Singapore holiday highlights

On the banks of the Singapore River, the colonial region of Riverside (also known as the Civic Region) is where the British Statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles landed and first founded the city of Singapore in the early 19th Century. Today, you can stand on the banks of the river and watch as 100 dragon boats rhythmically make their way through the water during October's River Regatta. On the south bank of the river, you'll see the skyscrapers of the central business district and plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants at Boat Quay. On the north bank, colonial buildings blend with modern structures at Clarke Quay. Lined by historic warehouses from a time when the Singapore River was the city's centre of trade, the area is now a popular entertainment destination. Some of the warehouses and traditional Chinese junk ships have been restored to their former glory and are today home to bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Singapore's Botanic Gardens is one of the most famous of its kind throughout the world. Open since 1859 as an ornamental park where fêtes and flower showers were held, the park has been instrumental in the role of making Singapore a 'Garden City'. Wander through the many exotic gardens, including the world-renowned National Orchid Garden which is home to 1000 species of orchids and some 60,000 plants. An early start here is highly recommended to beat the heat and see the locals practising t'ai chi.

One of the city's most famous landmarks is Gardens by the Bay, Singapore's 21st-Century space-age nature park. A 250-acre urban masterpiece that symbolises the city's contemporary vision, Gardens by the Bay sits in the heart of Marina Bay, an extravagant entertainment complex located on reclaimed land east of downtown Singapore. Well-loved for its futuristic and towering supertrees, the park is also home to an aerial skyway, giant biodomes and a cloud forest. While stunning in the day, the park is simply breathtaking at night – every evening, watch as the supertrees transform with their dazzling light displays during the Garden Rhapsody light and sound show.

To escape the city, locals and tourists head to Sentosa, an island resort self-titled as 'Asia's Favourite Playground'. The island is home to Resorts World® – Singapore's own Universal Studios, the adrenaline-fuelled theme park of Imbiah Lookout and a number of fun-filled attractions along its two-mile beach. Sentosa Island is a family's dream destination that also features charming coastal and forest ecosystems and nature walks, ideal for a bit of wildlife spotting. Alternatively, head to Pulau Ubin, just ten minutes by bumboat from Singapore's east coast. Singapore of old, this largely undeveloped island has a population of less than 100, and is also home to one of the last surviving kampongs in Singapore.

Where is Singapore?
Just 17 miles long and 31 miles wide, Singapore is a tiny island city-state in South-East Asia. 85 miles north of the equator, it lies at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula between Malaysia and Indonesia, with other nearby neighbours including Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Food and drink
For the locals of Singapore, dining out is a passion and you can see why, with a host of oriental delicacies, local specialties and cuisine from around the world to choose from. Extremely proud of their rich food heritage, Singaporean cuisine is usually a multicultural explosion, stemming from a fusion of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Indonesian influences. And the best thing about dining here? From the high-end and spectacular to the inexpensive and authentic, it has to be the seemingly endless choice of restaurants and bars you can enjoy.

Go where the locals go and you won't go far wrong. Sample a highlight of Singaporean culture and go for the cheap dishes at one of the famous Michelin-starred hawker centres. In downtown Singapore, the Maxwell Hawker Food Centre is probably the most authentic that you'll find in the city, but the Chinatown Food Complex is its most well known. Head here to find the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle stall – home to the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world. Don't miss the amazing food at Newton Circus. By day this looks like a normal street but at night it transforms, with an array of hawker stalls serving the flavours of the Orient. Chinatown is a must for foodies, with some of the most highly rated stalls lining the vibrant streets. A drink or meal at the iconic Raffles Singapore is also a must – the world-renowned Long Bar is where you'll be able to order a Singapore Sling. There's no shortage of bars throughout the city either, from rooftop venues offering spectacular views of the city to ultra-trendy bars and hangouts.

Shopping
The retail heart of the city is mostly located along Orchard Road, where you'll be drawn in by the glitzy entrances of the large shopping centres. Similar to London's Oxford Street, it's the ultimate shopping destination in Singapore. Once lined with spice orchards and plantations, the road is now dominated by high-end fashion emporiums and malls, tiny boutiques and luxury fashion houses, all buzzing with locals and tourists. Less commercial shopping can be enjoyed in the quieter neighbourhood of the city, where you'll find independent designers and bustling local markets, while districts like Little India and Chinatown are the places to visit for a bargain. Head to Haji Lane in Kampong Glam to experience the best in boutique shopping; one of the narrowest streets in Singapore, it's also one of the trendiest with its yoga studios, old-school vintage shops and quirky street art and cafés.

Getting around
Singapore has one of the sleekest and most well-developed public transport systems in Asia. Efficient, comfortable and seriously good value, you can whizz around this tiny island in mere minutes on the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system. If you're keen to explore as much of the city as possible, we recommend buying a Singapore Tourist Pass. Available for one, two or three days at a time, you'll enjoy unlimited train and bus travel throughout the city. If heading to the sights of downtown Singapore, one of our favourite ways to explore this area is on a bumboat. Cheap and fast, these classic boats add a touch of nostalgia to a river tour with their charming flat-bottomed designs and quaint lantern decorations that light up the river at night.

Singapore key facts

Time difference

GMT +8 hours

Capital

Singapore

Currency

Singapore dollar.

Flying time to destination

13 hours

Language

English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil.

Singapore good to know

Etiquette

Religion
Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism