An Insider’s Guide to Singapore: What to Eat, See and Do

Where to score mouth-watering local delights, the most scenic hiking trails and more

Where to score mouth-watering local delights, the most scenic hiking trails and more

Hit rom-com Crazy Rich Asians might have showcased Singapore on the big screen, but how much do you know of the tropical city and what should you do when you visit?

As a born-and-bred Singaporean now based in Vancouver, I’ll clue you in on where to find delicious hawker food, the hottest hikes to go on, popular attractions that even locals love to hang out at, and what the nightlife scene is like…

1. Take your taste buds on an adventure

Food options in Singapore are diverse, immense and cater to every type of budget. For a taste of Southeast Asian delicacies that are also wallet-friendly, a hawker centre is your best bet.

Try barbecued stingray topped with a spicy sambal sauce or an omelette peppered with plump, raw oysters at buzzy hotspot Fengshan Market & Food Centre (or what the locals call Bedok 85). Other hawker centres frequented by Singaporeans include Tiong Bahru Food Centre and Amoy Street Food Centre.

Don’t leave Singapore without trying some (or all) of these dishes: nasi lemak, which means “coconut rice” in Malay; laksa, a coconut milk-based noodle soup served with seafood; fried carrot cake, a savoury dish made of rice flour and preserved radish; roti prata, aka Indian flatbread dipped in flavourful curry; chilli and black pepper crabs; and ice kacang, a sweet dessert made of shaved ice, red beans, grass jelly and other toppings.

Insider tip: The hawker centre featured in the Crazy Rich Asians, Newton Food Centre, is typically patronized by tourists, so food prices may be higher than normal.

2. Work up a sweat

All that eating (and the heavy, oily nature of local food) may make you feel bloated and lethargic. Beat the slump with a hike at the MacRitchie Treetop Walk, Singapore’s version of the North Shore’s Capilano Suspension Bridge. You just might meet a few inquisitive (and greedy) monkeys along the way too.

Take a slow evening stroll and try birdwatching along The Southern Ridges, a 10-kilometre trail filled with greenery. A stand-out feature on this trail is the Henderson Waves, a bridge that features a gently undulating wave-like design that provides welcome shade and ample photo opportunities.

Insider tip: Go in the early mornings or evenings when the weather is cooler to avoid heat damage or dehydration.

3. Explore Singapore’s multiracial culture

After strolling through the bustling streets of Chinatown, make your way to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, which showcases Buddhist art and history. Also nearby is the Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, where you’ll be wowed by its elaborate sculptures.

Visit Kampong Glam (the Arab quarter) and marvel at the intricate architectural details within the Sultan Mosque, and check out Haji Lane for fun vintage finds. The St. Andrew’s Cathedral, the largest in Singapore that features a neo-Gothic architectural approach, is also situated close by.

Insider tip: Dress appropriately if you plan to visit these places of worship.

4. Marvel at world-famous attractions

Jewel at Changi Airport is a stunning retail and entertainment complex designed by famed architect Moshe Safdie. Its biggest draw: a rain vortex billed as the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Other attractions here include bouncy nets suspended high in the air, a mirror maze and the first Shake Shack joint in these parts.

For another impressive architectural feat that brings you closer to nature, pay a visit to Gardens by the Bay. The family-friendly attraction boasts a lush indoor conservatory, a flower dome filled with gorgeous blooms, a water play feature for children and more.

Insider tip: Head down on weekday afternoons to avoid the crowds.

5. Check out the city’s vibrant nightlife

When night falls, the city comes alive. Do a pub crawl along Circular Road; admire panoramic views at Marina Bay Sands’ restaurant-skybar Ce La Vi; and party up a storm at Clarke Quay.

Other activities that locals enjoy in the wee hours: Watching a late-night flick or going for supper at establishments that stay open till 2 a.m. or around the clock. In short: there will never be a dull moment in Singapore!

Insider tip: Use ride-hailing apps like Grab or Gojek to bring you to each destination. Prices may be cheaper than hailing a regular taxi and they usually arrive within 10 minutes.