Singapore at the tip of Malaysia captivates couples on a honeymoon or romantic getaway with its sparkling skyline, multicultural mix, open-air markets, and white-sand beaches. As Southeast Asia’s gateway, the hub’s high standard of living and modernity serve to gently ease first-time visitors into this region's distinct brand of exotic. Extraordinary hotels, restaurants, and shopping, and a trove of art and exciting festivals highlight this sultry tropical paradise.
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Toast Your Arrival With a Sling
There may be no better way to begin a romantic journey through the highly accessible island-state than to head toward the venerable Raffles hotel (check rates now). Its cool, colonial Long Bar is where the recipe for the now-legendary Singapore Slings cocktail was first concocted in the early 20th century blending gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine, and fresh Sarawak pineapple juice for the frothy elixir. Bottoms up!
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Hungry? Head for a Hawker CenterSingaporeans are serious about food and nothing more suitably reflects the city’s ethnic diversity than the local cuisine that awaits discovery at Singapore’s hawker centers. A mix of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian, and Peranakan influences ranks it among the world’s top ten best street-food destinations, so say some of the world’s pickiest chefs. Known both for affordability and mouth-watering flavors, hawker fare should not be missed. Try the laksa (spicy noodle soup), chili crab, Hainan chicken rice, or banana-leaf curry from a cornucopia of more than 16,000 stalls, guaranteed to enthrall most foodie cravings. Eat like a king and queen for $4 USD. Seriously.
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Explore Chinese Singapore
High on the list of Singapore’s must-see enclaves is Chinatown. An idiosyncratic jumble of goldsmiths, textile and craft merchants, herbal medicine shops, and dim sum eateries are all within easy proximity to each other. Bakeries peddle dainty pastries, and teahouses, stylish bars and boutique hotels abound. In a trio of shophouses, the Chinatown Heritage Centre provides a fascinating primer on the district and its social history. Neighborhood landmarks include Hindu and Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques. At dusk, Smith Street closes to vehicles thus permitting diners a chance to savor some of the best local dishes al fresco, when the streets are less steamy.
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Browse Shoppers' Paradise
If Singapore has a national past-time, it's shopping, and there are countless places to spend Singapore dollars. What was once an area redolent with spice farms and fruit orchards is today the popular shopping haven of Orchard Road served by three metro stops, with upscale restaurants, cafés, nightclubs, and hotels. Hidden away in the Muslim quarter is Haji Lane, a fashionista’s paradise. Likened to New York’s Meatpacking district, this warren of shophouses has become a central locale for hip retailers. Think smart tailoring, shabby chic, and wonderful quirkiness.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Stroll Through Little India
Car horns and bicycle bells merrily mingle with the sights and aromas of Little India. Tekka Market stalls sell Indian, Malay, and Chinese delicacies; a wet market hawks the freshest vegetables, meat, fish, and flowers. Stock up on rejuvenating Ayurvedic massage oils and pungent incense, or treat your love to a garland of fragrant jasmine. Visit the 24-hour Mustafa Centre, an emporium of knick-knacks, decorative items, apparel, textiles, and electronic gadgetry at some of the lowest prices in Singapore. The most colorful time to visit is during Deepavali, the Hindu festival of lights.
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Make Time for Museums
The nation’s oldest museum has a progressive mindset. The National Museum of Singapore is a cultural and architectural landmark that brings to life the city-state’s rich history dating back seven centuries. Multi-perspective exhibitions, inter-disciplinary “living galleries,” and assorted national treasures include one of Singapore’s oldest daguerreotypes. Year-round events and festivals also help to redefine the conventional museum experience.
A few years ago, the Singapore Art Museum’s annex, SAM at 8Q, expanded its contemporary art space to present fresh, interactive, and community-oriented programming. Today the public experiences first-hand diverse contemporary art ranging from painting and sculpture to installations, film and video, photography, new media, performance and sound art, as well as opportunities to witness the work and ideas of living regional artists.
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Wander the City in a Garden
Spanning 250 acres, Gardens by the Bay is the new award-winning Singapore must-see, bringing new meaning to horticultural artistry. Towering fifty-foot wire Supertree canopies, woven with bromeliads, orchids, and assorted tropical climbers, come alive with light and sound by night. Take a cooling stroll through the Flower Dome and witness an ever-changing display of desert flora from around the world. Later, chill at the Supertree-top bistro and view the grounds and surrounding Marina Bay from the lofty aerie.
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Check Out Contemporary Asian Art
The Gillman Barracks is the latest example of how Singapore is poised to become Asia’s arts hub. Set amidst tropical greenery near the Central Business District, this colonial-era structure dating from the 1930s was recently transformed into an $8 million contemporary arts installation of international galleries that include the works of New York-based Sundaram Tagore and Germany’s Michael Janssen as well as Takashi Murakami and Kaikai Kiki’s newest Hidari Zingaro gallery.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Prepare to Be Dazzled
In the southern tip of Singapore, Marina Bay Sands, developed by the Las Vegas Sands, is a futuristic showplace that’s a colossal integrated resort complex containing the city’s largest hotel. With shops, a vast casino, and a SkyPark that spans its trio of towers, MBS has magnificent 360-degree views of Singapore’s skyline. Intent on being a 24/7 destination, the extravagant campus entertains visitors with over-the-top leisure and cultural experiences.
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Investigate the Island GetawayTake a glass-bottomed cable car from the mainland to Sentosa Island (a.k.a. Resorts Word Sentosa), where Singaporeans and tourists alike go to cool off. Singapore’s island getaway has six themed hotels, myriad sports facilities, and world-class attractions. Once there, thrill seekers can ride the region’s first luge; nature lovers get to explore the oceanarium and walk the trails of a butterfly park where they can also be dazzled with a shower of resident lightning bugs. Fifty-plus restaurants beckon gourmet palates and there are chockablock shopping and dining options at VivoCity and the Harbourfront Centre. Sentosa’s Tanjong Beach Club is a popular urban escape with a restaurant and bar on the resort’s scenic beach. Grab a pair of tropical libations, lounge by the pool, or dance under the stars.
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Savor Singapore Staples
The integration of Chinese settlers and the Malays in the 1800s gave rise to Peranakan cuisine. Fifteen minutes from Orchard Road and the Marina Bay area, the intimate Blue Ginger restaurant, whose name comes from a staple in the Peranakan menu, is known for its down-to-earth aromatic specialties. Try the succulent Otak-otak, a fishcake wrap with shrimp paste and spices, or sample braised chicken with turmeric and lemongrass and the savory red snapper curry.
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Romance on the Rooftop
End your day up on the roof of one of Singapore's top hotels. The Fullerton Bay Hotel’s stylish rooftop Lantern bar — deriving its name from the red lanterns that served as pier guides for seafarers — is an oasis high above the city’s bustle. Waterfront sunsets complement signature cocktails and fine wines at this chic venue. The seductive Scarlet hotel has its own rooftop bar as does The Club boutique hotel and its full-service Ying Yang, with premium drinks, lounge music, another terrific Singapore vista. 2am Dessert Bar is located in the hip, dining enclave of Holland Village, ten minutes from the city’s Central Business District.