48 Hours in Singapore: Arts and Culture Guide

48 Hours in Singapore: Arts and Culture Guide

Editor's picks

Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Getty Images

30 things to see and do in Singapore to get your culture fix


10am: For an introduction to Singapore's building conservation done right, head to Gillman Barracks. What was once a military encampment for the British Army in the '30s is now an art cluster home to contemporary art galleries such as ARNDT, Sundaram Tagore (where we met photographer Steve McCurry) and Aussie newbie Sullivan+Strumpf.

Darren Sylvester, 'Anytime But Now', 2014, lightjet print from Sullivan+Strumpf

12pm: Uncover Little India and stop by Haniffa Textiles — which is where Jessica Chastain went during her trip here — to pick up fabrics for a traditional sari. Pick up sweets and get a henna tattoo from Little India Arcade and see everyday life unfold along the eateries, cafes, markets and shops in notable alleyways like Desker road, Dunlop street, Kitchener road and Syed Alwi road.

Jessica Chastain at Haniffa Textiles

1pm: Walk towards the Bugis and Bras Basah district to the National Design Centre and Singapore Art Museum. The former serves as a think tank for Singapore's design culture — its structure itself is a testament to SCDA Architects' clever conversion of former convent schools and a chapel. Making your way to the Singapore Art Museum — a restored 19th century mission school — you'll get to see snippets of Singapore's famed public housing development project among a diverse architectural landscape which includes religious monuments such as the Maghain Aboth Synagogue and the Gothic-style St. Joseph's Church. You'll also find indie art space DECK, made out of shipping containers.


4pm: Exploring Bugis even further, head to Kampong Glam. Skip the rows of blogshop-like retailers along Haji Lane (while quaint, the offerings are a bit of hit-and-miss, frankly) and head straight to the Sultan Mosque with its iconic gold dome — architects Swan and Maclaren adopted a Saracenic style for this place of worship. From there, you can get a quick ginger tea or pick up a traditional perfume from the shops peppering the lane adjacent to it. Local urban artists haunt photography centre Objectifs and Aliwal Arts Centre, which often hosts parties, screenings and gigs, such as local musician Inch Chua's Letters to Ubin album launch.

Sultan Mosque

6pm: If you're a vinyl lover, shop at record store Straits Records, favoured by members of local subcultures. Just around the corner, Singapore's only vinyl bar LongPlay appeases cocktail connoisseurs with their serious collection of vinyl records, covering everything from classics to nu-soul, blues and funk.


8pm: Indie cinema The Projector is where you can find like-minded film geeks looking for their manic pixie dream girl. Or boy. Reviving a historic move theatre, they host themed screenings that celebrate your inner Francophile, revive your Hitchcock obsession and introduce you to films you won't normally find in local theatres. End the night with a drink from The Great Escape, the not-so-secret bar at the fifth-floor carpark — here's where we witnessed the launch of local band .gif's latest album.


10am: Head to the oldest public estate in Singapore, Tiong Bahru. Now unabashedly hipster with indie bookshop BooksActually and French bakery Tiong Bahru Bakery attracting yuppies, you'll also see everyday Singaporeans doing their market rounds. Art Deco architecture line the streets in the form of SIT flats, which were the first flats built in Singapore — notice their smooth curving corners, porthole windows and flat rooftops.


12pm: Explore the sprawling entity that is the National Gallery Singapore, made up of the former City Hall and Supreme Court. Housing a large collection of Southeast Asian art within its former compounds of a law library, legal courts and offices, the grandeur of the classical architecture of its exteriors matches what's inside. Before you leave, pick up an art book or locally-designed knick knacks from the museum shop, Gallery & Co — all the while listening to their bitchin' playlist.

National Gallery Singapore

5pm: Start your evening by wandering around the Peranakan, Eurasian and Malay enclave in an eastern suburb of Singapore, Joo Chiat. Get your driver to drop you off along the junction where East Coast Road meets Joo Chiat road. From there, walk down Joo Chiat road and discover Peranakan shophouses and Eurasian delicacies. It's hard to find a single tourist here — but what you'll see instead is a melting pot of cultures (check out Long Phung, a restaurant frequented by Vietnamese immigrants).

Shophouses around Joo Chiat

7pm: As you walk to the end of Joo Chiat Road, you'll be in time for the Geylang Serai night market that happens every Ramadan (the Muslim festive month which will last till 5 July) along Geylang road and Changi road. Showing off Singapore's multiculturalism, nosh on Thai salads and desserts, fried South Indian snacks, grilled Turkish kebabs and Japanese tidbits.

The ArtScience Museum is a modern architectural marvel in the day, made even more stunning by night. One Thursday a month from 7 to 10pm, it hosts ArtScience Late, which brings together DJs and performers for you to experience the galleries in a whole new light. Of course, you'll want to visit in the day as well — permanent exhibition Future World promises to immerse you in a digital landscape. Look out for the wildlife-themed installation Graffiti Nature.

Future World at ArtScience Museum 

For more editors' guides to Singapore, click here.