What’s new in Singapore

The city always has an ace up its sleeve, says Tamara Hinson

It’s easy to underestimate Singapore. Not because of its stopover city status (Singapore’s constantly expanding repertoire of new attractions and hotels means most travellers now realise its appeal goes far beyond locations close to the airport), but because of its ability to continually shape-shift and innovate.

Take this month’s opening of the sleek Mondrian Singapore Duxton in Chinatown, an area which has – until now – been mostly known for its heritage buildings. Or the changes afoot on Sentosa Island, where the upcoming opening of a Raffles hotel will provide further proof that theme park-filled Sentosa has a sophisticated side, too.

Why sell it?

Singapore never rests on its laurels, so there’s always something new for clients to check out. It’s also strengthening its position as a cruise hub; Disney Cruise Line recently announced that Singapore will become the home port to its seventh ship, when it launches in 2025. Great flight connections, a slick metro system –  the MRT, or Mass Rapid Transit – and a constantly expanding network of cycling and hiking trails make it one of Asia’s most accessible destinations.

And then there’s September’s Formula One grand prix. Las Vegas might well have unveiled its new street circuit for this year, but Singapore has F1’s original street circuit. You don’t have to be a motor-racing fan to enjoy it either, thanks to fantastic entertainment and concepts such as the Amber Lounge, a VIP nightclub that flings open its doors during race weekend. This year, there will also be two new grandstands, Sheares and Promenade.

What’s new?

Raffles Sentosa Resort & Spa opens on Sentosa Island in 2024, and with 62 villas, it will be one of Singapore’s swankiest resorts. In April, Marina Bay Sands unveiled its makeover of 850 hotel rooms – part of an ongoing $1 billion upgrade. A new app means guests can now check in using smartphones.

There’s never been any shortage of green space in Singapore, and the latest example is Bird Paradise, which opened in May at the Mandai Wildlife Reserve. There are eight walk-through aviaries and behind‑the‑scenes experiences offer access to the park’s Avian Healthcare and Research Centre. Rare species on display include straw-headed bulbuls, black‑winged mynas and blue-throated macaws.

There’s good news for stopover guests too. Changi Airport Group, Singapore Airlines and the Singapore Tourism Board have relaunched Free Singapore Tours after a two-year hiatus. Available to travellers with stopovers of between five-and-a-half and 24 hours, they can be booked via the Changi airport website. Also new is the tourist board’s SingapoRewards scheme, which lets visitors try off-the-beaten-path experiences for free.

When to go

Singapore’s proximity to the equator means high humidity and little fluctuation in temperature. It rarely drops below 24C at night or rises above 36C during the day. Singapore’s busiest periods include Chinese New Year in January or February (dates depend on the full moon). February, March and April have the least rainfall and the lowest humidity.

Where to stay

The options are seemingly endless with both big brands and boutiques in abundance. The upcoming opening of the Raffles property is a reminder that there are plenty of fantastic accommodation options beyond Singapore’s centre. Sentosa Island is home to some of Singapore’s most luxurious hotels, including Capella Singapore, surrounded by 12 hectares of parkland. In 2022, the hotel opened Fiamma, a fine-dining Italian restaurant.

Singapore’s skyline is filled with showstoppers, whether it’s Marina Bay Sands, the cigar-shaped Swissôtel The Stamford or the waterfront Fullerton Bay Hotel. Late last year, the latter unveiled eight double‑storey Loft Suites, which have huge verandas (flanked by spectacular Doric columns) and beautiful decor, including botanical illustrations inspired by southeast Asia.

Hilton Singapore Orchard unveiled 446 additional rooms (bringing the total to 1,080), spanning four categories, earlier this year. Orchard Road is also where you’ll find Pan Pacific Orchard, which opens this month. The hotel, comprising four greenery-covered blocks stacked on one another, has an abundance of outside space – there’s an outdoor gym, 7,300sq m of foliage and a beach-fringed outdoor pool.

What to do

Sentosa Island’s big hitters continue to evolve. Its key attractions include the Adventure Cove Waterpark, iFly Singapore, Madame Tussauds Singapore and Universal Studios Singapore. Recent additions include SkyHelix Sentosa, Singapore’s highest open-air panoramic ride, and the beachfront Central Beach Bazaar, which has fantastic street food and southeast Asia’s tallest fountain. Sentosa’s heritage sites, such as Fort Siloso and the Mount Imbiah Battery, built in the 1880s, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Einsteins young and old will love the ArtScience Museum (part of the Marina Bay Sands complex), where highlights include the interactive, family-friendly Future World, a permanent digital art exhibition. For traditionalists, the National Museum of Singapore, Singapore Art Museum and Peranakan Museum are easily accessible from the downtown area. Culture fans will likely also want to visit the Sultan Mosque.

Then there’s neon-drenched Orchard Road, lined with Singapore’s largest malls and hotels. According to minister of state for trade and industry Alvin Tan, it will soon become more welcoming to pedestrians, with new Insta-friendly street furniture and a focus on independent brands. Later this year, adrenaline junkies will be making a beeline for Trifecta by Ride Side, which will feature dedicated areas for skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding.

There are plenty of opportunities for time out too. The vast Gardens by the Bay nature park, behind Marina Bay Sands, is one of the most easily accessible green spaces. Singapore Botanic Gardens is home to the world-renowned National Orchid Garden.

Hikers and cyclists are incredibly well catered for. A network of innovative hiking and cycling trails (including the 15-mile Rail Corridor, which sits in the footprint of a railway once used to shuttle goods to Malaysia) connects Singapore’s parks and nature reserves. Visitors to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, with its greenery-covered hides, can spot everything from crocodiles and yellow-spotted mudskippers to migratory birds and monitor lizards. The MacRitchie Reservoir, famous for its acrobatic monkeys, has a network of walking trails that meanders past Singapore’s oldest reservoir.

Where to dine

Singapore is famous for its street food – delicious, wallet-friendly food served at hawker markets – and in 2020 its hawker culture was given Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage status. Popular spots include the Newton Food Centre (made famous by the Crazy Rich Asians film), the Adam Road Food Centre and Little India’s Tekka Centre (the butter chicken is legendary).

Singapore’s restaurants have bagged numerous Michelin stars, and the recipients are wonderfully diverse, whether it’s Labyrinth, where chef owner Li Guang champions local ingredients, or Marina Bay Sands’ Cut by Wolfgang Puck. The latter is a reminder that some of Singapore’s best restaurants are in hotels. Restaurants at Raffles Singapore, for example, include Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse, the Tiffin Room, which dates back to 1892, and yì by Jereme Leung.

Great foodie neighbourhoods include Thomson, which has numerous fantastic cafes and hawker centres; Chinatown, for authentic Asian cuisine for all budgets; and leafy Holland Park, which has everything from charcuteries to Michelin-starred restaurants.

BOOK IT: Carrier offers seven nights in Singapore from £7,720 per person. The price includes four nights at Raffles Singapore and three nights at Capella Singapore, breakfast, return World Traveller Plus flights with British Airways from Heathrow, transfers and fast-track immigration in Singapore and London. The price also includes a Private Peranakan Day out, a sidecar ride and cultural tour, and a tai chi session.


Ask the expert: Must-sees

Leslie Danker, resident historian, Raffles Singapore

“I recommend exploring the East Coast Park walking and jogging trails. You’ll get wonderful views of the ships out at sea, and the trails are lined with seafood restaurants. There’s also the Singapore Botanic Gardens – a Unesco World Heritage Site with plants from all over the world. The orchid garden has flowers named after famous heads of states. There is also a bandstand, which hosts performances on Sundays.”

Rajagopal Rajkumar, concierge, Shangri-La

“Guests seeking a unique experience should visit Pulau Ubin – one of Singapore’s last kampongs (traditional villages). Home to diverse habitats, the island is the perfect destination for nature lovers. A 15-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, Pulau Ubin is popular for cycling, kayaking and hiking. Wildlife lovers can visit the Chek Jawa Wetlands, where they will find six distinct habitats, including coastal forests, rocky beaches and a mangrove swamp.”


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