The futuristic city of Singapore hangs from the tip of the Malay Peninsula like a glistening mirror ball. This 'Garden City' is arguably the food capital of Asia, but the island state is also renowned as an economic powerhouse. It's a true embodiment of modern cultural diversity: a synergy of East and West, past and present, modern and traditional.
The Padang is a must visit, a green space at the heart of the city and witness to many of Singapore's important historical moments and landmarks. On nearby Waterloo Street, Chinese temples, synagogues and Indian temples stand virtually side-by-side – evidence of this city's cultural diversity. It’s continued in Little India, a mini-Mumbai of temples, restaurants and shops, where you’re greeted by the heavy scent of spices and jasmine and leave carting carvings, silverware, and colourful silk saris. Then, among the Arab Quarter's gilded domes, share mint tea with carpet traders or pick up traditional kebaya dresses or handmade perfumes.
Little India, Singapore
Over in Chinatown, one of the most attractive areas of the city, lies an abundance of shophouses, street markets, bars and restaurants. In fact, there's two – the official Niu Che Shui and the newer Geylang ‘People's Chinatown', with more of an authentic feel. It's all lined with Indian shrines, mosques and churches alongside the Chinese monasteries and temples.
And, when it comes to dining, Singapore is up there among the world’s best, from fine modern-Singaporean cuisine at top Michelin restaurants to local, authentic street food, found in a plethora of hawker markets and food courts. With all tastes and budgets catered for, it's a foodie's haven. After, wash it all down with everything from stylish rooftop bars with awe-inspiring city views to hole-in-the-wall bars that serve locally-inspired concoctions.
Singapore is also home to myriad green spaces, from the 250 acres of the waterfront Gardens by the Bay featuring the world's largest glass greenhouse and indoor waterfall to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a National Orchid Garden, swan lake and tropical trees.
Gardens by the Bay
Views across the skyline of Singapore and beyond to Malaysia and the Indonesian islands are best viewed from the world's largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer. At 165 metres tall, it's among the varied attractions of the thriving Marina Bay area that's home to myriad shops, galleries, walkways and restaurants alongside luxury hotels. Shopping is something of a national obsession in Singapore and Orchard Road is its most famous district: a long expanse of gleaming shopping centres and boutiques flanked by tree-lined walkways. The one-way road buzzes with activity day and night, not least in the run up to the ‘Christmas Light Up' and Chinese New Year when the streets are filled with parades.
Singapore is a fantastic city for children – the open zoo is particularly popular, home to more than 300 species, including rare Asian animals such as the Komodo dragon, Sumatran tiger and clouded leopard, and a large colony of orangutan. Next door is also the world's first nocturnal zoo, the Night Safari, where guests can enjoy a safari through the jungle, via tram or on foot with a private guide.
A mix of theme parks, golf courses, beaches and hotels, just south awaits the beautiful Sentosa Island. Once a fishing village, Sentosa translates as ‘peace and tranquillity' in Malay – although during Singapore's school holidays, the locals come in their hordes. There is something for everyone, though, from the scenic cable car ride to the sprawling Fort Siloso, which reveals the story of Singapore's occupation and relief in the Second World War. The newest addition is Resorts World, a medley of shows, rides and attractions, among them the world's largest oceanarium.