Singapore, Day 1 – What to see in Singapore in 2 days.
Singapore is a city created by history, particularly the history of colonization. When the Dutch and British began colonizing Asia, which area belongs to which country was a source of constant conflict.
One such conflict was resolved when the Dutch took Malasia and the English took Singapore. As the colonizers began to build up Singapore, they brought in cheap labor from other countries to work in construction and other low paying jobs.
However, the British did not trust the new immigrants. So they split them up into little towns, one for each nation. There is a china town, an India town, Kampong glam where the Islamic Malaysian immigrants lived, and Telok Ayer neighborhood, where the Peranakan people lived, a cross of Malaysian and Chinese (and Indian) people, intermarried back in the 1800s.
Of course, the Brits carved out a place for themselves too – a green space on a hill armed with cannons (which were thankfully never used) in case of a rebellion – Fort Canning.
If you are looking for great places to stay in Singapore on your trip, be sure to check out my blog post reviewing the best hotels in Singapore in every price range.
Because of the way Singapore is set up if you only have 2 days in Singapore it makes sense to explore by neighborhoods rather than attractions. And so, on the first day make your way to China Town. No matter where you are on earth, if you are in a major city, there is probably a china town.
The incredible thing is that it almost doesn’t matter what continent or country you are in, China towns all over the world have a similar feel and look. It’s a great testament to the power of the Chinese culture that they manage to transform almost any place on earth to suit them and their families.
This China town is not different. A busy, lively place the Singaporean Chinatown hosts a million restaurants and shops with bargains for the tourist. For your first stop, go into Buddha Tooth Relic temple.
Although this temple might look ancient, groundbreaking on this temple began in 2005 and it was completed in 2007. Legend says that the Buddha tooth relic found within was found in a collapsed stupa in Myanmar in the 1980s.
First, walk inside (your shoulders and knees must be covered, you can borrow free scarves outside). If you are lucky as I was, you will have a chance to see services in action. This is where most tourists stop because they think that’s all there is to see. But walk into the side door, it’s not marked in any way so you might need to ask security and take the elevator up to the fourth floor.
Up here you can walk through the striking (and totally free) rooftop garden. Here, amongst the flowers you’ll find thousands of little buddhas lined up behind glass. You can even sponsor one yourself. For $68 a year, the monks in the temple will pray for you (using your name) and ask for longevity on your behalf.
I sat in this garden for a few minutes and thought about it. But the truth is, I wouldn’t ask for longevity. What I really want, is the wisdom to do well with my time, whatever it may be. I am not afraid of dying, only of not having lived.
Afterwards, if you are a vegetarian or feel like a veggie lunch make your way into the basement of the temple where vegetarian dishes are served, and many of the vegetables are raised by the monks. If not, walk over to the famous food street and pick one of the thousands of restaurants lining Chinatown’s tight avenues, sit down and enjoy the traditional meal.
Since you only have 2 days in Singapore and want to see as much as possible, keep going to the next neighborhood. Take the MRT to the small Telok Ayer neighborhood. The Peraknan people who used to live here, are a mix of Malaysian, Chinese and some Indian people who intermarried in the 1800s. They lived in this neighborhood, which now hosts many of the hipsters of the city.
These narrow streets are now home to dozens of coffee shops, small restaurants and boutiques. Keep walking towards the Thian Hock Keng temple. This temple was originally built on the edge of an island (it has since become very much inland due to the new land Singapore is creating every year). The goddess worshiped here, Thian Hock Keng is the protector of the people at sea.
Legend says that she, as a young girl used to be able to go in a meditative state to protect her father and brothers while they were at sea. One day her mother interrupted the state – and all the male family members died. She was so distraught she left home and encountered two men on a road. They attempted to rob her (or maybe rape her) and she fought them off so fiercely that they swore to follow her for the rest of her life.
If you look on the left and right of the statue, you will see two figures of men – still following her, even after death. From inside this temple take the open door on the left into a courtyard, here you will find a building holding some shops – and one of the best desert places serving Nyone Kueh – grandma’s treats. A traditional desert of the Peraknan people.
For dinner tonight, get some crab at Jumbo Crab, on the river walk. Jumbo crab is a seafood chain that started right here in Singapore and spread through Asia. Its famous for (you guessed it) jumbo crab and super popular amongst locals. Then, starting at Clark Quay walk all along the river to the Asian Civilization museum.
You will then walk towards Victoria Hall (this is where Singapore’s Symphony Orchestra plays). All along this walk you will have tons of opportunities for pictures and people watching. Finally, keep walking until you get to the National Gallery.
Take the elevator up to the sixth floor of the gallery and here you’ll find a hidden bar – Smoke and Mirrors. This bar offers great drinks and the best views in town. Relax and enjoy the view of your first night in Singapore.
Singapore, Day 2 – What to see in Singapore in 2 days
Whenever the question of what to see in Singapore in 2 days comes up, the answer is always going to include Singapore’s most famous attractions – the Cloud Forest. Depending on where you stay in the city, consider taking a walk on the Marina Bay on your way to the gardens. You will probably have to go over the helix bridge, an architectural feat and a fantastic place to take pictures.
Next, walk into the Marina bay hotel. Here, a huge shopping mall lies in front of you. If you are up for shopping, be sure to stop back here on your way from the cloud forest. Finally, make your way into the gardens. Most of the garden is actually free to visit and provide a wonderful respite for Singaporeans on their days off. The only parts to pay for, are the famous cloud forest and sky walk.
The cloud forest greets you with a huge waterfall, an incredible sight. There are many adventures and discoveries awaiting you here, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise. After you are done walking through the world’s largest indoor garden, make your way over to the sky walk.
Here you can take the elevator up to walk among the huge artificial trees (that really help clean Singapore’s air) and probably the most famous site in Singapore. Rules say you are only allowed to stay up here for fifteen minutes so be sure to make the most of your time.
If you are hungry after your walk, stop by the restaurant complex located right next to the skywalk, there are many good options available here serving everything from Italian meals to American style food and traditional Chinese dishes.
Next, proceed to the adjacent Art and Science museum. Although the museum is fairly small (takes at most 45 minutes to an hour to to walk through) the exhibits here are absolutely spectacular and gorgeous – and worth seeing and photographing.
One of the most instagrammable moments in Singapore is located right here, so be sure to stop in if great vacation pictures are your thing!
Now, if you are so inclined to stay and do some shopping. Alternatively, make your way to the MRT (a station lies right under the bay gardens) and to the Kampong Glam, the Muslim area of Singapore and home to the famous Sultan Mosque.
In this hip neighborhood, lined with coffee shops and cute boutiques peddling high fashion, make your way to the mosque.
You can go inside on some days but even if you can’t the view from the outside is breathtaking. Grab a cup of coffee or an ice-cream on a street closed to traffic and enjoy the incredible view and atmosphere.
Tonight, another adventure awaits you. If you are like me, you have probably visited some incredible zoos but I can promise you, you have never seen one like the night safari. The Singapore zoo and wildlife reserve center hosts these wildly popular night safari tours 365 days a year. Buy your ticket online in advance to receive a small discount.
Get here for the opening time – 7:30. The first thing you will see will be huge lines for the shuttle. Skip right over those and go straight to the walking paths. Here, four different walking paths will take you across the zoo in the dark, as the nocturnal animals greet you in their natural habitat. Bring a tripod or a night view camera if you are so inclined and remember flash photography is strictly forbidden.
If you are bringing children for your 2 day trip to Singapore, be sure to catch the wildlife show as well (just ask any staff member), adorable and educational but mostly oriented towards younger viewers.
After you finish your four hikes (each taking about 20 minutes each without the time you’ll need for pictures) the line for the shuttle should be much shorter, and you can quickly hop on and visit all the areas you haven’t seen by foot. When people ask me what to see in Singapore in 2 days I will always recommend this unique night safari experience.
Bonus: Day 3 – What to see in Singapore in 2 days
If you have a few extra hours in Singapore before your flight, here is an off the beaten path activity you might enjoy. Deep in the heart of the ___ district (next to Wangz and Coo Hostel) lies a famous market, called the wet market of Tiong Bahru. Its called the wet market because the floors are supposed to be always wet from being washed so much – although I must say I didn’t encounter any wet floors!
Very few tourists visit here especially early in the morning, so few in fact that I got a lot of incredulous looks when I showed up with my camera at 6 am. Its fun to watch city waking up and coming here at 6 am is absolutely not necessary, but cool to see the merchants prepare their wares for the day.
After you stroll the huge market (hundreds of stalls) make your way upstairs to the local food court to enjoy very inexpensive local breakfast or make your way to the trendy Tiong Bahru bakery shop right next door and try the green tea croissant (absolutely delicious).
The juxtaposition of the local, down to earth market and the fancy bakery which could be located in Paris is awesome and a fun experience before your flight.
I hope you have enjoyed this itinerary. It’s a pretty packed one, and you can easily break it up into pieces to complete on your 3 day trip to Singapore if that’s how long you are staying.