It had been close to 2 decades since I last spent a night in Singapore. I lived there when I was 9 years old for 3 years and was excited to go back for a quick visit on route to South East Asia. The humidity of the island nation hugging the southern coast of Malaysia smacked me in the face as I left the airport (PS: if you don’t know yet that the Singapore airport is one of the best in the world, you are missing out!)
Here is a perfect itinerary for 24 hours in Singapore to get a pulse of the city-state. As a bonus, if you are vegetarian/vegan, you will find some great restaurant recommendations!
Getting from the airport into the city
It is quite easy to get to most places in Singapore using the MRT. You have the option to buy a multi-day tourist pass at the MRT station but when I was there the lines were very long so I didn’t think it was worth it to waste time standing in line. I just ended up buying train tickets at the stations. You take the MRT to Tanah Merah station and then transfer to another line to get to where you need to go. If you are headed to the Bugis area, you can get on the green MRT line.
Where to stay in Singapore
I stayed at the Mercure Hotel in Bugis which was a great last minute deal through Booking.com. They have a rooftop pool overlooking the city and cute, compact rooms to stay in. It’s right across the way from the Bugis Connection mall which makes it easy to do some light shopping or grab any essentials you forgot to pack. But even if you don’t end up staying here, be sure to stay in Bugis regardless. I didn’t know much about this area myself but with a recommendation from a local friend, I decided to stay in this area and it was absolutely perfect. Bugis is THE neighborhood to stay in to explore Singapore in 24 hours. You are close enough to Chinatown, Little India and Arab St, all interesting in their own ways.
What to do in Singapore in 24 hours
Start off with breakfast at the Aussie-inspired Hangar Cafe in Bugis. The halloumi poached eggs are delectable; it might be one of the best egg dishes I have EVER had, and believe me when I say I have had a lot. If you are staying in Bugis, this cafe is just a short walk over from your hotel.
From there, head over to the Bugis MRT station (approx. 7-minute walk) because it’s time to head over to the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to waste time shopping at this luxury mall, it’s the beginning of another fun adventure. You can get off at the Bayfront MRT station on the Downtown line. From the Bayfront station, walk over to the Shoppes. You can stop by the front to check out views by the water. On a nice day, it’s a nice view. Now it’s time to head to the real attraction, Gardens by the Bay. Very few countries can pull off something like Gardens; Singapore is one of them. It’s an entirely indoor, man-made horticultural extravaganza. You are headed to Bay South which opened in 2012 that houses conservatories called Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. This is also where you will see the iconic, towering, purple Supertrees that you have likely already seen around Instagram feeds.
There is a lot to do here and a lot of walking to be done so be sure to wear comfy shoes and take an umbrella with you in case it rains.
Once I got to the Gardens by the Bay entrance, I beelined straight for the conservatories at the back of the 250-acres of reclaimed land. I bought tickets to the Cloud Forest and the Flower Power exhibits when I got there. I thought they were both super cool but out of the two, I would definitely pick the Cloud Forest. It’s the world’s tallest indoor waterfall mimicking what it might be like to be in the middle of a jungle. Trust Singapore to find a way to do this and make it look absolutely spectacular!!
The Flower Dome was also beautiful; you can’t really go wrong with a place filled with flowers, but what is even more incredible is that this is the largest glass greenhouse in the world! They have rotating exhibitions; when I was there, the exhibit was Chinese New Year themed. Check out the website for details on what is showing when you are headed there.
Next, walk straight from the conservatories to see the ridiculously cool supertree grove. From here, you get a great view for some solo photos. The day I went it was pouring rain on and off so all the photos featured here are with gloomy, grey skies but it was stunning nonetheless!
MINDFULNESS PAUSE: Take a pause; take some time to just sit on one of the benches and enjoy the views.
Next, it’s time to head back near the hotel and grab lunch. Some options you have are heading to Chinatown for some sumptuous Chinese food, or Little India for some spicy curries. Lagnaa Barefoot Dining in Little India is especially cozy; I had a delicious meal with friendly service here while chatting with the owner about international politics over a cold beer. If you are vegetarian and dying to try something different, I have JUST the place for you. Right behind the Mercure Bugis Hotel, there is a food court with a number of vegetarian restaurants. Within that, head to Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant for some mouth-watering Malay concoctions like vegetarian laksa soup or mee goreng noodles or some good old South and Indian classics like dosas and paneer curries respectively. I can not recommend the food here enough. The place is humble and unpretentious. The food is impeccable.
Next, head back to the hotel and sleep off your food coma so you have some energy saved up for the evening.
Around happy hour time, head to Kampong Glam neighborhood to Blu Jazz Cafe for happy hour drinks while being serenaded by a live band and gaping at the colorful murals and installations around. You can walk through the other narrow streets that come alive during this time and stop into other cozy cafes or small shops selling unique trinkets.
MINDFULNESS PAUSE: Walk through the alleyways in Bugis – Haji Lane, Arab Street, Bali Laane – get lost, wander into the little stores, grab a drink. Don’t worry that you don’t have an exact plan. Just go with the flow and soak in the lively Bugis vibes!
For dinner, you can always head back to Chinatown or Little India for a delicious meal. If you want to stay in the Bugis area, you have a few options. Check out the Golden Mile hawker center for a quintessential local, budget experience (they also have vegetarian options). Or if you are in the mood for something different, head to Symmetry with its hipster-chic decor, After Wit with its Mexican cuisine, or Middle Eastern-inspired Artichoke which is closer to Mercure hotel.
Bugis is a great place to grab drinks and listen to live music later in the night as well. If you are interested in something more clubby, head to the Clarke Quay area for its heart thumping music and multiple bars and clubs to hop around.
Have you been to Singapore? What have you done?
What’s different about the Trips N Trip-ups travel guides?
I don’t try to do everything there is to possibly do. I think that’s a false premise and unnecessary pressure. I like to pick one or two things I really want to do and spend the rest of the time enjoying and understanding the energy and pace of the place I am visiting. I also find opportunities for a mindfulness pause – an in-itinerary reminder to be present, mindful and curious. For a complete list of my top 10 mindful trips when you travel, check out my blog post.