Singapore is an island city-state at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula with a population of 5.6 million. It sits only 137 km north of the equator. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles established a trading post in Singapore, and would become a British colony in 1824. In 1963, it became part of Malaysia, and in 1965 became an independent country. Today, it has one of the highest GDP per capita.
Singapore has 5 official languages, with English being the primary language, which makes it a very convenient and easy destination for English-speaking tourists. The diversity of cultures, religions and languages in Singapore is part of its identity (and success), and makes it a fascinating place to visit. We show you the best things to do during your 2 days in Singapore.
Day 1 – Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Shoppes, Fort Canning Park and Chinatown
As one of Singapore’s best attractions, we’ll start at Gardens by the Bay, a park that magically combines nature and human-made elements. It sits on 250 acres of reclaimed land in the Marina Bay harbour area. (In fact, nearly 20% of Singapore’s land is reclaimed.) It opened in 2012. Construction of the park cost over $1 billion. Access to the outdoor park areas are free, while there’s an admission fee for the OCBC Skyway, and for the conservatories.
Start by visiting the Supertree Grove, an area featuring giant tree-like structures between 25-50 meters tall (82-160 ft). Some are covered in climbing vines, while others are covered in orchids and bromeliads. The OCBC Skyway is an elevated platform suspended between two of the larger Supertrees, offering amazing views of the gardens and the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Try to arrive early, since capacity is limited.
The Flower Dome conservatory is the largest glass greenhouse in the world, covering 3 acres. Replicating a mild, dry climate (the opposite of Singapore), it features plans from the Mediterranean and semi-arid tropical regions like Australia, South America and South Africa (including a fascinating collection of baobab trees). The Cloud Forest conservatory is smaller (still a remarkable 2 acres) but my favourite of the two greenhouses. It has a cool, moist climate, replicating the tropical mountain ecosystem found between elevations of 1,000-3,000 meters, with ferns, orchids, bromeliads and mosses. The exhibit is actually designed as a small mountain with a walking path that winds around and through the structure, complete with a 35 m/115 ft waterfall.
The Marina Bay Sands hotel is an inspiring piece of architecture that holds several records. Opening in 2010, it was the world’s most expensive hotel (costing S$8 billion). The hotel consists of 3 towers topped by the 340 metre, 3 acre SkyPark with an infinity pool (the world’s longest elevated swimming pool at 146 meters, for hotel guests only). Tourists can access the observations deck on the cantilevered tip (the largest public cantilevered platform in the world). It also claims to be the world’s most photographed hotel, and it’s easy to understand why. If you’re wanted to splurge on accommodations, this would be a pretty cool place to stay for your 2 days in Singapore; you’ll get either a view of the Marina or the Gardens by the Bay!
Connected to the hotel is the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, a luxury shopping mall complex with designer shops, celebrity chef restaurants, a casino, two theatres, and more. A Venetian-style canal runs through the mall, complete with boat rides. A floating pavilion over the bay houses the world’s largest (20,000 sq. ft.) Louis Vuitton boutique, accessible via underwater tunnel.
The sights and architecture of Singapore’s Chinatown are varied. It features Baroque and Victorian architecture along with examples of the Tang dynasty and South Indian Dravidian architectural styles.
The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hindu Temple, built in 1827 in the Dravidian style, and named after its principal deity. The memorable entrance tower (gopuram) was first constructed in 1903 and consisted of 3 tiers. The present 6-tier version was built in 1925. Shoes must be removed to enter the temple.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is hard to miss in Singapore’s Chinatown. It’s a modern construction (built between 2005-2007) in the Northern Chinese Tang dynasty architectural style. At a minimum, walk through the ground floor to view the temple interior, decorated in red and gold. The tooth relic can be viewed on the 4th floor. Simple vegetarian food is served in the basement.
Chinatown abounds with tourist trap food joints, so for a traditional (and inexpensive) Singaporean, head to the hawker stalls at the Maxwell Food Centre. The Maxwell Food Centre was originally a fresh food market, but was converted to a food centre in 1986 to provide affordable meals to the city’s poor. Today it’s a popular hawker centre enjoyed by all Singaporeans. It houses the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall, made famous when Anthony Bourdain featured it on his show. Their chicken rice is considered amount the best (if not the best) in Singapore; it’s simple but surprisingly delicious and filling. Pair it with an side order of veggies. There’s always a line-up, but it moves quickly and is well worth it.
Day 2 – Singapore Botanic Gardens, Raffles Long Bar and Little India
If you aren’t gardened-out from your first day in Singapore, start day 2 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The gardens at its current site were established in 1859 and are now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has the largest orchid collection with over 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids. The outdoor gardens are free to visit, while the National Orchid Garden charges an admission fee.
The Singapore Sling cocktail, as its name would suggest, was indeed created in Singapore at the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel (which have both been tastefully restored from 2017-2019). A blend of gin, cherry liqueur, Cointreau, Bénédectine, pineapple juice, lime juice and grenadine, it was created in 1915 to look like punch, so that it would be acceptable for women to drink in public. Despite being a very touristy thing to do, it’s worth stopping into the Long Bar for a Singapore Sling and to much on peanuts (and toss the shells on the floor). Be warned, it will set you back S$28. But they’re generous servings made with premium alcohol… and it’s really all about the experience.
If you’re looking to do some souvenir shopping (and don’t mind crowds), check out Little India. The Mustafa Centre is a 400,000 square-foot that is open 24 hours and sells almost everything you could imagine.
For dinner, with some hawker centre experience under our belt, we’ll brave our way through the hawker centre in the Chinatown Complex. Located on the second floor of the complex, it’s Singapore’s largest hawker centre with over 200 stalls. It’s famous for being home to the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world: the S$2 soy sauce chicken rice at the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle stall. Expect a long line-up, but it’s a great, inexpensive meal, and part of the Singapore experience. (You’ll probably see the line-up before noticing the stall.)
Bonus – Henderson Waves
If you have extra time, or you want to substitute something in this itinerary during your 2 days in Singapore, consider the Henderson Waves, a raised pedestrian path that twists and turns at 36 meters above the ground and spans a length of 274 meters. It has a number of spots to stop and rest, and you might even spot a monkey.
Have you visited these attractions or tried this itinerary for your 2 day in Singapore? Let us know what you thought in the comments, or suggest some additional ideas!