Forget skyscrapers and shopping. Singapore's broad footpaths, expansive parks and meandering trails make it a great place to stretch the legs and ease the mind. For downtown walking, start with the Botanical Gardens. Set on 82 hectares, the park encompasses large ponds – with swans, not swan boats – real jungle, a lovely orchid garden and swaths of lawn. Bring a packed lunch and a blanket and set yourself up in a shady corner to lose half a day.
Start at the northern entrance and allow two to three hours to walk through and explore from top to tail, emerging onto Holland Road, where a left turn will lead you to Tanglin Road and, 10 minutes later, Orchard Road.
If you have the energy, take advantage of Orchard Road's well-shaded footpaths and walk the full length, taking a right turn near Dhoby Ghaut, where you'll find Fort Canning Park within easy reach.
Locals believed that its hill, once the seat of a 14th-century Malay kingdom, was revered and haunted, but Stamford Raffles built a bungalow there to soak in the views. In the mid-19th century a fort followed, and while little of it remains, beneath the surface lies the World War II-era Battlebox bunker.
This is where the British decided to surrender to the Japanese on February 15, 1942 – the largest British surrender in history – in a meeting that lasted just 15 minutes.
A 75-minute Battlebox tour runs five times a day from Tuesdays to Sundays. The hill itself is also worth a wander; see if you can find the hidden Battlebox air ducts. Nearby is the National Museum of Singapore and, more to my liking, the whimsical Peranakan Museum.
While the Battlebox was the planning centre for Singapore's defence, the small forested hills of the Southern Ridges were a natural barrier to an invasion. Today the ridges form a half-day walk, and while you don't need to be as prepared as the Brits were, bring plenty of water, wear a hat and use sunscreen. It's worth it, because there are few other places in Singapore where you can be up in a forest canopy, with a great view.
The Southern Ridges trailhead commences with the Marang Trail, close by the HarbourFront MRT rapid transit stop, which leads to the summit of Mount Faber and terrific views to the Singapore skyline and Sentosa Island.
Continue west, first to Henderson Waves, an impressive, tubular, wave-like bridge spanning Henderson Road, 36 metres below, then to Telok Blangah Hill Park, and then on again to Forest Walk, a 1.3-kilometre, elevated steel walkway snaking its way through a gorgeous green canopy.
HortPark, a 10-hectare park and garden, is more manicured than the previous stretches, but makes for a good lunch spot. The final leg, another elevated canopy walk, runs along Kent Ridge Park (look out for the signboards explaining Japanese military offensives that occurred through here), before depositing you a 10-minute walk from Kent Ridge MRT (and aircon). The walk is about 10 kilometres in all and takes about three hours.
While you can't see it from the Southern Ridges, running parallel, perhaps 300 metres north of Faber Hill lies a stretch of the original Rail Corridor. This once connected Singapore station to Malaysia, but the line was decommissioned in 2011. In a nod to New York's High Line, the 24-kilometre route is being reworked into the Green Corridor, a multi-purpose public space including trails, cycleways, cafes and, no doubt, plenty of Instagram vantage points.
The Corridor is a work in progress. Catch the MRT to King Albert Park, then walk north for 20 minutes to visit the Former Ford Factory museum (admission $S3), where Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival officially surrendered to Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita.
Afterwards, backtrack first to the old Bukit Timah train station, before following the Green Corridor south as far as Holland Village. Construction work can be an issue for now, but the potential is obvious. Check the Green Corridor page on Facebook for the latest news on what's being dug up and where to have the best chance of finding a slice of green when you visit.
One of the best pod-hostels in Chinatown, Adler delivers spacious and well-kitted pods with thoughtful extras. Go for a pod in the Chamber for a comfy deck ideal for daytime lounging. adlerhostel.com
THE GREAT MADRAS
While the pool photos are deceptive (it was built more for Instagram than splashing), the 34 compact rooms fit the bill for a mid-range stay in Little India. The balcony rooms are worth the extra money. thegreatmadras.com
Set in almost suburban Somerset, yet five or so minutes' walk from Orchard Road, Lloyd's Inn offers the intimacy often lacking at similarly priced (but larger) city hotels. Gleaming white with black and tan edgings, some rooms come with tubs ideal for soaking. Book direct and you spin a wheel upon check-in to win goodies, including a room discount. lloydsinn.com
MY AWESOME CAFE
Swing by for breakfast at My Awesome Cafe, located on the ground floor of the old Chung Hwa Free Clinic on Telok Ayer Street. Think generous, tasty breakfasts (and lunches), served amid paper-lantern lights so bright they'll wake you up before the coffee does. www.myawesomecafe.com
PEOPLE'S PARK COMPLEX
With Chinatown Complex closed for renovations, the yellow, towering People's Park Complex on Eu Tong Sen Street makes for a solid option B. It's less touristy than well-known Maxwell Food Centre; expect hundreds of hawker stalls to choose from.
3RD CULTURE BREWING CO.
With two locations (Old Airport Road and Maxwell hawker centres), 3rd Culture pulls a steady pint and makes for a great change from Tiger to accompany your hawker fare. facebook.com/3rdculture brewingco
This intimate 40-seater fine-dining bistro (pictured) serves seasonal fare via a selection of tasting menus that change monthly. Flavours are deep and creatively combined, with presentation falling on the right side of fussy. Knowledgeable staff and a classy setting make booking ahead essential. curesingapore.com
At this bar, drinks are focused on local and regional produce; one cocktail, the Oysters from Ubin, features oyster distillate, miso-cured eggs, Kampot pepper, coriander and kalamansi citrus. Ask to be shown the upstairs distillery. tribenative.com