Singapore is a city that never stops evolving. It’s also one we know like the backs of our hands, as we’re constantly checking out the most exciting parties, chilling out at a different bar every day of the week, and visiting the latest restaurants opening up in Singapore. In short, we’re always in the know about everything that’s going on in the Lion City.

As much as we could go on and on about how much we love this cosmopolitan city, you have to experience it yourself to know what we’re talking about. And we don’t mean just hopping on a bus tour or visiting tourist attractions such as Gardens at the Bay (although it is an architectural marvel) — because trust us, that’s barely scratching the surface. To truly experience Singapore — and any other destination — you have to see it through a local’s eyes.

So without further ado, here’s an insider’s guide to Singapore brought to you by our team at Lifestyle Asia. From interesting alleyways to fascinating dining spots that may be completely unknown to the unsuspecting visitor, we’ve compiled a list of personal recommendations of our favourite locales in Singapore when we’re off duty.

Restaurants

Alaturka

“What I love about Singapore is its diversity in the food scene. Alaturka to me stands out for its hearty, unpretentious food. Go for the karisik kebab — a mixed platter of grilled meats and rice that’s big enough for two. The skewers have a distinct smokey taste marinated in authentic Turkish spices brought in from a specific spice market in Izmir.”  – Azmin Saini (AS), Deputy Editor

Overeasy Fullerton

“This is my perennial go-to for a night of guilty pleasures. Think juicy beef burgers, rum milkshakes, and mac ‘n’ cheeks (yes, pork cheeks). Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a splendid view of the glittering bay right beside you.” – Bianca Husodo (BH), Writer

insider's guide to singapore
Overeasy serves up diner classics, nostalgic crowd favourites, decadent milkshakes and American-inspired cocktails.

Amò 

“Here’s a relatively new casual Italian eatery by restaurateur Beppe De Vito. I’ve been told that a particular bone marrow pizza is to die for, but have been much too afraid of the immense food coma that could follow, to try it. The best testament is probably from an Italian friend of mine, who commended the selections we had at dinner — namely a couple of antipasti dishes like the calamari and the prosciutto, the casarecce with black pepper, guanciale and saffron, washed down with a beautiful Barbaresco.” – Luann Alphonso (LA), Managing Editor

Tono Cevicheria

“Bold and zesty flavours are the order of the day at Tono Cevicheria, which specialises in Peruvian cuisine and ceviche (a traditional dish of citrus-marinated raw fish). The restaurant offers four different types of ceviche, but you can opt for a tasting platter of three if you can’t decide. My pick is the Tono ceviche, which has an addictively tangy marinade and is jazzed up with fried baby calamari for crunch. Bonus points for excellent, attentive service.” – Sara Yap (SY), Associate Editor

insider's guide to singapore
Tono Cevicheria specialises in Peruvian cuisine and ceviche.

The Marmalade Pantry

“See and be seen at this local open-concept eatery. The seared scallop and prawn pasta and the smores cupcake are my favourites.” – Josiah Neo (JN), Writer

Chomp Chomp Food Centre 

“Local food is a must-try, but don’t subject yourself to overpriced and underwhelming food at mega swanky malls. In my opinion, Chomp Chomp at Serangoon is one of the best and most authentic food centres in Singapore, where you can indulge in sambal stingray, barbecued chicken wings and amazing satay” – Beatrice Bowers (BB), Writer

Lolla

“Located within a shophouse setting, the intimate space features a bar table on level one where you overlook the open kitchen and another communal table in the basement. Order the sea urchin pudding — essentially a rich and highly indulgent little jar of umami — and the Iberico pork collar, which is paired with tangy apple slices. The doughnuts with lemon curd are a great way to end the decadence.” – Shatricia Nair (SN), Writer

The Hangar

“One of my favourite places to go to for brunch is this intimate cafe nestled on Arab Street. Helmed by Pav Khialani, The Hangar offers unique coffee blends, amazing food such as beef shakshuka and steak sandwich and fries, and an overall unpretentious vibe.” – Dewi Nurjuwita (DN), Writer

Bars

Native Bar

“Bartender and owner Vijay showcases the uniqueness of Singaporean flavours through foraging for his ingredients, best seen in a drink named Antz where weaver ants are infused into a spirit and shaken into a mean drink.” – AS

best cocktail bars in singapore native bar sg
Native Bar.

Shin Gi Tai

“Anthony, who I’ve known back when he was bartending at another watering hole, is particularly talented with the classics. I love the way he makes a Negroni. The space at Shin Gi Tai is tiny and intimate, and the food selection is equally minuscule, but does not compromise on quality whatsoever.” – LA

Bitters & Love

“This cosy bar in Telok Ayer offers inventive cocktails with an Asian twist, throwing ingredients such as sour plum and Kaffir lime leaves into the mix. Try the signature Kaya Toast, a sweet and delicious brew containing rum, honey and kaya. It even comes topped with two slices of bread smeared with the coconut jam. If you’re craving something off the menu, ask the bartenders to whip up a bespoke drink.” – SY

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Inventive cocktails at Bitters & Love with a local twist.

Ah Sam’s Cold Drinks Stall

This hidden spot in the middle of Boat Quay serves up cocktails infused with local flavours (think Milo Whiskey) that are accompanied with bar bites like prawn paste chicken and char kway teow.” – JN

Spago by Wolfgang Puck

“Besides an unadulterated 360-degree view of Singapore, Spago also has an exceptional selection of food and drinks, courtesy of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. The terrace lounge with an alfresco bar offers local-inspired bar bites such as chicken laksa spring rolls and Chinese steamed buns with glazed short ribs, alongside cocktails that are delicately floral infused.” – SN

Sum Yi Tai

“Housed in a converted shophouse, this three-storey establishment is inspired by the glamour of 1980s Hong Kong. The rooftop bar on the third floor is my ultimate favourite hangout. On weekends, the venue is filled with chilled-out beats by homegrown DJs paired with delicious bar bites (try the wok-fried carrot cake), friendly bartenders and great cocktails.” – DN

The rooftop bar at Sum Yi Tai.

Junior

Junior has an evolving concept and delves into something extensively. My favourite cocktail to order is the Vampiro, which is a spin-off of the Bloody Mary. Another one I’d recommend is The Grasshopper, which tastes like an After Eight mint.” – BB

Hotels

W Singapore Sentosa Cove

“It’s a glamorous escape from the hustle and bustle of the everyday city life. The massive pool is perfect for a lazy sunny Sunday swim, and its steakhouse, Skirt, is the perfect place for dinner to cap off your weekend on a high note.” – JN

Oasia Downtown

“The rooms are cosy and well-designed, and there’s an indoor pool if you want to squeeze in a few laps. The hotel itself is located in Tanjong Pagar right near the MRT station, so getting around is a breeze.” – AS

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Capella Singapore is a lush sanctuary at Sentosa.

Capella Singapore

“Although its Sentosa location may be a little inconvenient, that’s exactly what I like about it. The hotel feels far removed from the rest of Singapore. It’s a quiet and secluded place equipped with luxurious rooms, making it ideal for a relaxing staycation. If you’re feeling indulgent, book a night at its villa or manor, where you get extra spacious rooms and a private plunge pool.” – SY

M Social

“This boutique hotel is perfect for design geeks, as its interiors are designed by award-winning designer Philippe Starck. Its location, Robertson Quay, is a winner in itself — perfect for both going out on a Saturday night (because of its proximity to nightlife hub Clarke Quay), as well as spending a mellow Sunday morning just strolling by the river.” – DN

The St Regis Singapore, Mandarin Oriental Singapore and Four Seasons Singapore

“We’ve been blessed with superb service standards in Asia, especially when it comes to hospitality. I particularly like wandering into more established, tried-and-tested names like the St Regis, Mandarin Oriental and the Four Seasons. It’s comforting to know that your needs will be anticipated and taken care of.” – LA

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The Warehouse Hotel.

The Warehouse Hotel 

“Nestled in the quieter side of Robertson Quay, The Warehouse Hotel’s restored heritage building is a peaceful getaway from the city’s bustle. The space’s on-point industrial-chic design makes for some perfect Instagram photos, too.” – BH

Naumi Singapore

“Naumi is situated right next to the Toy Museum, with amazing chicken rice just two doors down. The hotel boasts beautifully-appointed rooms that are cosy yet not too cramped.” – BB

Shopping

Far East Plaza 

“Wandering along the musky floors of Far East Plaza can take up a fair part of your day. Far East Plaza has got everything that you’d be able to find on a casual shopping street, except compressed into an extremely old building with eclectic tenants. From fake Gucci sneakers, wig shops, nostalgic beauty parlours to runway ripoffs — you name it, it’ll probably have it. Best of all, there’re some really good Asian food eateries upstairs should you get the munchies.” – LA

Intoxiquette

“This homegrown label started out as an online retailer and now operates a brick-and-mortar shop at Centrepoint. It specialises in dresses for all occasions, so you can easily find casual pieces and office-appropriate attire alongside formal frocks that can double up as eveningwear. And if you can’t make up your mind about an item, you can always try it on first, before purchasing it later from the brand’s online store.” – SY

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Dover Street Market boasts an immersive retail concept.

Dover Street Market Singapore 

“Even if you’re not a hype- or brand-beast, Dover Street Market is still a must-visit. It’s located at Dempsey Hill, which is a 10-minute drive away from the Orchard area. Trust us, experiencing the store’s immersive retail concept is worth the extra detour.” – BH

Haji Lane

“The vibrant Haji Lane district has charming boutiques where you can find eclectic clothes and accessories sourced from around the world — which I think properly reflects Singapore’s multicultural identity. Check out ModParade for sophisticated garments, Mujosh for cutting-edge eyewear, and Ninos Singapore for menswear.” – DN

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The vibrant Haji Lane enclave.

Culture

Singapore Night Festival 

“The night festival is a must-visit for me for it brings not just visually stunning international acts (these are often approachable and not the lofty abstract types) but also fringe festivals. This year, it was held around the same time as the Aliwal Arts Night Crawl, which saw performances from wayang kulit (a traditional puppet-shadow play found in Indonesian cultures) and a learning session on the history of Chinese opera in Singapore.” – AS

The Singapore Zoo

“I absolutely love this place. Better still on a weekday afternoon.” – LA

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National Gallery Singapore was designed by Studio Milou Singapore.

National Gallery Singapore

“After undergoing an extensive renovation, this building overlooking the Padang now boasts sleek interiors, plenty of exhibition space and dining establishments with a view. Even if you’re not there specifically for the largest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art, the architectural beauty is still worth marvelling at.” – SN

“The National Gallery Singapore is a place that every art buff needs to visit. Its popular Yayoi Kusama exhibition ended early this month, but come November, the gallery will team up with Parisian museum Musee d’Orsay on Century of Light, a showcase of 19th-century artworks by artists such as Paul Cezanne and Claude Monet. “ – SY

Selegie Road

“After dark, this area starting from Parklane Shopping Mall turns into a mishmash of hipsters, night-dwellers, and tourists from all walks of life. “ – JN

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Zouk Singapore is a local favourite.

Zouk

“With nightlife being a massive part of our culture, there’s no better way to experience it at its most chaotic than at Zouk (debatably Singapore’s best club.) If Zouk gets too crowded, head up to Capital, which is a more luxed up section of the club” – BB

The Projector 

“For arthouse fans, this is the place to be. The Projector proffers an eclectic array of flicks (from award-winning sleeper hits to reruns of great classics), hosts film festivals (examples include the Finnish Film Festival and Middle East Film Festival), and recently, celebrated Bill Murray’s birthday by playing some of his greatest hits. Also, it occupies the former site of the legendary Golden Theatre with its refurbished, vintage-tinged cinema. Definitely worth spending your weekend nights at.” – BH

Esplanade

“This is a place I have an affinity with. I love just sitting by the Singapore River outside the Esplanade and soaking in the atmosphere. During the weekends, the bay stage is home to musical and cultural performances. If you want to get away from the crowds, head to the open-air rooftop area on the fourth level favoured by locals. It’s also home to Orgo, a chilled-out rooftop bar boasting panoramic views of the skyline.” – DN

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.