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While this spectacular island nation has garnered a lot of attention in the past year courtesy of Crazy Rich Asians, there’s much more to Singapore than immense displays of wealth, designer products, and luxury malls (there is indeed plenty of that, though). Between the buzzing street food scene in traditional shophouses, the peculiar but enticing attractions like Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, Singapore is certainly rich—but its wealth goes far beyond money.
Below, discover how to spend 24 hours experiencing one of the most exciting nations in Southeast Asia, by way of street food, the rich Peranakan culture, a fascinating history, and more. Here, the best things to do in Singapore, even if you only have a day.
10:00 a.m.: It might not seem typical to opt for street food for breakfast, but trust us—you won't want to miss out on the famed Singapore hawker centers, and you’ll get more than your fill of local cuisine here in the morning before the crowds swell. Head to Lau Pa Sat in the Central Business District, where you’ll have your pick of local dishes that have been perfected for decades by local chefs. Try chicken and rice or dim sum, and you may even want to return for a late-night snack of fresh satay.
11:30 a.m.: Schedule a tour of The Intan, a private home-turned-museum run by historian and antique collector Alvin Yapp. Yapp has spent years dedicating his time to collecting precious Peranakan antiques, and he’s extremely knowledgeable about the culture and history of his people, who descended from the Chinese settlers that came to the Malay archipelago starting in the 15th century. You’ll have local tea and some small desserts, then get a full tour of the fascinating museum.
1:30 p.m.: Grab lunch and sip on a glass of wine at Odette, a chic—and very Instagrammable—two-Michelin-star restaurant within the city’s National Gallery. You’ll feel instantly calmed by the soft pastel pinks and elegant interior decor, that pair perfectly with the modern French-inspired menu. After lunch, have a stroll through the gallery’s impressive art collection.
3:30 p.m.: Continue uncovering the beauty of Singapore by making a stop at the Botanic Gardens (entrance is free!). It’s definitely worth wandering through the entire thing, but if you’d like to keep this stop short, you absolutely can’t miss the National Orchid Garden. Alternatively, if you’re up for more of a walk within nature (bring water, as it gets quite hot and humid!) you can head to the Southern Ridges, a 10-kilometer route that takes you above the city and over the beautiful Henderson Waves Bridge, offering panoramic views of Singapore and the harbor below.
4:30 p.m.: Ready for a cocktail? Stop into Brass Lion Distillery—we recommend you book a tour, so you can learn all about the ingredients, process, and history behind this elevated local gin. After a tour with the knowledgeable distillers, you can grab a drink upstairs at the bar.
6:00 p.m.: Singapore is famous for its unique attractions, like the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands (it’s the highest infinity pool in the world, of course) and the miraculous Gardens by the Bay. Spend a couple of hours admiring the incredible man-made supertrees, and then wander through the two massive domes that house hundreds of plants. If you happen to be here after sundown, you’ll get to experience the thrill of witnessing one of the supertree light shows.
7:30 p.m.: For dinner, enjoy modern Chinese cuisine in a design-forward setting at Yellow Pot, located within the Six Senses Duxton. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but we recommend opting for the fried prawns, roast duck, and braised sweet and sour eggplant—these dishes will knock your socks off.
If you happen to be traveling with a larger group and want a more off-the-beaten-path experience, book in advance for a private dinner at Fatfuku, where you’ll dine on hand-made, family-inspired Peranakan food cooked by critically acclaimed food writer and chef Annette Tan.
9:30 p.m.: If you want to discover a few nightlife hot spots, grab a cocktail at Loof, Singapore’s first rooftop bar that boasts quirky decor and some delicious drinks like the Frose. If you want something a little more moody, head to Native, where mixologists use foraged, regional ingredients to craft some very original cocktails that reflect Southeast Asia’s culture and cuisine.
10:30 p.m.: Time to get some well-deserved rest. If you’ve got the energy, grab a nightcap (a Singapore Sling, of course) at the legendary Raffles Hotel Long Bar. The best part? Raffles, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is where you’ll end the night, too. Coming off a two-year renovation, the iconic hotel has reopened as of August 2019 and is more stunning and grand than ever, now offering 115 suites of various categories and a glamorous interior makeover led by Alexandra Champalimaud. Enjoy a nighttime soak in your room’s stand-alone bathtub; take a morning tour past towering palms with the resident historian; and enjoy the services of your very own butler.
If you prefer something a little less urban, we suggest you book a villa at Capella, another American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, on nearby Sentosa Island, home to Singapore’s beachiest vibes and five-star luxury accommodations just steps away from the sandy shores of the South China Sea. Between the three infinity pools, live music in the evenings, the inspired menu at the on-site Cantonese restaurant, and being transported from your villa to the main building by way of golf cart, you’ll have no trouble winding down at this dreamy island resort.