A Local's Guide to Singapore

National Museum director Angelita Teo picks the city's best arts venues and top restaurants.

We asked National Museum director Angelita Teo to guide us to Singapore's best arts venues and Japanese restaurants. What she came back with is the perfect guide for anyone who loves the arts, upscale travel and exploring new tastes and cultural experiences.

What makes Singapore’s culture, arts and heritage so unique?

It really is the myriad performance spaces like the newly-reopened Victoria Theatre, museums, galleries and exciting festivities for our ethnically diverse population. In fact, one can simply spend a day in the Bras Basah/Bugis precinct and experience how eclectic Singapore can be.

What is your fondest memory of growing up in Singapore? 

Watching my grandmother and grandaunts make kueh (cakes and sweet snacks) for Chinese New Year every year, and me stealing freshly made kueh bulohs and “love letters”. Going to the old MPH Building (Stamford House, 71 Stamford Rd., S(178895). MRT: Bras Basah) was also a treat when I was young. Although it’s no longer a bookstore, the building has been beautifully conserved.

Where do you like to eat out and hang out? 

I enjoy eating and hanging out in the east, where I grew up in and still live in today. There is delicious food in Joo Chiat along East Coast Beach, from the East Coast Lagoon Food Village to Big Splash, which brings back fond memories of Sunday swimming dates with friends and family.

Which is your favorite landmark in Singapore?

I don't think I'm being biased when I say the National Museum building. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Singapore (dating back to 1887), and is architecturally beautiful, inside and out. It reminds us of our colonial past but is today a great place to spend time with your family and friends. It's also magical to stand under the dome to just look up and see the sunlight streaming through the stained glass.

National Museum of Singapore
National Museum of Singapore (©National Museum of Singapore)

Angelita's Insider Tips

Attractions: Visiting the Night Safari is one of the best things to do in Singapore at night—I always try to find the time to bring overseas visitors there. Another gem is the Malay Heritage Centre in Kampong Glam. In fact, Kampong Glam is such a great place to hang out, have a meal and people-watch!

Parks: Gardens by the Bay is most beautiful in the late evening, but do venture to the less popular Bay East Garden near Tanjong Rhu to get a spectacular view of Singapore’s skyline.

Arts: Some of my favorite art venues include Singapore Art Museum, Asian Civilisations Museum and The Substation.

Restaurants: Flutes at the National Museum of Singapore for a great Sunday Roast; Shirokane Tori-Tama at Robertson Walk for something exotic, such as the cockscomb of a chicken (highly recommended); Jaan for great food and a great view to match; and for really special occasions, Kaiseki Yoshiyuki at Forum Galleria is just magical.

The Substation
The Substation (©The Substation)

One Day in Singapore Like a Local: Angelita's List

9 am: Head to the market. I like going to the nearby wet market at the Bedok Bus Interchange and buying every possible local breakfast dish (fried carrot cake, chwee kueh, vegetarian bee hoon, etc.) home to share with the family, so that everyone gets a bit of everything!

12 noon: Chill out. It’s probably too hot to be out of the house at this time, and I’d definitely be too full for activities after the breakfast smorgasbord! 

3 pm: Catch a movie at one of the larger cineplexes. I always choose to watch a movie on the largest screen available, so I usually l head down to Golden Village at VivoCity.

7 pm: Have dinner. One of my favorite restaurants in Singapore is Wild Rocket @ Mount Emily. Willin Low is such a talented chef and he’s so passionate about Singaporean cuisine. The menu at Wild Rocket is reminiscent of familiar tastes, yet so innovatively put together that it is always surprising and exciting to eat there.

Wild Rocket's roast marble goby
Wild Rocket's roast marble goby (©Wild Rocket)