Singapore
Singapore,  Travels

Where to go and what to eat in Singapore

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Living in Singapore, you get a lot of pass-through traffic.  By that, I mean friends who stop in Singapore for a few days, enroute to somewhere.  Aussie friends on their way to Europe, European friends on their way to Bali, whatever the case I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to have lunch/dinner/drinks with these visitors and giving them my list of suggestions for their visit.

Here’s my list of places to visit/things to eat/do in Singapore that I’ve shared with friends, and now with you.  It’s long, so pick and choose what interests you the most.

Eat – Singapore is a foodie’s paradise, so naturally I’ll start with recommendations on where and what to eat 🙂

  • There are numerous Hawker Centres all over the country.  These are usually outdoor, non-air-conditioned food centres, and they are where the most authentic (and cheap!) Singaporean foods can be found. A few specific ones that I’d recommended are:
    • Lau Pa Sat – right in the CBD.  Large and has good variety and is one of the cleaner, prettier hawker centres.  One of the side streets (Boon Tat) turns into a satay street in the evenings.  Sit at one of the street tables and order some satay and beer.
    • Maxwell Hawker Centre (near China town) – Tian Tian chicken rice is the stall made famous by Anthony Bourdain.  Be prepared to queue for it though, or go to the chicken rice stall next door to it that’s almost as good
    • Tiong Bahru Market. This tends to be a morning food market, so go earlier for a traditional Singapore breakfast that includes a taste of the Chweeh Kueh.  The market is right above a wet market where you can buy fresh veggies, meat, and even fresh flowers to brighten up your house.  Tiong Bahru is currently hipster central, with lots of little cafes and shops to keep you buys for a couple hours strolling around the neighbourhood.
    • China Town Food Centre.  This hawker centre is huge and has a couple of awesome hipster stalls selling craft beer.  It’s not your usual ladies hawking Tiger beer.  The must-have items here are the spicy dumplings and pan friend dumplings from stall number:  #02-135.  There’ll probably be a short queue.  So so good, and you’re lucky I’m telling you this now, so you don’t miss out on 4 years of dumplings like me.
    • Chilli Crab – go with a group so you can order different types of crabs and try the different flavours.  Jumbo Seafood (multiple locations) is a good one.  Otherwise Mellben in Tanjong Pagar is also good, and more affordable.  Popular crab flavours (chilli, black pepper, and salted egg yolk)
    • Classic Singaporean breakfast of: Kopi, kaya toast, and extra runny eggs.  Go to a local Kopitiam chain Yakun or Killiney Kopitiam for this (multiple locations).
  • Things to eat at the Hawker Centres:

    • Cha Kway Teow (Fried flat noodles)
    • Hokkien Mie (noodles stir-fried with prawns, squid, and bean sprouts).  This is one of my faves
    • Carrot cake.  Don’t be confused by the name, this is not your cream cheese topped afternoon coffee accompaniment; this is a savoury dish of steamed turnip or radish cake cut-up and fried with egg.
    • Chicken Rice.  Practically the national dish.  Everyone has their own favourite stall, but you can’t go too wrong ordering this at any of the hawker stalls.
    • Yong Tau Foo (My favourite healthy hawker lunch).  You choose your own tofu, veggies, fish balls, then tell them what type of noodle you want to add and whether you want it served dry or in a soup.  If you choose lots of veggies, tofu, and have it with soup and rice noodles, this becomes quite a healthy lunch option.
    • Thunder Tea Rice, aka Hakka rice.  Brown or white rice, served with chopped beans, chopped tofu, peanuts, anchovies.  Served with a side of “tea”.  Think a bowl of bright green matcha tea.  Some people like to pour the tea over the rice, I like to eat the rice dry, and sip some of the tea on the side.
    • Roti-prata.  Indian style flatbread served with curry dipping sauce.  Often eaten as a breakfast item.  A good prata should be crispy and flakey.
    • Drink: sugar cane juice, Kopi (strong sweet Singaporean coffee), Teh (sweet milk tea)
    • Bak Kut Teh – not always at hawker centres, more often served at dedicated Bak Kut Teh restaurants.  Bak Kut Teh is pork bone soup.  The main draw is the herbal soup, so you can expect endless soup at Bak Kut Teh restaurants.  When your bowl is running low, just ask them to fill up your soup again.  The famous one is called Song Fa and is on Northbridge Road.  If you’re really into Bak Kut Teh, you might also want to try a Malaysian style one.
  • Restaurants:

    • Blue Ginger for traditional Peranakan food
    • Violet Oon (there are a few locations and the one at National Gallery is the nicest I believe, but I like the one at Clark Quay. This is again Peranakan food, so for visitors I suggest you only need to go to one of Blue Ginger or Violet Oon, not both unless you really like Peranakan food.
    • Nalan – a nice clean restaurant inside the beautiful Capitol Piazza. Go here for vegetarian Indian food and good dosas.  Of course if you really want the full Indian experience, you need to visit Little India and stroll and get lost there.
    • Esquina or FOC for Spanish tapas.  Both have delicious food and are great date places.
    • For spicy Szechuan food – Si Wei Mao Cai. My friend Sam introduced me to this place.  She’s practically a weekly regular there.  It’s affordable, super yummy, and tongue-numbingly spicy.  If you like spicy Szechuan food, this is a must.
    • Don Ho – great sharing plates and expertly decorated to be the perfect backdrop for your Instagram photos.  Palms & Flamingos, Ole!
    • Imperial Treasure (multiple locations and they all have slightly different Asian cuisines focuses).  Good for a fancier Chinese meal.  The one at MBFC has fantastic dim sum
    • Common Man – in full transparency, I lived right by the Robertson Quay location, so went there a lot, but the food and coffee are definitely worth it.  The Veggie Wonderland was my favourite.  The Turkish Breakfast is unique and a must try.  Warning, this place is pricey, a coffee and breakfast will set you back $30+.  Another tip I’ll share, if you just want the coffee, but don’t want to wait the crowds at the restaurant, head upstairs to Yoga Movement.  There’s a mini coffee bar out on the beautiful balcony.  Order a flatwhite to-go, or settle into one of the couches and chill out.
    • Artichoke – Another brunch recommendation.  I’ve never been able to visit this place and not order the cauliflower sabbich.  Go.  Order.  Devour.  Thank me later.  One minor annoyance is that they don’t open for brunch until 11:30.  For an early bird like me, that’s a bit late, but I’ll put up with it for the cauliflower.
    • Out near Lavender, there is a cute little cafe AEIOU.  From the outside, it looks like a hardware/junk shop, but don’t be fooled.  The menu is pretty average, but the coffee avocado milkshake is devine.  Smooth creamy avocado smoothie served in a reused Absolute vodka bottle with a side of espresso.  You pour the espresso into the avo, stir, and sigh blissfully.  Address: 111 King George’s Ave.
  • Bars:

    • Level 33 (top of MBFC Tower 2).  One of my fave rooftop bars because it’s got great views, good beer, and is more chilled out than Ce La Vi.  Book in advance if you want a table on the patio looking at the view.
    • Smoke & Mirrors (part of the National Gallery).  Another one I like to take visitors to.  Though this isn’t a particularly high building the view of MBS, Esplanade, and the Padang from this bar and the Italian restaurant next to it is absolutely gorgeous.  The National Gallery itself is also worth a stroll through if you like art.  It used to be the courts, was under restoration for a number of years, and reopened a couple years ago as the National Gallery.
    • Atlas Bar Inside the lobby of the Park hotel (aka the Gotham building because it looks like it should be in Batman).  Go for a step back into the Gatsby era and order a classic martini served in beautiful crystal.
    • 1 Altitude – not my fave but is one of the highest rooftop outdoor bars in the world and does offer an awesome 360 view of Singapore.
    • Manhattan Bar (inside the Regent hotel & rated #1 cocktail bar in Asia) & 28 Hong Kong Street for good but expensive cocktails.
    • Southbridge – our office used to be really close to this bar so it was our go-to fancy local to take visitors.  It’s a rooftop bar, accessed via the glass doors behind the giant potted plants at the corner of Circular Road and Southbridge Road.  Usually a fairly chilled place though Fridays can get busy.  The view is the highlight and they also have oyster happy hour.
    • Ce La Vi (top of Marina Bay Sands).  Go to say you’ve been and people watch the guests in the rooftop infinity pool.  And if you want to spoil yourself and pay $600+ for a dip in the infamous pool, then book at night at the hotel.  Pool is for guests only.

Clubs

I’d pretty much grown out of clubbing by the time I got to Singapore, but here are a couple recommendations nonetheless:

  • Kilo Lounge – Cool DJs, cool vibes, cool people.  All around good place that doesn’t get busy till quite late
  • Lulu’s – I only made it there in my last few weeks but kinda wish I had visited earlier!
  • Bang Bang – at the Pan Pacific Hotel
  • Zouk – I went to the original Zouk at the old location up the river a few times.  Now they’ve relocated to Clark Quay.  The original wasn’t really my vibe, but I can’t say what it’s like now as I haven’t been since they reopened.
  • Fashion Club – a giant club with two rooms at Clarke Quay.  I’ve generally had a good time there, though the crowd can be a bit younger.

Neighbourhoods worth exploring:

    • Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar – walk around admiring the well preserved shophouses.   There are lots of hotels around this area too, if you’re looking for a central place to stay.
      • There is a little dim sum place tucked upstairs in one of the shophouses along Trenggannu street.  Quite a nice throwback because they still serve dim sum in push carts, but quality of dim sum is only okay
      • Try having Chinese dessert at a location of Mei Heong Yuen.  The warm peanut paste and sesame paste desserts are my favourite
      • Telok Ayer Street, Amoy Street, and Club street are full of beautifully preserved shophouses-turned-bars.  This area can be very busy after work on Fridays and Club Street actually turns into pedestrian only on Fri and Sat from 7pm – 2am.  Check out the expat afterwork crowd on a Friday evening.
    • Duxton Hill – not far from Club Street area, this little cobbled stoned area is super cute and contains a few gems.  I can recommend Merchants Wine Bar (wine and charcuterie plates), Lucha Loco (Mexican), Latteria (Italian and Mozzarella), Bar-celona (great cava specials), and Mr. Brightside.
    • Haji lane and Little Arab Area
      • Haji lane has lots of little boutiques and at night turns into a busy area for drinks and food.  Good vibes.
      • The Masjid Sultan mosque right in the centre here is beautiful. Lots of good Turkish/Lebanese type restaurants around here
      • Blu Jaz Cafe on Bali Lane here is iconic and hosts a throwback 90s R&B night on the first Fridays of every month.  I love me some old school R&B for dancing and this is also when all the black people in Singapore come out from the woodwork.
    • Little India – really a taste of India. Walk around and absorb the atmosphere.
      • Good Indian restaurants (Mustard, Lagnaa, some more casual ones: Jaggies, Komala Vilas)
      • Mustafa – the gigantic, hectic, confusing department store that carries everything and anything.  Good luck finding what you are looking for there!
    • Boat/Clark/Robertson Quay – This is a stretch right along the river.  Starting near the Fullerton Hotel near the CBD is Boat Quay.  It’s a stretch of bars that’s good for the afterwork crowed.  Skinny’s is a grungy American bar at the end of Boat Quay, but is awesome for a little public Karaoke at the end of a drunken night.  They have a small KTV room in the back open to any and everybody.  Just be prepared to share the mic with some strangers.
    • Further along the river is Clark Quay.  It’s always pumping here every night, though the crowd tends to be a big younger.  Wouldn’t really recommend most of the restaurants around here for food as it can be a bit touristy, but there are a few good bars that have good live music.  Cuba Libre for some salsa dancing, Highlander for good live music, and recently I heard there’s a Pong bar that’s opened.
    • Robertson Quay – just past Clark Quay is the quieter, calmer, more residential neighbourhood of Robertson Quay.
      • Good for Mexican – Super Loco
      • Good for pizza – Bella pizza or Limoncello
      • Good for brunch, Aussie style – Common Man Cafe (try their Turkish Breakfast)
      • Good beer – Tap Bar

Other Mentions:

  • Walk from Clark Quay to Boat Quay to Esplanade, over the Helix Bridge, in front of MBS, and cut through MBS to Gardens by the Bay.  This is a nice walk, but would be extremely hot during the day, so you could save it for around sunset and end up at Gardens by the Bay after dark to watch the light show.  It’s also quite long, so you can do only parts of it if you like
  • Botanic Gardens – well manicured and beautiful.  There’s an orchid exhibit inside the gardens (need to buy a ticket) and some restaurants.
  • Orchard Road – for shopping and designer stores.  Avoid this on the weekend unless you want to experience the crowds.
  • Sentosa – fun island that feels a bit like a Disney world.  Go if you want to chill out by the beach (Tanjong Beach Club on a Sunday is always nice).  Island also has Universal Studio, you can experience a simulated sky dive, practice surfing at the wavehouse, go ziplining.  Multiple ways to get onto Sentosa including: take the Gondola, bus, monorail, or taxi.
  • Eastcoast park.  Where the locals go to hang out.  Rent a bike or grab one of the Ofo bikes and bike along the parkway.  Really nice way to spend the afternoon. You can go all the way to Changi, or turn back and have a snack at the Eastcoast hawker centre.
  • Gardens by the Bay – two domes that you need to pay to get in.  Bring a sweater if you are going inside because they are freezing inside.  The gardens are nice during the day (but hot!) and night. At night they have a light show. Daytime is good for doing the OCBC skyway

Other tips:

  • Download Grab app for taxi bookings.  Uber is no longer operating in SG (or the rest of SEA)
  • Get an EZ Link card for buses and MRTs
  • Pack sunscreen, hat, and a sweater or cardigan for wearing inside shopping malls, offices, movie theatres (these are particularly cold!) where AC is really strong

I think that should keep you guys busy for a while and feel free to reach out if you have any specific questions about Singapore.  One of my favourite places in the world!

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