This article is part of a guide to Singapore from FT Globetrotter
I usually travel a lot for work and play, but throughout the pandemic I, like everyone, have spent a whole lot more time in one place — here in Singapore, one of my favourite cities.
Whenever I am here, I start my day with a morning run: the route I like the most is around MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Singapore’s largest reservoir. It feels like a different world, away from the skyscrapers and surrounded by tropical rainforest, yet still close to the city centre. It’s an invigorating dose of nature amid urban life; non-runners can go kayaking and canoeing here too.
After a run, for my morning coffee I like Tiong Bahru Bakery — they make a great brew and serve excellent French pastries and cakes in the trendy Tiong Bahru neighbourhood. The area has some interesting architecture to take in, inspired by the 1930s Streamline Moderne style, with its clean lines and curved forms. For something more authentically Singaporean, I head to Killiney Kopitiam — an old, very local and pretty rustic experience, where the coffee is served to take away in plastic bags. The Killiney Road branch has been there since 1919 and is a local institution. Nearby is Journey East, a cool furniture store that I might pop into to check out its diverse offering of decor and design pieces, some made from reclaimed teak, others Asian vintage, industrial chic or by boutique designers.
I typically prefer to travel around town in a taxi — Singapore is surprisingly walkable, but it’s usually much too hot and humid to go very far on foot. I’ll head over to the National Gallery Singapore. The building is an architectural beauty, and home to both the world’s largest public display of modern south-east Asian art and to Odette, the three-Michelin-starred French restaurant from chef Julien Royer. The decor, by Sacha Leong of Universal Design Studio and artist Dawn Ng, is an elegant, pastel creation, as delicate as the food. I might stop for a special lunch after exploring the galleries, or fit in some shopping first. I love Space, a designer-furniture destination on Bencoolen Street, not far from the gallery.
For independent stores and craft boutiques, I’ll stroll around the creative hub of Arab Street, named in reference to the area’s rich Islamic history and culture. Textile merchants with their brightly coloured fabrics, Middle Eastern restaurants and vegan cafés abound, and the charming, colourful “shophouses” are one of our most popular forms of local architecture.
Keong Saik Road is another favourite neighbourhood for vintage finds, as well as cool restaurants and bars. In the 1960s it was Singapore’s red-light district. Today, its heritage buildings combine with street art, co-working spaces and hip hang-outs such as Pasta Bar, Potato Head and Papa Doble.
Singapore is a cosmopolitan place where different cultures coexist side by side and often merge. Nowhere is that more evident than the temples you’ll see everywhere — Indian, Buddhist, Taoist — and Christian churches. As a hotelier, I am constantly looking for design inspiration and I am very influenced by the bright colours of some of our temples here, so I’ll often visit them. There’s the Hindu Sri Thendayuthapani Temple and the Taoist Tan Si Chong Su, which are both visually stimulating, no matter what your beliefs. Our three new hotels in New Zealand embrace the joyful and uplifting use of colour you’ll see here.
For a late lunch, dim sum at Min Jiang is always a winner, or if you want to partake in the latest culinary craze in Singapore — hot pot — head to a branch of Hai Di Lao. Be warned, it’s very popular and there’s often an hour-long wait, but it’s worth it.
Chilled afternoons are spent at PS Café in Dempsey Hill, a sweet spot for a cup of tea and a quiet corner to read. It’s surrounded by a park and makes the most of its setting in nature with expansive wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows. I love the contrast between the urban and the natural in Singapore.
For an early-evening stroll, head to Marina Bay — down by the water you can enjoy the breeze and take in the incredible architecture: on one side, the original skyscrapers of Singapore, and on the other, the iconic Marina Bay Sands resort, which completely changed the city’s skyline when it opened in 2010.
For dinner there’s a plethora of choices — my favourites include Rang Mahal at Pan Pacific Singapore for exquisite Indian food in a contemporary setting and, for Chinese food in a heritage building, Madame Fan by Alan Yau and chef Mike Tan.
Much of our nightlife is closed due to the pandemic, but usually for late-night drinks I would suggest Spago at the top of Marina Bay Sands. It’s a lovely spot for alfresco cocktails, with breathtaking views of the city from one of its highest points. Atlas is another favourite watering hole for its dramatic Art Deco design. The building, by the late property magnate CS Hwang, was modelled after western-style Art Deco hotels and is sometimes referred to as Gotham — visit and you’ll see why. Named one of the World’s Best Bars last year, it serves a gin and tonic as perfectly constructed as the surroundings. It’s ideal way to end the day.
Gaurang Jhunjhnuwala is the CEO of Naumi Hotels
How would you spend your perfect day in Singapore? Tell us in the comments
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