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 11 authentic ways to experience Singapore like a local.
The local pastries
First things first, you’ve got to get your fill of some of our local sweet treats. Head to neighbourhood favourites such as Dona Manis Cake Shop (be sure to sample their chocolate tarts and signature banana pies before they get snapped up).
While there will be queues, these treats are definitely worth the wait time. The best goodies also tend to sell out before lunch, so remember to get there early.
The pasar malam
Head to a pasar malam (Malay for "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 coated with peanut and sugar).
These delicacies 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 hunting for them in the heartlands—You can visit Singapore Night Bazaar’s Facebook page for a handy reference to the bazaars across our island.
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 ranging from S$1-S$1.50 per piece.
It’s not just ice cream in a ‘cup’ or ‘cone’ here—have your ice cream as a sandwich with waffle-biscuits or rainbow-coloured bread slices. Not to mention, having ice cream on the go is the perfect treat to combat 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 from 6.30pm to 3am, while Club Street road closures happen every Friday and Saturday from 7pm to 2am.
The secret bars
Looking for a little mystery with your night out? Head down to The Other Room, a hidden-away, password-protected bar. (Insider tip: you can obtain the password from their Facebook page or by enquiring at the restaurant next door.)
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.
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, unleash 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 (Kampong Gelam and Tiong Bahru are just some examples). You can also check out ARTWALK Little India to feast your eyes on local street art.
The urban farms
Singapore’s reputation as a city in a garden is well-deserved, with its lush parks, gardens and urban farming spaces.
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 Open Farm Community and ‘modern-day kampong’ (a small village) One Kind House.
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 details 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 dash of colour with one of the pantone rooms at Wanderlust Hotel, try out the many F&B outlets at hip hotel Ann Siang House, and marvel at the art deco extravaganza that is the interior décor of The Vagabond Club.