Singaporeans can zoom down the Marina Bay pit lane like an F1 driver — but on a bicycle

How To Not Waste Your Annual Leave starring Chua Enlai is a guide to escaping WFH fatigue. This week: A Marina Bay and Civic District Singapoliday that includes dining in the sky and a Happy Hour with a view

Chua Enlai and Brendon Fernandez take off on a Singapoliday to rediscover Marina Bay and the Civic District. Watch the video embedded in this story! PHOTO: SPH
Chua Enlai and Brendon Fernandez take off on a Singapoliday to rediscover Marina Bay and the Civic District. Watch the video embedded in this story! PHOTO: SPH

When you think of Marina Bay, the three towers of Marina Bay Sands or the iconic Merlion statue probably come to mind.

It’s an area familiar to most Singaporeans, but there is also so much more to this bustling cultural epicentre than you may realise. Together with the historic Civic District, it’s a place where the past and present meet, where grand heritage landmarks and museums sit beside modern skyscrapers and high-tech malls.

But it’s also a place where those who love a little bit of adventure can shoot down zombies, or explore the area on a bicycle at night. And when you’re done, what better way to rest those limbs than with a cosy staycay right in the city?

Need ideas for your Singapoliday? Our handy guide will take you from state-of-the-art museums to trendy dining experiences, as well as the best vantage points for spectacular views of the city.

You don’t need to wait for weekends to take your well-earned break. Apply for annual leave mid-week, steer clear of the weekend crowds, and enjoy life in the artsy heart of Singapore. Bookmark these nine places now!

Book a staycay with your best friends

lyf Funan is a trendy co-living space for couples, families or friends searching for a fun city staycation. Conveniently located within the revamped Funan mall, it means dozens of restaurants, shops and even a cinema are right at your doorstep (flash your lyf by Ascott mobile key to claim exclusive perks at selected shops).

Choose from a variety of cosy studio apartments, such as “One of a Kind” or even the gaming-themed “lyf Style” unit for two that comes with a PlayStation console, ensuite bathroom and pull-down Murphy bed. Groups of four can consider the “Two of a Kind” unit comprising two private rooms and a shared kitchenette — if you’ve always loved travelling with friends, this is a fab way to get away with your favourite holiday buddies.

The lyf compound is filled with Insta-worthy zones that aren’t your run-of-the-mill hotel amenities. There’s a communal kitchen, a chic laundromat and exercise area, as well as a comfortable coworking lounge if you need to get some work done.

What’s more, it is also within walking distance of a plethora of landmarks including Fort Canning Park, Central Fire Station museum, National Gallery Singapore, as well as other malls such as Raffles City, making it an ideal base for your Singapoliday.

Where: 67 Hill Street, Level 4 Funan Mall, Singapore 179370
Tel: 6970-2288

Spend the night in a chic heritage shophouse

For those seeking some nostalgia, consider a whimsical loft-style getaway in the newly-refurbished Heritage Collection on Seah. Its heritage shophouse apartments boast ornate, colonial-inspired black, white, and gold designs that will take you back in time, while its modern interiors with state-of-the art amenities ensure a comfortable stay. Perfect for resting your legs after a long day out exploring, eating and shopping!

Gorgeous high ceilings and plenty of natural light make it easy to conduct your own Instagram photoshoot indoors — some of the Premium Loft Apartments even come fitted with a skylight window!

It’s also a great place to reconnect with our local heritage, as the apartment puts you just a stone’s throw away from cultural hotspots in the heart of the city, with an array of dining and shopping establishments such as Bugis and Suntec City just a short walk away.

Where: 39 Seah Street, Singapore 188395
Tel: 6223-7155

Shoot zombies at the world’s first NERF-themed attraction

If you’re searching for a thrill or planning some fun family bonding time, definitely add the NERF Action Xperience (NAX) to your Singapoliday itinerary. The space is essentially a huge Family Entertainment Centre split into four unique zones that will get you and the kids’ adrenaline pumping through a variety of obstacle courses and themed activity areas.

Compete in intense NERF gun battles with one another, defeat zombies in an apocalyptic setting, conquer your fears at the high elements obstacle course and hone your NERF skills with a series of exhilarating, high-energy activities in the Challenge zone (suitable for children above seven years old).

For instance, test your reflexes in the Accuracy Challenge or team up with a buddy in the Agility Challenge to shoot down as many targets as possible within 45 seconds. Then, improve your aim accuracy with the Goal Challenge and become the best sharpshooter in town.

There’s even a freestyle room where you can let your artistic side loose and create your own DIY shirts and tote bags with NERF squirt guns filled with paint. (Don’t worry, paint protection gear will be provided.)

Where: 6 Raffles Boulevard, #01-208 Marina Square, Singapore 039594
Opening hours: 12pm to 8pm (Mondays to Fridays); 10am to 8pm (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays)

Spend a day at the museum

Standing in the heart of the historic Civic District, the National Gallery Singapore boasts the largest collection of modern Southeast Asian art, overseeing more than 8,000 artworks from the region.

Wander through the beautifully restored hallways and rooms that were once our City Hall and Supreme Court, as you marvel at the masterpieces of top artists, including our own Georgette Chen. Don’t miss the museum’s key exhibition featuring her most significant works in “Georgette Chen: At Home in the World” (till Sept 26), as well as other ongoing showcases such as “An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season” (till Feb 21), a visual art exhibit that reflects on the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on our community.

General admission is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents, with guided tours available daily (limited to eight participants per group*).

The annual Light to Night Festival is also back till Jan 31! Enjoy both online and on-site activities around the Civic District and beyond, from games to workshops and pop-up art encounters around the island. Visit for more information.

For the young ones, the Keppel Centre for Art Education, located on Level 1 of the City Hall Wing, is a dynamic space with various interactive zones to spark your child’s imagination and creativity.

Need to refuel? Take your pick from the variety of onsite restaurants, including National Kitchen by Violet Oon Singapore and Michelin-starred Odette (make reservations way ahead).

Where: 1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957
Tel: 6271-7000
Opening hours: 10am to 7pm daily (admission and ticket sales end 30 minutes before closing time)

Sip on stylish cocktails and soak in the view

Take your cocktail experience to the next level at Smoke & Mirrors, a gorgeous destination rooftop bar perched atop National Gallery Singapore, where you can watch the city come alive at night. Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or simply curious, there will surely be something on the bar’s ever-evolving menu of delicious and creative cocktails to satisfy you.

Highlights include their Conscious Cocktails collection, a trio of sustainable sips focused on zero-waste methods such as repurposing ingredients for unusual toppings. For instance, Pass the Pineapple is a refreshing tropical blend that uses every bit of pineapple including the rind, while Got Milk? is a smooth concoction topped with a light pumpkin pudding made from leftover strained curds.

Best accompanied with their delectable selection of bar bites and roasts by Cantonese restaurant Yàn!

One-for-one special: Need an afternoon pick-me-up? The bar’s daily Tipples & Chill session lets you enjoy one-for-one cocktails from 3pm to 5pm, where you can choose from two aperitif cocktails and six Gin & Tonics.

Where: 1 St Andrew’s Road, #06-01 National Gallery Singapore, Singapore 178957
Tel: 9380-6313
Opening hours: 3pm to 11pm daily (casual city chic dress code)

Go on a scenic night cycling tour

Want to beat the scorching heat and experience our bustling city in a whole new way?

Embark on an exciting night cycling adventure with Let’s Go Tour Singapore, a homegrown agency that was awarded Best Tour Experience 2019 by the Singapore Tourism Board.

The 15-km Marina Bay Night Tour is one of the best and most unique ways to watch the city come alive as dusk falls. It’s easy even for beginner riders, as you will be travelling safely via park connectors and bike paths most of the time.

Armed with a bike with lights, helmet and water to stay hydrated, the two-hour tour takes you through iconic landmarks, from Gardens by the Bay to the Formula One Pit, colourful Boat Quay and Marina Bay Sands, as an experienced local guide provides you with insights you never knew about these places.

Rest assured, shutterbugs, as there will be multiple pit stops along the way to snap photographs and take in the sights and sounds!

Where: Meet at Let’s Go Tour storefront, 462 Crawford Lane, #01-57, Singapore 190462
Duration: 7pm to 9pm
Tel: 9004-4332

Farm-to-fork dining in the city

Make a reservation at Singapore’s first urban rooftop farm-to-table Japanese restaurant NOKA, where some of the ingredients are harvested directly from the garden right outside the restaurant or from Open Farm Community.

Located on the top floor of Funan Mall, NOKA’s picture-perfect interior is flooded with natural light. It’s also the sister restaurant of Open Farm Community, with a focus on fusing local ingredients with traditional Japanese cooking methods to create tasty and sustainable dishes that will wow your palate, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options included.

In true Japanese restaurant style, opt for the seats at the open counter where you get to see the chefs in action. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, go for the omakase option!

Where: 109 North Bridge Road, #07-38 Funan Mall (lift lobby A), Singapore 179097
Tel: 6877-4878
Opening hours: 11am to 9pm; closed on Mondays

Take to the skies

As one of the largest giant observation wheels in the world (30 metres taller than the London Eye!), the Singapore Flyer is a must-visit for magnificent 360-degree views of Marina Bay, the Singapore River and more. Test your geography skills by spotting landmarks like the Padang, Fort Canning Park and the Esplanade while you’re up there!

Indulge your senses even further with a romantic Sky Dining experience for two, where you and your companion can relish a four-course dinner and two rotations on the Flyer, with the stunning skyline as your backdrop.

That’s not all — while you’re there, don’t miss the picturesque Rainforest Discovery located beneath the Flyer, where you can take a relaxing stroll through lush greenery amidst cascading water displays.

Where: 30 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039803
Opening hours: 2pm to 10pm (last admission at 9.30pm), Thursday to Sunday and public holidays; no flights from Mondays to Wednesdays. Visit the official website for the latest opening hours.

Chill out and enjoy creative Middle-Eastern food

Set in the heart of the heritage and art district is the funky Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant Artichoke, helmed by acclaimed chef-owner and MasterChef Singapore judge Bjorn Shen.

Priding itself as the “least authentic Middle Eastern joint in town”, the homegrown restaurant is known for putting a creative spin on traditional dishes of the region, bringing together bold flavours in fresh ways that will thrill even the fussiest of eaters.

Start by sharing some mezze (or appetisers), including hummus with Iraqi spiced mushrooms, hearty beefsteak tomatoes, and crab tzatziki, which is essentially a Greek dip combined with crab, crispy chicken skin and trout roe.

Must-try mains include their popular roasted cauliflower mandi (a traditionally meat-centric dish from Yemen) with spiced yoghurt and daqqus (a Middle Eastern tomato-based sauce), smoky green harissa prawns and the crispy outside, soft-inside Thicc Hashbrown; for dessert, try their seasonal offerings such as pie topped with spiced poached pear in wine, hazelnut and cream, or yuzu-chamomile malabi with apricot compote and kataifi shards.

Artichoke, known for its chill vibe, is ideal for weekend brunches or a boozy night out, and you can consider opting for the Chef’s Tasting Menu ($68 per person) to maximise your experience.

Where: 161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978
Tel: 6336-6949
Opening hours: 5pm to 9.30pm, Tuesdays to Sundays; 11.30am to 2.30pm, Saturdays & Sundays; closed on Mondays

Where would you go to snap the best photos of the city? There’s no better person to ask than Mr Robin Loh, founder of Let’s Go Tour Singapore, who has been taking people on scenic cycling tours around the island and Marina Bay for seven years.

Here, the passionate guide shares his favourite photo op spots.

In partnership with Singapore Tourism Board