Your essential guide to Singapore

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By Kee Foong

Hong Kong-based journalist Kee is a former editor of LUXE City Guides, whose work has appeared in titles including The Times, Tatler and Design Anthology.

Find your bearings

Asia’s lion city is spotlessly clean and refreshingly green, and after more than 50 years of statehood, it has most definitely arrived on the scene, with a slew of hot restaurants, hip bars, chic shops, excellent museums and knockout attractions to rival any in the region. In the thick of the action is one of the best luxury hotels in the city-state, Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, located in the Marina Bay business district. Here, you’re strolling distance to the mega entertainment complex of Marina Bay Sands, the futuristic Gardens by the Bay – with its giant trees and cloud forests – and the city’s old colonial centre, where historic landmarks have been repurposed as world-class cultural institutions. In fact, just about everywhere on a visitor’s wish list is never more than a short taxi ride away.

Feed your mind

An ambitious restoration project transformed two grand neoclassical buildings – the former Supreme Court and City Hall – into the singular National Gallery Singapore, home to the world’s largest collection of southeast Asian art and good drinking and dining options. Also in the area is The Arts House in the Old Parliament Building, which hosts a rotating roster of performances and exhibitions, as well as the Asian Civilisations Museum for a crash course in local and regional history. For art that’s in the here and now, hop in a cab to the STPI, a terrific gallery that partners with leading contemporary artists such as Doh Ho Suh and Ryan Gander to create original works in print and on paper.

National Gallery

Discover Singaporean and South East Asian art from the 19th-century up to the present-day at the National Gallery.

National Gallery

Feast your eyes on the National Gallery's range of experimental art.

The Singapore Tyler Print Institute

Celebrate the unveiling of new exhibitions at The Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

Suzann Victor

Explore Singapore-born artist Suzann Victor's latest exhibition.

Shop like a local

Singapore is mall central, with nearby Orchard Road a concrete and glass retail canyon. Shop instead at Tiong Bahru, a recently gentrified neighbourhood filled with independent boutiques. Books Actually is crammed with all manner of literature for the curious mind and Woods in the Books specialises in picture books. Nana & Bird carries independent international womenswear; Floral Atelier bursts with gorgeous bouquets and blooms; Maissone is a treasure trove of covetable bedding, homeware and objects; and Curated Records will satisfy rare-vinyl enthusiasts. The Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre is a great place to sample hawker fare, such as chicken rice and har mee prawn noodles.

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Only in Singapore...

"If you’re heading out for a walk in Singapore, expect to be overtaken by the locals. According to research by the British Council, Singaporeans have the fastest walking speed in the world, covering a distance of 18 metres in 10.55 seconds – the same speed as a bumblebee in flight!"

Christian Hassing, General Manager, Mandarin Oriental, Singapore

See some sights

With the world’s largest glass greenhouse, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and towering supertrees that resemble a film set from Avatar, it’s no wonder Gardens by the Bay is one of Singapore’s most popular attractions. It’s an easy walk from the hotel and is great for a jog, quiet contemplation or entertaining the family. Also ideal for families is the Night Safari, where kids can get up close with lions and tigers and bears. Want to see cows lazing about in Chinatown? Then visit the vibrant Sri Mariamman Temple, a Hindu house of worship where bovine sculptures lie on top of the temple’s walls.

Toast your arrival

If it’s cocktail time, head for Axis Bar and Lounge, a sophisticated venue with fantastic city and skyline views. The Mandarin Sling, made with mandarin vodka, cherry brandy, passionfruit juice, peach purée, orange and lemon is the tropics in a glass. Smoke & Mirrors, atop the National Gallery Singapore has a wraparound terrace with terrific panoramic views, or for a more intimate experience, Employees Only, in the Chinatown district, is the first international outpost of the cult New York cocktail bar.

Make time to unwind

Make time to unwind

Spa & Wellness

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore is a spa sanctuary of marble and dark wood, with two suites especially for couples, as well as separate heat and water experiences for men and women. Unique to the Singapore property is the Teh Hijau treatment, which targets fatigued muscles and joints with the aid of a green-tea infused poultice.

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Dine in style 

You’re never far from great food in Singapore and one of the city-state’s best restaurants – Dolce Vita – is in-house at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore. Set poolside, it’s a slice of the Italian Riviera in a pulsing Asian metropolis. Don’t miss the handmade buffalo mozzarella from Naples, or the restaurant’s signature lasagna, made with 25 layers of pasta, meat and sauce. It would be a shame not to sample Singapore’s de facto national dish, chilli crab, and one of the most popular places to eat it is at No Signboard, with a branch conveniently located opposite the hotel. Slightly further afield, Chef Andre Chiang’s eponymous French fine diner, Restaurant André, is a regular on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, so book well ahead.

Restaurant Andre

Sit back in the luxe-surroundings of Restaurant Andre.

Octaphilosophy

Discover chef Andre's unique Octaphilosophy in each of his deliciously precise dishes.

Dolce Vita

Dolce Vita serves up exquisite fine dining at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore.

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Dolce Vita

Putting a modern spin on classic Italian flavours at Dolce Vita.

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Time travel

In 1893, Agnes Joaquim discovered the world's first cultivated orchid hybrid, known as Vanda 'Miss Joaquim'. In 1981, her orchid officially became the national flower of Singapore.

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And finally

You don’t need to leave the comfort of your hotel room to enjoy spectacular views of the nightly light and fountain show, which takes place in Marina Bay.

Gallery

Cloud Forest

See the extraordinary Cloud Forest in a greenhouse at Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Adobe Stock

Supertrees

The incredible Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay are not trees at all, but vertical gardens. Photo: Getty Images

National Orchid Garden

Experience the National Orchid Garden at Singapore Botanic Gardens. Photo: Adobe Stock

Singapore Botanic Gardens

The bandstand in Singapore Botanic Gardens is a national landmark. Photo: Getty Images