2 ways to explore Singapore in a day

If there's any country that can be enjoyed in a matter of hours, it's Singapore

Amanda T. Lago

Published: 6:30 PM August 11, 2018

Updated: 6:46 PM August 11, 2018

SINGAPORE IN A DAY. The city is filled with interesting sights that can be seen even on a quick trip. All photos by Amanda Lago/Rappler

With its status as a transport hub and its proximity to Manila, it's not uncommon for travelers to find themselves in Singapore with not a lot of time to spare. Whether it's a long layover, a quick weekend off, or a free day in the middle of a business trip, some people just don't have the luxury of time to explore the country.

But if there's any country that can be enjoyed in a matter of hours, it's Singapore, where efficient train lines make it easy to go from one end of the city to the other, and where the mundane becomes exciting because of the country's multicultural charm.

Here are two ways to do it:

Itinerary 1: Get busy, get touristy

This itinerary covers a lot of Singapore's major landmarks, so it's perfect for those who want to satisfy their curiosity of tourist sites  With the sites' proximity to MRT stations or to each other, this itinerary is best done via commute – especially since you can take an MRT straight from the airport and back (the trains also save you from being stuck in traffic).

Start at Sri Mariamman Temple (20 minutes)

SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE. The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore is located in the Chinatown District.

The temple itself is not that big, so you can see most of it in half an hour or less. Just remember to be respectful, as people actually go there to pray and worship. You'll need to deposit your shoes by the entrance, and if your shoulders and legs are exposed, you will need to cover up (you can borrow shawls and wraps at the entrance).

DRAVIDIAN STYLE. The temple is done in elaborate architecture.

Nearest MRT station: Chinatown
Admission: Free

Head to the Buddha Tooth Temple and Museum (20 minutes)

BUDDHIST TEMPLE. The place of worship houses what is believed to be the tooth relic of the Buddha.

It's a Tang-style Buddhist temple, which, as its name suggests, houses what is believed to be the sacred tooth relic of Buddha. Aside from being a place of worship, it also houses an exhibition of artifacts related to Buddha, as well as a theater where cultural performances are held. Of course, if you're seeing it in a rush, you may want to forego spending a lot of time in these areas and simply walk through the temple's halls, where Buddhist monks practice their ceremonies.

PLACE OF WORSHIP. Buddhist monks pray at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Nearest MRT station: Chinatown
Admission: Free

Check out the Fullerton Building (20 to 30 minutes)

HERITAGE BUILDING. The Fullerton Hotel is a colonial-style building that was once the General Post Office.

Since then, the building has been restored and is now being used as a luxury hotel. If you can spare the time, grab a quick Singapore Sling at the hotel's Post Bar, or drop by the free admission Fullerton Heritage Gallery which is also within the hotel.

Nearest MRT station: Raffles Place
Admission: Free

Drop by the Merlion Statue (15 minutes)

NATIONAL SYMBOL. The Merlion statue stands by Marina Bay.

Nearest MRT station: Raffles Place
Admission: Free

Walk to St Andrew's Cathedral and the Art Connector (20 minutes)

ART FOR ALL. The Art Connector gives a glimpse of the National Gallery.

The Art Connector is a walkway that displays various artwork, with the mainstay being a piece that features portraits of Singaporean citizens etched into copper, in celebration of the diversity of Singaporean people. The Art Connector is in front of St Andrew's Cathedral and right across the National Gallery, so while you may not have time to see the gallery exhibitions, walking down the path will already give you a little glimpse of what it's like. 

Nearest MRT station: City Hall
Admission: Free

Ride the MRT to the Botanic Gardens (1 to 2 hours)

GOING GREEN. The Botanic Gardens house a lush display of plants.

There are a lot of special areas inside the Botanic Gardens, including an actual rainforest that's older than the gardens themselves, a ginger garden with a waterfall, a children's garden with a playground, lawns that are perfect for picnicking and lounging around, and several lakes, including one with a stage in the center of it, where the Singapore Symphony Orchestra plays on weekends.

GREEN RESPITE. The gardens also host a rainforest within the city.
ORCHID GARDEN. The special section of the Botanic Gardens houses a wide variety of orchid species and hybrids.

One particularly interesting section is the VIP orchid garden, which displays orchid hybrids that have been named after heads of state, as part of Singapore's "orchid diplomacy" (and yes, there is a hybrid there named after President Rodrigo Duterte).

Itinerary 2: Take it easy in Tiong Bahru

If racing through tourist attractions is too overwhelming for you, zero in on Tiong Bahru. The area is mostly leafy suburb, with quiet residential buildings and narrow lanes, where the most action-packed thing that could happen is a kid riding their bike. The area is a quirky blend of the hipster and historic, with sights that will make you feel like you discovered them purely by serendipity. Just take the MRT to the Tiong Bahru station, and start your exploring from there.

Browse the stacks at independent bookstores (30 minutes)

There's something inherently exciting about rifling through stacks of books, even though you know you'll never get to read them all. If that sounds like time well spent to you, head to Yong Siak street, which is about 9 minutes on foot from the MRT station.

BOOKS ACTUALLY. The independent bookstore houses local and foreign literature.
WOODS IN THE BOOKS. Another specialty bookstore carries picture books for children.

Admission: Free (but not the books!)

Walk through the heritage apartments (30 minutes to 1 hour)

Walk about a couple of minutes away from Yong Siak street, and you'll find yourself on the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail.

HERITAGE TRAIL. Lim Liak street in Tiong Bahru is lined with houses done in post-war architecture.

What's particularly interesting on the heritage trail are the blocks that showcase Singapore's architecural history, from the pre-war art-deco flats on Tiong Poh Road, the Horseshoe Block on Moh Guan Terrace that was once the only 5-storey building in the district, and the post-war, International Style flats along Lim Liak Road that look like they could be part of a Black Mirror episode.

Admission: Free

Sample heritage hawker fare at Tiong Bahru Market (30 minutes)

The Tiong Bahru Market on Seng Poh Road is only a few minutes' walk from wherever you may have ended up on the heritage trail, since it's the trail's first stop.

HERITAGE HAWKERS. The Tiong Bahru market houses hawker stalls, some of which have been around since the 1950s.

Admission: Free (but not the food!)

Both itineraries also work for a quick weekend getaway! – Rappler.com