During the winter months in China, I’m always very eager to escape the cold and head to a spot where the sunshine warms my skin. My travel buddy, Rhea, and I decided on a weekend in Singapore before heading to Langkawi, Malaysia.
I’ve wanted to visit Singapore for ages because it’s such a beautiful, charismatic place that’s constantly reinventing itself and improving. The weather is superb all-year-round and despite its urban nature, it’s brimming with wonderfully-maintained green spaces.
Singapore really is one of the most organized and efficient cities in the world and the people are more charming than you could ever imagine. It’s the place where adventurous explorers, hungry foodies, stylish fashionistas and culture vultures come together and create new experiences. And I just had to be a part of that.
After a full day of traveling, we arrived at our Airbnb, just a hop skip and jump from Orchard Street in the heart of Singapore. I love using Airbnb for my travels. Our private apartment included a gym, pool, and jacuzzi. Our host was super sweet and beyond helpful. It's so easy to book with Airbnb, plus it’s typically cheaper than staying in hotels and you get a real feel for how the locals live. If you’re new to Airbnb, click here to sign up and you’ll get $30 to put toward your next booking for free!
After a slow and lazy morning spent at our Airbnb, we headed out for a walk and stumbled upon Artisan Boulangerie Co. This was the perfect spot for grabbing a bite to eat and a coffee before exploring the city. After all, there’s nothing worse than being hangry while traveling! I opted for the avocado toast smash on fresh bread with a poached egg and it was delicious.
First stop: Singapore Botanic Gardens. This beautiful place is home to Singapore’s oldest gardens and is the country’s very first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was transformed from a disused plantation in 1859 and has continued to grow into the breathtaking and peaceful attraction it is now.
No matter what time of day or evening you visit, the Botanic Gardens are always buzzing with joggers keeping fit, families spending some quality time together and tourists exploring one of the most scenic parts of Singapore. There’s always a fantastic atmosphere and if you ever visit the country, you’ve got to check it out!
I love nature and it truly feeds my soul. The grounds are huge and you could easily spend an entire day here if you wanted. But with just one weekend in Singapore, we only had an hour to explore and spent it walking from one side of the gardens to the other.
We cooled off with delicious pink lemonades at Bee’s Knees – a café set inside a historical building dating back to the 1920’s in the Botanic Gardens. If you’re feeling hungry, they offer sandwiches, pizzas, truffle fries, and sweet treats. The Botanic Gardens are free and y’all definitely need to bring comfy shoes, a hat, sunscreen, and water.
When I booked my trip to Singapore and began researching where to go and what to see, I came across Haji Lane and thought “Yes! I can see myself there.” If you’re looking for something different to the BIG shopping malls, consider spending the afternoon there.
Haji Lane is filled with cute boutiques, quaint cafés, and gorgeous street art. Almost all the buildings are covered in fascinating murals that look like they belong in a gallery. The incredible details, unique ideas and bright colors will leave you so mesmerized you honestly won’t know where to look!
While exploring Haji Lane I stepped into an adorable jewelry shop called SSFW. It stands for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. I love bringing back a piece of jewelry from each trip I take to remind me of the wonderful memories I have from faraway places. SSFW has a beautiful selection of jewelry, candles, and stationery. Be sure to pop in for the perfect accessory from Singapore.
About halfway down Haji Lane I spotted Moosh Soft Serve. They were serving up the most amazzzing flavor combos. Strawberry cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, s’mores, apple crumble, ondeh-ondeh + Nutella brownie cheesecake were just a few of the oodles of options available. It was a tough decision choosing just one, but I decided on the Nutella brownie cheesecake and was not disappointed.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the street art along Haji Lane. There are plenty of gorgeous examples along the main street. But if you turn down the side roads and explore off-the-beaten track, you’ll find even more beautiful and intricate works of art. Some of my favorites were paintings of larger-than-life Mayans with brightly colored headdresses and an amazing house covered in fluorescent geometric designs with tie-dye mannequins precariously leaning over the roof’s edge.
We spent the afternoon along Orchard Street, a place often described as every shopper’s paradise. And we certainly wouldn’t argue! For fashionistas, there’s every kind of store selling everything you could possibly want, from top-end designers offering the latest catwalk styles to family-run boutiques selling delicate handmade jewelry. There’s a reason it’s Asia’s most famous shopping street!
Orchard Street is also an amazing place for foodies, with everything from gourmet Michelin-starred restaurants serving decadent tasting menus to incredible street food kiosks offering a true taste of Singapore.
Our Airbnb wasn’t too far from Clarke Quay so we got more steps added heading that way. This incredible part of Singapore is home to an exciting nightlife scene, with many of the old colonial buildings having been transformed into fine dining restaurants and chic cocktail lounges. Most places had an amazing view over the river and the surrounding cityscape with its sky-high buildings that make you crane your neck to see the top.
We simply had to stop off somewhere while we were in Clarke Quay and we chose Brewerks. Singapore’s longest-running microbrewery restaurant, this place has been running since 1997 and offers a great pub-style menu that made our mouths water.
I’d love to share some pics of the burgers, fries + beers we had with you, but we were so hungry, when our food arrived we wolfed it down before either of us could get our camera out! We sat outside and enjoyed people watching in the wonderfully warm temperatures for a little longer before heading back.
For our second day in Singapore, we headed to Tiong Bahru – a hipster neighborhood filled with cafes, bookstores, and local shops. We had a fantastic lunch at the café P.S. I Love You….Petit location. There are a bunch P.S. Cafés in Singapore and each one has its own vibe and character.
Petit is super casual with its takeaway setup, but they’ve also got an adorable seating area where you can relax and enjoy your food. We started off with their signature shoestring truffle fries, coated evenly with delicious truffle oil and topped with shaved fine cheese. Y’all, the portion was very generous!
We also had the Superfood Salad which was filled with juicy blueberries, toasted almonds, crunchy sunflower seeds, tart goji berries, sweet baked pumpkin, nutty quinoa, broccoli florets, baby spinach and crisp romaine lettuce, all tossed in an orange and rosemary dressing.
The Bianca Funghi Pizza is another yummy delight you really don’t want to miss. This white pizza has got an amazing mushroom-garlic base, topped with grilled king oysters, portabella mushrooms, and button mushrooms, all drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with fresh sage leaves. Even though the desserts looked truly decadent, we decided to explore Tiong Bahru and find a cute café for something sweet.
I fell in love with the book stores in Tiong Bahru. If you’re looking to buy children’s books, you’ve absolutely got to visit Woods In the Books. This charming book store is decorated in gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations depicting popular children’s book characters and it sells so many cute books and toys that I could have spent all afternoon there exploring. Woods in the Books really is such a magical place that I just can’t describe it – you’ve got to see it for yourself in person and enjoy a trip down memory lane!
Books Actually is another bookstore I discovered a few doors down. I was able to catch a pic of my travel buddy Rhea before she stepped inside Books Actually. Without even trying she always looks incredibly beautiful. Unlike your average bookstore, this one stood out to be because it was home to two cats! When I was there, the feline duo spent their time curled up on boxes of new books yet to be unpacked and lounging protectively over the colorful displays. I don’t know what you’re meant to do if you want a book a cat’s decided to rest on!
You won’t find loads of books from the bestseller list at Books Actually, but there might be a few hidden among the masses. This bookstore is mostly home to local Singaporean authors, so it’s a great place to pick up something new. And the back room’s got an eclectic collection of antiques and odds and ends that’s fun to check out while you’re there, too.
Next, we stumbled upon Plain Vanilla Bakery nestled in Tiong Bahru. This delightful café has a few rustic bikes parked permanently out front and a low-hanging wooden swing tied up with rope. These little extras are a fabulous touch and they’re what caught our eye when we were looking for somewhere to have dessert.
Although Plain Vanilla is best known for its cupcakes, we decided to try the salted caramel truffle tart. It was incredibly rich and the luxurious salted caramel oozed out the sides when I bit into it. We also tried the milk chocolate honeycomb tart. This wasn’t anywhere near as rich or sweet as the salted caramel truffle tart, but it had the most heavenly creamy texture and we loved them both.
On the way to Gardens by the Bay, we stopped at the Suntec Shopping Mall. This exciting shopping destination is filled with all kinds of international stores, including a lot of Australian ones, such as Cotton On, Typo, etc. I also got to browse a few of my favorites, like The Body Shop, Esprit, and Birkenstock.
Gardens by the Bay is a must if you go to Singapore. This huge nature park covers 250 acres of reclaimed land and includes three gorgeous parks brimming with loads of amazing stuff unlike anything else you’ll see in the world. I love the idea behind the gardens – to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” into a “City in a Garden” – and from the looks of things, all the hard work that’s gone into it is definitely paying off!
We bought tickets for the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome for just SGD$28 per person. Children’s tickets are only $15 for both attractions. If you’re planning your Singapore trip and are thinking about visiting the Gardens by the Bay (you definitely should!) you can get your tickets here.
I highly recommend spending your entire afternoon at Gardens by the Bay. We arrived just after 3pm and headed straight for the Cloud Forest. As we stepped inside, we found ourselves face-to-face with the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, standing a staggering 35 meters high!
The waterfall cascades over a huge tower covered in thick, lush greenery housing a lift that takes you to all the floors of the Cloud Forest. The cool, refreshing temperature combined with the intense humidity of the air and the unbelievable appearance of the surroundings really did make us feel like we’d stepped into another world. We spent around 1 ½ hours in the Cloud Forest, working our way through all the floors, each full of an amazing variety of plants and flowers from all over the world set out in the most beautifully enchanting ways.
The Flower Dome was just as beautiful as the Cloud Forest. It’s the largest glass greenhouse in the world, home to all kinds of exotic plants wonderfully displayed across nine different gardens. My favorite was the succulent garden. I absolutely adore succulents and have my own collection at home. Being able to see them in the realistic desert-setting created inside the Cloud Forest was fantastic!
We were also really lucky to see Dahlia Dream – a temporary floral display inspired by Chinese imperial gardens to celebrate the Year of the Dog. We spent less time at the Cloud Forest than Gardens by the Bay (around 30-60 minutes) and I loved every second of it.
Next, we bought tickets to go up on OCBC Skyway which connects the trees in the SuperTree Grove. Strolling along the 22-meter aerial walkway just before sunset felt incredible. The walkway is 128 meters long and the view from up top is definitely worth it. Once you start walking you can’t go backwards, so be sure to snap your pics along the way.
Our next attraction was the Garden Rhapsody Light Show. With an hour to spare before the show started, we had plenty of time to chill on a lush grassy lawn and sip cool white wine. This was the perfect spot to see the show. We got super comfy stretching our backs on the lawn, looking at the spectacular color-changing lights and listening to the accompanying music. The light show is completely free and is shown every evening at 7:45pm and again at 8:45pm.
Dinner was at the Refinery, which is located inside a 3-story building with a restaurant on the first floor, a speakeasy on the second, and a shared workspace on the third. Enjoying the warm temps, we sat outside where some of the tables were actually recycled petroleum drums!
We had a real feast here. For drinks, Rhea ordered a Stormy and Spice, which was a fun twist on the classic mojito cocktail made with spiced rum and ginger beer. Then to eat, we choose Salted Egg Onion Rings (they sounded too fun and unusual not to order!) and Tempura-Battered Chicken with Garlic Salt and Japanese Mayo. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of the salted egg yolk sauce that covered the onion rings, but they weren’t terrible – I’d definitely order them again. After that, we moved onto Foie Gras Beef-Noki which were drizzled in heavenly truffle oil and a Tokyo Starter Yakitori platter with “Chicken High”, Bak Kwa Asparagus and Eggplant.
Before heading out for our last day in Singapore, I snuck in a workout and nibbled on some fruit, making sure to leave plenty of room for brunch. We’d made plans with a friend we met in Thailand and she suggested meeting up at Dempsey Hill, near her home. Dempsey Hill boasts a terrific historical flavor, with restaurants and shops housed within former army barracks.
We found ourselves back at another PS Café and since the petite location was delish, we were more than happy to eat here again. The menu at the Dempsey Hill location is far more expansive. They’ve got their signature truffle fries, but also salads, tarts, sandwiches, soups, and beautifully displayed desserts. If you’re a vegetarian, you have to order the Moroccan Miracle Stack filled with roasted portobello, grilled vegetables, pesto, couscous, spice-infused tomatoes and smoked eggplant tahini puree.
If you’re in a rush, this definitely isn’t the place to go. But if you’ve got some time to spare and you want somewhere you can relax, really savor your dining experience and you don’t mind service that’s a little on the slow side, you’ll love it
With light, scattered showers, we headed back to Orchard Street where the malls offer endless shopping. ION Orchard Mall has some of my fave stores like MAC, LuluLemon, Longchamp, Sephora, and Prints.
No questions asked, for our last night in Singapore we had to visit some hawker stalls. A true gem for any street food lover, hawker stalls are small down-to-earth kiosks where you can get your hands on all kinds of amazing local delicacies for pocket change. There are thousands of hawker stalls throughout Singapore and we picked the group in Chinatown, simply because they were just was a hop, skip and jump away from us.
Upon arriving at Chinatown, we were totally blown away by its dazzling, captivating appearance. Year of the Dog decorations filled every conceivable space, illuminated by brightly-colored lights hanging above them. Traditional red lanterns were suspended above our heads and the street was bursting with locals and tourists soaking up the buzzing atmosphere and having a great time.
For the next couple of hours we moved from place to place, sampling everything from the spicy crab and chicken rice to Hokkien Mee, and carrot cake. Y’all, the spicy crab is a messy experience, but a must. The stall owner even gave us with gloves so we could dig right in. Don’t be tricked by the name spicy crab. The dish isn’t actually that spicy – it gets its name because it’s cooked in loads of aromatic spices.
Yet another misleading local dish is carrot cake. This is definitely not the carrot cake my mom makes at home for my birthday! In China, a lot of people call daikon “white carrot”, which is why this dish is called carrot cake. It tastes like a scrumptious omelet, made with steamed rice flour, water and shredded daikon which form a savory cake. The cake is then stir-fried with eggs, more radish and other seasonings to create the yummy carrot cake you’ve got to try if you’re ever in Singapore.
Something else I loved was Hokkien Mee. This Singaporean dish is one of the most popular hawker foods and comes in all kinds of varieties. The most common type is made from egg or rice noodles which are stir-fried with egg, pork, shrimp, squid and veggies, garnished with sambal and lime wedges. There’s so much going on in the dish, you get a new experience with every mouthful!
I’ve got a dessert stomach, so there’s always room for a little sweet treat afterwards. Along Temple Street we found a traditional dessert shop serving up shaved ice in loads of flavors. My day was absolutely complete with the delish mango shaved ice with fresh mango pieces on top. With an early flight back to Shanghai the next morning, we called it a night and headed back to our hotel.
We found Singapore incredibly easy to navigate. I absolutely love to walk, but with only 3 days to see the sights we ended up grabbing taxis and using Uber. Perhaps the longest we had to wait for a taxi was about 5 minutes. The metro is also unbelievably easy to navigate and we used it a lot, too.
For the ultimate experience, book a night at Marina Bay Sands Hotel and enjoy the rooftop bar and infinity pool. Self-described as the most spectacular hotel in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands has the most amazing observation deck, perched 57 stories above the heart of the city. From here you get incredible panoramic views of the cosmopolitan Marina Bay, the enchanting Supertree Grove, and all the way out to the Singapore Strait.
Even if you’re not staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, you can still visit the observation deck and get a bird’s eye view of the stunning city. Tickets for non-guests are SGD$23 for adults and SGD$17 for children.
Singapore, I knew I would fall for you and I absolutely did. Our time together was far too short, so I’ll be back. Next time I’ll be exploring Sentosa Island, MacRitchie Reservoir Park, The Singapore Zoo, and drinks at one of your incredible rooftop bars.