From 9am till late, here’s your one-day food guide to the best dining experiences you shouldn’t miss in this food paradise.
Kickstart the day as the locals would with a quintessential Singaporean breakfast at Ya Kun Kaya Toast. Watch the Central Business District of Singapore come to life while sipping on some strong local coffee accompanied with kaya toast. The rich texture of kaya, (a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs), combined with an indulgent slab of butter, contrasts delightfully with the thin slices of fresh bread that are charred on a charcoal fire. For true street cred, try dipping your kaya toast in soft-boiled eggs and washing it down with thickly brewed coffee.
Take the MRT to Telok Ayer Station (Downtown MRT line) and walk to China Street.
10am: Explore the Fort Canning Spice Garden
You’ve smelt and tasted the flavours of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves in local dishes that you’ve sampled, now see them in their original form at at Fort Canning Park's Spice Garden. The garden is a replica of the original 19-hectare garden that Sir Stamford Raffles built on Fort Canning Hill in 1822.
Keep an eye out for popular spices and herbs used in local dishes such as ginger, laksa leaves, pandan as well as traditional herbs used for healing purposes. You can’t pick these plants, but feel free to snap pictures of the recipes helpfully provided on the signs—they’ll come in handy at your next stop.
Take the MRT to Fort Canning Station (Downtown MRT line) or take a taxi to Hotel Fort Canning, then walk in.
11.15am: Shop at Geylang Serai Market
The best way to gain insights into local gastronomic tastes is to visit the local markets. Geylang Serai Market, in the vibrant Geylang district, is one of the biggest and busiest wet markets in Singapore.
Since it opened in 1964, it has been a focal point for the local Malay community with a limitless variety of Malay and Indian-Muslim specialties, from meats to vegetables and exotic fruits. The market is always bustling, so be prepared for a thoroughly memorable assault on all your senses. The façade of the market, which features traditional Malay architectural elements, makes for great Instagram moments.
Drop by the dry goods and sundries stores to pick up a handful of spices for future cooking experiments. You should also stop by the food centre on the second floor to sample some of Singapore’s best Malay food.
Take the MRT to Paya Lebar Station (Circle or East-West MRT line), then walk to Geylang Serai Market.
12pm: Experience Peranakan culture
Kim Choo Kueh Chang is an ideal place to get a crash course on Peranakan* culture and cuisine. There’s a wide variety of traditional clothing, accessories and porcelain ware on display and for sale at Kim Choo Gallery, but the highlight here is undoubtedly its famous nonya rice dumplings, which are available only at this outlet.
Tuck into these sticky rice dumplings, packed with stewed pork and other ingredients and try to distinguish the variety of spices used to flavour this dish.
Haven’t had your fill? Walk a little further down the row of conserved shophouses till you get to Glory Catering to sample its signature popiah (spring rolls) and desserts.
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
Take a taxi from Geylang Serai Market to East Coast Road and alight at Kim Choo Gallery after Katong Shopping Centre.
3pm: Indulge in afternoon tea
Feeling peckish after exploring the city? Head to the iconic Raffles Hotel—one of Singapore’s best-known landmarks—and make a beeline for Tiffin Room's exquisitely-plated treats on a three-tier stand.
This dining establishment serves up North Indian creations at lunch and dinner, but in the afternoon it's all about English tradition. Expect a range of dainty finger sandwiches such as salmon with cream cheese and egg with mayonnaise and chives, as well as toothsome English cakes such as strawberry pistachio tartlets and banana crumble.
Alternatively, head to The Grand Lobby. You’ll get to bask in the grandeur of its Victorian-inspired interior, while indulging in a spot of tea, a variety of pastries and a sparkling glass of champagne.
Note: The dress code is smart casual so be sure you don the appropriate attire.
Take a taxi from Kim Choo Kueh Chang (or Glory Catering) and alight at Raffles Hotel.
6pm: Enjoy a centre feast for dinner
If you want to try amazing hawker fare, then head over to Maxwell Food Centre, one of the nation’s most popular eating spots. Here you’ll find a myriad of mouth-watering options served up by the 100-odd stalls housed under one roof.
Take the MRT to Telok Ayer Station (Downtown MRT line), then walk to Maxwell Food Centre.
You don’t need to venture far from the Chinatown area for great nightlife spots. The Club Street and Ann Siang Hill enclaves are peppered with trendy bars and vibrant watering holes.
For Southeast Asian-inspired cocktails, try Ding Dong on Amoy Street. Its signature whisky-and-rum drink, Roti Kaya, evokes traditional Singaporean flavours with pandan, coconut cream and gula melaka (palm sugar).
Head to gastrobars like Oxwell and Co where you can enjoy a lovely view of the city, or laidback watering holes like Forest Darts Cafe, where you can party like a local, sing on its open karaoke system or play darts with fellow revellers.
Walk from Maxwell Food Centre to Club Street & Ann Siang Hill; it won’t take more than five minutes.