We're a little bit obsessed with Singapore. There's something about this lion city that has myself and the hubster entranced. And that something is the food scene. We've visited a few times, but have always left the boys behind. Until now. We took the plunge and whisked the lads away on their first international flight, and I'm really glad we waited until they are the age they are now, as we had such an easy holiday with them.
How To Get There
We flew to Singapore with Qantas, for a couple of reasons: we're QFF members, their flights are at the best times, we purchased our tickets on sale, and the hubster has a Qantas Club Lounge membership, so we could chill out in there in both Sydney and Singapore, before our flights.
Changi Airport in Singapore, is known as one of the world's best, and yes it is quite amazing. But don't expect to find all of its amazing facilities in one terminal. They are spread between 3 different terminals (soon to be 4), and you can catch a free sky train between each of them. We did this when we had some time to waste before our return flight. If you fly with Qantas you will arrive into, and depart from Terminal 1 - which you may presume is the main terminal, but it's not. The main terminal is No. 3 (Singapore Airlines fly in and out of here), and this is where the best shops and food outlets are - there's even a Hello Kitty Diner here (but on the public side of the terminal).
To keep kidlets occupied whilst in transit, there's a huge playground at both Terminals 1 & 3. And make sure you take your kids to check out the Butterfly Garden in Terminal 3. There's also a cinema, transit hotel and pool in Terminal 3. Terminal 1 has a cactus garden if that is of interest!
Where to stay
There are bucket loads of hotels in Singapore, and they are all bloody expensive when you have a family of four to accommodate!
We needed two different types of accommodation on our travels. The first night we wanted a hotel close to the airport, as we were just transiting through Singapore, en route to Phuket. And we found the fabulous Village Hotel Katong. They have very comfortable family rooms, a pool and restaurant. We were very kindly upgraded to a suite for our stay, which gave us heaps of space (which is exactly what one needs when flying cattle class for 8 hours as a family).
This hotel is about a 15 minute drive from the airport and is located really close to an awesome stip of restaurants/bars/cafes on East Coast Road. We can thoroughly recommend Rabbit Carrot Gun (a British inspired eatery), or right across from that is Singapore's best Laksa House called 328 Katong Laksa. Village Hotel Katong is also located in the front of a small shopping centre which is ideal, in case you need to go to a chemist or a supermarket.
The East Coast of Singapore is not mentioned too often in the "tourist brochures" but it should be, as it has heaps to see and do for families - including an amazing new playground (see below).
For our longer stay we wanted an apartment, as I'm not a fan of sharing a room with my children for any longer than 2 nights. After an awful lot of internet research I found the Louis Kienne Serviced Residences on Havelock Road - which is on the edge of Chinatown. And we highly recommend that you look at staying here when you visit Singapore too!
Louis Kienne Serviced Apartments - Havelock Rd (near Chinatown)
The apartments aren't huge by Australian standards, but they are well furnished and very comfortable. There are small kitchen facilities in case you want to do cooking, and a continental breakfast is included in the room price. There is a shared laundry in the building and car parking as well. When it's time to eat, you will find loads of different places to dine at, within an easy walk.
One of the best features of the hotel, is the roof top pool which has great views over the city. The other big bonus here, is that you are given a complimentary mobile phone to use during your stay! You can only make local calls, but it comes in very handy when you need to call a restaurant to make a reservation, or need to ring the hotel and ask for directions on how to get back!
Where to eat
Even though we were in Asia, we are still fans of the western style of breakfast to start the day. If you think Sydney is starting to get a tad expensive for breakfast, it's actually cheap in comparison to Singapore. Most brekkie items are north of $20.00 and then you have to plus, plus in western style cafes. That is, add the 10% service charge and the 7% GST charge - ouch! So to save yourself some money, try and get a deal which incorporates breakfast into your hotel room price. Below are the 4 places we had breakfast at during our stay (the first 2 were in easy walking distance of the Louis Kienne Serviced Residences).
1. Toby's Estate
This Sydney favourite has swung open its doors on Roberston Quay, and is open from 7am during the week and 8am on weekends. Their coffee is on point as is their food, and they also have some toys for kidlets to play with. A firm favourite with the expat crowd craving a slice of home, you will have to jostle for a seat mid morning when the yummy mummy crowd hits the cafe. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, with high chairs and toilets both being available for you to use.
2. Common Man Roasters
You will find this hipster joint on Martin Rd, not too far from Robertson Quay. Everytime we walked past this cafe it was packed to the rafters, and it is packed with expats craving the liquid gold that this cafe brews up. The menu is definitely expensive but the food and coffee is delcious, and the service was excellent.
3. The Lokal
This delightful cafe is owned and run by an Aussie chef. You will find it in the back streets of Chinatown and it was one of our favourite finds during our stay. The vibe is very relaxed, the coffee is by Common Man Roasters (so it is excellent), and the food was simply delicious. If I was a local in Singapore, I would definitely make this joint my regular.
4. Paul Patisserie
There a few "Pauls" in Singapore, including one at the airport. We visited the cafe in the gorgeous Takashimaya Shopping Centre on Orchard Road. At breakfast time they serve a delicious basket of pastries that can easily feed 2 people for $9.90 (++). We ordered 2 baskets and 2 coffees and it was the cheapest breakfast we had during our stay in Singapore, which also coincided with our last day when we were starting to run low on coin! Each basket had 3 pastries (croissant, pain au chocolat and a raisin snail). Jam and butter also accompanied the pastries. This is also a great spot to stop in for morning/afternoon tea as their range of eclairs and other sweet treats looked totally amazing. And at lunch time they also offer a special with their range of yummy looking filled baguettes - so don't be afraid of the expensive shopping centres they are loacted in, as they just happen to be a reasonably price option by Singapore dining standards.
Limoncello - Robertson Quay
This family friendly restaurant is a 10 minute walk from the Louis Kienne Residences. The night we dined, the outside of Limoncello was packed with casually dressed expats and their kids who were riding their scooters. There's a big area in front of the restaurant which is perfect for little ones to play on. However as we were not used to the humid weather, we opted to sit inside in the comfort of air conditioning.
Limoncello is an Italian restaurant that serves delcious pizza, pasta and other classics. They have a kids menu, a really good wine list and their service was excellent. The menu, like most restaurants in Singapore is on the expensive side when you add on the taxes.
Din Tai Fung - various locations
Dumplings! That's what Din Tai Fung does best and we love them. You normally have to queue to get a table, but they've stream lined this process so that you order as you wait. So your food normally hits your table as soon as you sit down. Their restaurants are air conditioned and thier dumpling kitchens are glass fronted so that you can see the dumpling masters in action - which is great fun for kids. Din Tai Fung also have several restaurants in Sydney.
DC Comics Super Heroes Cafe - Marina Bay Sands
The boys desperately wanted to eat here as they adore all of the DC Comics Super Heroes. The cafe is seriously touristy and quite expensive. The kids meals are pretty darn cool , the adult meals not so much. So we let the boys eat here under the watchful eye of Superman, whilst we had a cool drink (then we headed to Din Tai Fung downstairs for our lunch). Next time I think we would just go for a treat in the middle afternoon like a Super Hero ice cream, or a cupcake so that we can still have the experience, but it won't cost as much money!
Hawker Markets - various locations
For the cheapest meals in Singapore the myriad of Hawker Markets are your best bet. Not only is the food cheap, but it's also deliciously authentic. We had one across the road from our hotel that we ate at, and also we received a couple of recommendations from our Taxi drivers on the best ones to visit - so our advice is to ask a local, so that you can eat like a local! You can't really go wrong with the popular Newton Food Centres or Maxwell Food Centres either.
There are quite a few of these excellent cafes/restaruants located throughout Singapore. They are very western in their design (I think they are owned by an Aussie expat) and the menus are delish! They also serve a very decent coffee and breakfast as well.
Bread Street Kitchen - Marina Bay Sands
This a restaurant from the F bomb King himself, Gordon Ramsay. And bloody hell it was good. And we need it to open in Sydney!! The location in Singapore is spectacular - right on the waterfront at Marina Bay Sands. It's a bit fancy pants, but not so fancy that you can't take kids. They have the most awesome kids menu that comes in a little activity pack full of everything British and it also includes a chef's hat! And for dessert, kids can decorate their own ice cream with the chefs (if they aren't too busy).
There are quite a few delicious dessert cafes located throughout Singapore. We had one close to where we were staying which was a blessing to enter at the end of a hot day - thankyou Dessert Project! Their speciality is Ice Cream Toast! Some other ones to check out are Sunday Folks and Non Entree Desserts.
Some other cool kid friendly cafes we missed checking out are:
And if for some reason the hubster needs to watch an all important rugby match, check out the Boomarang Bar at Roberston Quay. It's full of expats, and their kids can be found zooming past on scooters. They have a decent Little Tackers Menu, which covers breakfast, lunch and dinner - they even serve babycinos!!
What to do
Golly gosh there's heaps to do for the whole family in Singapore - we only touched the surface with the places we visited. Sentosa Island has by far the most family friendly attractions on it, and you could almost spend a whole week there doing everything that's on offer (if you could afford to). Marina Bay Sands also has quite a few things to do as well.
Universal Studios - Sentosa
If you have a fair bit of cash saved up, you need to make sure that you visit this place with your kids - but it is expensive! There are heaps of awesome rides - some of which are ridiculously scary for kids (and their mums) and also some great stage shows. The queues for some of the rides are huge, so if you can afford to, purchase an Universal Express ticket. That way you can jump the queue and go straight on the rides.
There are quite a few different places to eat here, but to be honest all the food outlets are fairly ordinary. It's all deep fried, junk food type of stuff and it's pricey. We took some of our own snacks and water to get us through our visit.
SEA Aquarium - Sentosa
This is one impressive aquarium. The marine life, the hands on kids activities, and the facilities are top notch. And you can also dine under the water at their fine dining restaraunt.
You need to dedicate at least a half day to visiting the Aquarium. For the other half you could visit any of these other activities on Sentosa:
Art & Science Museum - Marina Bay Sands
The stunning looking lotus flower shaped building at Marina Bay Sands is home to the Art & Science Museum. It is a great place to spend half a day in airconditioned comfort as they host amazing family friendly exhibitions. The exhibitions change every few months, so check what's on before you go and you can can also purchase tickets online as well, which is time saver during peak visiting periods. There's a decent cafe on site, in case you need a caffeine injection.
Gardens by the Bay - Marina Bay Sands
Everyone knows about these amazing gardens, but what you may not know is that there is an excellent playground here as well. It's called the Far East Organisation Children's Garden and it has both an adventure playground, as well as a large water play playground. Just follow the signs from the main gardens and you will find it. And I bet all members of the family will want to run under the water spouts to get cool! There's a kiosk, toilets and also lockers for the stuff you don't want to get wet at the playground.
Night Safari at Singapore Zoo
One of Singapore's favourite attractions, the Night Zoo offers you an opportunity to see animals when the sun goes down. You can do walks through some parts of the zoo, as well as seeing most of the zoo aboard a tram. If you have the time it's a great idea to visit the zoo during the day as well, and do either a river safari or have breakfast with the oranutangs. We recommend catching an uber to the Zoo and back, as the Zoo is a decent drive out of the city centre.
Other things to do
We believe that you could spend 2 weeks in Singapore (if you could afford to), and still have things to see and do! Below are some of the other awesome attractions can be done as a family, but we didn't have time to:
Singapore is seriously one of the most expensive cities in the world to live, but for some reason its transport is cheap, especially in comparison to what we pay in Sydney.
MRT is the train line that runs throughout the city. If you love public transport then get to know the system. The MRT is efficent, clean and safe. You will need to buy a Singapore Tourist Pass card which will offer you unlimited travel each day, depending on what value you purchase. These can also be used on the bus system.
Taxis are really cheap and are what we used to get from the airport to our hotels, and to a few other destinations. You can have your hotel desk call them for you. You can flag them down in the street, or you can wait at a designated taxi rank (TIP: do not do this at peak hour, as the wait time is long and the heat can make your whole fambam a wee bit grumpy). There is also an app you can download on your phone, and they will come straight to you. And if you want to know where the best Hawker centres are in town, just ask your taxi driver - we received some awesome tips about centres that were previously unknown to us.
Uber - this is the service we used most whilst staying in Singapore. All of the drivers were brilliant, with some giving us some helpful advice on what to do and see. We already had the app on our phone from Sydney, and we didn't get charged any exchange rates on our credit card for using it in another country!
Walk - Singapore is a great city to walk around BUT you will get hot and sweaty doing so! Like in most places, the best way to find the hidden gems in the back streets, is to use your legs and walk.
Our travel tips
So my dear Little Munchers, we recommend that you start saving now and plan a trip to this marvellous city soon. It's a fabulous family friendly destination. The heat, and the cost of eating and playing are basically the only negatives - oh and all the tourists on their selfie sticks!
AS PER USUAL WE PAID FOR EVERYTHING ON OUR TRIP - AND ARE HAPPILY BROKE AS A RESULT!