If you’re planning to explore the island by train—the most convenient way to get around—let the Circle MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) line carry you through buzzing neighbourhoods resplendent with bars and cafés, bridges stretching across expanses of green, and heritage-rich arts clusters. We round up six stops to make.
Labrador Park MRT: Get in touch with nature
Bridges and swathes of green—10 kilometres of the latter, to be exact—connect several parks that make up the Southern Ridges, and every bit of it is perfect for soaking in views of the city, harbour and Southern Islands. The area teems with wildlife, but is just as much steeped in history: the 300-metre-long Canopy Walk trail was the site of one of the last battles of World War II, after which Singapore fell to the Japanese. Another highlight is the Henderson Waves, an impressive 36-metre high bridge that links Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park. If you’re up for more sightseeing, Gillman Barracks is a must-visit: the arts cluster houses plenty of galleries and dining options. There’s Creamier that doles out scoops of ice cream, and waffles for those with a sweet tooth.
Esplanade MRT: The grand dame of local arts
Affectionately referred to by locals as the ‘durian’ thanks to its resemblance to the tropical fruit, the Esplanade is the city’s grand dame of arts venues. Music, plays, dances, visual arts and other performances fill the stunning concert and theatre halls within the Esplanade—there’s even an outdoor stage, overlooking Marina Bay and the city skyline, which hosts free gigs by local bands during the evenings. Here’s a tip: go on a guided tour of the Esplanade that’ll take you behind the scenes, and then pop by the rooftop terrace at dusk for a postcard-perfect shot of the city.
Holland Village MRT: Al fresco dining and drinking
Hawker stalls sidle up to hip restaurants and bars in this buzzy lifestyle district. Visit when the sun’s setting—that’s when the main thoroughfare is closed off to traffic, tables are set on the street and the entire precinct takes on a vibrant spirit. If your stomach’s rumbling, check out Cha Cha Cha and El Patio for nachos, quesadillas and other hearty Mexican fare, or settle at Da Paolo Gastronomia for Italian cuisine like pizzas and pastas. Holland Village stays up late: you can even chow down on gourmet desserts in the wee hours, at 2am:dessertbar.
Marymount MRT: Hip cafés and crispy roti prata
Instagram-worthy cafés abound in this district, so bring an empty stomach and a fully charged camera when you visit. Hit up One Man Coffee, Habitat and Knockhouse Café for your caffeine fix, then pad your tummy at The Roti Prata House. The kopitiam (traditional local coffeeshop) is renowned among locals for its signature roti prata (South-Indian flatbread) that is at once crispy and fluffy. Tear a piece off—with your hands—and dip it in the accompanying curry for a light bite in between café-hopping.
Serangoon MRT: For stellar hawker plates
You’ll have to hop on a bus to get to Chomp Chomp Food Centre, but the 10-minute ride is well worth your time–as is hunting down a table in the perpetually crowded hawker centre. Your reward? Barbecued sambal (spicy chilli paste) stingray, and chicken wings fresh off the grill—all best accompanied by a sugarcane tower, which serves you three litres worth of sugarcane juice. Oh, and save some tummy room for the many other bars and dessert cafés that line this residential district.
Bras Basah MRT: The heritage precinct
Get a dose of Singapore’s history as you explore the colonial and pre-war architecture of the Bras Basah.Bugis precinct. There’s the Armenian Apostolic Church of St Gregory the Illuminator, the National Design Centre, a cluster of museums—the Peranakan Museum’s worth a visit—and Haji Lane, rife with quirky boutiques and laid-back bars and cafés. Fun fact: ‘Bras Basah’ loosely translates to ‘wet rice’ in Malay—and its origins were derived from the smell of decaying rice on ships that stopped over on our shores.