Singapore is a place with many nicknames. Locals call it the ‘Little Red Dot’ – a pet name affectionately adopted by locals due to the city-state’s size and appearance on world maps. But don’t let its size full you. In this city where rustic shophouses exist alongside glassy skyscrapers, hawker food gets cooked up a few streets away from restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs, and nearly every month features a massive city-wide event like the WTA Finals, there is plenty going on. Here, we recommend a few spots you must check out if you’re planning to pop by the ‘Lion City’.
Wake up early and explore the area of Kallang, home to the Sports Hub, where the main WTA Finals events are happening. If you’re a morning person, head to the Kallang Leisure Park for a game of bowling or a few rounds of ice-skating to psych you up for the day. Little ones can visit the Peek-a-boo Playground, located on the second floor, which features a four-storey structure complete with slides and a ball pit. They’re all open from 10am. However, if you prefer starting your day with a hearty brunch and a cuppa – and you should indeed line your stomach, since it’s going be a long day ahead – drop by Loysel’s Toy, a breezy Melbourne-style coffee hangout by the Kallang River, and get a shot of its famous espresso.
The first set of Doubles and Singles semi-finals is taking place at the Centre Court, Singapore Indoor Stadium from 12.30pm. Make sure you get there on time to avoid lengthy queues. Assuming the matches don’t go on for too long – the world record for the longest tennis match is set by John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010, which went on for a whopping 11 hours and five minutes – take the afternoon to explore Orchard Road. Malls like ION, Ngee Ann City and 313 Somerset are all indoors and air-conditioned, and you can get your shopping fix. For something a little more local and hipster, head to the Tiong Bahru area, where you can find a cute little bookshop called BooksActually, which focuses on selling local titles, while Strangelets and Fleas & Trees offer an eclectic collection of accessories and furniture. There are also a few cafes here if you want a snack to tide you over, such as 40 Hands or Plain Vanilla.
Go back to the Indoor Stadium before 6.30pm for the second set of Singles and Doubles semi-final matches, which will determine the line-up for the last match of the season tomorrow. After that, go to Kilo for some homely Italian-Japanese comfort food for dinner. Head upstairs to Kilo Lounge for the tunes afterwards, or maybe go to Brewerkz – a branch of the local microbrewery – for a pouring of Made-in-Singapore beer. We like the Golden Ale, while the Oatmeal Stout is a good substitue for a hankering for Guinness. If you don’t mind venturing into town for a nightcap, then we recommend checking out 28 HongKong Street and Sugarhall in Chinatown, Gibson in Outram Park, or Antidote at Fairmont Hotel near City Hall.
For those of you who chose to skip the drinks in Chinatown the night before, or want to explore the more cultural side of the district, then, the morning is a good time to go. Start your day with a quick bite at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, which offers a selection of local fare like Xing Xing’s ondeh ondeh (ping pong ball-sized glutinous rice dumplings with brown palm sugar filling and coated by grated coconut, $0.40, stall 31) or Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food’s roti prata (fried flat bread served with curry, from $0.70, stall 103). Walk along Maxwell Road when your stomach is satisfied, take a right onto South Bridge Road, and you'll find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, which has six floors of religious artefacts plus a tranquil rooftop garden. Further down the road is the Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in town. There are also some stalls selling souvenirs around the area, in case you need to stock up on a little present for mum and pops.
Reward yourself with some local food cooked up with an international twist at The Tuckshop on Guillemard Road after all the walking. From there, walk to Dakota MRT station and head to Stadium, which is just one stop away. Be sure to head over early so you don’t miss the biggest match of the tournament, as two of the best female tennis players compete for the title of champion. If you find yourself with a bit of time to kill before the matches, swing by the Fan Zone, where you might catch a glimpse of some of the players and maybe even get an autograph or two. You’ll also find an art installation called Tennis Swing here – it comprises six LED swings from which visitors can experience what it’s like to be a tennis ball, as they’ll hear the ‘pock’ of the ball being hit by a racket while they swing. The Doubles and Singles finals are due to take place from 3.30pm, once again at the Centre Court at the Indoor Stadium.
The game may be over, but fans of the tournament can continue to soak in the spirit of tennis at Bugis+ and Marina Square. The shopping malls are both partners of the WTA Finals, and a number of their tenants are offering discounts to ticketholders – check their websites or Facebook pages for details. Shoppers can also look out for a series of interactive 3D artworks related to tennis on their glossy floors, which are created by locally based artist, Ben Quek. Snap a photo of yourself with them and stand the chance to win prizes. For those who decide to go to Marina Square, take a short walk across the Helix Bridge – take in the views of Marina Bay at sunset while you’re there – and reach Marina Bay Sands. Arguably the most famous building on the Singapore skyline, it’s home to a hotel, a casino, and a whole bunch of high-end shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for something that’s pocket-friendly, we suggest booking a table at Long Chim for some delicious Thai food. Wanna go all out? Head to Waku Ghin, a Japanese restaurant that’s featured as one of ‘Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’. To round off the night – and a weekend of courtside action – check into Adrift and sip on a Golden Ace, the official drink of the WTA Finals. It’s a refreshing mix of Jack Daniel’s, calamansi juice, rosemary, Schweppes tonic and soda. It costs $23, but present your tennis match ticket and enjoy 50% off. Cheers to that!