We recommend two to three full days in Singapore, covering the five distinct areas of the city: the business district in the Center and Colonial Fort Canning, busy Little India to the north, Malay Kampong to the east, Chinatown in the south, and Orchard Road/Holland Village to the west.
Explore the architectural and cultural highlights of the colonial quarter, including Fort Canning park, capitol building, St. Andrew's, city hall, supreme court, and the old parliament building, now housing a few arts and crafts shops which we'll pause to visit. Afterwards, optional visit to see current exhibits at the newer Peranakan Museum and the world-class Asian Civilizations Museum (or better yet, the more interesting Chinatown Heritage Centre), before heading nearby Chinatown for lunch (Yum Cha, with trolley service, or Teahouse at China Square for dim sum, Chen Fu Ji for Singaporean, or Buko Nero for Italian are local favorites).
In Chinatown, visiting the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore, Thian Hock Keng Temple ("Temple of Heavenly Bliss"), followed by local high-end galleries and shops including Bulb, Zwiesel, Art Seasons, and spectacle at the Yue Hwa 5-story bizarre. In the afternoon, strolling the lush, 157-acre Botanic Gardens founded in 1859 where many Singaporeans gather for recreation and to view one of the most extensive orchid collections in the world. Refreshments or early dinner may be taken in the gardens at Halia, featuring Euro-Asian fusion.
Afterwards, return to hotel for afternoon free at leisure or visiting the shopping center, Raffles City or hipper places along Haji Lane.
By preference, visiting the highly-regarded National Museum of Singapore, depending on events and preference; the MICA Building, a remodeled police station and now a colorful gallery, housing the Soobin Art International Gallery, which features avant garde Chinese artists; Esplanade Theaters on the Bay, which concert halls hosts a variety of performances including symphonies, dance and festivals. Afternoon shopping or if you are staying there, relaxing on the pool deck with tea at the Raffles if the weather is amenable. For vivid views, Singapore's new Skypark offers dramatic high views from its unusual "skypark" deck.
On the second day, enjoying a morning excursion to Bukit Timah Nature Preserve, only minutes away from the city yet lush with original tropical forest (the 81-acre forest is believed to be over 1m years old). The preserve offers scenic views of the city from its high point. After light hiking around the park, return to town for lunch and afternoon free to for advanced shopping along the main drag, Orchard Road or enjoying a pleasant river cruise from the quay with views of the city.
Kampong Glam and Arab Street. The Arab Street is the place for busy, bazaar-style shopping with lively ethnic character. The small alleys and streets form the historical focal point of Muslim life in Singapore and is awash in colorful textiles from all over Asia, sold at low prices. One of the most significant buildings in the district is the Sultan Mosque, built in 1824.
Harbor cruises are offered throughout the day lasting 2 1/2 hours are in comfortable, enclosed air conditioned boats (with outdoor decks) departing from Clarke Quay 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dinner cruises are also offered lasting from 6:30 to 8:45 p.m.
The Singapore Botanical Gardens are Singapore's most romantic place, with thousands of plant specimens (including virgin rainforest), offering soothing scenery and sprawling greenery over 183 acres. The gardens are the perfect place for a stroll (or jog for fitness buffs). If you're hungry after walking the grounds, there is a food court near Tanglin Gate.
Haji Lane, located in the heart of the Muslim quarter, has recently become a hotbed of hip shops such as Pluck. For a Middle Eastern lunch, Cafe le Caire is located just around the corner at 39 Arab Street.
Enjoyed the London Eye or the La Grande Roue (Ferris Wheel) on the Tuileries in Paris? Well you're in luck, Singapore has it's own version in the 165-meter high Flyer, tallest in the world after Beijing's. Rides are 30 minutes and best at dusk, when sunset glows over downtown. Dining options nearby include chili crabs at Seafood Paradise.
Green Singapore. Park Connector Trails are a 60-mile network of paths linking Singapore's parks. A walk on it is an ideal opportunity to glimpse Singapore’s 2,000 native plants, 295 butterflies, 57 mammals and 370 bird species, a reminder of what came before the skyscrapers, light shows and chili crabs. Read more about the Park Connector Trails in the New York Times.
Formula One. The Singapore Grand Prix is each September along with a breadth of cultural events.
FIDé Fashion Week is one of three large "fashion weeks" in Singapore, displaying the work of Asian international designers over an 11-day schedule in mid-October.
For a complete list of events, visit What's Happening Singapore.
Singapore in December and January is at it's coolest, at night in the 70s, warming into the 80s during the day. December and January experience a Northeast Monsoon during it's “wet phase” (October to January) and a “dry phase” (February and March). May and June are the hottest months. The wet phase witnesses a clockwork-like, continuous moderate to heavy rainfall in the afternoons and early evenings. The dry phase is cool and pleasant with comparatively little or no rain. Humidity is high, averaging over 80%.