One Day In Singapore - 24 Hours in Singapore by a Local

By Desmond Simkimjin A playwright and businessman and food critic who teaches drama and creative writing, and nurtures a love of painting
01 March 2020
One Day In Singapore - 24 Hours in Singapore by a Local

Edited by Jessica Wright

Singapore, a great confluence of cultures, has many things in abundance. It’s pristinely tidy,  exceedingly convenient, safe, efficient, and of course leafy green. The nickname of the City in the Garden speaks to the stunning green spaces that are at odds with the surrounding skyscrapers. The Lion City, with all of its dazzling achievements also boasts a plethora of fantastic things to do and see. Excellent shopping, exquisite temples and architecture, art and culinary greatness – from superb street food to glamourous fine dining, it seems impossible to get the full measure of Singapore in one day. With so much on offer the question is not what to do in Singapore for 1 day, but rather how to fit all the best of Singapore into a such a short time. With this Singapore one day itinerary, I’ll guide you through my home city to get the full experience, so that you leave feeling refreshed by this glorious urban jungle. A day in this harmonious city will certainly have you coming back for more and when you do I have this itinerary for 2 days in Singapore waiting, but in the meantime, all you need to get the most out of Singapore in one day is right here.


I’ll start off how everyone should start the day; breakfast and coffee followed by a lovely, peaceful walk. And since you’re in the City in the Garden, this should take place nowhere other than the Botanical Gardens! Be sure to dress light and airy for your day out, and a squirt of mosquito repellent can’t hurt – you are in the tropics after all. Grab breakfast and coffee at one of the many cafés in this sprawling 74-hectare green wonderland of rolling manicured lawns and themed gardens. The sheer size, educational value and natural beauty of this Unesco World Heritage Site earns it a well-deserved spot on my list of things to do in Singapore in a day, but while you might be tempted to spend hours wandering the elevated walkways through primeval rainforest, gazing at giant Amazon water lilies or luxuriating in the bonsai and orchid gardens, don’t linger too long; we have so much left to do! Spend a good amount of time in the gardens, a definite must-see for Singapore in 1 day, and then hop in a taxi or order a Grab (the Singaporean version of Uber) to take you to little India for the next part of the adventure!


Street shopping absolutely has to appear on your list of what to do in Singapore for 1 day, and the best place to do this in in Little India. Just northwest of Marina Bay you will find this thriving pocket of Indian culture, which sprouted in Singapore in the 1840s when cattle trading boomed and Indian migrant workers were hired to tend the blossoming industry. While much has changed since then, the tightly woven network of streets and shops are still fragrant with the spices which, amongst everything from flower garlands to colorful fabrics, can be purchased here. The vibrant area of Little India offers a labyrinth of smaller alleyways to explore for surprising treasures. Serangoon Road, so colorful and decorative, is popular among Singapore attractions and makes an appearance on this list of Singapore's hidden gems. Once your arms are loaded with treasures to take home, you can experience the scattering of temples, mosques, and churches or settle in for a lunch of truly authentic, if somewhat unexpected, Indian cuisine that is both fresh and remarkably affordable for Singapore. Take a seat plastic tables to enjoy one of the delicious tandoori dishes and teh tarik (pulled tea) which, not only tasty, is also “pulled” with exceptional showmanship.


After a satisfying lunch take the MRT to Bugis and walk over to the trendy Haji Lane in Kampong Glam for an afternoon of browsing food and trade stalls, and stores with a wide variety of origins including Turkish, Arabic and Egyptian, as well as more modern-hipster finds. The quirky Haji Lane, though one of the narrowest streets in Singapore is also one of the most popular and a must on a list of places to visit in Singapore in one day, particularly for more youthful travelers. This crowded, colorful street is an Instagram dream, lined as it is with vintage shutters, street art, cool boutiques, quaint cafés, tattoo parlors, and hip Singaporean stores. Enjoy a coffee and cake break with historical flair at Dong Po Café, the self-proclaimed colonial cafe that will give you a taste of Singapore in the 1960’s. Order old school sweet treats like lamingtons and carrot cake and teas made with genuine recipes from a time long past, to be savored in the nostalgic ambiance created by retro posters, decor, and trinkets reminiscent of a different era.


Take a bus to colorful Chinatown where you can take a pleasant stroll through restored Peranakan shop-houses and historical attractions such as the old Hokkien temple Thian Hock Keng, Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple and The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple; an astounding four-story temple home to a solid-gold two-meter stupa. Also, a haven for foodies, this cultural enclave (largest of the many that inhabit Singapore) is permanently bustling with the crowds that frequent the food stalls, restaurants, and shops. To avoid the worst of the crowds, do not visit in the weeks preceding Chinese New Year, which occurs in January or February. Divided into four main areas – Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar, and Bukit Pasoh – the main focal points of activity in Chinatown are Smith and Pagoda Street. Pagoda Street is a paradise for souvenirs, while Smith Street offers affordable foodie delights; the perfect place to fill up before a big night out. Once you’ve had your fill of food and culture, head over to the Tanjong Pagar district for a few drinks at the many bars, pubs and karaoke lounges. Don’t completely wear yourself out, there is still one more stop to go before your explorations of Singapore come to a close!

Night time

Who doesn’t want to combine a fancy cocktail with luxe views? That’s exactly what you’re going to get at Marina Bay Sands, which is the epitome of luxury and the ideal way to spend the remainder of your one night in Singapore. This building is the futuristic triple-towered structure so iconic of Singapore’s skyline. The world-class hotel and casino famous for not only its architectural appeal but also the world’s largest and rather impressive rooftop infinity pool is a permanent fixture on any high-end Singaporean itinerary and houses shops, restaurants, bars, and all manner of pure unadulterated entertainment. The SkyPark provides breathtaking views of the skyline and city, while the ArtScience Museum boasts world-class exhibitions year-round. Even if you need to do all of your exploring of Singapore in 24 hours, this will be the quintessential point in your trip – the true symbol of a visit to Singapore – and simply should not be missed! Whether you stop by Marina Bay Sand for late-night nibbles, spectacular water, and light show, a swanky night out in the club, or even a decadent hotel stay, there is no better way to wrap up your Singapore one-day itinerary than right here, the perfect vantage point to say goodbye to this gorgeous city.