Singapore Travel Guide
The world’s most expensive city might just be worth it. A tropical island city-state, high-tech Singapore is known for its Draconian chewing gum laws, but more noteworthy are its over-the-top theme parks, hip heritage neighbourhoods and luxurious lodgings. As for the gay thing (sigh), anti-gay laws are still on the books, however, Singapore's got a gay pride parade, a vibrant gay scene and you can hold your partner’s hand and feel welcome everywhere you go (unless you’re chewing gum, of course). Singapore is not for everyone but everyone should visit at least once. Before we go into why let’s clear up a few things. Is Singapore an island? A city? A state? Yes, yes and yes. Is it illegal to chew gum and engage in same-sex nooky there? Yes and yes. Now let’s dive into what’s actually interesting about this place since as a gay traveller you will feel gladly received everywhere you go despite the antiquated laws. Singapore’s home to both Michelin-rated hawker stands and five-star French restaurants. A centre of global finance and trade, Singapore is as international as international gets. Referred to a City of the Future, it’s got robot trees and the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates. Yes, it’s a nanny state with disturbingly clean streets, weird theme parks and too many malls. Don’t resist what the place is and you’ll not be able to resist having an unforgettable time there.
Sultry and mischievous, the motto of the Vagabond Club is “If you must get in trouble, do it at The Vagabond Club”
The Best Hotels in Singapore
Six Senses Duxton is a gloriously restored boutique hotel that combines 19th-century elegance with playfulness. The décor is modern chinoiserie and the location is ideal. While there are no real amenities, guests can use the pool and gym at its sister property, Six Senses Maxwell.
Sultry and mischievous, the motto of the Vagabond Club is “If you must get in trouble, do it at The Vagabond Club”. The 1950s heritage Art Deco building with its original red shutters had past lives as a workers dormitory and a brothel. The 42 rooms, which have a flirty Parisian vibe, are a little pokey, but the hotel’s uniqueness is worth the trade-off.
The décor of Scarlet Hotel is Baroque-meets-boudoir. If understatement is your thing, keep on walking. But if audacious is more your style, Scarlet is for you. Blood-red façade? Check. Venetian chandelier? Check. Gargantuan Alice in Wonderland chair? Check. A hop, skip and a jump to Singapore’s gay street in Chinatown? Check.
A three-star hotel that gets it right. Hotel 1888 scores a 9 out of 10 on the value for money scale. The spare, minimalist décor makes it a win-win for the budget traveller. Affordable and artsy, Hotel Mono is a chic hideaway set in a row of historical Chinatown shophouses. The black and white monochromatic minimalism is pleasing to the eye (not to mention Instagram-worthy, if that’s your thing).
If beautiful people and bacchanalia aren’t for you, no need for you to check out Tanjong Beach Club, rated one of the world’s top 50 beach clubs
Things to do in Singapore
The Flower Dome, the world’s largest glass greenhouse, contains a perpetual spring. The dome is part of Gardens by the Bay nature park, whose highlights include a futuristic grove of giant vertical gardens called ‘supertrees’ and mist-veiled cloud forest with the world’s largest indoor waterfall.
The world’s first nocturnal wildlife park gives you a chance to spy on white tigers, giant crocs, and naked mole rats after the sun goes down. Yes, Night Safari is a tourist attraction and yes, it’s crowded, so if people and lines aren’t your thing, steer clear. But seeing animals in dense rainforest, some of them roaming freely, is a must for the animal aficionado.
If beautiful people and bacchanalia aren’t for you, no need for you to check out Tanjong Beach Club, rated one of the world’s top 50 beach clubs. It’s like a mini Cannes in Asia. Beach parties with international DJs spinning and boozy brunch are options, as are chilling on a lounge bed and taking a dip when the mood strikes. (Insider tip: It’s trés gay on Sundays.)
Heal your mind, body and soul at The Cozy Men Spa, which offers holistic healing therapies in a home-based environment. Treat yourself to a body treatment, facial or super aroma ultrasonic hydrotherapy.
In the West, most museums devote a floor or a wing to Eastern art and only showcase antiquities. That’s why the National Gallery Singapore, housing the world’s largest collection of modern Southeast Asian art, is such a unique pleasure. Stop off at Smoke & Mirrors luxe rooftop bar located inside the gallery.
Southern Ridges park cuts across developed terrain, combining primaeval jungle with sleek high-rises
Things to See in Singapore
The Masjid Sultan Mosque with its golden onion-shaped domes is the anchor of Kampong Glam, a neighbourhood that is a mecca not just for Muslims, but for creative types. The ’hood has a mashup of Persian rug stores, tea shops, offbeat boutiques, hip bars and funky cafés.
Singapore’s aggressive urbanization killed off most of its greenery, so don’t expect virgin rainforests. Most locals’ favourite hike is Southern Ridges park, which cuts across developed terrain, combining primaeval jungle with sleek high-rises.
Antiquing in a foreign country is so much more thrilling than antiquing at home because every object has a story to tell that is unlike the stories you already know. Head to the Carpmael Street Bazaar to find vintage treasures, each with a tale to tell.
Miss your cat? Roll over to the Meomi Cat Café to get your fill of kitty rubs and cappuccinos. A video of birds eating birdseed loops on a screen. The owner and the staff are chatty and lovely. Come for the cats and stay for the people.
Tiong Bahru neighbourhood is renowned for its cache of pre-war apartment blocks designed in the Streamline Moderne style, a late Art Deco movement. Around these architectural gems is a hip heritage area. Grab the perfect croissant or pain au chocolat (or both) at the famed Tiong Bahru Bakery. The Tiong Bahru Market’s hawker stands have some of the best local food in town.
Make sure to eat like the masses at hawkers stalls, because guess what? The masses know whatsup when it comes to food
Where to eat in Singapore
The vibrant mix of cultures, wealthy expats and coastal location are the perfect ingredients for a serious foodie scene. Southbridge is the place to see and be seen if you don’t mind being seen while you slurp. The place has an encyclopedic offering of oysters and skyline views. On the flipside, Kinou Restaurant is a relaxed eatery that fuses the food cultures of Singapore by serving ceviches, tartars and charcuterie platters.
Over the top and orgasmic, Michelin-starred Odette Restaurant in the National Gallery has debuted on top restaurant lists across Asia. Odette serves up modern French cuisine inspired by seasonality, terroir and artisanal produce. You will pay dearly to eat there but it’s worth every Singapore dollar.
Make sure to eat like the masses at hawkers stalls, because guess what? The masses know whatsup when it comes to food. At the Zion Riverside Food Centre, go get online at 18 Zion Road Fried Kway Teow where $5 will get you Singapore’s favourite dish, Char Kway Teow, which contains, we kid you not: flat rice noodle, soy cause, chilli, prawns, cockles, bean sprouts, fermented shrimp paste, chives, Chinese sausage and fishcake stir-fried in pork fat.
An old-school noodle stall by day and a trendy Japanese restaurant by night, Bincho at Hua Bee does contemporary yakitori omakase. The entrance (which is a generous way to put it) is around the rear of the restaurant. Look for the HVAC vent and garbage bins and you’ve found it. Inside, a chic copper bar serves up artisanal cocktails and every kind of yakitori imaginable awaits.
Did you know gastro-tainment is a thing? If you like a little drama with your supper, grab front row seats at Edge Food Theatre for authentic traditional street food from Singapore, China, Malaysia, India, Thailand, and Japan in seven show kitchens.
Forget everything you thought you knew about brunch. Then go to Kwee Zeen. Let us count the ways in which this restaurant in the Sofitel Singapore will surpass any other brunch on the planet…live seafood, foie gras, barbecue station, 32 types of fromage, charcuterie, oysters, carving station, prawns, lobster, crab, mussels, clams, caviar, tandoori, sashimi, sushi, noodles, tom yum soup, mushroom risotto, housemade chocolates and a chocolate fountain. If you opt for the champagne-upgrade plan (which you most certainly should) Taittinger Brut Reserve will magically reappear in your glass without you even having to ask.
Shopping in Singapore
Nothing evokes a memory more than scent. Sifr Aromatics is a small-batch perfume shop that will work with you to find the right scent for you. The owner is a third generation perfumer whose grandfather owned a perfume shop on Arab Street in the 1930s.
For Chinese-inspired clothing with a modern twist, check out Tong Tong Friendship Store. Designer Sheau Yun is shaking up tired stereotypes of her culture by pushing against the boundaries of Chinese aesthetics. The result is quirky, decadent Chinese-inspired clothes that nod to tradition while also shaking it up.
Supplies & Co curates hip menswear and lifestyle goods from around the world. The throughline is minimalism with an off-kilter flair that is still accessible to most. The dapper, custom-made suits and shirting at Benjamin Barker are designed to fill the gaping gap between out-of-reach designer brands and Zara.
A whitewashed space, Degiosart pays homage to antique textiles, prints and rugs by combining them with modern art. The gallery sells original woodblock Japanese prints, Buddhist textiles, furniture alongside contemporary artists and designers.
Lulu’s lounge breathed a lascivious fresh breath into Singapore’s nightlife scene with a risqué lounge that evokes an early 1970s NYC underground club
Imagine combining the best elements of the fictional television bar Cheers–the conviviality, the company, the warmth–with the sexiness, dark lighting and mahogany walls of a 1940s Hollywood watering hole. You’d get Jigger and Pony. Consistently ranked as one of Asia’s top bars, their Singapore Sling is the best in the country.
On the sixth floor roof of the National Gallery, Smoke and Mirrors has a round sculptural bar that seamlessly flows into the open-air terrace with unhampered views of Marina Bay. On the other end of the spectrum is an intimate and casual rooftop bar atop a red-and-white Art Deco heritage building in Chinatown. Potato Head is an easy breezy place to cool off and chill out with a tropical cocktail.
Horse’s Mouth is a cosy Japanese basement drinking den tucked inside a ramen joint tucked inside a shopping mall since this whole “hidden bar” thing doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. The spirit-forward cocktails are inspired and the ramen is noteworthy.
The majority of gay bars and clubs are clustered around the Chinatown’s Neil Street with a spectrum ranging from chill bistros to frenetic nightclubs. May Wong’s Cafe, where the affluent gay crowd likes to congregate, is named after the first Chinese-American international movie star (think Judy Garland but for Asians). Tantric Bar, one of the most popular gay bars in Singapore, is right downstairs.
Lulu’s lounge breathed a lascivious fresh breath into Singapore’s nightlife scene with a risqué lounge that evokes an early 1970s NYC underground club. Lulu’s caters to a mature crowd with a penchant for partying but not clubbing (amen!)
We support any gay club that’s survived three decades without losing its mojo. Taboo is a two-story dance club that gets packed on weekends. A good mix of local boys and ex-pats tear it up on the dance floor to Top 40s kitsch. To find the best gay parties being thrown while you’re in town, follow Hypertainment on Facebook.
Exclusive Mr Hudson offers
National Gallery Singapore
Photo: Zhu Hongzhi
Singapore | Photo: Taylor Simpson
Supplies & Co
Smoke & Mirrors Drink Picasso's Pencil
Photo: Annie Spratt