Will your Singapore holidays coincide with the Chinese New Year? If so, this is your chance to usher in the Year of the Dog in one of the Lion City’s most spirited celebrations.
Traditionally, Chinese New Year (or “CNY”) is observed for 15 days. As it is based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the festival has no fixed date on the Roman calendar although it usually occurs in January and February. In China, employees enjoy at least seven days of vacation during the new year, but in Singapore, only two days have been gazetted as official public holidays—for 2018, the Chinese New Year holidays fall on 16 and 17 February.
Family ties take precedence during this season of renewal. Much of the fanfare revolves around the family reunion dinner on the eve of CNY, followed by visits to relatives’ homes thereafter. However, the lunar new year is also an opportune time to be out and about, to experience Singapore at its exuberant best.
Read on for our recommended itinerary.
Thursday, 15 February 2018
7:00 p.m. Food and Family
If you are travelling with loved ones, do as the Chinese do and gather for a sumptuous feast such as the themed buffet at Pan Pacific Singapore. Featuring the indispensable Prosperity “Lo Hei” (a Cantonese-style raw fish salad, and the emblem of good fortune), the spread also includes traditional favourites like Cantonese Roasted Duck and Honey-glazed Pork Char Siew.
9:30 p.m. Chinatown Countdown
Weave through frenetic crowds and a mayhem of makeshift stalls laden with sweet treats and all manner of souvenirs at the Festive Street Bazaar. To bag the best bargains, exercise restraint and hold off purchase decisions till after midnight.
Alternatively, join merrymakers to catch local media celebrities in action at the Chinese New Year Countdown Party. Let Singapore’s TV and radio stars regale you with a medley of festive songs, skits, and interactive games culminating in a rousing fireworks display at the stroke of midnight. (Street bazaar and countdown party details here.)
Friday, 16 February 2018
11:00 a.m. Best Brunches (and Lunches)
The first day of the new year is a day of rest for many Chinese establishments, and locals have been known to flock to Little India in search of a soul-satisfying meal. Take your pick from North Indian cuisine (Jaggi’s), South Indian cuisine (Komala Vilas), and restaurants that serve specialities from both regions (Banana Leaf Apolo).
To veer off the tourist track, head to eateries favoured by regulars in the area, such as New Everest Kitchen (Nepalese); Kailash Parbat, Sri Lakshmi Narasimhan Restaurant, and Swaad (pure vegetarian); MTR (South Indian, coffee); Spice Junction and Swaadhisht (Kerala cuisine).
3:00 p.m. Culture Consumption
Many local museums remain open throughout the Chinese New Year holidays. If you are inclined to spend hours in artful contemplation, make a trip to the historically rich and culturally vibrant Civic District precinct. Close to the City Hall MRT station, noteworthy attractions here include the National Museum, which narrates Singapore’s historic journey, the Asian Civilisations Museum, with exhibits that span 5,000 years of Asian culture, and the National Gallery, a showcase for the world’s largest collection of Southeast Asian modern art.
Need help navigating the Civic District? Check out this useful map.
8:00 p.m. River Revelry
The River Hongbao is an annual “must visit” event in Singapore’s cultural calendar— a trip to the fair has been a national tradition among things to do during CNY since 1987. Highlights of the 11-day festival include nightly fireworks and performances by local and visiting artistes such as the Anhui Chuzhou Performing Arts Group and the National Taiwan University of Sport Dance Troupe.
For an energy boost, head for the food stands to sample traditional delicacies and trendy snacks. This year’s instalment of River Hongbao also includes an exhibition, “My Home, My New Year,” which traces the evolution of Lunar New Year celebrations in Singapore.
Saturday, 17 February 2018
8:30 a.m. Meet The President
Constructed in the 1860s by the country’s British colonial government, The Istana is today Singapore’s official presidential residence. On selected public holidays (including Chinese New Year), The Istana opens its gates to the public, with a spread of music and dance performances to mark the occasion. Visitors can sign up for guided tours of the Istana Main Building and its luxuriant grounds.
To sightsee at your own pace, use the LocoMole mobile app to download suggested itineraries for the Istana and the nearby Istana Heritage Gallery. As for rubbing shoulders with the president, it is best considered a game of chance. If you should be so lucky, note that the country’s reigning president, Mdm Halimah Yacob, also holds the honour of being Singapore’s first female president.
12:00 p.m. Vintage Charm
In Singapore, it is the ethnic neighbourhoods that sparkle with character, and Malay/Arab enclave Kampong Glam is no exception. Delve into the area’s hidden stories by following a heritage trail or visiting the Malay Heritage Centre. Or enjoy a languid afternoon dipping into the area’s eclectic crop of cafes—Dong Po Colonial Cafe, Kampong Glam Cafe, Fika Swedish Cafe and Bistro, I Am…, Working Title, and All Things Delicious have been name-dropped by locals.
7:30 p.m. Mandopop Appreciation
Credit: Prudential Marina Bay Carnival
Watch aspiring Mandarin pop stars take the stage at the Marina Promontory, before indulging your inner child with a wild ride or two at the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival. For travellers who will be in Singapore from late February to early March, the Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts is a showcase of theatre, dance, and music programmes that should not be missed, as it features outstanding Chinese artistes from Singapore and beyond.
Welcome to Singapore! Looking for more information on beautiful places in Singapore to visit? Speak to our team at Pan Pacific Singapore for recommendations and suggestions, as well as accommodation advice.