Singapore is a first world city, and yet one that is steeped in deep Asian history and culture, Singapore is a fascinating place – the more you look, the more intrigued you become. With its heady mixture of cultures and ethnicities, it’s a dazzling place full of diversity. One thing you will never be is bored – there are just so many things to do in Singapore. If you’re planning a visit to this island city-state, here are 34 top tips to ensure you soak up the best of what Singapore has to offer.
Hiking and nature walks
Singapore Southern Ridges
You can soak up Mother Nature without needing to stray too far from Singapore’s urban centre. When looking for places to visit in Singapore, the Southern Ridges are a top choice for those who love to appreciate the outdoors without getting dirty. This 10 km trail connects a series of hill parks in the state’s southern tip. All you’ll need is a pair of sensible shoes.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Filled to the brim with gorgeous migratory birds and densely populated with mangroves, this is a true nature haven – with resident crocodiles and white-bellied sea eagles as well as mudskippers, shellfish, water snakes, birds, otters and lizards. Recognised as a site of international importance for migratory birds, you can spend all day enjoying the fauna as you stroll through the forests and wetlands.
Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir
Provided you don’t have a fear of heights, you’ll simply adore the bird’s eye view you get from this freestanding suspension bridge overlooking more than 1,000 species of flowering plants and more than 500 different kinds of animals. The park is a rainforest experience in the middle of a city, so come with an open mind and do expect some close encounters of the monkey kind.
The boomerang-shaped island of Pulau Ubin is like a trip back in time. The site of former granite mining, the villagers live a traditional, rustic life and rely on fishing and farming to get by. Join the queue for a bumboat at Changi and prepare for a day strolling beneath coconut trees and walking among the mangroves and rubber plantations. Life on the island is simpler – and sweeter – so expect your troubles to drift away.
Singapore Sightseeing Tours
Singapore DUCK Tours
These “amphibious” tourist vehicles that can drive on-road or transform into a boat are a fun way of sightseeing around Singapore. A range of DUCK tours are available – see the world’s largest observation wheel, the Botanic Gardens, Little India, Chinatown, the Fountain of Wreath, and many more highlights. You can choose from as little as a 60-minute DUCK tour to a two-day full city exploration.
Singapore HIPPO Bus
Want to see Singapore while working on your tan? The HIPPO buses have two decks with the top level open to the elements. They’re perfect for a lazy cruise around Singapore’s best spots. See something you like? Want to hit the shops of Orchard Road? The HIPPO bus is perfect as it allows you to hop on and off as many times as you like during your one or two-day tour.
Singapore Self Explore Sightseeing Tours
Clarke Quay is the place to go for nightlife – bars, clubs and restaurants. With a buzzing atmosphere that’s sure to get you in the mood to order a Singapore Sling or two, it’s a great spot to meet the locals and unwind after a long day seeing the sights. With Singapore’s balmy night climate, you’ll be more likely to want to hit the clubs, dress to the nines, and get stuck into a lychee Martini.
You could spend days wandering Chinatown and not get bored with its teahouses, quirky little shops, medicinal halls, goldsmiths and street vendors offering delights like “char kway teow”. A culturally-rich and colourful part of the city, a lion dance performance is held each Saturday at 6.45pm in Pagoda Street, while free walking tours leave each Saturday at 9.30am from the Chinatown Visitors Centre.
This is the place to go to pick up stunning saris at bargain-basement prices or gaze in wonder at some of the city’s most magnificent Hindu temples. This historic district was once home to the city’s racecourse, with Indian migrant workers soon flocking in to work for traders. The legacy of that history remains and now the district is full of fascinating shops and food such as north Indian tandoori dishes and south Indian vegetarian food.
Located within this area is this tiny lane that is a fashion-lover’s dream. With plenty of interesting street art, Haji Lane has a huge focus on youth culture and youth fashion. With great murals adorning the walls and cheap eateries, it’s a colourful locale that also houses the hippest vintage and alternative threads in town – think shirt dresses and skull earrings.
Shopping & Fashion
Designer labels and high-tech gadgetry make Orchard Road a shopaholic’s paradise. With its never-ending rows of shops, this is upscale shopping at its best. There’s also an underground air-conditioned section for those wanting some relief from Singapore’s heat. The swanky 2.2 km stretch and 800,000 square metres of retail, dining and entertainment options are set amid a tropically-landscaped avenue. It’s also great for people-watchers.
Formerly a notorious night spot, Bugis Street is now a go-to destination for alternative shopping, with shops on this wide, cobblestoned avenue selling everything from funky clothes and cosmetics, to jewellery and fresh fruit. Bugis Street is a busy destination, but plenty of bargains can be had so bring your haggling skills. Looking for some cost-friendly souvenirs for your loved-ones back home? Bugis Street is the place to find them.
Vivo City is the largest shopping mall in Singapore and is super-modern, with its aim to provide a retail experience “bubbling with energy”. Connected to the Harbourfront Cruise Terminal, Vivo City is easy to get to. It’s also decked out in signage, so you’re unlikely to get lost amongst its masses of shops. Want to find something delicious to eat, buy a chic new outfit, and catch the latest cinema release, all in one day? Vivo City is your place.
Arts & Museums
The ArtScience Museum captures the best of both the arts and science worlds. You’re as likely here to catch an Annie Leibovitz exhibition as you are a dinosaur display. With its iconic lotus flower architecture and cutting-edge setup, the museum won’t disappoint as you stroll through its 21 gallery spaces. The museum also houses work that meets the criteria of both arts and science fields – such as Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines and robotic fish.
The Changi Museum
The Changi Museum is an incredibly moving place. Dedicated to Singapore’s history during WWII, the museum houses a collection of paintings, photos and personal belongings of former prisoners of war – a sombre reminder of the hardship people went through and the futility of war. The museum aims to honour the memory and spirit of those who died in Changi during the war.
Asian Civilisations Museum
Specialising in Asian civilisation and culture, the Asian Civilisations Museum focuses on the histories of the diverse ethnic groups that make up Singapore’s population, including people whose ancestors came from China, South East Asia, India and the Middle East. With everything from Dehua porcelain dolls to Peranakan gold and textiles, the museum, which was set up in 1933, houses valuable artefacts and pays homage to the ancestors of Singapore’s people.
Housed in the Old Tao Nan School building next to the Asian Civilisations Museum, the Peranakan Museum looks into the culture of the Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore between the 15th and 17th centuries. Housing artefacts and wares, one of the museum’s central pieces is the Peranakan Wedding Bed, on which Mrs Quah Hong Chiam of Penang gave birth to the first seven of her 11 children.
National Museum of Singapore
The oldest museum in Singapore, the National Museum dates back to 1849 and is currently housed in a stunning Neo-Palladian and Renaissance-style building, complete with a dome. It is custodian to no fewer than 10 national treasures and aims to showcase history in a cutting-edge way through its Night Festival, film screenings, performances and art installations. Regular tours explain Singapore’s beginnings and how it became the bustling city-state it is today.
National Gallery Singapore
This art gallery located in the Downtown Core is a new addition to the city and has the world’s largest collection of Singaporean and South East Asian art. Expect to see some cutting-edge contemporary works such as Dayak with Tattoos Smoking by Cheong Soo Pieng and Conflict by Wee Beng Chong. The gallery houses more than 8,000 modern artworks from the 19th and 20th centuries in all mediums.
Singapore Parks & Nature Walks
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Nature-lovers will adore these tropical gardens, which are more than a century and a half old. Just outside Singapore’s main shopping district, it features the National Orchid Garden, with more than 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these renowned gardens feature a swan lake, a bonsai garden, a sun garden, sculptures, a rain garden, a healing garden, a children’s garden and heritage trees.
Fort Canning Park
This hilltop landmark has been the home of Malay Palaces, the headquarters of the Far East Command Centre, and the British Army Barracks. These days, you’re more likely to catch a Shakespeare performance or a spring festival on its greenery and wide open lawns. A popular concert and show venue, Fort Canning is worth a visit to look at its Gothic gates, arts area, spice garden and archaeological evacuation site.
Labrador Nature Reserve
This forest-edged park is not only a peaceful oasis, it’s a place to catch a glimpse of glorious birds like the Oriental Magpie-robin, the rufous woodpecker and the blue-crowned hanging parrot. With the only rocky sea-cliff accessible to the public on Singapore’s mainland, it also offers something of a different experience. With many relics left behind from WWII, it’s a place of history with many secret tunnels waiting to be explored.
Cycling & Bicycle Rental
East Coast Park
Expect to be spoilt for choice along this 15 km stretch of beach. Into rollerblading, cycling or skating? How about water skiing or volleyball? You’ll even discover the Xtreme Skate Park here. For those looking for more laid-back activities, sipping a cocktail or having a bite to eat under the swaying coconut palms might be more your cup of tea. Whatever your choice, East Coast Park is all about the good life.
Changi Beach Park
At the north-easternmost tip of Singapore, you’ll find this lovely 1960s-village-feel park. While it’s a sweet place to visit now and enjoy the sunrise among simple, gentle surrounds, it hasn’t always been this way. Changi Beach Park was the site of a WWII massacre, so it’s also a place to visit to pay your respects. These days, the beach is a great spot for picnicking with family and enjoying a gentle sea breeze.
Singapore Local Hawker Food
Chinatown Complex Food Centre
Singapore is not known for being the cheapest place in Asia, but you can save money by eating at hawker markets – and what’s more, you’ll sample some incredible food at the same time. The Chinatown Complex has more than 260 stalls where you’ll find delights including dim sum, BBQ stingray, soya beancurd and laksa for bargain-basement prices. It’s also a fantastic cultural experience.
Old Airport Road Food Centre
The locals flock here for cheap and yummy eats as it’s one of the cheapest and largest food courts in Singapore. Most importantly though, the Old Airport Road Food Centre offers the best soya beancurd in the state and the prices are unbelievable. What is soya beancurd? It’s probably Singapore’s most loved sweet; it’s made from chilled soy milk and has a delicious silky soft texture.
Maxwell Road Hawker Centre
Back in Chinatown and located opposite the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, this hawker centre is a great place to stop and eat while exploring the colourful surrounds of Chinatown. Full of famous food stalls selling everything from chicken rice and fritters, to seafood and fruit drinks, the market is a great place to sample authentic food, save some money and soak up some atmosphere.
Chomp Food Centre
This is the place to go if you’re a night owl, as the stalls only open at 6pm and on into the night. It’s known as the place to get satay pork, chicken, beef and mutton. Try some “carrot cake” here; you might be in for a surprise as it’s got no carrot in it at all – it’s fried radish cake. It’s a bit smaller in size than the other hawker centres but it won’t disappoint in terms of variety of foods.
Kite flying at Marina Barrage
If you’re coming to Singapore with young ones – or if you’re young-at-heart yourself – the city offers some spectacular kite flying options. Singapore’s Marina Barrage is every bit the iconic kite-flying location – expect to see dozens of dazzling creations dashing in the sky above you. Even if you don’t bring a kite along, pop into the roof garden of the nearby Sustainable Singapore Gallery to catch the best views of the colourful air-borne designs.
Swimming & water theme park fun
Sentosa Adventure Cove Waterpark
Another great place for a family fun day is the Adventure Cove Waterpark. Here you can not only encounter sea creatures up-close and personal, you can also have adventures of your own with waterslides, whirlpools, a wet maze and snorkelling. Make sure to bring your swimmers and a sense of adventure, or dare to swim underwater in a shark encounter or get submerged in the ray bay.
Wild Wild Wet at Downtown East
Wild Wild Wet is all about the crazy rides while splishing and sploshing to your heart’s content. It’s the largest water theme park in Singapore, and with ride names like the Torpedo and the Tsunami, you can guess pretty quickly that it’s not for the faint-hearted. And remember that it’s not just for kids – even though there are some children-themed features, the courses are all-ages. Just remember to bring your sunscreen.
Jurong East Swimming Complex
Known as something of a hidden gem in Singapore, the Jurong East Swimming Complex is council-run and an inexpensive way to take a cooling rest from the city’s heat. It’s got three water slides, a 50 m pool, a toddlers’ pool, a wave pool, a lazy river, a Jacuzzi and a bubble jet station. The lazy river is surrounded by waterfalls and rocks, making for salubrious surrounds.
The Rink (JCube)
As Singapore’s only Olympic-size skating rink, this is the place to make your Torville and Dean dreams come true. In a hot and sunny climate like Singapore, The Rink impresses with real ice. However, if you find yourself more often with a wet backside whenever you skate and would prefer to watch from afar, The Rink also has an impressive viewing gallery and you can grab a bite to eat at one of the rink-side restaurants.
Kallang Ice World (Leisure Park)
With a brand-new surface, Kallang Ice World has become a great place for events and parties, and a terrific spot for beginners finding their ice-legs. With its fun and colourful surrounds, skaters are sure to enjoy a unique experience and just a little touch of disco-style charm. If you’d like to skate without spectators, there are also options to book a private rink.
With so much to see and do, visitors to Singapore are unlikely to find themselves cooped up in their hotel room for long. It’s more a matter of how much time you’ve got and what your interests are, and creating an itinerary from there. With its museums housing Singapore’s ancient history, its uber-modern, sprawling shopping districts and its ability to blend the natural world seamlessly with the futuristic, the city’s culture and beauty is bustling on every corner. So grab your shoes and hit the streets – you’re sure to find much more than delicious street vendor food, groovy laneways and a fascinating culture.