If you only have one day in Singapore, Marina Bay is where you have to go. The latest and greatest in Singapore’s attractions are all here. Take the MRT to Bayfront MRT Station or take bus number 400 from Marina Bay MRT Station to start off with the free gardens at Gardens by the Bay. They open at 5am so you are able to beat the morning heat. Tip: the sun starts to get hot at about 10.30am, so apply sunblock liberally before heading out.
Check out the amazing supertrees, which are vertical soilless canopies with green features installed. Some have solar panels to harvest solar energy, which is used to power the light show that goes on after sundown. Others serve as air exhaust receptacles for the Cooled Conservatories. Stroll along the OCBC Skyway, take a look at the heritage gardens and then beat the heat in the Cooled Conservatories. In the Flower Dome, experience the cool, dry climate of certain desert regions and enjoy the colourful display at the Flower Field. Then go to the other Cooled Conservatory, the Cloud Forest, to see what plants grow at altitudes of up to 2,000m above sea level.
For lunch, head to the nearby Marina Bay Sands, a sprawling integrated resort that encompasses a mall, theatre, hotel, sky garden and casino. Take your pick of the dining options at Marina Bay Sands that range from celebrity chef restaurants to food courts, so there is something for every budget. Spend the afternoon indulging in some retail therapy, and as the sun goes down, head up to the sky garden for stunning views of the sunset against Marina Bay. Alternatively, head over to the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel for more amazing views of the Marina Bay area.
When the hunger pangs hit, make your way to the Makansutra Gluttons Bay open air hawker area right next to the Esplanade (that spiky building you can’t miss) for the best of Singapore’s local foods. They open for business at 5pm and continue until late, so you don’t have to worry about having a late dinner. The atmosphere is laid back and cheerful, and you will be spoilt for choice. Every stall has been handpicked by Makansutra, the closest thing we have to a definitive food guide to the Singapore food scene, so be adventurous and choose dishes with impunity. Try some satay (skewered grilled meat), kaya toast (milky coconut jam with bread), roti john (egg and minced meat loaf), chicken wings, chai tow kway (savoury fried carrot cake), nasi lemak (fragrant rice cooked with coconut milk and served with side dishes), barbequed sting ray, oyster omelette or anything that catches your fancy. Wash everything down with a hot or iced teh tarik (milky "pulled" tea) or cold sugar cane juice with or without lemon, then round off your meal with an icy chendol or other dessert of your choice. Alternatively, if you call the Refreshment Stall Manager at +65 8350 6577 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with at least one day’s notice, a sampler set can be arranged. Do note that a minimum of 2 persons is required, and the sampler will not be available during peak periods such as New Year’s Eve and other public holidays.
End your day – and aid the digestion of your dinner! – by taking a leisurely stroll along the bay before heading back to your hotel for the night.
After experiencing the sprawling modernity of Singapore, it’s time to go back in time and see some of Singapore’s colonial history. For this, the Civic District is perfect. Just a hop and skip away from the Marina Bay area, the closest stations are Raffles Place and City Hall MRT Station. Begin your day with a leisurely river cruise, which will bring you along the Singapore River and out to Marina Bay, giving you an undisrupted view of the iconic Merlion statue. The guide will give you a brief overview of Singapore’s history and point out the significant highlights along the way. Take in the carefully preserved and restored historical buildings, and don’t miss the statues of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore. One of the statues is along the Singapore River at his landing site; this is actually a copy of the other in front of Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. The statue in front of Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is the work of sculptor-poet Thomas Woolner, and was placed in such a way that it looks towards Raffles’ landing site.
Right next to Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is the perfect place to spend the afternoon – the Asian Civilisations Museum at Empress Place. This museum showcases a microcosm of Asian civilisations, and tells the story of Southeast Asian, Chinese, West Asian and South Asian cultures. There is also the Singapore River Gallery, which displays the history of the immigrants who lived and worked along the Singapore River, contributing immeasurably to Singapore’s growth during her early years. There are also various other changing exhibits throughout the year, which may have paid or free admissions.
The more adventurous can try the G-Max Reverse Bungy or G-X5 Extreme Swing rides at the other end of Clarke Quay. There is enough to entertain you for the rest of the night at Clarke Quay and Boat Quay, the two strips right next to the Asian Civilisations Museum that have all manner of food and drink options. Have a seafood dinner at one of the restaurants along Boat Quay after your bungy experience, then go pub crawling across the river at Clarke Quay. From lounges to dance clubs, there’s something for everyone.
Laze the day away on one of Sentosa island’s beaches with a drink in hand, or participate in one of the many activities available on the island. Go indoor skydiving at iFly, or see sea creatures at the Underwater World. Go on the most extreme zip wires in Asia at the MegaZip Adventure Park or unique go-kart toboggan hybrids at Skyline Luge Sentosa. Ride the waves at Wave House Sentosa, a 70,000 square foot beachfront venue that has instructors for beginners and experienced riders alike. You can try your hand at riding a Segway if you want, or cycle around the numerous nature spots on Singapore’s first eco-friendly pedal-assisted bicycles. After sunset, don’t miss the Songs of the Sea entertainment spectacle that includes water jets, flame bursts and lasers set against a background of captivating music.
You can also head on down to Resorts World Sentosa which houses Universal Studios Singapore, then try your luck at the other casino, or indulge in spa activities. The FestiveWalk is also not to be missed, with premier dining options, roving acts and public attractions that come alive at night. If all that’s not enough, you can visit The Maritime Experimental Museum and experience a shipwreck in the Typhoon Theatre. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do at Sentosa.
Make your way to Chinatown and Little India to see yet another side of Singapore. Both ethnic enclaves are full of busy narrow streets that are best navigated on foot. In Chinatown, you can find all manner of Chinese antiques and goods that make for good souvenirs. Don’t miss the Chinatown Heritage Centre on Pagoda Street, a museum that traces the lives of early Chinatown and charts it growth during the early decades of development. At the end of Pagoda Street is the Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple on your right. A little further down to the left is the Jamae Mosque. Running parallel to Pagoda Street is Smith Street, one of Singapore’s famed food streets. The stalls along Smith Street open for business in the evenings and diners can dine al fresco in a casual, convivial atmosphere. Don’t miss the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, a resplendent red and gold building along South Bridge Road.
For a shopping experience that is different from Orchard Road’s gleaming malls, head to Little India. Find glittering jewellery, traditional Indian garb and spices in the narrow lanes. Indian restaurants are aplenty, and you can find delicious South and North Indian cuisine on almost any street corner. Do make space to try some fish head curry, a Singapore specialty and favourite. It doesn’t matter how late it is, if you are up for more shopping just head towards Mustafa Centre, the only shopping mall in Singapore that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mustafa Centre is crammed full of anything that anyone could want at prices that are generally lower than other retail outlets. Of course, this means you have to sacrifice some service levels – finding an assistant to get an item from a locked display case can be a few minutes wait even at 3 am. On the bright side, this means you can browse to your heart’s content without any pressure from sales assistants, and if what you want is on the shelves, just help yourself before heading to the cashiers (there are an abundance of cashiers). From electronics to cosmetics and groceries to toys, anything that you can think of to buy can probably be found at Mustafa, and a lot more besides.
It’s time for a day of family-friendly fun. Take your pick between the Singapore Zoo and the new River Safari for the day, or pop over to the Night Safari after the sun goes down. You can spend the other half of the day indulging in some retail therapy at Singapore’s largest shopping strip: Orchard Road.
The multi-award winning Singapore Zoo has animals that are kept in environments that closely resemble their natural habitats, and boasts the world's first free-ranging orang utan habitat in a zoo. You can opt to have the Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife, which allows guests to dine while in the company of the zoo’s gentle orang utans. The Singapore Zoo has over 314 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including the popular white tigers and Asian elephants.
The River Safari, due to open in the first quarter of 2013, is Asia's first river-themed wildlife park. It showcases various rivers of the world and their respective species – including the Mississippi, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Murray, Mekong, Yangtze and Amazon River, amongst others. The River Safari will also house Singapore's first Giant Pandas! They will live in a special climate-controlled exhibit along the Yangtze River. Other animal attractions include the Red Pandas, Giant Salamanders and the critically-endangered Mekong Giant Catfish.
The Night Safari is the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals. It is home to over 130 species of animals, more than one third of which are endangered. Do take the tram ride when you are at the Night Safari. Not only does it save you some walking, it also brings you to parts of the park not open to foot traffic and brings you up-close with tapirs and deer. The Night Safari houses many big cat species which are popular draws, among them the Gir lions, servals, Malayan tigers and leopards. Don’t miss out on the Creatures of the Night show, which introduces visitors to a selection of the popular animals in the park. Queues tend to be long for the show, so do try to get in line early to avoid disappointment.