48 Hours in Singapore: The Ultimate Itinerary

Two days is plenty of time to explore Singapore if you plan wisely

01 of 05

Day One: Morning

Singapore skyline

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Arrive in Singapore, check into your accommodations, and then spend a relaxing couple of hours exploring the serene Singapore Botanic Gardens, a great place to beat any jet lag or travel-related fatigue thanks to the quiet nature of the grounds. The gardens are Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s oldest garden. Here you’ll find a sprawling array of themed plots, an impressive six-hectare swath of primary tropical forest, and the city’s spectacular National Orchid Garden with more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids on display. The majority of the gardens are free to explore, but the Orchid Garden costs S$5 (Singapore dollars) to enter. 

2 p.m.: Once you’re settled and satiated, spend your afternoon in Singapore at Dempsey Hill, one of Singapore’s lesser known areas but well worth a visit. Formerly a nutmeg plantation in the 1850s, there are walking trails to explore, as well as shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Start your visit to Dempsey Hill with a meal at one of the area’s many eateries. Some good options include Longbeach at Dempsey for fresh seafood, Tawandang Microbrewery for Thai food and craft beer and La Forketa for authentic Italian pizza.

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02 of 05

Day One: Evening

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5 p.m.: Start the evening portion of your first day by making your way to the Marina Bay Sands area, home to the Marina Bay Sands hotel but also where you’ll find a cluster of worthwhile things to see, do, and eat. Spend some time strolling the 3.5-kilometer waterfront promenade around Marina Bay before deciding on a few other attractions. Wander through the fascinating ArtScience Museum filled with both permanent and rotating exhibits fusing art, science, and technology (last admission at 6 p.m.). Or you can opt for the nearby ALIVE Museum Singapore (open until 10 p.m.), Singapore’s largest 4-D illusion museum. If you have time, head to Merlion Park to snap a few photos of Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion, a creature with the body of a fish and head of a lion.

7p.m.: Choose from plenty of dining options in and around Marina Bay Sands. Chow down at historic Lau Pa Sat, a sprawling hawker centre, for a variety of local and international cuisines. There are also several upscale options at Marina Bay Sands including Bread Street Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay, CUT by Wolfgang Puck, db Bistro & Oyster Bar by Daniel Boulud, and Yardbird Southern Table & Bar for classic Southern cooking.

8:30 p.m.: Following dinner, you don’t want to miss a visit to Singapore’s acclaimed Gardens by the Bay, a completely different experience than Singapore Botanic Gardens you experienced earlier in the day. Here you’ll find the iconic Supertrees, tree-shaped vertical gardens measuring between nine to 16 stories tall. Walk on the suspended walkway between two Supertrees to see them up close and to get a birds-eye view of the gardens below. Depending on your timing, you might also catch the nightly light show at 8:45 p.m. amidst the Supertrees.

10 p.m.: If you feel like getting a drink to cap off your first night in Singapore, a good place to do so is at LeVeL33, the world's highest urban craft brewery with stunning views of Singapore's Marina Bay and city skyline. Choose from a variety of creative, freshly brewed craft beers and wines from boutique and artisan wineries.

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03 of 05

Day Two: Morning and Afternoon

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9 a.m.: Get ready for a full day of exploring with a hearty breakfast. Make your way to Singapore’s Orchard Road area, which will be fairly quiet in the morning since most of the malls and stores don’t open until around 10 a.m. There are, however, several options in the area for a morning meal. Skip the standard toast and coffee, and opt for something a little different with breakfast at Wild Honey, such as the Portobello Road: poached eggs, portobello mushrooms, wilted spinach, onion and bell pepper confit, and hollandaise sauce on whole wheat brioche. Or if you prefer something sweet, try the signature banana pancakes at Crossroads Café.

10 a.m.: Whether you feel like buying or simply browsing, Orchard Road is Singapore’s 2.2-kilometer shopping mecca filled with gleaming malls, upscale boutiques, and designer labels. Start at one end and make your way up the other, taking in the sights and window shopping as you go. Some of your best options include 313@Somerset Mall, Knightsbridge Mall, and ION Orchard. In addition to a whirlwind of shopping, you can also find ION Sky located on the 56th floor of ION Orchard, an observation deck more than 280 meters above the ground, offering panoramic views of Singapore.

12:30 p.m.: While many of the lunch options you’ll find along Orchard Road can come with a bit of sticker shock, there are still affordable options. Fill up on comforting Vietnamese pho at Nam Nam Noodle House, create your own salad (or order a signature salad) from Toss and Turn, or try steak or pasta dishes at Hot Tomato.

2 p.m.: Close to Orchard Road you’ll find the Civic District, home to a number of fantastic museums. Choose one to spend the afternoon at such as the National Museum of Singapore where you can learn about the country’s history and culture, or the National Gallery of Singapore where you’ll find the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Another good option for art is the Singapore Art Museum with a focus on contemporary art.

4 p.m.: Spend the latter half of the afternoon in Singapore’s Chinatown, with its eclectic blend of old and new as well as many cultural attractions. This is the type of place you can simply wander, exploring the area’s narrow streets filled with traditional shophouses alongside trendier boutiques and restaurants. Sri Mariamman Temple is the first Hindu temple in Singapore and features six decorative tiers filled with sculptures from Hindu mythology and culture. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum is a Tang-styled Chinese Buddhist temple. And you might want to stop into the unique Singapore Music Box Museum, or browse books and grab a coffee from Grassroots Book Room (which also houses a small café). If you need a snack, make a stop at Chinatown Food Street for your pick of street food, from Hainanese chicken rice and beef noodles, to satay skewers and roast duck.  

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04 of 05

Day Two: Evening

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6 p.m.: Learn more about the history of Singapore’s eclectic Chinatown and its early inhabitants with a visit to Chinatown Heritage Centre following your afternoon visit to the neighborhood. Located within three beautifully-restored shophouses, Chinatown Heritage Centre offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of Chinatown's early residents through recreated living quarters and detailed information that retraces the journey of those who left their villages in China to come to Singapore.

7 p.m.: Chances are, you’ve worked up an appetite with all that sightseeing. If so, make your way to Maxwell Food Centre for a wide range of local dishes served up in an airy, casual setting. The array of options might seem overwhelming, but take your time walking around, looking at menus and checking out where the longest lines are (a good indicator of something worth eating). Tian Tian Chicken Rice is probably the most famous stall here, but you can also get your fix of the much-loved traditional dish a few stalls down at Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice. Other food options include various noodle dishes, soups, curries, and seafood.

9 p.m.: Once you’ve had your fill of cheap and delicious local foods, spend the remainder of your evening having a drink at one of Chinatown’s many bars. Beer fans should think about having a drink at Smith Street Taps, a unique hawker stall craft beer bar at Chinatown Complex featuring a rotating roster of craft beers. There’s also British-inspired pub Oxwell & Co., underground jazz bar B28, or lively Gem Bar & Lounge with its extensive list of cocktails—just to name a few options.

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05 of 05

Day Three: Morning

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9 a.m.: Start your last morning in Singapore with a visit to Tiong Bahru, one of the city’s hippest ‘hoods. Explore the rows of art deco shophouses before heading to Forty Hands for a breakfast of some banana bacon French toast or some of their homemade granola. Then, continue to browse the area’s unique shops. They won’t all be open in the morning, but you’ll want to make a stop at Books Actually, an indie bookshop filled with local, classic, and contemporary literature, hard-to-find magazines, art books, and stationary. It’s also worth checking out Qui Tian Gong Temple (the Monkey God Temple) which dates back to the 1920s.

11 a.m.: Assuming you still have some time before you need to go back to your accommodations to pack, check out and get to the airport, make your way to Tiong Bahru Market, a massive wet market and food center. The wet market is on the first floor of the two-story building and has a wide selection of stalls selling local produce and other food items. Upstairs is the food center filled with stalls selling traditional dishes.