Singapore is a bustling cosmopolitan city-state that offers a first-rate living environment, with a clean and modern landscape populated by skyscrapers and green spaces. A microcosm of Asia, Singapore features a kaleidoscope of cultures, where people of different beliefs and ethnicities – mainly Chinese, Malays and Indians – coexist.
Often referred to as the Switzerland of Asia, Singapore is renowned for offering a welcome escape from the poverty and chaos associated with mainland Asia. A centre of ultra-modern Western commerce, Singapore is home to expatriates from all across the globe.
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Singapore's rich history of immigration has created one of the world's greatest eating capitals. Food is the national obsession and can be enjoyed in a myriad of fascinating settings.
A great introduction to Singapore’s food culture is through the city-state’s hawker centres. Purpose-built facilities, where stallholders serve up fast and cheap Asian dishes, hawker centres can be found all over the city. The city’s most renowned hubs are: Old Airport Road Food Centre, Chinatown Smith Street Food Centre and East Coast Lagoon Food Village. Hawker centres provide a great opportunity to try Singaporean specialities like laska, sugarcane juice and ice cream sandwiches.
Food is such a prominent part of life in Singapore that whole precincts are dedicated to dining.
Rich in heritage and brimming with food stalls and restaurants, Chinatown is a veritable food lover’s paradise. The area is particularly spectacular during Chinese festivals; as the streets come to life with vibrant sights, sounds and smells.
Abuzz with colours and aromas, Singapore’s Little India assail the senses. The focal point for Singapore’s Indian community, the exotic enclave is jam-packed with Indian restaurants, representing various states of the sub-continent.
Singapore’s foremost retail hub, Orchard Road is also home to an impressive dining scene, where 24-hour fast food takeaways vie for business with cafes, and five-star hotel restaurants.
Eating districts also line the banks of the Singapore River. On the northern banks, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay brim with trendy bars and themed restaurants. The south side is home to Boat Quay – a hub of international restaurants, Riverside – Singapore's colonial core, dotted with restaurants, bars and clubs, and Marina Bay – choked with world-class restaurants, some of which are helmed by celebrity chefs.
Outside the city centre, the East Coast features a noteworthy eating scene. Geylang and Katong are hotspots for Malay and Peranakan cuisines – a hybrid of Malay and Chinese dishes. The East Coast is also famous for laksa and seafood.
A trip to Singapore isn’t complete without visiting Raffles Hotel. One of the world's most famous hotels, the colonial-style hotel is one of Singapore’s biggest drawcards, known for its luxurious accommodation and 15 superb restaurants and bars; in particular the Long Bar, home to the world-renowned Singapore Sling cocktail.
Another stand out Singapore dining establishment is ION Sky’s Salt Grill & Sky Bar – an elegant 6,000ft2 contemporary establishment, located 218 metres above ground level, helmed by Virgin Australia consultant and friend, celebrity chef-restaurateur, Luke Mangan.
Singapore is a world-renowned shopping Mecca. Opportunities to spend a dollar abound, as market stalls selling kitsch souvenirs vie for attention with boutiques selling the world’s most acclaimed fashion labels.
Orchard Road is city-state’s most prominent shopping belt. Stretching for over two kilometres, the retail street is dotted with almost two dozen shopping malls and a huge variety of flagship, concept and lifestyle stores – including iconic fashion labels like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Burberry. The ION Orchard is particularly impressive; a two billion dollar futuristic mall, home to 333 stores spread over eight retail floors.
Waterfront precincts like Marina Bay and Keppel Bay also highlight Singapore as a modern and progressive retail paradise. Home to world-acclaimed architectural feats like Marina Bay Sands and PARCO shopping mall, Marina Bay is Singapore’s newest tourist drawcard. Situated on Singapore's vibrant southern shores – comprising Resorts World Sentosa, Universal Studios Singapore, HarbourFront and VivoCity – Keppel Bay is Singapore’s largest entertainment and retail hub.
For a taste of Singapore’s vibrant multiculturalism and ethnic traditions, hubs like Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam are must-visits. Chinatown’s streets bustle with shops selling everything from traditional silk garbs to alternative medicines. Little India offers a fantastic and colourful glimpse into Indian culture, fragrant with jasmine flowers and abuzz with stalls selling saris, Bollywood posters and trinkets. Age-old Muslim trades are sustained in Kampong Glam, where hives like Arab Street, Baghdad Street and Bussorah Street boast rows of conserved shop houses selling specialties like textiles and carpet.
Elements of Singapore’s old and new shopping culture are best experienced in the city-state’s former red light district, Bugis Junction. Singapore’s largest street bazaar, Bugis Junction is abuzz with over 600 stalls, offering a mix of on-trend fashion, accessories, souvenirs and locally-designed products.
Another iconic street bazaar worth visiting is the provocatively named Sungei Road Thieves’ Market. Singapore’s oldest flea market, the Thieves’ Market presents a fun and unique opportunity to scavenge for all things worn, torn and retro.