We all know that Singapore is a small country but how much of it can you actually see in a day?
With a little bit of planning, a short stay in the Lion City will allow you to see the main attractions and some hidden gems. The key is doing some research and leaving room for spontaneity. Some of our best travel experiences involved making itineraries but still going with the flow. With that in mind, I will share our real-life one-day itinerary in Singapore and some tips on how to make the most of your quick getaway.
1. Hop on a double-decker bus
I personally stay away from the hop-on-hop-off bus tours. I would rather be run over by one than take one. Why spend S$20.90 when you can ride the public bus for less than a dollar? Aside from being affordable, SG’s public transportation is also super efficient. It’s also worth noting that a lot of buses in Singapore are double-deckers. You can just climb aboard one and sit comfortably on the second floor while you take in the views of the city.
2. Have kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs for breakfast
If you’re spending only one day in Singapore, there’s no excuse not to try one of their classic breakfast dishes. Kaya toast is toasted bread with butter and kaya (coconut egg jam). More often than not, it coexists with two soft boiled eggs with runny yolks. It also goes well with a cup of kopi (coffee) or teh (tea). In Singapore, this ‘breakfast set’ isn’t hard to come by. It’s basically everywhere! As for me, my go-to breakfast place is Ya Kun Kaya Toast.
3. Catch an exhibit at the National Gallery Singapore.
If you’re an Asian culture buff or if you just like hanging out in museums, there’s no scarcity of cultural spaces here. But if all you have is 24 hours, clearly you can’t visit them all. You can choose from an Asians civilization museum, toys museum, philatelic museum, design museum and a few art museums.
We were lucky we got to catch an exhibit that I’d been wanting to see, Yayoi Kusama’s Life is the Heart of a Rainbow, on its last day in Singapore. It was such an amazing and fun experience. I took A LOT of photos and I’m thinking of sharing them in another post. (TIP: Book the museum tickets online to avoid queues!)
4. Visit a Hindu temple
Did you know that 7.4% of the Singaporean population are Indians? I didn’t either, I just saw in Wikipedia. Hinduism is part of Singapore’s history and culture and the Hindus’ place of worship is nothing short of extraordinary. Most Hindu temples are open for everyone but some may be reserved for worshippers only. If you’re not interested in entering, you can still admire the art and architecture from afar. The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, is conveniently located in Chinatown which could be your next stop for lunch.
5. Lunch at a hawker center in Chinatown
After a morning of walking and sightseeing, stuff your face with Singaporean dishes for lunch at a hawker center. Hawker centers are basically large food courts with stalls serving from full meals to snacks or drinks. There’s one almost everywhere. You can find all the local dishes or even Chinese, Malay, Indonesian that you’re dying to try. I ordered Hainanese chicken rice (S$ 5) while the boyfriend had congee (S$ 5.50) and iced honey lemon tea to cool us down.
6. Wander through Chinatown
You can spend an hour or two in Chinatown, visiting the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, shopping cheap souvenirs or watching old Chinese people play chess.
7. Ride the MRT
Hands down, one of the best metro system in the world. Efficient, spotless and on the dot. The stations are so well-connected that getting to anywhere in Singapore is hassle-free. You can either buy an EZ-Link card (which I don’t recommend if you’re staying here for one day) or a standard ticket (the cost depends on the length of the trip).
8. Take a trip down Haji Lane
I used to frequent this place when I stayed in Singapore for a while about four years ago and it wasn’t the tourist destination that it is today. I guess the word got out that Haji Lane is the coolest, hippest part of town. This place has everything (read this in Stefon’s voice): quaint cafés, quirky boutiques, colorful graffiti, watering holes… you know, a hipster paradise. This street is technically short and narrow which you can easily walk from end to end in two minutes. However, if you’re anything like me, it could take you a good 2 hours for the occasional photo stops and window shopping.
9. Visit the Sultan Mosque along Arab Street
After taking the perfect Instagram photo in Haji Lane, keep on walking until you reach Arab Street. It’s a nice area lined with textile shops, Turkish cafés, restaurants and graced with a beautiful mosque. It’s worth a quick visit if you’re in the neighborhood.
10. Shop for souvenirs/pasalubongs and stop for a quick snack in Bugis.
Head down to Bugis Street if you’re looking for cheap souvenirs like t-shirts, magnets, keychains to bring home to your friends or family. You can also stock up on bags of Hershey’s, Kit Kat or Toblerone on the cheap. On the ground floor, you have a plethora of tasty local snacks ranging from S$2-5 and natural fruit juices for only S$1. If you wish to escape the hot and humid weather, there’s Bugis Junction, an air-conditioned mall with a variety of stores, from clothing brands to fast food chains. If that’s not enough to cool you down, why not take a bath in the fountain like these kids.
11. Take a stroll in the back alley of Bugis.
While you’re already there, whip out your camera and take a picture of these colorful spiral staircases… and this Great Gatsby-esque building.
12. Immerse yourself in the sights and attractions in Marina Bay
If there’s one place where you can soak up Singapore at a single glance, it’s Marina Bay. The iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the Fullerton hotel, the Merlion, the Esplanade Theater, the ArtScience Museum (to name a few) can all be observed from a stroll around the bay or a boat cruise. To be honest, my favorite part was taking photos of tourists trying to catch the spewing water of Merlion in their mouths. Oh, the hilarity.
13. Head up to the OCBC Skyway and get a good view of Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay is a massive man-made garden located in the Marina Bay district. It has an area open to the public but some attractions are not free of cost. S$28 to get into the conservatories and S$8 for the OCBC Skyway. I haven’t seen the conservatory so I’m not sure if it’s worth the entrance fee but the OCBC Skyway, in my opinion, was worth every penny. The best time to go is before sunset and stay until after so you get to see it in all its beauty.
14. Catch the Garden Rhapsody lights and sounds show at Gardens by the Bay
The futuristic supertrees come alive every night. The lights and sounds show happen at 7:45 & 8:45 PM. It’s totally free, just find a comfortable place to sit or lie on the grass and look up like we did. You can enjoy the symphony of music and dancing lights for a good 15 minutes. The theme changes from time to time but we were lucky the line-up that day was songs from musicals. It was so perfect I wanted to cry.
15. Cap off the night with a sumptuous dinner at Makansutra Gluttons Bay
It’s your first and last day in Singapore, you deserve to treat yourself to an amazing dinner of chili crabs and a bouquet of satay. There’s no better place to grab cheap fresh eats near the Marina Bay area than in Makansutra Gluttons Bay. You can order a small chili crab for S$16, fried rice for S$4 and 10 sticks of satay for S$9. Damn, all this writing about food makes me wish I was back in Singapore.
So there you have it! A tried and tested itinerary for one day that works well to get an intensive, no matter how brief, overview of Singapore’s sights and culture. Believe it or not, we did all this in just one day. It’s either that or I wore the same outfit two/three days in a row.