Once upon a time, Singapore was considered by many as nothing more than a place to stop en route to a more exciting destination. But savvy travellers know the truth – that this buzzing, cosmopolitan island, measuring just 50 kilometres from east to west – is a destination in itself.
If you've never been before, here's a rough itinerary for a brilliant 24-hour stopover.
Singapore is a modern city but there are a few pockets of history, including this key cultural area. A heady mix of the old and the new, you’ll find everything from teahouse, medicinal halls and lifestyle shops to patisseries, hipster bars and a riot of hawker stalls.
Attractions include the Chinese Heritage Centre, Sri Mariamman Hindu temple, and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, housing sacred Buddha artefacts and intriguing relics.
Take a mid-morning stroll through these 82-hectare gardens, the only tropical botanic gardens on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Founded 159 years ago, they’re home to more than 10,000 different types of plants, including a huge range of some of the most exotic orchids on the planet, in the National Orchid Garden (located within the Botanic Gardens).
If you’ve only got one day in Singapore, lunch at a traditional hawker centre is a must.
These open-air, down-to-earth food stalls serve all sorts of local dishes that are cheap and really good. Try chilli crab or chicken rice (the national dish of Singapore), washed down with a glass of sugarcane juice.
Head to the iconic Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre in Telok Ayer or the Maxwell Food Centre, near Chinatown.
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Stretching for 2.2 kilometres, Orchard Road is named after the nutmeg and pepper plantations that once lined it in the 1800s.
It’s probably the most famous shopping street in Asia, home to department stores, high-end designer boutiques, upscale markets, chic galleries and endless food and entertainment spots.
Don't fancy exploring Singapore's answer to Oxford Street in London?Check out Singapore's original hipster neighbourhood, Arab Street in the the historic Muslim quarter. It's not just the name of a street, but an area that includes Bussorah Street, Muscat Street and Bali and Haji Lanes. This is the place to go for cool little shops selling fashion, accessories and homewares, street art and hip bars and restaurants.
If you’ve never had a Singapore Sling before, make sure you sample your first at the place where they were invented: Raffles Hotel.
Named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (the ‘Founder of Singapore’), the elegant, colonial-style hotel was established in 1887 and has been serving the iconic cocktails since sometime before 1915.
So what is a Singapore Sling? It’s made using gin, Cherry Heering, Dom Benedictine, Cointreau, pineapple juice, lime juice, grenadine and Angostura bitters, topped off with a slice of pineapple and a cherry.
Normally, up to 1,500 Slings are poured at Raffles every day, but be aware that the hotel is currently undergoing a refurbishment, and not due to reopen until mid-2019.
This extraordinary botanical display covers 101 hectares and cost S$1 billion to build.
Entry to the grounds is free, but you can also buy a ticket for the Flower Dome (a.k.a ‘the largest greenhouse in the world’) and the Cloud Forest, where you’ll see the world's tallest indoor waterfall.
But the real draw has to be the 50-metre tall Supertrees. The extraordinary vertical gardens will make you feel like you’re in Avatar, and if you want a great view of the city (and aren’t afraid of heights), two of them are linked up by a 128m-long, 22m-high aerial walkway.
If you can, come back later at night for 'The Garden Rhapsody,' when the Supertrees come alive with a light and music show.
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Everyone will have told you to come here, and they’re right. The multi-billion-dollar Marina Bay Sands complex – consisting of three towers with a surfboard-esque tower resting on top – can be accessed from Gardens by the Bay in under 10 minutes via the Lions Bridge.
Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck and Tetsuya Wakuda are some of the celebrity chefs with dining hotspots at MBS, but if you’ve only got one opportunity to eat here, head straight to Cé La Vi on the 57th floor.
Here, you can have a drink at SkyBar, dinner at the restaurant (award-winning modern Asian cuisine served indoors or al fresco) or ‘get down with the kids’ at the Club Lounge. They’re all located on the 57th floor, along with the Sands Skypark public observation deck and the world's largest rooftop infinity pool.