail with a difference, head to Bitters & Love, 118 Telok Ayer St. Nestled between Settler’s cafe and a Christian book store among other random shop houses, retro-inspired Bitters and Love has a list of bespoke cocktails!
Instead of standing outside at the Marina Bay Sands Observation Deck, look down on an even broader view over lunch at JAAN on the 70th floor of Swissotel Hotel. Awarded one star in the 2017 Singapore Michelin Guide and ranked 42nd in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, the restaurant offers multi-course menus which start at $88 for lunch.
That’s day two of your long weekend in Singapore over! Just one more day to go.
Day 3 of your Singapore stopover
Start your day at a hawker centre with a kaya toast breakfast like a real Singaporean or try some black or white fried carrot cake. It is made from turnip, not carrot, and looks nothing like the carrot cake you know so well.
For a fascinating look at history visit the Battlebox, the underground bunker at the 60-metre-tall Fort Canning Hill in the heart of the city. This where the British made the decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese during WWI. The guided tours and displays really bring the bunker to life.
It’s time to explore the city on wheels. Lets Go Bike Singapore offers cycling tours through the mostly flat streets of the city with a local guide. Pedal your way through cultural neighbourhoods, admire in the diverse architecture and sample local food as the guide explains how life in Singapore works.
My favourite comment was “You judge how rich a person is in Singapore not by their clothes or car, but by whether they own a lawnmower because that means they have a house with a grass lawn. That’s true Singapore money.”
Exploring the city may see you longing for the comfort of a good massage to relax those tired muscles. A session with Kenny at the Chanlin Reflexology House at 180 Bencoolen Street will have you feeling like a youngster again.
There is also an excellent spa at Fullerton Hotel.
More long weekend suggestions
Disclaimer: The writer travelled as a guest of AccorHotels and Brisbane Airport Corporation. For more information on Singapore visit Singapore Tourism.