Singapore is a city, an island, and a nation of more than 5 million people. It blends a rich culture with a sleek future. Here is our Ultimate Guide to 2 days in Singapore.
Singapore marries a colonial past, rich culture, and unique heritage with a sleek, progressive future that is constantly reinventing itself. This clean, safe cosmopolitan city brims with possibilities. Iconic architecture, interactive museums, charming multi-cultural neighborhoods, famous shopping streets, thriving arts and entertainment scenes, lively dining and drinking spots, and many must-see attractions.
A gateway to Asia and beyond, Singapore is a city, an island, and a nation. Its more than 5 million inhabitants blend Malay, Chinese, Arab, Indian, Indonesian and English cultures and beliefs. Lying at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula and 85 miles north of the Equator. Singapore is a renowned financial and business hub and home to the largest port in Southeast Asia—one of the busiest in the world. This Ultimate Guide to Singapore in 2 Days introduces the Lion City’s possibilities.
The Civic District, the Birthplace of Modern-Day Singapore
Start your Singapore trip in the Civic District, where modern Singapore began and continues to thrive. In 1819 British statesman Sir Stamford Raffles successfully negotiated for the island, then known as Singapura, to become British territory. Singapore’s strategic location at the southern entrance to the Malacca Straits made it an important port, militarily and commercially, in the Spice Trade sea routes linking the East and West.
To better organize this burgeoning trading port, in 1822, Stamford Raffles instigated a city master plan with the Civic District at its heart. An urban area of approximately one square mile from Fort Canning Hill to the north, along the Singapore River to the river mouth and waterfront, and back up Bras Basar Road enclosing the square. Two Civic District examples combining the past and present are the National Gallery Singapore and the Victoria Theater and concert Hall.
National Gallery Singapore
The original City Hall and former Supreme Court have been joined and reborn as an award-winning and progressive art museum. The National Gallery Singapore displays the world’s most extensive collection of Southeast Asian art, including works from Singaporean artists.
Pro Tip: The art of hospitality is also on display across these two buildings, with eleven cafes and restaurants. My favorite is the National Kitchen, helmed by local celebrity chef Violet Oon. The restaurant celebratesth refined local flavors reflecting Singapore’s colorful culinary heritage.
Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall
Neighboring the national gallery is the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, which began as the Town Hall in 1862. In 1901 the Queen Victoria Memorial Hall was added, and a clocktower joined the buildings. In 2014 a $180 million restoration brought performance facilities up to international standards. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra, and Symphony Choruses now call Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall home. Be sure to stop and admire the bronze statue of Sir Stamford Raffles outside the Clocktower entrance.
Singapore’s Waterfront, a Must Stop During 2 Days in Singapore
Exploring the waterfront offers great options during your 2 days in Singapore. Here are some of my top picks.
Across the river via the Cavengeah Bridge from the Raffles Statue is the imposing Fullerton Hotel. Meander the riverside public walkway in front of the Fullerton to Merlion Park, home to the 61-foot-tall statue of the mythical creature with the body of a fish and a lion’s head. The much-photographed Merlion is the city symbol of Singapore.
Merlion Park also provides an outstanding view across the water to Marina Bay Sands, with its three hotel towers topped by the SkyPark Observation Deck in the shape of a boat. And in the foreground of Marina Bay Sands, in the form of a lotus flower, is the ArtScience Museum, where art, science, culture, and technology come together.
Nightly at 8 pm, Marina Bay Sands hosts Spectra – A Light & Water Show, a free outdoor extravaganza best viewed from the waterfront Event Plaza. The 15-minute show is a choreographed symphony of dancing fountains, colorful visual projections, advanced lasers, and lava and mist effects with an orchestral soundtrack.
Gardens by the Bay
Located by the Marina Bay Waterfront, Gardens by the Bay is a showpiece of horticulture and garden artistry presenting the plant kingdom in a new way. Comprising 101 hectares (about 250 acres), Garden by the Bay features three enormous, architecturally stunning glass conservatories and the Supertree Grove.
Flower Dome is the larger of three cooled conservatories and home to plants and flowers from five continents, from thousand-year-old olive trees to magnolias and orchids. Floral Fantasy, the second of the Gardens’ three indoor conservatories, takes inspiration from the storied Hanging Gardens of Babylon and fairy tales. The aptly named Cloud Forest is a mist-filled conservatory centered around the 115-foot-tall ‘Cloud Mountain.’ An elevated walkway allows you to climb while discovering rare vegetation from the tropical highlands and enjoying the dramatic vistas.
Exit the conservatory and enter a grove of soaring, surreal structures known as the Supertrees. These vertical gardens span 80 to 160 feet in height. The dramatic arch of a Skyway connects two towering structures. At dusk, Garden Rhapsody, a spectacle of light and sound, lights up the grove. Ascend to the top of the Supertree Observatory for an unobstructed view of Singapore and the Marina Bay district.
Colorful Heritage Districts
There are many heritage districts throughout Singapore. Here are some you should visit during your 2 days in Singapore.
Mosques and temples invite exploration, with Sri Veeramkaliamman Temple a must-see. Indian Heritage Centre provides an overview of Indian history. Shopping is a discovery tour with spice stalls, markets, and exotic food vendors. You’ll find colorful saris, flower garlands, exotic fruit and vegetables, and unfussy eateries with spicy, tangy curries. Sunday can be particularly busy. Little India is most vibrant during Hindu celebrations like the Deepavali festival of lights.
Chinatown’s maze of narrow roads includes Chinatown Food Street, with its restaurants serving traditional dishes like Hainanese chicken rice, noodles, and satay. Indie boutiques and souvenir shops dot the area, offering clothes, crafts, and antiques, while the Ann Siang Hill and Club Street area is full of trendy wine bars. Cultural institutions here include the ornate Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. The Chinatown Heritage Centre introduces visitors to the personal stories of early residents.
Sentosa—Singapore’s Island Escape is an Absolute Must During 2 Days in Singapore
It may be a surprise that the island state of Singapore comprises 64 islands, with many a short ferry ride away. The closest and most popular is Sentosa, an island connected to the southern tip of Singapore by a causeway, monorail, or cable car from Mount Faber Park and Peak.
Sentosa’s role has changed from a strategic military fort under British rule to now being the city’s beloved island escape with tropical beaches, luxurious hotels, and thrilling attractions. Sentosa in Malay means “peace and tranquillity.”
The Sentosa Line inter-island cable car is a panoramic journey across the island, stopping at key locations. As well as the beaches, the island boasts walking, cycling, and nature trails, plus two stunning first-class golf courses. At the island’s top is Fort Siloso, a restored World War II coastal fort housing a military museum with interactive exhibits and tours. The Universal Studios theme park remains one of the most popular attractions for families and the young at heart.
Pro tip: Before leaving after a day at one of the island’s three main beaches–Siloso, Palawan, and Tanjong–book a seat at the spectacular Wings Of Time night show. Blending visuals, light, sound, water, and pyrotechnics effects, this award-winning multi-sensory show tells of the magical adventure of Shahbaz, a prehistoric bird, and his friends as they travel across time.
Shopping in Singapore
Singapore packs in more malls per square mile than many, making it one of the world’s best shopping destinations. If time is short, the famous Orchard Road, with modern high-fashion mega-malls like ION Orchard and Paragon, is a must. In contrast, the fading glory of Far East Asia (great for cheap food and fashion) and Lucky Plaza are ever-popular with bargain hunters. There is always time for shopping at the 24/7 Mustafa Centre in Little India. Adored by locals and visitors alike, this mall is big, crowded, and noisy, with abundant products from textiles to watches and electronics. Most items sell at low prices.
Singapore’s Food Story
Some of Singapore’s most famous dishes include the spice-rich Laksa noodle soup, Char kway teow, Hainanese chicken rice, and Chilli Crab, often considered Singapore’s national dish. Savor authentic and scrumptious creations at the bustling and atmosphere-rich hawker centers to Michelin-starred hot spots.
Understand that Singapore’s Michelin Guide is not just about top-end restaurants. Indeed of the 247 listings in the 2022 Guide, more than 100 are Hawker Style food outlets, meaning eating your way through the Singapore food scene can be both tasty and gentle on the wallet.
Pro-tip: My favorite Hawker Centre, Lau Pa Sat, is in the CBD, a Victorian building seating hundreds. Frequented by locals and visitors, you can eat your way around Asia many times and still not sample every stall.
Where to Stay During Your 2 Days in Singapore
Singapore and Sentosa island have an abundance of accommodation offerings for all budgets. Heritage-rich hotels include Raffles, the Fullerton Hotel, and Hotel Fort Canning in Singapore city. Try The Barracks, with its British military backstory, for a luxe hotel in Sentosa. Or for accommodations with modern-day history, the Capella Hotel, which hosted the historic meeting between North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and USA’s Donald Trump in 2018, is a fabulous option.
Getting Around Singapore
Singapore’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and bus systems have an extensive and efficient network of routes helping you zip around the city, with the most popular attractions a short walk away from an MRT station. Since the pandemic, businesses big and small have moved to cashless transactions, including the MRT. Stored Value Cards like EZ-Link make this process easy to tap and go.
Arrival Tips for your Guide to 2 Days in Singapore
Singapore’s Changi continues to rate among the world’s top three airports. Located on the island’s eastern side, the travel time from the airport to the city is 25 minutes by metered taxi, Grab, or Uber. The MRT airport train is 30-45 minutes, depending on your destination in Singapore.
Most visitors to Singapore do not require a visa for entry. All international visitors must submit an electronic SG Arrival Card which may be completed up to three days before arrival, reducing time in the immigration queue.
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Ultimate Guide to 2 Days in Singapore
Previously seen as a ‘stopover’ for visitors on their way elsewhere, Singapore is now one of South East Asia’s top destinations. This Ultimate Guide to Singapore in 2 Days introduces you to some of the Lion City’s potential. Given the richness of its ever-developing visitor offerings, your first visit may spark many more. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide when planning a longer trip to Asia or anywhere you want to plan an ultimate 2-Day escape.