The locals’ guide to Singapore

Beyond its high-rise skyline, this island city-state is home to eclectic neighbourhoods and attractions as diverse as its multicultural population

THE ARTS

Founder of WOMAD Singapore and the driving force behind the upcoming True Colours Festival, Audrey Perera is the city’s arts and culture cognoscente

The Esplanade – Theatres on The Bay (1 Esplanade Drive) is one of the busiest arts centres in the world with a year-round programme of free performances, art exhibitions and installations, along with ticketed concerts held in its beautiful hall and theatre. Walk through the venue at any time, and you’ll likely hear music and song. At its quietest, it offers a relaxing spot at which to take a breather, with a great view of the skyline.

When it comes to art galleries, the National Gallery Singapore (1 St Andrew’s Road) is a jewel in the crown. You can visit it as much for the world’s largest public collections of Southeast Asian art, as for the grace and sheer presence of the historic buildings it’s housed in.

For an even richer experience, consider planning your trip to coincide with one of the city’s vibrant cultural festivals. New to the calendar is my latest project, the inaugural True Colours Festival, which is taking place from 23-25 March (Singapore Indoor Stadium). Featuring 15-plus performing artistes/troupes with disabilities from Japan, China, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore, with guest artistes from the UK and Canada, we hope it will help open the door to a more open-hearted way of relating to others.

Later in the year, the Singapore International Festival of Arts, from 27 April to 13 May, is a fantastic celebration of the arts with a smorgasbord of theatre, dance and music performances courtesy of a diverse line-up of local and international artists.

Another top diary date is the annual Singapore Night Festival in August, which sees the Bras Basah/Bugis heritage district transformed into an open-air performing arts venue.

PHOTOGRAPHY HOTSPOTS

Self-taught urban photographer and Instagram star, Lee Yik Keat, takes stunning images of Singapore. He shares his top photo-friendly locations in the city

The blend of urban and street culture in Chinatown (in the Outram district), with lanterns hanging above the streets juxtaposed against a backdrop of distinctive buildings, is beautiful from any angle.

The iconic Marina Bay Sands resort is probably Singapore’s most photographed structure and makes for cool pictures. If you’re lucky enough to stay there, the views from the infinity pool are fantastic.

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Marina Bay Sands

Nature meets architecture at Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay (18 Marina Gardens Drive). The 35-metre-tall mountain is scovered in lush vegetation and, once inside, you’ll find the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

Outdoor adventurers can hike to TreeTop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir (601 Island Club Road). This free-standing suspension bridge connects the two highest points in MacRitchie and offers spectacular views of the plants and animals that live in the forest canopy.

Award-winning residential project dubbed the ‘vertical village’, The Interlace (180 Depot Road) is famous for its Jenga block style appearance and it’s even more impressive in real life.

CULINARY FEASTS

Public relations expert and gastronome, Fiona Chen, is a former food writer – she rounds up the city-state’s most delicious attractions

Singapore’s food scene is moving at a hyper pace. It’s impossible to keep track of all the new openings. It’s heartening to see more young locals entering the kitchens, too – not just of restaurants, but also of hawker stalls – bringing their fresh ideas and ingenuity (sous vide fried chicken from the hawker centre, anyone?) to the table.

My top hawker staple, and also the first dish I’d introduce my foreign friends to, is chicken rice. It’s easier on palates not used to bold or exotic Asian flavours (like fermented shrimp paste), but still delivers on taste. Tian Tian Hainanese chicken rice at Maxwell Food Centre (1 Kadayanallur Street) is considered to serve one of the best renditions.

For a signature taste of Singapore try Kaya, a spread/curd made from slow cooking coconut milk, eggs, sugar and sometimes pandan. I don’t have a sweet tooth but Dong Po Colonial Café’s (56 Kandahar Street) version is creamy and not too sweet.

For gourmet dining, head to National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore inside National Gallery Singapore (1 St. Andrew’s Road). It serves Peranakan food, a traditional Asian cuisine that blends Chinese and Malay flavours. The opulent setting, with traditional Peranakan accents, is worth writing home about.

Simpang Bedok, near Changi Airport, is the place to go if you’re experiencing late night hunger pangs. There are a few Muslim coffee shops that open until the small hours (until 4am) and there’s a huge selection of food, from roti prata (fried flatbread) to kebabs.

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National Kitchen by Violet Oon