24 Hours in Singapore: A Perfect Introduction to Asia

24 Hours in Singapore! My ideal itinerary for seeing the best of Singapore in only 1 day 

Many people start their travels in South East Asia in Bangkok, and whilst the Thai capital is cheap with plenty to explore and is a great place for backpackers to meet other travellers, I actually think that Singapore makes the best introduction to Asia – even just 24 hours in Singapore can feel like you have experienced different cultures of Asia! 

Singapore has been described as a microcosm of Asia. This small, city, island state is South East Asia’s success story and combines modern skyscrapers and futuristic architecture with colonial history, international cuisine, a tropical climate and a taste of different Asian cultures in air conditioned, clean and orderly comfort, meaning that  Singapore offers a great introduction to the region, perfect for a first time visitor to Asia.

Unfortunately for backpackers and budget travelers, Singapore is not a cheap destination like the majority of Asia but with plenty of things to do for free spending 24 hours in Singapore can still be affordable. The efficient public transport system and lack of hassle means the clean and compact city is easy to explore interdependently and can give you a insight into many different cultures in one day. There are so many things to do in Singapore and you’ll be surprised at how much you can experience in juts 24 hours in Singapore! 

A brightly coloured house in Little India, Singapore

A brightly coloured house in Little India

24 Hours in Singapore: Morning – Explore Little India

Start the day exploring Singapore in colourful Little India where shops selling saris, Bollywood DVDs and bangles line the street. The smell of sandalwood and chanting radiates from Hindu temples with their extravagant gopuram towering above the entrance covered in small sculptures of the pantheon of blue coloured Hindu gods.

Southern India style Hindu temple architecture at Sri Veeramakaliamman temple in Singapore's Little India

Southern India style Hindu temple architecture at Sri Veeramakaliamman temple in Singapore’s Little India

Wander inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple dedicated to the fierce goddess Kali and watch as the devotees move around the temple making different offerings and prayers for different deities.

Kampong Glam

Carry on walking, start your 24 hours in Singapore off right with a Masala Dosa or Indian breakfast with fluffy rice idlis and spicy sauce washed down with a sweet chai tea before hopping on the MRT to the Kampong Glam, the Muslim district. 

The impressive Masjid Sultan in Kampong Glam, Singapore

The impressive Masjid Sultan in Kampong Glam

Marvel at the huge Sultan Mosque with it’s huge, golden, onioned dome and towering minarets, and, if you cover up, its possible to go inside at certain times.

Wander the quaint streets of colourful, restored shop houses around the mosque with dress shops showing off a magnitude of different fabrics to be made to measure and cafes serving middle eastern cuisines and shisha pipes.

24 Hours in Singapore: Lunchtime – Explore China Town

Red lanterns and colourful, restored shopfronts in China town, Singapore

Red lanterns and colourful, restored shopfronts in China town

Making the most of your 24 hours in Singapore can be hungry work as there is so much to see but you won’t go hungry if you visit China Town at lunchtime. Using the MRT again, this time disembark at China Town and explore the narrow lanes of historic and restored Chinese shop fronts decorated with red lanterns.

Try your luck haggling for a bargain amongst the many souvenir stalls. For serious shoppers head to Orchard Road or one of the many shopping malls for the national past time in Singapore appears to be shopping but those who come looking for dirt cheap clothes and electronic bargains may be disappointed.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in China Town

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in China Town

Visit the imposing wooden Buddha Tooth Relic Temple where the tooth of the Buddha is reputedly kept and then try some Chinese delicacies,  noodles or the traditional nasi lemak dish from a street food stall or in one of the hawker centers.

24 Hours in Singapore: Afternoon – Explore Colonial Singapore

Clarke Quay has been restored and you can take a cruise down the Singapore river

Clarke Quay has been restored and you can take a cruise down the Singapore river

Another part of your 24 hours in Singapore should be to explore the colonial heritage. From China town it’s not far to the Clark Quay and the colonial district where you can cruise or wander along the river.

English is still the official language, which is convenient for visitors, as Singapore was founded in 1819 as an important trading colony of the British Empire and you can still take in the grand colonial architecture.

The Fullerton Hotel - Colonial architecture from Singapore's history as part of the British Empire

The Fullerton Hotel – Colonial architecture from Singapore’s history as part of the British Empire

A visit to the Asian Civilizations Museum will help you understand a bit more about the mixture of different cultures represented in Singapore and the rest of Asia.

After gaining independence in 1965, Singapore is still the world’s busiest shipping port, one of the most successful countries in Asia and the world’s fourth leading financial center that is showcased in the skyscrapers of the modern CBD district of this forward thinking Asian tiger.

The modern CBD of Singapore

The modern CBD of successful Singapore

24 Hours in Singapore: Evening – Explore Modern Singapore

Even if you only have 24 hours in Singapore don’t miss exploring the modern delights of this city. If you can afford to splash out a bit then, in the evening, relax sipping a Singapore Sling at the iconic Raffles Hotel before visiting the waterfront of Marina Bay. 

Across the bay is the Singapore Flyer – the highest observation wheel and the modern and iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel which looks like a boat breached on top of three towers.

The distinctive Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

The distinctive Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

 Make sure to pay a visit to Merlion, the symbol of Singapura – Lion City. Merlion stands proud by the waterside welcoming visitors from the sea as it has done since 1972, with his lion face and mermaid tail against a backdrop of modern, international offices.

Merlion - half fish, half lion stands proudly in front of the skyscrapers of the CBD

Merlion – half fish, half lion stands proudly in front of the skyscrapers of the CBD

From here you also have a good view point to enjoy the Free sound and light show in the evenings that illuminates the hotel and bay. 

If the budget can stretch, you can enjoy the theme parks on Sentosa Island, a night safari at Singapore Zoo and dinner and cocktails over an infinity pool with a view at the top of the Marina Bay Sands.

If not, finish off the evening with a free visit to the other worldly landscapes of the illuminated Gardens by the Bay. A perfect way to finsih your 24 hours in Singapore. 

gardens by the bay singapore

The futuristic Gardens By The Bay

So now maybe you can see that 24 hours in Singapore offers a great introduction to Asia with so many different cultures and religions all in one small city island state.

Even though Singapore can feel a little over gentrified at times, the city offers a intoxicating blend of old and new, different cultures and cuisines without the chaos and hassle which makes it a perfect introduction to Asia for a first time visitor.

Where to stay in Singapore

Singapore offers a huge choice of accommodation although prices are expensive. If you are on a budget then there are plenty of modern, clean backpacker hostels in Singapore from about $20 – $25 which are your best choice for affordable accommodation and to meet other travellers and if your only staying for 24 hours in Singapore then you’ll spend most of your time outside exploring anyway.

  Sleepy Kiwi is a great, sociable hostel in the heart of Kampong Glam, 5 Footway Inn Boat Quay is a stylish boutque hostel near Clark Quay, The Inn Crowd Backpacker’s Hostel is close to Little India and offers free breakfast and a free scooter city tour, Bohemian Chic is a colourful and lively hostel in Chinatown which also offers a free airport shuttle. Also try the cool Pod  – a boutique capsule hostel.

For a mid range stay with heritage style check out the colourful Wanderlust Hotel in Little India or Naumi Liora Hotel made from converted Chinese shophouses in  ChinaTown. 

If you can afford it then staying at the amazing Marina Bay Sands is the ultimate luxury stay in Singapore or try Raffles Hotel for iconic, old world, colonial charm.

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What would your perfect 24 hours in Singapore look like? Let me know in the comments below 🙂 

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