Singapore highlights in a day

Interior of St Andrew’s Church

It may be a small island state with the affectionate nickname of ‘the small red dot’ yet Singapore has no shortage of things to see and do. Its compact size and hassle free transport system ensures the most productive day of sightseeing possible. It is possible to fit in a great deal of history, culture, fun and entertainment in a single day without feeling rushed. In fact, even if you are only passing through, transit passengers at Changi Airport can take advantage of free bus tours of the city.

Here are our recommended top picks for a perfect day of sightseeing and culture in Singapore. There is a lot to fit in but take it leisurely and you are sure to encounter a few surprises and hidden gems along the way.

Recommended Singapore one day highlights

National Museum
Start your whirlwind Singapore experience with a history lesson at Singapore’s national Museum, itself housed in a stunning colonial mansion house.

It features a number of large interactive galleries dedicated to the island’s rich cultural heritage as seen through the ethnic Chinese, Indian and Malay communities. There is ancient tribal art, medieval relics and some weird and wonderful artefacts, all adding up to a fascinating journey into the past.

You can spend as much time as you want here as there is so much to see, but if you are travelling with young children in tow then it may be best to head to the must-see galleries before they get tired.

Colonial District

From here it is an easy stroll to the heart of the colonial district. Take a brisk walking tour and glimpse imposing neo classical civic buildings such as City Hall and the charming Victoria Theatre. The very British Old Parliament Building and the St Andrews Cathedral hark back to a bygone age of empire and is only surpassed by a visit to the iconic Raffles Hotel.

No one should miss out on a stroll through the teeming Chinatown district, however short your stay is. It is a mish-mash of animated street markets, charming multi-coloured pre-war shop houses and chaotic hawker food centres. Soak up the aromas of fresh spices, incense, flowers and eccentric herbal remedies for sale on every street corner or visit one of the fascinating Chinese cultural centres such as the Baba House.

Singapore River
By now you should have worked up a healthy appetite for lunch. Take in the amazing modern architecture of the Marina Bay area with an al fresco meal, followed by a turn on the Singapore Flyer, the world’s highest Ferris wheel. This area is surrounded by stunning 21st century waterfront architecture best seen with a leisurely bumboat cruise. The contrast between Singapore old and new is here for all to see and makes for an intriguing photo opportunity. If you have time, check out a free open air lunchtime jazz performance outside the Theatres on the Bay arts centre.

Orchard Road
A stroll down Orchard Road is a must for all shopaholics and you will be awe struck with the sheer frenzied scale of shopping Singapore style. This road alone boasts over 40 huge malls dedicated to an eclectic range of goods from designer labels to priceless Asian art. The temptation to spend is pretty hard to resist and the choice of dining is phenomenal.

Singapore Night Safari

After an early dinner head north for a close encounter with exotic species in the wild, subtly lit to imitate natural moonlight. This is a spacious well maintained open plan zoo that features a host of fearsome looking creatures in authentic looking habitats and a great experience for youngsters. (Duration: 90 minutes)

Clarke Quay
If you still have any energy left, round off the perfect day with a late night of lounging or live music in the happening waterfront enclave of Clarke Quay. This is a late night playground of trendy bars, diners and clubs, housed in historic shop house terraces overlooking the river. There is always a cosmopolitan mix of punters here and it is the main hang out for Singapore’s huge expat crowd.

Wherever you wander you are never far from the tantalising tastes of Singaporean cuisine. Virtually every street has a host of cheap food centres or elegant international restaurants catering to every palate. Even in non touristy areas it is easy to find a suitable eatery at any time of day or night and local bites are incredibly cheap.