Exploring Singapore: Eating and Shopping in Southeast Asia’s Urban Jungle

Nicknamed the lion city, Singapore is  the place to go if you want a food and shopping-fillled holiday in the heart of Southeast Asia

Credit: Angela Poon

Colourful lanterns cast a dreamy glow on Singapore’s Chinatown

An international metropolis boasting a tropical climate, enviable shopping, and mouthwatering cuisine, Singapore is a sunny oasis for urban travellers

Perhaps best known for its strict regulations (no chewing gum!) and high level of cleanliness, Singapore is a warm, friendly place that celebrates diverse cultures and religions, and unites in its two favourite national pastimes – shopping and eating!

Densely populated (more than five million residents live in an area the same size as Metro Victoria), Singapore is also home to an impressive amount of reserve land, solidifying the island country as a true urban jungle – concrete high-rises and never-ending construction easily co-exist with lush, tropical plants, trees, and reservoirs.

Eating in Singapore

Chilli crab is a national favourite dish (Image: Angela Poon)

Despite Singapore’s multi-cultural mix, one thing unites Singaporeans above all else – an intense love of food! A foodie’s paradise, Singapore offers fresh, delicious food to suit every price point. Whether at an open-air ‘hawker’ centre, shopping mall food court, or restaurant, you’re guaranteed speedy service and excellent food.

While any Singaporean’s list of must-try favourites would have you eating non-stop for a month, the following dishes are a great – albeit brief – introduction to Singaporean cuisine.

Kaya toast

A quintessential breakfast, kaya toast is thinly sliced toast served with slabs of butter and kaya – a jam-like spread made of eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan – designed to be dunked into soft-boiled eggs, and washed down with a hot cup of creamy kopi – Singapore’s local version of coffee.

Noodles are the basis for several beloved dishes, slurped down by locals at any time of day. Your best bets? Mee siam – rice vermicelli, egg, tofu, and shrimp in a spicy, sweet and sour gravy; hokkien mee – noodles immersed in a thick, creamy sauce, accompanied by prawns, fish cake, deep-fried shallots and fresh lime; and curry laksa – a spicy, coconut-based soup often served with rice noodles, tofu, fish cake, and shrimp.

A sacred dish held near and dear to Singaporeans’ hearts, chilli crab is revered for its fresh, meaty crab and thick, flavourful chilli sauce. Make sure to order extra chilli sauce for dunking!

Tropical fruit durian isn’t just adored – it’s practically worshipped. With a spiky, oblong shell, the inner fruit boasts a strong, pungent smell and a texture akin to brie cheese. Durian may be an acquired taste, but a must-try for any adventurous foodie!

What to See in Singapore

The National Orchid Garden is a lush oasis (Image: Angela Poon)

While your visit to Singapore is likely to be centred on food, a number of can’t miss sights will keep you busy between meals.

An ever-expanding city, Singapore’s waterfront is constantly evolving. Starting at The Esplanade Theatres on the Bay (affectionately known as the Durian for its resemblance to the fruit), walk south down Esplanade Drive to catch a view of the downtown financial centre and the towering Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Continue across Esplanade to take your photo with Singapore’s beloved Merlion statue. Then head west across Fullerton Road to visit the few remaining colonial-style buildings that line the historic Singapore River.

Singapore’s Merlion

Whether you’re a shopper at heart or not, a visit to Singapore’s high-end shopping district, Orchard Road, is a must. With glittering, multi-story shopping malls, a plethora of designer shops, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and majestic trees lining the street, a stroll down this retail thoroughfare is an exciting feast for the senses.

A lush oasis in the centre of town, Singapore Botanic Gardens is a rejuvenating escape from busy traffic and hot, humid weather. Offering shaded paths and beautiful greenery; you’ll catch many locals jogging or practicing tai chi early in the morning. The true gem of the botanic gardens is the National Orchid Garden. Home to hundreds of orchid species in every hue imaginable, this is a peaceful stroll through a vast and impressive collection of one-of-a-kind flowers.

Singapore’s Popular Attractions

The Singapore Flyer is the world’s largest observation wheel (Image: Angela Poon)

Far from just a place to eat and shop, Singapore offers visitors a long list of attractions to choose from, many considered favourites by locals, too.

Singapore has no shortage of vista lookouts, with views stretching across the city and over the Singapore Strait. On a clear day, many views even offer a distant glance at neighbouring Malaysia. One of the most exciting ways to rise above the city is in the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest observation wheel. Visitors are treated to 360-degree views from within a rotating glass pod.

A world leader in environmental conservation, Singapore’s most recent addition to the conversation is the newly opened Gardens by the Bay, located in the heart of Singapore’s new waterfront. Featuring two themed garden domes highlighting flora from around the world, the real star of this attraction is the Supertree Grove – an open-air collection of towering structures standing as tall as 16 storeys. With solar panels and a living skin of local vegetation, Supertree offers guests educational factoids about the state of the world’s green space.

Singapore Zoo

The new home for giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the Singapore Zoo is a magical place. With a sprawling terrain, Singapore’s rainforest zoo features more than 300 species from around the world. Highlights include a perfectly choreographed elephant show, sure to entertain all members of your group, and the free-ranging orangutans, happily swinging across vines throughout the park.

To continue the animal love, visit the famed Night Safari, a neighbouring theme park that brings you up close and personal with animals that come alive in the moonlight.

To plan your perfect tropical urban getaway, visit YourSingapore.com.