24 hours in Singapore: food, landmarks, destinations not to miss

Don't let a short timeframe get in the way of immersing yourself in stunning Singapore. Picture: Shutterstock
Don't let a short timeframe get in the way of immersing yourself in stunning Singapore. Picture: Shutterstock

From street markets to high-end shopping malls, through to night safaris and canal rides, hawker stalls and fine dining, Singapore is one of Australia's favourite Asian destinations.

Small wonder. The tiny island has managed to pack in everything from deep cultural dives to sassy nightlife and amazing Michelin-starred restaurants. You can spend a fortune - or next to nothing. You can drive a Ferrari or take a trishaw.

Sadly, many only schedule a few days, or even hours, to discover the delights of this regional melting pot. Explore shows you the must-sees of Singapore in 24 hours.

North Bridge Road

Start your stay with a typical Singaporean breakfast. Head to one of the few surviving traditional coffee houses, Heap Seng Leong on North Bridge Road in the Downtown area. Try the kaya toast (coconut egg jam) with soft-boiled eggs and finish off with a cup of steaming kopi si (coffee with evaporated milk). It's a throwback kind of place where the decor is old Milo tins, the tables are vintage kopitiam and the chef still cuts the bread with a cleaver.

Little India

Once home to lime pits and racehorse tracks, this neighbourhood will astound you with the colour and splendour of its Hindu eateries, temples and jewellery shops. Then there are the local markets which sell almost everything from aromatic oils to gold trinkets. For a local taste of South Indian cuisine, try The Banana Leaf Apolo restaurant which specialises in fish head curry (very spicy) and chicken tikka masala (grilled meat in a spiced curry sauce). Wash it down with ice-cold local Tiger beer.

Chinatown

Spend the early afternoon in Chinatown, the enclave of Straits-Chinese labourers and immigrants which is now a neighbourhood full of hip new bars, historic temples and street markets selling food, clothing and shoes. Chinatown never sleeps - it is even more of a hive of activity in the evening. Sample the local food and finish off with an ice kachang (shaved ice, red beans and brown-sugar syrup).

Gardens by the Bay

From the Esplanade take a gentle stroll over the Helix Bridge and spend the evening exploring Gardens by the Bay to learn about tropical flora and fauna - the park spans 101 hectares. Be sure to linger until dusk when you can watch the 50-metre-tall tree-like structures of the Supertree Grove light up with a kaleidoscope of colours.

Marina Bay

Spend the evening amidst the bright lights of this soaring, ultra-modern architecture of Marina Bay Sands and catch an extravaganza of lasers, lights and water show. Head to Skypark which connects three separate mega structures at the 57th floor. Sip a cocktail or two at the rooftop Sky Bar at the super-luxury Marina Bay Sands Hotel and be dazzled by the surrounding skyscrapers.

Raffles Hotel

Fresh from a multimillion-dollar facelift, Raffles Hotel is an institution which first opened its doors in 1887. The hotel's Long Bar is the birthplace of the famous Singapore Sling cocktail. Nibble on some salty peanuts and toss the shells on the floor - the only place in Singapore where littering is allowed.

Orchard Road

For retail therapy head to Orchard Road, the 2.2-kilometre shopping boulevard, home to haute couture boutiques with all the high-end brands such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Burberry. The more moderate, local shops are often tucked away in the basement levels of shopping malls such as Ion Orchard. You will be spoilt for choice in this retail paradise.

Lau Pa Sat

If you need refuelling, there's a rich variety of local dishes such as chilli crab, hokkien prawn mee or braised pork ribs at this covered hawker centre in downtown Telok Ayer.

Arab Street

This is one of the most lively neighbourhoods filled with hip, local designer shops, cool cafes and vintage shops. Walk along Haji Lane to soak in the historic Muslim culture and visit the impressive Sultan Mosque on Muscat Street.

Fly: Singapore Airlines flies from Australia to Changi Airport with fares starting from $737 (Can), $974 (Hob), $712 (Mel) and $728 (Syd).

Walk: Book a Little India walking tour including food samples for S$38/S$18 child with The Original Singapore Walks.

Explore more: visitsingapore.com

The big three iconic dishes

Chilli crab

Mop up the spicy leftovers with steamed buns to fully enjoy this famous dish of mud crabs in rich tomato and chilli sauce.

Satay

Skewers of grilled marinated meat eaten Singapore-style: dipped in sweet peanut sauce, with sides of cucumbers and rice cakes.

Laksa

It's all in the broth - a fragrant, spicy delight. Try seafood or chicken laksa, topped with bean sprouts, tofu, noodles and spicy sambal.