Start with a light, local breakfast at Amoy Street Food Centre (in the MND Building, at 7 Maxwell Rd), where hawker stalls serve quick Singaporean fare of dumplings, noodles and savoury cakes, alongside salads, muffins and ramen. Get your morning caffeine fix while you're here. Coffee Break sells regulation flat whites and mochas, but you should keep it local by going for the traditional kopi or teh. Alongside your cup of java, try their black sesame toast for a breakfast of champions.

Get your sense of perspective early with a ride on the high Singapore Flyer early on your first day. The 30-minute rotation will give you a decent idea of the layout of downtown Singapore and with an early arrival (doors open at 8.30am) you can avoid the crowds. It helps to be able to pick out the bigger buildings and waterways to give you an idea of distances and the time you'll need to get between places. Don't underestimate the distances — remember it gets very hot out there. Taxis are plentiful, cheap and air-conditioned.

From there, you're near the famed Gardens by the Bay,
the somewhat crazy result of a modern megacity fetishising fresh air and greenery. The Cloud Forest glasshouse replicates the cool, moist conditions of tropical mountains, and the Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world, while the Supertree Grove towers over all with connecting walkways 50m in the air.

Both the Singapore Flyer and the Gardens present terrific views of the Marina Bay Sands. Access to the rooftop infinity pool — the largest (and surely the most photographed) in the world — is limited to guests at the hotel, but you can admire the architects' freakish self confidence from street level.

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This is also the best spot to get your high-end shopping fix. The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, the most upmarket mall in Singapore, is beneath the towering hotel. With brands like Chanel, Fendi, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton and Hermes, you'll need to prepare your credit card for trauma. Or settle for some outrageous window shopping.

Away from the gleaming white floors and windowed alleys of the city's vast shopping malls, you'll find excellent boutique shopping in the smaller neighbourhoods. If on-trend design, independent bookshops, vintage clothing and vinyl are your thing, give Tiong Bahru a spin. While you're there, you might fancy another coffee. Head for Tiong Bahru Bakery (56 Eng Hoon St ). The French pastries are legendary.

There are 39 Michelin-starred restaurants in Singapore, and high-end eateries here often find a place on lists of the best restaurants in the world. We ate at the stunning Labyrinth, where chef Han Li Guang takes the traditional cooking of his family and reimagines it with modern ingredients and techniques. The result is a genre-bending experience from the moment the tea-infused quail egg starter bursts in your mouth through rebooted nasi lemak, and a grandma chicken rice that arrives as a dumpling. Unforgettable.

As you'd expect, the Asian Civilisations Museum is full of stunning pieces from throughout the continent. You'll see artefacts from the Belitung shipwreck, an Arabic dhow that sunk more than a millennia ago just off the coast of Sumatra. Loaded with Tang Dynasty treasures from China, its cargo of ceramics, gold and silver was discovered in 1998.

Get a photo with the Merlion. Back in 2005, local artist Lim Tzay Chuen tried to get the 80-tonne, water-spouting statue shipped to Venice to feature in the Biennale. The idea was scrapped by the Singapore Tourism Board, but the artist's effort to get the concrete and steel structure there was instead presented as the artwork.

To learn more about the art scene, go to the National Gallery Singapore, home to the world's largest collection of modern Southeast Asian art. The collections offer a fascinating peek into an art world that might have escaped the attention of many Kiwi gallery dwellers. There are fascinating pieces created during the struggle for Singaporean independence and during the turbulent years of the Cold War.

One remarkable piece, Age of Full Bloom by San Minn, of Myanmar, so concerned censorship authorities when it was first exhibited in 1979 that the canvas today still bears the mark of the censor's stamp. Finish your gallery visit with a cold beer at the rooftop bar overlooking the Singapore Cricket Club.

Get to the airport early, and once you've checked in get one last taste of Singapore's stunning cuisine. On the basement level of Changi's Terminal 3, the unpromisingly named Staff Canteen is a massive food court where everyone (not just staff) can eat from a vast array of stands for very cheap prices.

Checklist

GETTING THERE

Singapore Airlines

flies direct between Auckland and Singapore.

ACCOMMODATION
The Swissotel Merchant Court is near Clarke Quay, within walking distance of the central city highlights.

ONLINE
visitsingapore.com