If you only have a day to spend in Singapore, you would want to make the best of your time here. In this itinerary, we show you around the best of the best of Singapore, allowing you to take in as many sights and sounds (and tastes and smells too!) of this wonderful island city as you can, while allowing you to choose between attractions at different points to tailor the journey to your personality and preferences.
Beginning with the world-famous Singapore Zoo, you can then choose between retail therapy at Orchard Road or a cultural tour of Chinatown at lunchtime. Head into the heart of Singapore's museums and heritage district with either of two of the biggest museums in Singapore which are considered authoritative in their fields – the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum. From there, watch the sun set as you take a historic journey along the Singapore River and around the Marina Bay, before proceeding to dinner at the modern Esplanade Theatre. As the city's skyline lights up the night sky, go up,up and away to either of the best vantage points of the island – the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark or the Singapore Flyer. End the day with live music and drinks at either the popular Timbre along the Singapore River, or the exotic Blu Jaz Café set in ethnic Kampong Glam.
At the end of it all, you won't feel like you've missed out.
View Itinerary: Singapore's Best In One Day in a larger map
Singapore Attractions Express (8am)
Start your day early with a bus journey across Singapore from the heart of the Orchard Road shopping district to the Singapore Zoo. The Singapore Attractions Express picks up passengers from hotels in the area; we have chosen two closest to the Orchard MRT Station [NS22] for your convenience. (from Sheraton Towers (8.05am) or Grand Hyatt Hotel (8.10am) to Singapore Zoo. +65 6753 0506. $4 adult, $2 child.)
Singapore Zoo (9am)
The world-famous Singapore Zoo deservedly tops many must-see lists for kids and grown-ups alike, offering visitors the opportunity to get up-close and personal with nature, where over 2500 animals from 315 species (of which 16% are threatened species) live in spacious and landscaped environments simulating their natural habitats. The Zoo has attained a strong reputation internationally and received accolades for its conservation initiatives and quality as a tourist attraction, including a 3-Star Michelin rating.
Start your journey of discovery with Southeast Asia's best breakfast - Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife at Ah Meng Restaurant. Catch the Splash Safari Show at Shaw Foundation Amphitheatre and Elephants at Work & Play at Elephants of Asia. Watch giraffes, Asian elephants, white tigers, white rhinos, kangaroos, and even polar bears roam in natural, lush settings. There are also tram rides, children's play areas, elephant rides, and feeding times to keep you and your kids entertained.
(3 hr. 80 Mandai Lake Road. +65 6269 3411. Daily 8.30am – 6pm.
Admission $20 adult, $13 child 12 & under. Tram $5 adult, $3 child 12 & under.)
Orchard Road (for the shopaholic) or Chinatown (for the cultural explorer)
At lunchtime, choose to descend upon the ultramodern shopping malls of Orchard Road for your retail therapy needs, or step back into the past with a cultural heritage tour of Chinatown. The journey to either of these central districts will take approximately an hour on public transportation.
EITHER Lunch and Shopping at Orchard Road (1.30pm)
To get to Orchard Road from the Singapore Zoo, take bus 138 from “S'pore Zoological Gdns” to “Ang Mo Kio Int” and proceed from the interchange to Ang Mo Kio MRT Station [NS16] to take the train towards Marina Bay to Orchard [NS22].
Shopping in Singapore is synonymous with Orchard Road, a canyon of shopping malls that extends beyond sight, each housing an extensive range of brands and labels. For lunch, have your pick of eateries from the selections of restaurants and cafés available in every mall. There are cuisines from all around the world, and the quality of dishes and service offered tends to be of at least a reasonable to high standard, and pricier too. Orchard Road is a popular destination for Western, Japanese and Chinese food of a higher end, but offers the more eclectic food courts too.
Start from Orchard's new swanky centrepiece, ION Orchard (2 Orchard Turn. +65 6238 8228.), built just above the MRT station, which is arguably one of the best malls ever built. This megamall packs in 330 shops that range from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Yves Saint Laurent (mostly above-ground) to high street fashion labels such as Topshop and River Island as well as smaller boutiques (mostly in the basement levels). Head on to Ngee Ann City (391 Orchard Road. +65 6506 0458.), known by locals as “Taka”, derived from Takashimaya Shopping Centre which anchors the building. Taka is a perennial favourite among Singaporeans which boasts both variety and style, and houses numerous boutiques such as Burberry, Chanel, Christian Dior and Ted Baker as well as specialty shops such as Shanghai Tang and Kinokuniya.
The new Mandarin Galllery (333A Orchard Road. +65 6831 6363.), with its undulating curvaceous facade and all-glass spaces, is home to a plethora of international luxury stores such as Dolce & Gabbana and Emporio Armani, and also stylish local boutiques. Another recent addition to the shopping scene is 313@Somerset (313 Orchard Road. +65 6496 9313.), which is home to the multiple-storied flagship stores of the international fashion scene, such as Forever 21 and Zara.
After indulging the shopaholic in you, travel by MRT from Somerset MRT Station [NS23] right under 313@Somerset towards Marina Bay and switch at Dhoby Ghaut [NS24/CC1/NE6] to the Circle Line train to take you to Bras Basah [CC2], which takes around ten minutes.
OR Lunch and Cultural Tour of Chinatown and Ann Siang Hill (1.30pm)
To get to Chinatown from the Singapore Zoo, take bus 138 from “S'pore Zoological Gdns” to “Ang Mo Kio Int” and proceed from the interchange to Ang Mo Kio MRT Station [NS16] to take the train towards Marina Bay and switch at Dhoby Ghaut [NS24/CC1/NE6] to the North-East Line train towards Harbourfront to take you to Chinatown [NE4/DT19].
One of Singapore's oldest ethnic districts, Chinatown is a juxtaposition of old and new, and still bustles with life much as it did years ago. This enclave continues to be a tourism hot spot and a cultural treasure trove of insights into traditional Chinese life. Chinatown offers a culinary tour that is a feast for the senses – including cheaper eats such as dim sum, frog leg porridge, and Asian desserts, as well as pricier restaurants serving roast duck, Peranakan and speciality Chinese dishes.
Start from Chinatown's excellent Chinatown Heritage Centre (48 Pagoda Street. +65 6325 2878. Daily 9am – 8pm. Admission $10 adult, $6 child 12 & under), which faithfully recreates entire home and street scenes from turn-of-the-century Singapore. This is an authentic slice of Singaporean history that showcases relics such as cooking utensils and opium pipes and the dark, cramped quarters that early Chinese immigrants lived in.
Visit Singapore's oldest and most important Hindu temple, the intricate Sri Mariamman Temple (244 South Bridge Road. +65 6223 4064. Daily 7am – 12nn & 6pm – 9pm.) which features a distinctive, colourful gopuram (tower). The new Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum (288 South Bridge Road. +65 6220 0220. Daily 4.30am – 9pm.) houses a relic believed to be the scared tooth of the Buddha. Cross over up-and-coming Ann Siang Hill, stopping at the tiny park for a panoramic view of Singapore's skyscrapers from a different perspective, to the beautifully decorated courtyards of the Thian Hock Keng Temple (158 Telok Ayer Street. +65 6423 4616.), Singapore's oldest and most important Hokkien temple.
To continue your cultural journey, head to Bras Basah on bus 124 or 190 from “People's Pk Ctr” to “SMU”. Alternatively, board bus 131 or 167 from “Prudential Twr” to “SMU”. Both journeys take around ten minutes.
National Museum (for history buffs) or Singapore Art Museum and High Tea (for culture vultures)
Museums in Singapore, albeit compact, are generally well-maintained and curated carefully, positioned as engaging and educational cultural destinations that remain relevant amidst changing times. The best museums are located around Bras Basah [CC2], where the air-conditioned exhibits are a welcome relief from the afternoon heat. We have selected two of the biggest museums in Singapore, which are considered authoritative in their fields. For history buffs and those with families, the National Museum provides a grand and interactive overview of Singaporean history and culture, while the Singapore Art Museum will delight those with greater artistic sensibilities.
EITHER National Museum (3.30pm)
Rated one of the world's most interactive museums, the National Museum of Singapore is at once modern and classical – an immersive one-stop guide to Singapore's history and cultural heritage. Once known as the Raffles' Library and Museum housing well-known Southeast Asian natural history collections, Singapore's first museum is today the grand dame of the nation's museum scene, featuring exhibits on the history, ethnology and arts of Singapore and surrounding regions.
Singapore's largest museum houses two main galleries in a neoclassical 19th century architectural masterpiece – the Singapore History Gallery and the Singapore Living Galleries. The History Gallery traces the tale of the island from its roots in the 14th century as a fishing village known as Temasek, through the colonial-era founding of modern Singapore, to the bustling metropolis it is today. The Living Galleries showcase the Singaporean Story through themes close to the heart of Singaporeans – food, fashion, film and wayang (shadow puppetry), and photography.
(2 hr. 93 Stamford Road. +65 6332 3659. Daily 10am – 8pm. Admission $10 adult, $5 child/student/senior. History Gallery last admission at 5.30pm.)
OR Singapore Art Museum (3.30pm) and High Tea at Raffles Hotel (4.30pm)
One of Singapore’s finest example of colonial architecture, the Singapore Art Museum is today the centrepiece of Singapore's major arts and cultural district, and is the nation's premier venue for international art exhibitions. It houses the national art gallery and is home to a permanent collection of over 4000 Southeast Asian modern and contemporary art pieces, featuring exhibitions ranging from Chinese calligraphy to contemporary works examining issues of Asian identity and the modern Singapore experience. (1 hr. 71 Bras Basah Road. +65 6332 3222. Daily 10am – 7pm, except Friday 10am – 9pm. Admission $10 adult, $5 child/student/senior.)
Opened in 1899, the regal Raffles Hotel, known as the “Grand Lady of the Far East', has hosted royalty and celebrities, and was featured in the works of Joseph Conrad and Somerset Maugham. The world-famous Singapore Sling was first concocted here, where it is still served, at the Long Bar. The Tiffin Room serves an iconic afternoon champagne high tea, where polished silverware and crisp white linens add to old-world charm and décor that complements the quintessential colonial experience. Dishes served include a mix of petite finger sandwiches, freshly baked pastries and scones served with clotted cream and sweet homemade jams. (1 hr. 1 Beach Road. Reservations +65 6412 1816. Daily 3.30pm – 5.30pm. $65++ adult, $27.50++ child.)
Marina Bay – Singapore River Cruise and the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay
Moving on from the museums to the Civic District, board the train at Bras Basah MRT Station [CC2] to Dhoby Ghaut [CC1/NS24/NE6], and there, board the train to City Hall [NS25/EW13]. For a shorter walk, board bus 131 or 167 from “NTUC Income Ctr” to “Opp S'pore Cricket Club”. Both journeys take around fifteen minutes. From either stop, walking towards the Singapore River, and head for Raffles' Landing Site where Sir Stamford Raffles, considered to be the founder of modern Singapore, is believed to have first set foot in 1819.
Singapore River Cruise (6pm)
As the sun sets, catch the next bumboat leaving the nearby pier for an excursion down the quays of the Singapore River and around the Marina Bay that lasts for either 45 minutes (Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay, Marina Bay) or 30 minutes (Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, Marina Bay).
The Singapore River has been a lifeline for Singaporeans since ancient times, through the colonial era and the early days of the nation's independence. Here, bumboats used to carry cargo and people up and down the river, and the tour boats are replicas authentic enough to take you back in time. The century-old godowns and shophouses stand in stark contrast to the striking skyscrapers of the downtown skyline, and the river journey provides insight into an incredible microcosm of Singapore's rich historical and cultural heritage. Spot the Merlion, the nation's mascot, an imaginary creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. (45 min. Boat Quay. +65 6336 6111. Daily 9am – 11pm. Ride 45 min $20 adult, $10 child; 30 min $15 adult, $8 child.)
Dinner at the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay (7.30pm)
Walk toward the modern Esplanade through the historic Civic District and Esplanade Park, where national monuments and colonial-era civic buildings collectively cover almost 200 years of Singapore's history and architectural heritage, from the colonial period through World War II right up to independence. Spot the Old Parliament House, Old Supreme Court, and City Hall, which are fine examples of classical and neo-classical colonial architecture.
Alternatively, cross the Singapore River to the Fullerton Hotel, housed in a majestic structure with a 400 foot frontage along the waterfront, monumental columns and a lighthouse on its rooftop. Once a symbol of British power in Singapore, this building now houses a luxury hotel. Cross the Esplanade Bridge for a breathtaking view of the Marina Bay and the downtown Raffles Place business district, into the prime arts and cultural destination in Singapore – the Esplanade.
(Both routes last approximately ten minutes on foot.)
Affectionately known by locals as the 'durian' because of its eye-catching architecture, the Esplanade (1 hr. 1 Esplanade Drive. +65 6828 8377. Nearest MRT Station: Esplanade [CC3].) is the most prominent signal of national efforts to recast Singapore as a fun and creative cultural hub. This world-class venue features local and international performances. Dining options here are aplenty, but we recommend sampling local dishes at either the outdoor Makansutra Gluttons Bay (+65 6438 4038. Daily 5pm – late, except Sunday 4pm – late.), which brings together 12 of Singapore's most famous hawkers, or the No Signboard Seafood restaurant (+65 6336 9959. Daily 11am – 11pm.), which is pricier and offers some of the best local seafood delicacies around town.
Marina Bay Sands (the luxury integrated resort) or Singapore Flyer (the eye in the sky)
At night, the city's skyline lights up and dazzles the sky with it's distinctive brilliance, making this the perfect time to take a journey up, up and away for a view of Singapore from a different perspective. Two of the best vantage points in Singapore are within walking distance of the Esplanade on the Marina Bay (nearest MRT station: Promenade [CC4/DT15].) – the SkyPark of the luxury Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, and the more family-friendly Singapore Flyer. Both offer top-notch views of a city that never sleeps, and an experience you will not soon forget.
EITHER Marina Bay Sands and Sands Sky Park (9pm)
From the Esplanade, cross the Helix Bridge, considered a world first in bridge design, to Singapore's first integrated resort, consisting of a world-class casino, top-notch dining choices and high-end entertainment. The Marina Bay Sands offers luxury shopping in the Shoppes, as well as idyllic sampan rides through the mall. Envisioned to host both business and leisure visitors, the Marina Bay Sands' main draw is probably the awe-inspiring panoramic views of Singapore offered from a superior vantage point - the Sands SkyPark. (1 hr. 10 Bayfront Avenue. +65 6688 8868. Skypark: Daily 10am – 10pm; Admission $20 adult, $14 child 12 & under, $17 senior 55 & above. Sampan Rides: Daily 11am – 8pm; Admission $10 adult, $6 child.)
OR Singapore Flyer (9pm)
From the Esplanade, walk through the Youth Olympic Park to what is billed as the world's largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer. At 165 metres high, this is the most-celebrated and certainly the most family-friendly way to get high in Singapore. A half-hour journey carries you up into the sky for breathtaking views of Singapore, and gently back down again into a rainforest-covered park and shopping mall. For those looking to get high in style, the Singapore Flyer also offers a special Signature Cocktail Flight. (1 hr. 30 Raffles Avenue. +65 6333 3311. Daily 8.30am – 1030pm. Admission $29.50 adult, $20.65 child 12 & under, $23;60 senior 60 & above. Signature cocktail flight $69 adult, $48.30 child, $55.20 senior. Flight is 30 minutes.)
Timbre (on the Singapore River) or Blu Jaz Cafe (in ethnic Kampong Glam)
Singapore's local music scene is on the rise, with numerous live music venues which feature up-and-coming local performers and bands. We have chosen two of the best and most popular – Timbre, a prominent and popular hangout for younger crowds set along the Singapore River, and the more exotic setting of the Blu Jaz Café along Bali Lane in ethnic Kampong Glam.
EITHER Timbre @ The Arts House and Singapore River (10pm)
From the Singapore Flyer, travel by bus 75 from “Bef Temasek Ave” to “Opp S'pore Cricket Club” and walk to the riverside Timbre. This is the breeding ground for up-and-coming local bands and singers, and also offers great brews and unique dishes such as the noteworthy roasted duck pizza. (1 hr. 1 Old Parliament Lane, #01-04. +65 6336 3386. Daily 6pm – late, except Sunday closed. Nearest MRT Station: Raffles Place [NS26/EW14].)
OR Blu Jaz Café and Kampong Glam (10pm)
From the Singapore Flyer, travel by bus 56 from “Bef Temasek Ave” to “Raffles Hotel”, then switch to bus 100 to “Opp Plaza Parkroyal” and cross the lanes to Blu Jaz Café. Set on the edge of ethnic Kampong Glam, this three-storeyed establishment offers shisha (smoked in waterpipes), a range of dishes (including a popular grilled dory) and drinks to accompany live music. (1 hr. 11 Bali Lane. +65 6292 3800. Monday to Thursday 12nn to 12 mn, Friday 12nn - 2am, Saturday 4pm – 2am, Sunday closed. Nearest MRT Station: Bugis [EW12].)