Find out where you can pick up fun local souvenirs such as hip tote bags, quirky notebooks and tongue-in-cheek badges with Singapore-style lingo.
With the many dining, shopping and sightseeing options Singapore has to offer, you’ll be spoilt for choice when planning an itinerary for your trip to the Lion City. We’re here to help — narrow down your list with these 12 reasons to visit Singapore, all local-cosigned.
The local pastries
First things first, you’ve got to get your fill of some local sweet treats. Head to confectionery shops such as Chin Mee Chin (their kaya toast is to die for) and Dona Manis Cake Shop (be sure to sample their chocolate tarts before they get snapped up). Be warned, there will be queues — these treats are definitely worth the wait time, though. The best goodies also tend to sell out before lunch, so make a note to get there early.
The pasar malams
Head to a pasar malam (a pop-up night market) for even more local treats, such as Ramly burgers (burgers made of a beef or chicken patty, margarine, cheese, cabbage, onions, egg and various seasonings), tutu kueh (steamed rice flour snack), and muah chee (glutinous rice balls). These delicacies sold at pasar malams are usually extra affordable, so it’s a great way to sample authentic local flavours without breaking the bank. Some pasar malams also have game stations and shopping booths, where you can buy anything from mobile phone cases to plush toys. Because they’re pop-ups, a big part of the fun of pasar malams is not always knowing when and where they’ll turn up.
The ‘chope’ culture
Singaporeans have our fair share of odd quirks. If you head down to the eateries in the Central business district during lunch hour on the weekdays, you’ll see plenty of tables adorned with lone tissue packets. Don’t be alarmed, it’s an unspoken social contract understood by all locals — tissue packets are used to indicate that the table’s occupied (in local slang, the table’s ‘choped’). Join in on ‘chope’ culture during your visit, and be sure to come armed with your own tissue packets.
The street-side ice cream
Ask any local and they’ll probably tell you that street-side ice cream carts were a staple of their childhoods. These ice cream-peddling carts are a common fixture in busy districts such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay, with prices as low as SGD 1 apiece. It’s not just ice cream in a ‘cup’ or ‘cone’ here, have your ice cream as a sandwich with waffle-biscuits or the iconic rainbow-coloured bread slices. Not to mention, having ice cream on the go is the perfect soothing salve for the tropical heat.
The weekend road closures
Roads are sometimes closed to traffic at bustling nightlife districts such as Holland Village and Club Street, so you can safely party to your heart’s content. Holland Village road closures happen daily at 7pm, while Club Street road closures happen every Friday and Saturday from 7pm to 2am. There’s also Car-Free Sunday, where the Central Business and Civic Districts are turned into pedestrian and cyclist-friendly zones every last Sunday of the month.
The secret bars
Looking for a little mystery with your night out? Head down to The Library Bar, a hidden-away, password-protected bar. (Insider tip: the password’s available from their Facebook page or the restaurant next door.) Or head to Operation Dagger, an innocuous-looking basement bar hidden away in a back alley of Ann Siang Hill for an underground watering hole experience.
The indie cinemas
Join in on Singapore’s burgeoning film scene at some of our favourite indie cinemas. Make your way to The Projector, Alliance Française Cine Club or The Screening Room for a unique movie experience you won’t find at just any cinema chain in a shopping mall. These indie cinemas also play host to film festivals and themed nights, making for a catalogue of intriguing movie selections. Be sure to catch a local film or two while you’re here.
The arts and crafts
Forget Merlion keychains; make your own souvenirs instead. Get crafty with the good folks of Mud Rock Ceramics (whose star-studded clientele includes the Queen of England) when you try your hand at a pottery class. Alternatively, let out your inner Picasso when you try out art jamming over gourmet tea at boutique café-slash-art-studio, Arteastiq.
The street art
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find splashes of street art in Singapore — you just need to know where to look (222 Queen Street or The Substation, for instance).
The urban farms
We may have more high-rise buildings than farmland, but that doesn’t mean farming isn’t possible. Many city-slicking green thumbs have taken to urban farming to grow their own food. Get the farm-to-table experience at eateries such as Edible Garden City and ‘modern-day kampung’ (a small village or community of houses) One Kind House, or try your hand at urban farming at Urban Farm and Barn.
The scenic railway track
Take a stroll down the Rail Corridor, a 24-kilometre-long green corridor that’s surrounded by nature. Fret not, the railway track’s safe to walk on as trains no longer run here. In fact, it’s in the process of being repurposed as a popular walking trail and public space (check here for updates on which parts of the Rail Corridor are open).
The boutique hotels
Opt for something other than the usual luxury hotels when you book a stay at one of Singapore’s many unique boutique hotels. Give your holiday a pop of colour with one of the pantone rooms at Wanderlust Hotel, try out the many F&B outlets at hip hotel The Club, and marvel at the art deco extravaganza that is the interior décor of Hotel Vagabond.