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Stopover in Singapore: How To Spend One to Five Days

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Updated: 21st June 2020

Singapore. For five days. Is that maybe too long? That was precisely what I was pondering the first time I visited The Lion City, and having now been back a handful of times since, I can confidently say that, no, it’s not too long. Singapore is one of my favourite cities in the world.

But somehow, Singapore has developed a (well-deserved) reputation as a stopover destination. With Changi, the best airport in the world, and Singapore Airlines, my favourite to fly, it’s not hard to guess why. How many other airports in the world can you catch a free movie, enjoy a butterfly or sunflower garden, relax by a waterfall, shop till you drop, or even check in to an airport rooftop pool?

Then, of course, if you have scheduled your flights to have a layover of more than a few hours, the excellent public transport or extensive line of taxis make it super easy to nip into the city. Soak up the famous sights like the Marina and Gardens by the Bay before enjoying a Singapore Sling and some Chilli Crab at the airport before your onward journey.

However, if that is the only time you are earmarking for Singapore, then you’re going to be missing out. There are so many sides to this city that a Singapore stopover simply isn’t enough. You need to be dedicating at least a few days to this city.

Four reasons Singapore is more than a stopover

It’s the perfect introduction to South and East Asia for the more wary traveller, with cuisine and cultures from across the continent.

It’s safe and clean for those who might have travel worries, especially ideal for trying all the Hawker Markets (Singapore’s take on street food) and sampling lots of different dishes in hygienic settings.

It’s fantastic for all ages and types of trips. I’ve visited solo, with friends, with my parents when I took them to Indonesia (they loved it), and have had romantic trips here that ended with the L-word being muttered. Fancy restaurants, great bars, tranquil parks, nature islands, high-tech shows, shopping sprees, cultural experiences – it really has it all.

And lastly, before anyone cries about the cost, it can work for all budgets and even backpackers. Sure, there are crazy expensive hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. But there are also boutique hostels with fair prices, excellent Hawker Markets, and plenty of Singapore’s best attractions that are free. Plus, you are a bus ride away from Malaysia, a boat ride from Indonesia, or the world’s best airport away from another destination. What I would advise, though, is to save up your dollars for Singapore so you can enjoy the best the city has to offer without worry.

Sold on Singapore? Awesome! Here are some ideas of how to spend your time here, depending on how many days you stick around for your Singapore stopover. I think you’re going to be surprised by just how much this city has to offer.

One day in Singapore (day one)

In 1967, the Prime Minister set out his plan and vision for the ‘Garden City’ that we now know as modern-day Singapore, and it’s truly a city reborn.

With 55 years of independence under their belt from the British (and a brief stint of being part of Malaysia), Singapore has managed to become one of the most important financial districts in Asia and globally while keeping true to that vision of a green city. For first-time visitors to Asia, it’s a great city to ease you in, with cuisine from across the continent, English as a first language, and a high quality of transport and health and safety.

While some visitors to Singapore might opt to take a hop on hop off bus tour, I’d highly recommend exploring mainly by foot and sometimes making use of the excellent metro system. For your first day in the city, focus on the Gardens and Marina, perhaps the most famous area in Singapore for tourists.

Gardens by the Bay

Where better to start off exploring the Garden City than the mighty impressive Gardens by the Bay? These certainly aren’t your average city gardens, though, and you should plan to spend at least a couple of hours exploring all they have to offer.

Sitting just beyond the high-rises of the city and alongside the water surrounding the peninsula, Gardens by the Bay include the Botanical Gardens, which are most famous for the futuristic, colour-changing trees, the covered Cloud Forest and Flower Dome with their mix of bright colours and cooling water features.

I would recommend going inside the covered gardens and up onto the futuristic Supertree top walk (tickets can be purchased online in advance), but if you don’t have the time or want to avoice the entrance fees, walking around the gardens is entirely free. There’s also a quite cute little bar up the top of one of the artificial trees, ideal for a quick drink.

Marina Bay and Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay area of Singapore is perhaps its most famous. On the other side of the imposing Marina Bay Sands hotel from the gardens, you’ll find a plethora of attractions, high-rises, bustling restaurants and iconic sights to enjoy.

Marina Bay Sands, the boat-like hotel, which dominates the show here, provides some of the most incredible views of the city from its rooftop, while the Marina Bay Shoppes underneath offer countless ways to splurge your money.

The rooftop is fantastic. However, that famous pool is reserved for guests staying at the hotel, so if you want to take a dip in one of the most iconic pools I’ve ever swum in, you’ll have to book to stay the night.

Alternatively, buy a ticket at the door or in advance to guarantee entrance to the rooftop viewing platform. If you time this up to go to the bar rather than just the viewing platform, you can just pay for a drink rather than your rooftop pass.

By night, the whole complex comes alive, and the Marina Bay Sands projects an impressive light and music show; however, if you want to watch this, you’ll want to be on the other side of the Bay.

Marina Bay – Art Science Museum

If you make time for one museum while in Singapore, I’d highly recommend the Art Science Museum which is located in the Marina, this high-tech spot is rather popular with Instagrammers and photographers, as the interactive and colourful displays inside will entertain the little kids, as well as us big kids with cameras! You can buy tickets in advance through GetYourGuide or on arrival.

Marina Bay – Other Attractions

Strolling around the Marina is the perfect way to enjoy the city on your first day and take in some great views. The Singapore Flyer, the giant wheel alongside the marina, is another option to get high up, while the aforementioned Light Show rounds the day perfectly.

You’ll also find the Merlion statue, with its waterfall feature alongside the Marina. This is the national symbol of Singapore, and while it might look like a lion at first glance, take another look, and you’ll realise the lion’s head is attached to the body of a fish!

Marina Bay – Dining

To round off the day, of course, you’ll want to sample some of Singapore’s famous cuisine, with the Chili Crab and Hainanese Rice being two staples of the city. Enjoy one for lunch and the other for dinner.

The lower level of the Marina Bay Sands Shoppes has a surprisingly great Hawker Market, with high hygiene standards and reasonable value prices, so this would be an excellent spot for some lunchtime Hainanese Rice, a chicken rice dish, without having to detour too far.

For dinner, the Singapore Chili Crab is a sure-fire bet, and while this is one of the most pricy meals I’ve ever had, at Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant, you can enjoy this with a fantastic view, looking back across the Bay to watch the light show with your dinner.

It wasn’t the best Chili Crab I’ve had in the city, that was in a place in Clarke Quay, but for the view and experience of the free light show, it might be a table reservation you want to make in advance.

Two days in Singapore (day two)

Cultures come together in Singapore and can be seen as easily here as walking from one street to the next.

With a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian influences, as well as colonial and local history, this small country will make you feel you are seeing much more of the continent in just a short walk. For day two in Singapore, that’s what we are going to focus on.

Little India

Start your day in Little India, vibrant, colourful and with flavours dancing across your nostrils; you’ll be swept away with signs of architecture that make for perfect photos.

Visit the Hindu Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, one of the oldest in the city, or hit up the legendary food hall here which boasts some seriously good eats at fantastic places, this myth that Singapore will blow your budget is certainly not true!

There are some little art galleries, boutique stores, and markets here, ideal for any souvenirs, gifts or traditional artwork to take home, and it’s a charming part of Singapore to soak up.

Kampong Gelam

Next up, take a stroll to Kampong Gelam, which you might see the name as Glam, however, Gelam is the correct spelling as it’s the name of the tree that can be found in Singapore and this neighbourhood.

A short walk from Little India will bring you here, and on the way, you’ll pass the Our Lady of Lourdes Church and the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, again highlighting the mix of culture and heritage in a small space.

Kampong Gelam is the Muslim Quarter, with the Sultan Mosque, with a bright gold dome, being one of the main landmarks and attractions leading off Arab Street.

The colourful shops with attractive facades now dish out Malay food, boutique fashions and souvenir gifts, while the well-photographed Haji Lane gets ever more trendy each time I visit the city.

Dip into the Malay Heritage Centre to learn more about the local history of the quarter and the brief years Singapore was part of Malaysia.

China town and Keong Saik Road

Next up, skip across to perhaps my favourite part of Singapore, Chinatown. If this is your last day in Singapore, I’d suggest walking here on foot in around an hour so that you can see the National Library and Fort Canning Park on the way, alternatively you can hop on the Metro, especially if the mid-day heat is getting too much for you!

Chinatown is a fantastic part of the city, especially so for food! There are plenty of options to dine here. The Maxwell Food Centre offers extensive options at great prices in a no-fuss setting.

Wander around the streets, admire the architecture and colour, and be sure to visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which looks spectacular both day and night. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness Monks practising their chats inside as my parents did.

Designed in the bright red style of the Dang Dynasty, you could well mistake its age; in fact, it is relatively modern. Inside is home to the sacred Buddha tooth, hence the name, and although it’s intricate and the museum factual, unless you are a Monk, you won’t be entering the relic room yourself.

Here you’ll also find some of the more affordable accommodation in the city and a range of Hostels. I always recommend the Adler Hostel as a good value bet in the city, where the pod rooms were super comfortable. I had a good night’s sleep, and the boutique hostel vibe, with free coffee and comfy common areas, still feels upscale.

By night, either eat at the hugely popular and busy covered markets or head slightly further to Keong Saik Road, one of the hippest corners of Singapore. You’ll find fantastic rooftop bars like Potato Head here, busy eel restaurants, and quirk cocktail bars serving up fusion tapas. You can read more on my guide to Chinatown and Keong Saik Road.

Three days in Singapore (day three)

For our third day in Singapore, we are going to explore the colonial side of the city, with the architecture and attractions from the British invasion and occupation.

For sure, though, we’ll also find some time to relax in nature, enjoy fancy cocktails and cuisine, and may even get some shopping in – wear comfy shoes today, as this full loop is around 8km in the sun if you do it all by foot.

UNESCO Botanical Gardens

Start the day in the beautiful, tranquil and well-cared-for Botanical Gardens. Slightly away from the downtown area, these gardens are so special that they are one of just a few listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Orchard Road

After a peaceful start to the day, it’s time for a little shopping and buzz on Orchard Road, the main retail street of the city. You’ll find all kinds of stores here, from the expensive and exclusive to more relaxed food offerings.

If you are after the quaint, terraced houses that are postcard-perfect and so different from the rest of the city head to Emerald Hill Road for tree-lined, intricate shuttered residences and small bars, you’ll find this just to the left about halfway down Orchard Road.

Wander along the street in the direction of the Marina, ready to start sightseeing again, and grab lunch on the way down the road.

National Museum of Singapore

Beyond the end of Orchard Road, you’ll find the oldest museum in the city, The National Museum of Singapore. Dating back to 1849, this museum now tells the story of the city, sharing insight and history to the heritage of Singapore in a grand colonial-style building.

Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling

In 1819, Sir Raffles arrived and took Singapore, converting it into a British Sea Port. It grew in size and importance as an international trade route until the Second World War when the Japanese captured it. It then became part of Malaysia before becoming a country in its own right.

The Raffles Hotel has, therefore, become quite iconic in the city and is a popular place to sample the signature Singapore Sling cocktail, so loved, I was amazed to find they even serve it in economy class when I flew with Singapore Airlines.

Not far from Raffles is The Fullerton Hotel, where on Sunday they do a reasonably fair-priced (for Singapore) champagne Brunch – which made a for a great part of my birthday celebration trip.

National Gallery of Singapore

Take a stroll past the St Andrews Church, and shortly after, you’ll arrive at the National Gallery of Singapore.

Another grand building, this time housing the world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian Art, and of course, that of Singapore. It’s a fascinating collection and a beautiful place to spend some time, so if you can only handle one gallery or museum a day, I’d suggest stopping by here over the National Museum.

Fort Canning

Nearby is Fort Canning Park, which sits atop a hill and was an important viewpoint for the country in its trading port days, as well as witnessing some of the historical events in the country’s past. Now you can explore the park, where shade can be found and is much appreciated on a warm afternoon.

On my first visit to Singapore, I stayed here in the old British War command building, which is now Hotel Fort Canning. It’s been converted into a very stylish hotel, with open plan glass rooms and bathrooms, a lovely pool in the greenery, and offers a happy hour with free drinks and snacks to its guests in the early evening.

Clark Quay

End your day in Clark Quay, a brightly lit and busy entertainment hub. Here, you’ll find countless bars and restaurants to cater to all tastes, and you can easily party into the early hours after dining on some more amazing local dishes.

Four days in Singapore (day four)

With much of the colonial history, green spaces, high-tech futuristic and heritage side of Singapore under our belts, now it’s time for some relaxing and fun!

There are many islands off Singapore, ranging from those taken over by nature to the more popular and vastly developed like Sentosa, where we will spend our day.

Cable car

The best way to get to Sentosa for me is the Cable Car, as you’ll get some fantastic views on the way there. These can be purchased at the station or booked in advance.


The beaches around Sentosa are well kept and relaxed, with plenty of opportunities to get drinks, snacks and ice-creams while you relax.

You’ll also likely meet some of the local resident peacocks, who strut around the beaches and pavements and add a splash of colour to your day in the sand. The waters are calm and mainly inlets, so it’s a chilled-out place to relax.

My favourite beach spot is at Palawan Beach, where a wooden suspension bridge leads to a tiny outer island, home to a viewing platform which is labelled as the most Southern point of continental Asia – though that seems to cause quite a debate!

Universal Studios

For those who want to lap up all the fun and games that Sentosa has on offer, though, you might prefer to spend the full day at Universal Studios Sentosa, a vast theme park with plenty of rides, shows and attractions to enjoy.

If you decide to stay the night, I can highly recommend the Sofitel in Sentosa, which, on a previous visit, had only just re-opened under the new branding. It’s a beautiful resort, although expect some Peacocks to be wandering around, as one decided to tap on my window every morning! It has beautiful architecture, spacious rooms, and a delightful pool area.

Five days in Singapore (day five)

For me, five days in Singapore will allow you to really see all sides of the city. Of course, I’ve been back four times since and happily spent days just walking around, eating great food, and discovering even more places.

For your last day, however, I’d suggest heading back towards the airport, to the other side of Changi, to see the more rugged and remote side of Singapore.

Palau Ubin Islands

While there are actually quite a few islands off Singapore to explore, one of my favourites is Palau Ubin, so I’d suggest spending the day out there exploring nature.

It is just a short ‘Bumboat’ (yep, you read that right) away from Changi Jetty, which is near the airport.

These unique islands offer a wildlife haven within this country and is home to huge lizards, wild boar, otters and monkeys.

Grab a bike for a few dollars and spend a couple of hours taking in the untouched greenery and the boardwalk over the ocean and exploring the small village known as Kampung to get a feel of what Singapore would have been like 60 years ago. The best bit? Island admission is free, and those Bumboats cost just a few dollars. You can even camp here overnight if you wish, although keep an eye out for the Giant Lizards!

Once back in Changi you realise there is more than just the airport there, it’s a quiet, tree-filled area which again makes you think what Singapore could have been like before the tower blocks. Changi village has some quaint places to eat as well as coastal beach walks.

Shopping and Souvenirs and Singapore Airport

If you are departing later that evening, be sure to leave enough time to enjoy all the airport has to offer. There is a reason it constantly wins the best airport in the world. Check out the waterfalls in the new Jewel terminal, admire the sunflowers of butterflies in the rooftop gardens, kick back and relax watching a film, or if you have plenty of time to kill, check into the airport hotel with a rooftop pool.

If you want somewhere nearby to stay the night, then the Changi Cove Hotel does the job, and I’ve stayed here before when I had an early flight, hopping in a taxi to the airport the following morning. The design, like hotel rooms, has interesting features, like high-end coffee machines in the rooms and hanging basket chairs, while a pool will help you cool off in the simple outside area.

23 replies
  1. Kane says:

    What an amazing experience. You capture the atmosphere very well, both in the text as in these gorgeous photos. Can’t wait to experience it for me one day.

  2. Reema Choubey says:

    One of the beautiful countries in southern eastern region is Singapore. This country is worth settling for its citizen friendly services and infrastructure. Anyways well written article.

  3. Ashfaqur Rahman says:

    Hey Dan, you have great contents, loved reading them all. Your global guides are very helpful.

    You can find some of my unique contents here in my blog as well: blog.nashfaqurrahman.com

  4. Sławek says:

    A very helpful article for me. My wife and I are going on a honeymoon just to Singapore, so it’s nice to know what and how before arriving :-)

  5. ankit sharma says:

    This is knowledge is really helpful. good job sir .
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  6. David says:

    Actually love Singapore. Went 2 months nearly year from before I remember till recent. I’m from Glasgow , Scotland…I know right !!!

    Get a flight pick up your bags get a taxi . All locals know perfect English , Chinese , Malay & Indian….And yeh most do all four !!!
    Super smart garden city I love x

  7. Susan says:

    One place worth a visit is the Tiger Balsm Gardens. I grew up in Singapore in the 60’s and went back a couple of years ago. They were just like I remembered and just as mesmerising. I also revisited the RAF camp Seletar that I lived in. My old house was still there!

    • danflyingsolo says:

      Thanks for the tip Susan – will have to check them out next time I am back there. Thats crazy, must have been a very unique experience coming back after all that time and seeing it still standing. It’s truly a special place :)

  8. Lauren Bishop says:

    I loved Singapore when I visited. I spent two days there on either end of a trip to Malaysia and I could have definitely stayed longer. It felt to me like a very liveable city.

    • danflyingsolo says:

      I’ve had three visits now, I think I could actually live there. Very surprising place – highly recommend another stop over if you get the chance to explore a bit more :)

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