By Chris Dwyer
Jun 13, 2022
AFTER OPENING ITS BORDERS to all international travelers and dropping pre-flight Covid test requirements, today Singapore feels like one of Asia’s most accessible destinations. Can, lah.
It’s a reopening approach that has already paid dividends. On landing at Changi, getting from the door of the plane to the door of our hotel took 45 minutes. Pretty amazing at any time, but in the current travel climate? Mind-blowing.
We’re assuming that, as experienced travelers and borderless global citizens, this isn’t your first Singapore rodeo. So cheesy pics at The Merlion, the steamy night safari and Clarke Quay frolics have already been ticked off. If you ever went there, that is. Instead, we offer a proper T+L Southeast Asia guide to how to make the most of 72 hours in Singapore, you know, since we’re all international weekend warriors again!
The Lion City remains one of the world’s greatest hotel cities, so the only challenge comes in choosing somewhere to lay your head. For just 72 hours, being centrally located in Singapore is a no-brainer, with the heart of dining, drinking, retail, sights and culture on your doorstep and waiting to guide you to a great weekend.
The brand-new Hilton Singapore Orchard is a sleek whopper at more than 1,000 rooms, with two towers that couldn’t be better positioned if you want to do some damage to your credit card in Orchard’s luxury boutiques. The Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental remain classics with good reason, thanks to impeccable service, understated luxury and enviable dining. The Fullerton Bay boasts knockout views over Marina Bay and one of the city’s finest terraces, while The Andaz has sky-high suites from starchitect Andre Fu.
Whatever your bed of choice, the chances are that Singapore’s dining and nightlife will mean that you don’t get too acquainted with it, anyway.
Day 1 of 72 hours in Singapore
Let’s assume that you land in the morning – because who wants to miss the chance to lunch? Leave your bags, if early check-in isn’t an option, for your first chance to hit up the little red dot.
If you’re like us, booking meals in advance is the key to any break – and given Singapore’s white-hot dining scene, you’ll definitely have needed to.
A case in point, Revolver in Chinatown where an open-flame grill is mastered by Indian Accent alumnus Chef Saurabh Udinia. He extracts filthy-deliciousness from everything on his watch, such as a kulchette bread from the tandoor that is stuffed with gruyère and topped with slow-roasted pork, or fresh paneer cheese with a Goan sambal.
Then wander Chinatown’s lanes, boutiques, temples and street markets as you digest, while the beautiful green Masjid Jamae mosque dates from 1826 and reminds of Singapore’s multicultural history and integration.
Once you’ve relaxed and got your glad rags on, hit up a pre-dinner cocktail at MO Bar, recently named No. 8 in Asia’s 50 Best Bars. We love their Holi, crafted from gin, buttermilk and spices, then aptly topped with streaks of color, given that it’s named in honor of the Indian festival.
Singapore offers diners the world on a plate like few other cities and Osteria Mozza is one such example, as famed American chef Nancy Silverton works her magic in Italian cuisine and some of the best pizzas you’ll find. At dinner, their dedicated burrata bar is a draw in itself – how could it not be?! – but save room for perfectly-executed pastas, all served in a buzzing space where the key ingredient of great atmosphere comes as standard, impressively so in a brand-new opening.
Day 2 of 72 hours in Singapore
Once you’ve pulled yourself out of bed, take your pick from brilliant morning eats. Maybe a loaded masala dosa in Little India or fragrant nasi lemak – Crave does a great one. And did someone say “kaya toast, slathered in butter”? Of course they did.
Photos by Chris Dwyer (2)
Duly fortified, make the most of the day with an early(ish) morning walk along some of the Rail Corridor, an initiative which shows a whole different side to the +65. Stretching for 24 kilometers – once fully open; for now only some stages are accessible – it’s a surprising green artery with lakes and lush landscapes, parks and nature reserves.
Thereafter the hawker centers come calling, as they always do, with insanely delicious local eats at frankly unbelievable prices – S$3 for a huge steaming bowl of bak chor mee, anyone? There are more than 100 dotted all over the country, so take your pick and go hungry. Very hungry.
After lunch, a spot of retail therapy. Ion Orchard, Ngee Ann City and Paragon malls all sit dangerously close to one another on Orchard Road and together offer every kind of luxury brand you can think of. For somewhere more low-key, Tiong Bahru offers eclectic boutiques, old-school record and bookstores, cafés and indie artisan designers.
Following a pretty decadent lunch, light, vibrant Japanese is a good way to go at dinner – and Singapore naturally has you covered. Handily the city’s first ever Nobu has also just opened up at the Four Seasons and we were wowed by the immaculate execution of classics such as black miso cod and toro tartare with caviar for a touch of Crazy Rich Asians. Don’t miss the stellar signature dessert of Nobu cheesecake with yuzu sorbet as the city’s in-crowd quaff bubbles, cocktails and some of the city’s finest sakes.
For late drinks, Jigger & Pony in Tanjong Pagar remain masters at extracting maximum flavor in creative, spirit-forward concoctions, while there are few more dramatic backdrops for a snifter than Atlas. Their famous wall of gins has already graced countless Instagram posts, but happily the drinks match the decor in wow factor.
Day 3 of 72 hours in Singapore
This morning is all about vacation feels in Sentosa, so jump on the Sentosa Express or nab a Grab to start with breakfast at Miska Cafe. Watch out for Lamborghinis as you look out over multi-million-dollar yachts in the harbor and sip on a beautifully made coffee along with Mediterranean-inspired plates like shakshuka, pea and halloumi fritters – or, yes, avocado toast.
Then for some knockout views over Sentosa and beyond, hit up the open-air SkyHelix, a newly opened panoramic gondola ride which lifts you above the island. Not only are you 80 meters up, the ride also rotates – gently, you’ll be glad to know – ensuring that you get all those photo angles, complete with your feet dangling and a refreshing beverage in hand. From there, you can walk the short Imbiah nature trail to reach the Sentosa cable car which will whisk you back across the water with more sky-high high jinks.
For lunch, hit up KOAL where three-course lunches are great value: cauliflower soup, Iberico pork rice bowl and a whiskey tiramisu for under US$20.
Before your last night out, it’s time to give those weary limbs a real treat. While there is no shortage of walk-in massage spots, none are as elegant as the new Four Seasons Spa, where a ‘rejuvenate and restore’ package means a full face and body therapy using therapeutic oils and emollients. One-hundred and thirty minutes of oooohs and aaaaahs later, you’ll leave floating on air.
To wrap up your 72 hours in style, you can afford to be a little atas as they say in Singapore – think ‘swanky’ – so hopefully before you arrived for the weekend you had the foresight to book at three Michelin-starred Odette for some of the finest French cuisine in Asia, by chef Julien Royer.
For other high-wattage star chefs, Jaan by Kirk Westaway serves up the very best of British with truly stunning views, while brilliant Peranakan dishes are on the menu from chef Malcolm Lee at Candlenut. If you’re looking for a feel-good splurge, there’s also the Japanese-seasonal, fermentation-forward Zen (sibling of the three-Michelin-starred Frantzen in Sweden), which spent some its pandemic downtime improving staff quality of life.
Replete and relaxed, choose to take it up a notch and hit up the clubs – or retire for a digestif somewhere intimate (speakeasy The Other Room, for example). Either way, you’ll sleep well knowing that you’ve made the very most of the Lion City.