From shopping for sale bargains in luxury malls to feasting on local delicacies at food festivals or picnicking at an open-air ballet, the city-state is a sybarite’s delight this month
A local dish at the Singapore Food Festival
The Singaporeans’ twin obsessions are eating and shopping, and the best month to indulge in both of these national pastimes is July, when the city hosts two of its most popular events.
Now in its 20th year, the Singapore Food Festival (11 to 20 July) celebrates the city-state’s diverse cuisine with its Chinese, Malay, Peranakan (a mix of Chinese and Malay) and Indian influences. Look out for local favourites such as chilli crab and chicken rice at food stalls and cooking demos across the island, including Chinatown and Little India. Or head to restaurant the Cherry Garden at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore to sample authentic Cantonese cuisine in an opulent setting.
Find bargains at one of the luxury Orchard Road malls
The Great Singapore Sale (until 27 July) is shopping heaven for locals, with savings of up to 70 per cent across fashion, electrical and other goods. Visit any of the city’s many malls to join in, and as a tourist you’ll get the tax refunded too. The smartest are along Orchard Road, a 2km-long leafy thoroughfare. You’ll be glad of the shops’ air con during the scorching heat of the day.
July is also the month to see one of Singapore’s most charming events, Ballet Under the Stars, held by the Singapore Dance Theatre. The outdoor performances, a mixed bill this year, take place at the historic Fort Canning Green (18 to 20 July and 25 to 27 July). Pre-order a picnic basket from renowned local restaurant Cocotte and tuck into an al fresco feast in this verdant hillside setting.
The Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay
The evening is a good time to explore Gardens by the Bay, a multimillion-dollar, man-made park across the marina from Mandarin Oriental, Singapore. The Gardens include two huge conservatories aping different climates and featuring plants from around the world as well as dizzyingly high ‘supertrees’ – part sculpture, part plant. Twice-nightly music and light shows make them appear all the more surreal. Throughout July the venue will showcase a Persian Garden flower display as part of its year-long ‘Around the World’ floral series.
Housed in a colonial-era former British army camp and now a contemporary arts hub, Gillman Barracks is an interesting destination in itself. Several local and international galleries are based here and art and history tours are held regularly. Added to this, until 20 July the venue will showcase works from the region with the No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia exhibition. Artists include Singapore’s Tang Da Wu, Vincent Leong from Malaysia and Reza Afisina from Indonesia.
Contemporary art at the 'No Country' show at Gillman Barracks
The Dragon Boat Festival takes place every July in Singapore at Bedok Reservoir, a 20-minute taxi ride from the city centre. As well as the spectacle of 22-strong crews competing in colourful boats, look out for ba ching. These rice dumplings wrapped in banana leaves are a traditional part of the Dragon Boat Festival, dating back to when the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan flung himself into the Mei Lo river in protest of the government. Legend has it that local fishermen threw ba ching into the river to stop the fish from eating Qu Yuan. The tradition continues today and ba ching are also served as a tasty snack. In Singapore, everything is about the food.
Gillian Rhys is a British lifestyle journalist based in Singapore. She edits the Luxe Singapore city guide