Grand heritage buildings, chaotic hawker centres, luxurious green spaces, glitzy shopping malls and a slew of new developments has elevated the ‘Singapore experience’ to new levels

Essential information:

Population: 5.4 million
Foreign visitors per year: 15.5 million
Capital: Singapore
Languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil
Major industries: tourism, banking, biomedical sciences
Unit of currency: Singapore dollar (S$)
Cost Index: plate of chicken rice or a bowl of laksa in a hawker centre from S$4 (US$3), artisan coffee from S$7 (US$ 5.50), hotel double/dorm from S$88/17.5 (US$70/14), standard MRT (metro) journey S$1.30 (US$1).

Why go ASAP?

As one of the world’s most multicultural cities, Singapore is always celebrating something. But Asia’s smallest state had an extra special event in 2015: it was her Golden Jubilee.

Since sealing its independence in 1965, Singapore has been on a roll. And while its grand heritage buildings, chaotic hawker centres, luxurious green spaces and glitzy shopping malls have been luring travellers for decades, a slew of new developments has elevated the ‘Singapore experience’ to a whole new level.

First there’s Marina Bay. From the now-iconic, boat-shaped Marina Bay Sands resort to otherworldly eco-park Gardens by the Bay, this new entertainment precinct is like a funfair for the whole family. And then there’s the city’s new crop of swanky hotels – between the W Singapore, Parkroyal on Pickering and the Sofitel So Singapore, it’s difficult to keep track of the latest openings.

Marina Bay Sands Resort – Singapore

Singapore is set to usher in a number of new attractions since 2015, including the National Art Gallery and the Singapore Sports Hub, which had hosted the 28th Southeast Asian Games. And with more than a dozen MRT (metro) extensions currently in development, it’ll soon be easier to get around. Even Changi Airport, named the world’s best at the 2014 Skytrax awards in Barcelona, will receive two new terminals (and a third runway) in the coming years.

The National Art Gallery of Singapore

Amid all this, Singapore has been nurturing an emerging local fashion scene, artisan coffee has taken off like wildfire, and brunch has become a ‘thing’. While tucking into a plate of chilli crab at Lau Pa Sat will never go out of style, Singapore’s fine dining scene is finally giving Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo a run for their money, with two local restaurants making Asia’s top 10 in San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna’s 2014 list. And don’t even get us started on Club St, the city’s hottest new drinking and dining enclave.

Club Street – Singapore

Festival & Events:

Chingay parade

Fancy floats, fire-breathing dragons and pyrotechnics collide at February’s Chingay, Singapore’s biggest street parade.

Have your wallets (and elbows) at the ready for the Great Singapore Sale, which sees retail prices slashed from the end of May until the beginning of July.

July’s Singapore Food Festival provides ample opportunities to sample the city’s top grub, and learn how to cook classic Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes yourself.

It’s already Singapore’s main event, but you can expect National Day, on 9 August, to be celebrated with ultra-extravagant fanfare in 2015.

What’s HOT…
Gardens by the Bay, hipster cafes, Sunday brunch at the Pan Pacific, Club St, Restaurant Andre, being green

What’s NOT…
The haze problem (created by Indonesia’s controversial forest-burning for palm oil plantations), MRT breakdowns, Avalon (Marina Bay’s mega-club closed its doors after just two years)

Life-changing experiences:

Between its endless urban attractions and the serenity of its green spaces, arguably the most defining pleasure of Singapore is its food. Start your day with crispy, sweet kaya toast before allowing a local latte artist to create a masterpiece in a cup for you at one of the city’s achingly hip new cafes. Head to a hawker centre to slurp down a spicy laksa lunch, being sure to leave room for dinner at one of Singapore’s hottest celebrity restaurants.

Current craze:
Singapore is firmly in the grip of the K-pop phenomenon. If you’re not up with reality show K-POP Star Hunt, you’d be best not to admit it.

Random facts:

  • Everyone who was present in Singapore on the date of independence was offered Singapore citizenship.

  • Singapore was declared the world’s most expensive city in 2014, replacing Tokyo. The best things, after all, usually come at a price.

  • Singapore boasts some of the world’s strictest laws with ‘crimes’ such as chewing gum and pornography (which includes answering the door in your underwear) carrying harsh penalties.

Most bizarre sight:

Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa. Set up by members of the Tiger Balm dynasty in the 1930s, this Chinese mythology-themed ‘pleasure garden’, complete with lurid depictions of hell, is one of the world’s most bafflingly odd – not to mention gruesome – attractions.

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