How To Explore Singapore

A cultural journey through this country’s incredible airport, culinary scene, beaches, and unparalleled green spaces

Felicity—a 20-something travel lover—has teamed up with friends from around the world to provide readers with local, insider knowledge on today’s most awe-inspiring destinations. Through writing, photography, and video they’ll share the best tricks and tips for experiencing a place authentically and getting off-the-beaten-path.

Hey Felicity—I just got back from my latest trip to Singapore. If you haven’t yet been, you have to go! This was my fifth or sixth time, and I can’t get enough.

I first went because it was the center of Southeast Asia, and made the perfect travel hub for exploring the region. But after that first time, I was hooked. This city thrives on its diversity of cultures, food, people, and green spaces, and I continue to find amazing spots to eat, places to hike, and new friends to meet up with each time. Even though Singapore is one of the smallest nations in Southeast Asia, I understand why it’s such a powerhouse on the global scene.

Changi Airport

From the second you touch down at Changi Airport, the magic of this “city in a garden” is apparent. Changi has been rated best airport in the world for seven consecutive years, and between the Butterfly Garden, free movie theater, and outdoor pool, there is no shortage of things to see and do. To push the envelope even further, Changi recently opened a new transit terminal: “Jewel” connects three of four terminals, and this billion dollar project has become a highlight for visitors and locals alike. At the center of Jewel is the HSBC Rain Vortex, a 130-foot indoor waterfall cascading down from the ceiling.

A waterfall from a vortex surrounded by greenery inside the Singapore airport Image: Shutterstock

It cuts through the five upper levels into the center vortex, then continues into the levels below, and is surrounded by the Shiseido Forest Valley. Inspired by other prolific green spaces from around the world (like New York City’s High Line), the Forest Valley is designed to feel like a real outdoor trail. It’s home to over 60,000 plants from around the world, and is one of the many reasons why Singapore has earned the moniker “Garden City”.

Even though it’s not one of the main attractions of Jewel, here’s a good tip for Changi: the private lounge with shower facilities is a lifesaver. If you’ve just landed from a long flight and want to head straight into the city, the personal shower suites are ideal for freshening up. They’re accessible for purchase even without a full lounge pass.

Food

Once you’re in the city, start with some food! Singapore has a thriving culinary scene, and there’s no better place to start than one of the city’s many hawker centres.


Tourists often flock to Lau Pa Sat Centre, but for a more authentic experience, Amoy Street Hawker Centre is amazing for local eats, some of which have even been recognized by Michelin guides. Office workers descend from the surrounding towers for lunch throughout the week, making midday an intense and somewhat hectic time to eat. I like to arrive around 2pm or 3pm, meaning there’s less pressure as I seek the perfect dish. Notable options include specialties like rice dumplings, curry puffs, beef noodle, or—as I often opt for—the Poh Kee Fried Carrot Cake.

An overhead shot of stir fry on a yellow plate Image: Shutterstock

Although its name suggests dessert, it doesn’t actually contain any carrots at all; rather, it’s a savory pan-fried dish of white radish, eggs, garlic, and optional dark soy sauce. With these options (and plenty more), there is no reason to leave hungry.

Cocktails

After indulging in local cuisine, take a break in the Bugis neighborhood’s beautiful (and air-conditioned!) Atlas Bar. Locally known as the “Gotham building,” this space transports you right back to the Great Gatsby era with its 1920’s Art Deco interior. Try one of their 1,000 varieties of gin, or simply have a coffee and admire the splendor around you.

Interior of enormous and very chic 1920's art deco bar Credit: EK Yap and ATLAS

If you’re looking for something more low key, head over to Bar Stories on Haji Lane. This small and inconspicuous spot has no menu; instead, highly skilled bartenders create bespoke cocktails for you depending on your mood. Last time, I received a delicious concoction of champagne, vodka, passion fruit, and chilli peppers.

Gardens

Next, let’s get outside to the Singapore Botanic Gardens! A UNESCO world heritage site since 2015, this 160 year-old, 82 hectare garden is a wonderful place to take an easy stroll in the shade.

A gazebo on a lawn surrounded by large green treesImage: Shutterstock

At the heart of the estate is the National Orchid Garden, which has 1,200 species of orchids—Singapore’s official flower—and another 2,000 varieties of orchid hybrids.

One of the most unique souvenirs you can bring home is a real orchid that’s been picked, dipped, and cast in gold, preserving its natural beauty forever.

The Beach

If jet lag kicks in, I bet a few hours of relaxing by the beach will help. Luckily, Sentosa Island is nearby, and getting there is easy—just hop on the monorail from Vivocity Mall, and it’ll take you straight there! This island has multiple resorts, two golf courses, a Universal Studios theme park, and 1.2 miles of white sandy beaches.

An overhead shot of a white sandy beach near Singapore

My favorite place to visit is Tanjong Beach Club, located near the southernmost tip of Sentosa. It has a similar vibe to a Bali or Mykonos beach club, and you can avoid paying extra for a full daybed by going during the week. It’s a busy spot for locals, expats, and visitors alike, and hosts special events throughout the year.

People mingling under white umbrellas at a beach Image: Shutterstock

I like to recharge here after a busy few days; last time I did so with their signature Tanjong Spritz cocktail and a Wagyu steak finished in butter with snow peas —all with a lovely view of the water.

Singapore values and respects the little land they have, and showcases it as a main feature of their country. This is why it’s such a beautiful place to live or visit, and one of the many reasons I come back time and time again. Go soon—I know you’ll love it, too!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A professional ballet dancer by trade and an avid traveler by passion, Brent Parolin has seen the bright lights of stages across the world. From New York to Tokyo, Moscow, and beyond, he’s found the new and unique in every city and country he visits. After living in Germany for almost a decade then returning to Toronto where he grew up, Brent seizes every opportunity to get out and explore, trying to find everything from the best deserted beaches to the perfect cup of coffee.


A luxury outdoor pool with lounge chairs overlooking Singapore

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach

30 Beach Road, Singapore, Singapore

  • US $100 Food & Beverage credit
  • Complimentary daily full breakfast for two
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Property will offer upgrade upon availability at time of check-in
  • Basic Wi-Fi
Outdoor pool surrounded by green forest and pool umbrellas

Capella Singapore

1 The Knolls, Singapore, Singapore

  • Dinner at The Knolls for two
  • Complimentary Buffet breakfast for two daily
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Property will offer upgrade upon availability at time of check-in
  • High-Speed/Enhanced Wi-Fi
Interior of hotel lobby with elaborate glass sculpture hanging from ceiling

Fairmont Singapore

80 Bras Basah Rd, Singapore, Singapore

  • US $100 Food & Beverage credit
  • Complimentary daily full breakfast for two
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Property will offer upgrade upon availability at time of check-in
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

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