As night falls and the futuristic skyscrapers of Singapore’s financial center lights begin to twinkle, the sound of revving engines echo through the streets: this is the Singapore Grand Prix, Formula One’s original night race. The scene of race cars whipping through the city center over the famous Padang Park and across the harbor is both cinematic and surreal; spectators come for the views as much as the competition. The social scene is cosmopolitan and glamorous, with smart bars, an eclectic mix of restaurants and some of the world’s best hotels.
Raffles Hotel on Beach Road is listed as number 40 on the list of the world’s top hotels and is probably the most talked about, but sadly the hotel has become somewhat of a tourist trap in recent years making it less attractive to those seeking a truly exclusive experience. Still, it’s a historic colonial building that’s worth visiting for the Singapore Sling cocktail which was invented here and is located just a stone’s throw away from the Padang area of the circuit.
The Shangri-La Hotel is one of the chain’s most impressive properties with a glass-enclosed lobby surrounded by 15 acres of orchard filled botanical gardens (where you can sip the hotel’s award winning cocktail, the Shangri-La Sling post race). There are six in-house restaurants serving a variety of different cuisines (from Californian to Cantonese) as well as a bar, BLU located on 24th floor with staggering views of the city skyline. There’s a spa too that offers blissful day packages, but those seeking a more traditional approach to wellness tend to visit the Como Shambhala Spa, where some of the oldest spiritual and physical relaxation treatments are practiced as well as a huge programme of guided outdoor activities such a diving, hiking and climbing.
It’s the Ritz Carlton Millennia Hotel that offers the ultimate Grand Prix experience, however, conveniently situated next to turns 19 and 20 and just a short walk away from the pits. Despite its proximity to the action, the hotel still manages to maintain, unbelievably, a sense of seclusion with seven acres of garden oasis surrounding the complex. It boasts three restaurants, including the Michelin starred Summer Pavilion which offers intimate Cantonese dining, a rooftop club and grand ballroom space where the F1 weekend’s exclusive Podium Lounge party is held, hosting celebrities, drivers and VIPs from across the globe. The opening party on the Friday evening welcomes renowned DJs to the decks to set the mood for celebration, with a performance from singer, Estelle the following evening alongside spectacular acrobatic displays and catwalk shows.
There are plenty of VIP hospitality options in Singapore for spectators seeking to enjoy the exhilaration from the comfort of an air-conditioned lounge (the heat in the city can be overwhelming to tourists). Aside from the usual Paddock Club first-class facilities, there are the Sky Suites, each equipped with their own open bar, catering staff, balconies and access to the exclusive open air rooftop Skybar terrace or else, on the lower level, there are the Club Suites which grant guests the privilege of a close up view of the circuit.
Outside the racing scene, the vibrant and bustling city life continues. Head to the Dempsey Road enclave to sample the local cuisine, such as the mouth watering fish head curry at Samy’s Restaurant, or try street food from Lau Pa Sat Festival Market in Raffles Quay. The Yixing Xuan Teahouse is also worth visiting, if only to gain insight into a culture that so highly honours the ancient practice of drinking tea. The teahouse allows you to brew your own tea while eating delectable dim sum. There’s plenty of shopping to be done in Singapore too. Club 21 is the first stop for designer brands or the Marina Square mall is a renowned retail destination. If you’re searching for more unique souvenirs, the Chinese herbalist, Eu Yan San is wonderful to explore; crammed with tailor-made remedies such as dried sea horses, which are said to promote blood circulation and aid the health of kidneys.