A graceful Empire-era city
It’s a pity that this graceful Empire-era city state is just a stop-off on so many itineraries. Right at the bottom of the Malay peninsula, it retains many of the trappings of its British past in period architecture and an orderly (if punitive) approach to the details of life. Stay a while and you’ll find the welcome warm, the traffic free-flowing and the accent very much on flawless, courteous service.
Singapore and shopping go together hand in hand. Orchard Road is always held up as the best option for retail addicts and plays home to a whole host of mega-malls, among them ION Orchard (Tang Plaza) and Ngee Ann City (391 Orchard Road), the latter including outlets such as Christian Dior, Loewe and Louis Vuitton. For basic souvenirs, meanwhile, the Chinatown area offers an abundance of choice, as does the Bugis Street Market. Little India and Holland Village provide further alternatives for picking up presents, while along Arab Street you will find some good independent boutiques.
Food & Drink
Food is the other great Singaporean passion, with the local cuisine drawing on a variety of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European flavours. The end results are generally mouth-watering, and can be as readily sampled in well-priced hawker centres like Makansutra Gluttons Bay (8 Raffles Avenue) and the Maxwell Road Food Centre (1 Kadayanallur Street) as in ultra-refined eateries such as Iggy’s (581 Orchard Road). Classic Singaporean dishes include Hainanese chicken rice and chilli crab. The open-air restaurants along Boat Quay always draw a tourist crowd, as does the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel (1 Beach Road), the home of the Singapore Sling cocktail.
Part of the annual Chinese New Year celebrations, this procession features clowns, jugglers, lion dancers, drummers and acrobats, resulting in a hugely colourful parade which covers much of the centre of Singapore. There are some 2,000 performers involved.
Mosaic Music Festival
Bringing ‘a world of music’ to Singapore over a 10-day period, this festival showcases everything from jazz, fusion funk and folk-rock to ska, tango and R&B. Many of the events take place in the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay.
Great Singapore Sale
The Great Singapore Sale is the main event on Singapore’s shopping calendar, with prices cut by up to 70% in many of the malls. The festival usually attracts considerable interest from overseas visitors – expect to find bargains on local and international brands for the duration of the eight-week event.
Singapore Grand Prix
The razzmatazz of Formula One Grand Prix comes to Singapore each year for a night race, which sees the world’s best drivers negotiating the streets of the city after sundown. It makes for a spectacular – if noisy – occasion.
South East Asia’s biggest dance festival draws world-famous DJs to Singapore for a long weekend of heavy beats and outdoor partying. It usually takes place at one of the sandy beaches on Sentosa Island, and has been running for more than 10 years.
Singapore draws travellers of every hue, meaning its choice of accommodation ranges from cutting-edge five-star luxury to basic backpacker hostels. Almost unarguably the most eye-catching property in the city is the soaring, triple-towered Marina Bay Sands (10 Bayfront Avenue) – it’s topped by an enormous ‘skydeck’. Close by is the supremely cool Fullerton Bay Hotel (80 Collyer Quay), while over on Sentosa the freshly opened W Singapore Sentosa Cove (21 Ocean Way) draws a trendy crowd. For something a little more affordable, book a room at the Santa Grand Hotel Little India (3 Veerasamy Road).