Singapore might be Southeast Asia’s financial epicenter, it’s also the region’s capital of fun. Home to lush jungles, envelope-pushing architecture, and expats from all corners of the world, this city-sized country offers a pick-and-mix of next-gen restaurants, old-world neighborhoods, and green escapes for every type of traveler. Below, journalist Chris Schalkx opens his address book:
Where to Stay:
This grande dame, a stone’s throw from Marina Bay, has aged gracefully over the last 135 years. The lobby, a sun-drenched, three-story atrium bedecked in gleaming marble, teak and Corinthian columns remains a time-warp to a century ago, but newer additions, such as the modish Italian restaurant by Alain Ducasse and a chi-chi French dining room by Anne-Sophie Pic, make any hint of frumpiness disappear. Most suites halo a lush courtyard tufted with traveler palms — they come with rattan-chaired verandahs that are lovely spots for a morning coffee.
This industrial-chic riverside bolthole in restaurant-packed Robertson Quay delivers a welcome break from the gleaming high-rises just downstream. As the name suggests, it occupies a trio of late 19th-century warehouses, which later doubled as opium dens. Hints to their industrial past still reflect in the design, a mix of bare brick, blackened metal, and light installations from pulleys and Edison light bulbs. Rooms — all copper, leather, and warm grays — range from lofty suites with river views to straight-lined duplexes with snug library nooks on the mezzanine.
Where to Eat:
A more casual sister to chef Julien Royer’s three-Michelin-starred hit Odette, this neighborhood French brasserie set in a beautifully renovated 1930s chapel in Dempsey Hill hits the spot for long lunches of unfussy French fare. Dishes draw on Royer’s heirloom family recipes and include Parisian-style steak tartare and an excellent sole grenobloise with confit potato and browned butter.
Carnivores should call ahead for a counter seat at Burnt Ends, the Michelin-starred barbecue restaurant by Australian-born grill-guru David Pynt. From a colossal custom-built oven at the heart of the restaurant, he and his team dole out a daily-changing array of flame-licked ingredients. There are grilled-to-perfection flatiron steak, of course, but other creative highlights include melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked pork on brioche buns and Alaskan king crab legs drowned in garlicky butter and truffle shavings.
Where to Drink:
Taking over the soaring, gilded lobby of the Art Deco Parkview Square tower, this temple to gin houses one of the world’s largest collections of the juniper spirit. Spread over a back bar that spans three levels, more than 1,300 gin varieties — including rare London drys from the 1910s — can be made ordered as perfectly executed martinis, negronis, or creative riffs on global classics. And there’s no need to wait until sunset: the bar opens from noon until well after midnight.
This hot-ticket cocktail spot in the Amara hotel is one of Singapore’s most beloved drinking dens, and for good reason: here, classics such as the Old Fashioned and Whisky Highball are mixed with scientific precision (the latter blended for at least three days to maximize its flavor), while the ever-changing list of specials could include everything from clarified mojitos to punchy espresso martinis with coffee flower honey.
Where to Visit:
It wasn’t very long ago that Joo Chiat, a low-slung suburb in Singapore’s east, had a bad rep for its seedy karaoke joints and cathouses. Over the past few years, though, a new wave of entrepreneurs have moved into the colorful Peranakan townhouses lining its eponymous main drag, and infused them with local cool. Stop for a coffee and bagel at vinyl shop-slash-cafe Choice Cuts, shop for a custom Panama hat at Hat of Cain, order something sweet at Tigerlily, and end the night with artisanal sourdough pizzas and orange wines at Drunken Farmer.
This futuristic forest on the banks of Marina Bay feels like it belongs on another planet. Suspended walkways weave through a grove of solar-powered ‘supertrees’ from steel, while a pathway in the glasshouse-like ‘Cloud Forest’ spirals up around an artificial mountain covered in tropical foliage. Twice a night, at 7.45pm and 8.45pm, a free light show sees the Supertree Grove erupt in neon.
Newton Food Center
A cameo in Crazy Rich Asians catapulted this hawker center just a short taxi drive from Orchard Road into the limelight, and while it is no longer the locals-only food court it once was, this is still a top spot to inhale both quintessentially Singaporean eats and local culture. From between the 100 different stalls lining its perimeter, seek out the crispy fried oyster omelet from Hup Kee, the rich duck noodles at Kwee Heng, and chendol (shaved ice with palm sugar and pandan jelly) from 88 San Ren.
Covering 10 kilometers of parks, jungle trails, and elevated walkways weaving through forest canopy, the Southern Ridges just south of downtown make for a great green getaway. The Mount Faber lookout point, where the main trail starts, delivers excellent views over the seemingly endless sea of flats that make up Singapore’s southern suburbs, while the cable cart station nearby connects you to Sentosa Island just offshore.