Why sultry Singapore is the perfect blend of the ultra-modern, the familiar and the exotic
Barely bigger than New York City, with just 5.69m inhabitants, Singapore is nonetheless a global powerhouse. The third richest country in the world (the UK trails in 27th place), this island nation is home to the world’s second busiest shipping hub – and its streets are just as bustling.
‘Over the past 51 years, Singapore has evolved from a sleepy-port town into a vibrant, multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city-state,’ says Sim Kian Peng, general manager, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), Southeast Asia. ‘It’s the perfect blend of the ultra-modern, the familiar and the exotic.’
Whether you are looking to work on your ‘huat’ (Chinese for prosperity) or want to enjoy the city’s hottest hangouts, here is our guide to the newest event spaces and après-work entertainment coming in the next 12 months…
‘The most exciting new event venue in Singapore is the JW Marriott South Beach,’ says Petrina Goh, from CWT Meetings & Events Singapore. ‘The recently opened hotel’s event spaces are refurbished army barracks. The exteriors are 100 per cent vintage, but inside there is crystal LED lighting and a full dome LED wall.’ marriott.co.uk
Sail off into the sunset on the majestic Royal Albatross Tallship. ‘This floating event space offers sailing dinners around Singapore and out to the smaller islands,’ Petrina Goh explains. ‘It’s also great for corporate team-building events.’ The ship has hosted fashion royalty from CHANEL and regal guests like HRH Princess Anne.tallship.com/sg
Gardens by the Bay remains a firm favourite on the Singapore events scene. This botanical masterpiece, a 101-hectare nature park on reclaimed land by Marina Bay, offers six venues. Guests can be welcomed in the shade of the space-age Super Trees or in the Flower Field Hall – where whatever the weather, it is always spring inside. gardensbythebay.com
‘There is so much local culture to be explored,’ says Sim Kian Peng, ‘from Chinatown’s shop-houses to the fragrant delights of Little India.’ The neighbouring district, Jalan Besar, renowned for its local food specialities has now emerged as a hotspot for trendy eateries, craft beer and artisan workshops. Those in the know also head to Katong, one of Singapore’s prettiest neighbourhoods where the heritage shop houses have Peranakan tiled facades.
‘Because Singapore has such a mix of cultures, Chinese, Malay, Indian and western, we celebrate festivals from many different religions,’ says Nadya Davies, marketing and communications manager, CWT APAC. So, don’t worry if you miss the Chinese New Year parade, known as Chingay (10-11 February). The next party will be just around the corner in the cultural calendar. Key dates include Vesak Day (10 May), when Buddhists celebrate with candlelit processions, and Deepavali (18 October), also known as Diwali, the Hindu festival of light.
Singapore is fast emerging as one of the world’s top art destinations. The National Gallery’s world-beating collection of Southeast Asian art hangs in two grand municipal buildings, the former Supreme Court and City Hall. However, since they tend to frown on visitors taking the paintings home with them, stock up on arty souvenirs at the Affordable Art Fair (7-9 April).
Strap yourselves in for fun on and off the track at the Singapore Grand Prix (15-18 September). Even seasoned F1 fans are advised to take earplugs for the night-time street race. Just remember to take them out before the musical acts, including Kylie Minogue and Queen featuring Adam Lambert, take to the stage. ‘There are rumours that 2017 will be the last year it’s held in Singapore,’ Nadya Davis reveals. ‘So get tickets while you still have a chance!’
Robertson Quay’s seedy backstreets, where secret societies and liquor distilleries once plied their trade, are long gone. But the godown (warehouse) housing one of Singapore’s newest hotels, The Warehouse Hotel, still stands proud on the banks of the Singapore River. In this conservation building, built in 1895, the past has been re-packaged with style. Industrial chic and urban cool are now the order of the day. thewarehousehotel.com
‘For a bit of respite from the city, I love Capella Singapore,’ says Nadya Davies. ‘It’s on a small island called Sentosa, a 15-minute drive from the CBD – but it’s like checking into another world.’ With the South China Sea at the bottom of the garden and 30 lush acres in which to lose yourself, this hotel, parts of which used to accommodate British army officers, has been redesigned by Foster + Partners.capellahotels.com/Singapore
Unpeel the layers of Singapore’s heady history at the Fullerton Hotel. Since it was built in 1928, this neo-classical building has been a post office, library and home to the prestigious Singapore Club. Now, classified as a National Monument, the 400-room hotel sits at the feet of skyscrapers next to Clifford Pier, which offers some of the best views of the Marina Bay Sands’ iconic triple towers. fullertonhotels.com
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