This article is written in collaboration with Expedia.com.au
Tiny in size, but packing a mighty punch, Singapore is far more than a stop-over for long haul flights, it’s a melting pot of culture and a veritable destination in its own right. When I think about Singapore, a few words immediately spring to mind. Clean. Friendly. Cosmopolitan. Steamy. And, Green… a lush, thriving, vivid, every-direction-your-eyes-wander level of green.
Tropical, culturally diverse and abundant with places to explore, in July we hopped on a plane to properly thaw out from an unforgiving Melbourne winter. Bound for sunshine, laptops (temporarily) closed, and cameras at the ready, here’s how we spent 48 hours in the Garden City.
We checked in to The Warehouse Hotel purely for its swoon-worthy design aesthetic.
Stepping inside the hotel lobby is instantly impressive, with a triple-pitched roof and pendant bulbs, cogs and period pulleys hanging from exposed beams. With an earthy palette of deep green marble, caramel leather and copper accents, the hotel isn’t short of elevating and considered details – boasting Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speakers in all rooms, Ashley & Co bath amenities, and a glass sided aquarium-like infinity pool on the rooftop, for those seeking.
Chic, industrial and intriguing, the shipping warehouses – or godowns – housing The Warehouse Hotel have lived a few previous lives. Sitting right on the Singapore River waterfront, among the vibrant and bustling neighbourhood of Robertson Quay, the intimate 37-room hotel has been meticulously restored, but leave subtle and telling glimpses into their fascinating and debaucherous past… if only those walls could talk.
Built in 1895, during the height of the opium trade, the warehouses sat in the heart of the Havelock Road neighbourhood – once a hotbed of secret societies, underground dens, liquor distilleries and the verifiable red light district of its time. The warehouse was later converted into Singapore’s biggest nightclub, sat dormant for a period, and then in January 2017, re-opened as the hotel it is today.
Stay here, for a convenient point of departure for exploring on foot, bike or taxi. If you’re looking for a different option to stay than the iconic Marina Bay Sands, this is your best bet.
A special shout out to Harish for his suberb cocktails and friendliest service.
The Warehouse Hotel – 320 Havelock Road, Robertson Quay
Cloud Forest – at Gardens by the Bay
Adjacent to the Marina Reservoir, you’ll find Gardens by the Bay, a sprawling nature park spanning more than 100 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore. The place we loved most within this precinct is the Cloud Forest. Veiled in mist (not to mention a welcome cool reprieve from the unrelenting humidity), this enclosed greenhouse houses the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The Cloud Forest is also home to rare and precious vegetation, orchids aplenty, and a unique vantage point of the Marina Bay skyline from the dizzying treetop walk. Don’t miss it!
Located within the Outram district of Central Singapore, Chinatown offers a labyrinth of narrow roads just begging to be wandered, and is surely a non-negotiable spot to add to your to-see list. Smattered with kitschy souvenior shops and traditional boutiques, restaurants serving traditional fare, and piles (upon piles) of durian fruit, it’s a feast (and scent) for the senses.
As Singapore’s most loved shopping belt and affectionately considered the pulse of the city, Orchard Road comprises nearly 800,000 sqm of shopping real estate. It’s a bustling boulevard boasting over 5,000 establishments, including flagship designer boutiques, pop-ups, and entertainment options for any and all retail or dining fixes.
The Apple store on this strip is an architectural destination in itself, with a twin curved hand-carved stone staircases, live greenery cascading through the store and all of its energy derived from renewable sources.
With iconic architecture reminiscent of a lotus flower (or perhaps a bunch of bananas?), the ArtScience Museum sits in the shadow of Marina Bay Sands, but has quickly become known as one of the icons of the Singapore skyline.
Surrounded by a large lily pond, it has 21 gallery spaces, hosting both permanent and touring exhibitions. The digital playground of Teamlab’s Future World exhibition was on our bucket list to experience (mostly for that iconic Instagram photo), but unfortunately closed for renovations during our visit. We instead visited (and absolutely loved) the Wind Walkers exhibition by Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests.
Singaporean cuisine is varied, diverse and big on flavour. From Chinese to Malay, Indian to Indonesian, multi-cultural diversity is reflected in the juxtaposition and variety of local cuisine on offer.
We ate our way along the continuum from cheap and cheerful local hawker food – to fine dining, and it was all incredible. We sampled everything – from Hainanese chicken rice at an open-air joint in Chinatown, to coal-fired barbecue (and expensive gin and tonics) at Burnt Ends.
The hipster cafe scene is also rife, with plenty of options for a Melbourne-style breakfast with a side of table succulents. We loved Botanist.
Burnt Ends – 20 Teck Lim Rd, Singapore
Botanist – 74 Neil Rd, Singapore
For our one sunset in town, we headed to straight to number 1… that is, 1-Altitude, which sits 63 stories high above One Raffles Place. We enjoyed the open air (and pink sunset) more than the vibe (and cost of drinks), but it was a beautiful way to take in a 360º panoramic views of the marina below.