If you’ve ever done business in Southeast Asia, you’ve probably been to Singapore, a global financial center that’s home to one of the world’s busiest ports and its best airport. Here’s how to make the most of a day off in the Lion City.
Start your day in the historic Malay enclave Kampong Glam. For your spiritual side, step into the Masjid Sultan, a gold-domed mosque that can accommodate 5,000 worshippers; for your materialistic side, do a lap of boutique-lined Haji Lane and queue up for an iced latte with your portrait on top at Selfie Coffee.
Take a 10-minute cab ride to The Intan, an appointment-only museum in Joo Chiat. Owner Alvin Yapp has spent 30 years amassing collectibles from the Peranakan (mixed-race descendants of migrant Chinese workers and local women) community, and he’ll tell you about the culture as you peruse his beaded shoes and ornate wedding altars.
No visit to Singapore is complete without a meal at one of its 100-plus hawker centers, so head to Chinatown’s Maxwell Food Centre. Be sure to order from the Ah Tan Wings, Empress Place Beef Kway Teow, and Maxwell Fuzhou Oyster Cakes stalls, but the true can’t-miss is the national dish, Hainanese chicken rice, from the Ah Tai or Tian Tian stand.
Spitting distance from the Maxwell Centre—if spitting were legal here—is the Six Senses Maxwell, a 138-room boutique hotel comprised of 14 prewar shophouses. Get a Tibetan-inspired singing bowl welcome at check-in, then borrow one of the 3,000 books in the Cook and Tras Social Library to take up to your room for a little pre-nap reading.
Hop the MRT to the National Gallery Singapore and spend an hour appreciating Southeast Asian paintings before dinner at National Kitchen by Violet Oon. The restaurant’s jade-green decor is worthy of its museum setting, and its menu offers upscale takes on local classics. Don’t pass on the beef rendang, a richly spicy Peranakan curry.
A 20-minute walk along the marina, over the Helix Bridge and past the Marina Bay Sands, delivers you to the futuristic Gardens by the Bay. Take the elevator to the seventh story of the Cloud Forest conservatory, and then follow the circular walkways down through orchids, educational exhibits, and the mist of a 115-foot waterfall. Afterward, catch a light show in the famed Supertree Grove.
Wind down at The Old Man—a Hemingway-themed Chinatown spot that was recently ranked 38th on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. Sip a The Sun Also Rises #1926 (fat-washed applejack, curry leaf–infused gin, sous-vide sweet vermouth, and kaffir lime) while you think how you and Singapore had such a damned good time together.