Getting around Singapore, where to eat, drink and explore...
WELCOME TO SINGAPORE!
The island-state of Singapore is a bustling metropolis, boasting an impressive skyline of iconic architecture, well-manicured gardens and streets, and a vibrant cultural and gastronomic scene. Visitors from abroad often consider the city a ‘soft landing’ into Southeast Asia because of its cosmopolitanism, the efficiency of its public transport, and the general ease with which one can navigate the city. English is widely spoken in Singapore, and credit cards can be used just about anywhere with a few exceptions (such as at the local hawker centres or smaller neighbourhood vendors).
Before your trip, we recommend downloading the Grab and Gojek ride hailing apps to help you get around. Another useful app to have at hand is Comfort DelGro (the local taxi company)’s Zig app. You can also hail taxis at designated stands at just about every building in the city, and there is usually a queue of taxis waiting outside Marina Bay Sands where the fair is located.
A good way to get around while beating the traffic is the MRT (the equivalent of the subway). Marina Bay Sands is conveniently linked to the Bayfront station, from which you can take 2 lines: the Circle Line and the Downtown Line. The Downtown Line will connect you to the Esplanade, Singapore’s performing arts centre, as well as to the cultural enclaves of Chinatown and Little India. You can purchase tickets to travel on the MRT at any station or use your mobile wallet or Visa / Mastercard contactless bank cards. Click here for more details.
Photo credit: National Gallery Singapore
SINGAPORE’S VISUAL ART SCENE
Singapore has one of the most well developed visual art ecologies in the region, and was the first city in Southeast Asia to establish global-level institutions to showcase Southeast Asian as well as international art. Housed in august colonial-era buildings in the Civic District, the National Gallery Singapore with its permanent collection of Southeast Asian art is a good place to embark on a journey of discovering the region’s art histories, from the 19th century till present day.
The Singapore Art Museum, which focuses on contemporary art practices from the region, has temporarily relocated to Tanjong Pagar Distripark, an up-and-coming art enclave.
Housed in a warehouse building, the Museum’s pop-up is currently hosting Natasha, the seventh edition of the Singapore Biennale. Within the same building can also be found a host of art galleries as well as pop-up exhibitions.
FEAST IN SINGAPORE
Singaporeans take their food very seriously, and will think nothing of traveling from one end of the island to the other in order to savour the best prawn noodles or chilli crab. Everybody has their go-to favourite for local delights, so your best bet is to ask for recommendations from a local. Otherwise, the Tiong Bahru Market Food Centre is a good place to start for the time-strapped traveller, with a large concentration of famous local food hawkers gathered under one roof. It is one of the more pleasant and well-ventilated hawker centres, and an excellent spot for sampling a wide variety of local fare at very reasonable prices.
Walk off the feast by exploring the charming Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, where retro architecture sits cheek by jowl with homegrown hipster cafes and art galleries. If you linger till the evening, make time for Bincho, a hole-in-the-wall yakitori and cocktail gastrobar tucked away behind an old-fashioned noodle shop made famous by Singapore auteur Eric Khoo’s movie Mee Pok Man.
For more elevated local fare, National Kitchen by Violet Oon serves Peranakan cuisine, a unique blend of gastronomic influences from the region. The restaurant is perfectly placed for art outings, at the National Gallery Singapore. Also housed in the National Gallery is Odette, consistently ranked as one of Asia’s best restaurants. Chef Julien Royer’s menu is presented in an elegant interior designed by Singapore artist Dawn Ng, who will also have an installation in the Gallery’s Padang Atrium during Art Week.
Over in the lively Arab Street / Haji Lane quarter, The Coconut Club serves an excellent rendition of nasi lemak – a flavourful Malay dish common to the region – in a smart-casual bistro setting. Just next door is homegrown favourite Birds of Paradise Gelato Boutique, which specialises in botanical gelato in unique local flavours perfectly complemented by house-made thyme cones.
Tucked away in ‘Little Thailand’ a.k.a. the characterful building known as Golden Mile Complex, Enclave, opened by two Thai-Singaporean musicians, serves up street food favourites as well as a seasonal cocktail menu inflected with Thai flavours. A unique experience for the adventurous, and possibly the last chance to experience the piquant environs of the historic Golden Mile Complex before it closes in May 2023 for renovations.
At the fringes of Chinatown, along a stretch of restaurants and watering holes, No Sleep Club holds its own with its friendly, relaxed vibes and creative cocktails. Founded by two industry veterans, the cocktail bar was named one of Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2020.
Close by the Singapore River, Wine RVLT is known for being one of the very first natural wine bars in Singapore, and for its food menu specially designed to complement its tipples. If you prefer to stay closer to the Fair venue, CÉ LA VI on the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands offers stunning views all around and a sleek, glamorous crowd.
ALSO MAKE TIME FOR...
Gardens by the Bay, a sensational nature park comprising 3 cooled conservatories, including the popular Cloud Forest, a mist-filled landscape of rare vegetation and dramatic vistas. A 5 minute walk from ART SG will bring you to the ArtScience Museum, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, and the first custom-built museum in the region dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, science, culture, and technology. ART SG’s Film program will also be held daily in the ArtScience Cinema, on Level 4 of the museum. Just next door and floating on the water is the Apple Marina Bay Sands store, the first Apple store in the world to be entirely surrounded by water and offering stunning 360-degree views of the city’s skyline.
For shopping, you are spoilt for choice at Marina Bay Sands, with most major designer boutiques well represented in the cavernous ‘Shoppes’ section. Singapore’s main shopping belt is located along Orchard Road, with popular malls such as ION Orchard and Ngee Ann City offering the avid shopper myriad options from homegrown brands to international designers. Design Orchard stocks a curated selection of Singapore labels, from clothing to jewellery to lifestyle goods.
For a change of scene, head to Quayside Isle on Sentosa, and stroll along its boardwalks to admire the yachts parked there, or take it all in from the breezy comfort of one of the waterside cafes or restaurants.
The cultural enclaves of Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam offer a riot of colour and a smorgasbord of cuisines. When everything else is closed and you are still awake, head for Mustafa Centre in Little India, the emporium of everything which opens 24 hours. You can find literally anything in its never-ending aisles.
Finally, as a rite of passage, visit the storied Raffles Hotel which has played host to innumerable cultural icons over the years, including Pico Iyer, the first official writer-in-residence.