I always enjoy spending time in Singapore.
Combining a vibrant mix of cultures, a history of victory and defeat and now a sheath of modern-day skyscrapers, Singapore remains a must-see destination despite the lofty price tag. Although hard to explore on a tight budget, the Lion City delivers in spades thanks to rooftop infinity pools, night time safaris, temples and a little place called Sentosa Island.
Singapore’s quality public transport system, from its metro to cable cars, makes getting around the city easy, especially when you want to escape the heat. It only serves to give you more time to explore the many unique neighborhoods, shopping districts and energetic hawker centers for an amazing local experience.
Hit Up Gardens by the Bay at Daylight and Night
There’s nowhere on earth quite like Gardens by the Bay.
One of the first things travelers notice about Singapore is how green the ultra-modern city is. Such pride is taken in the cleanliness of the streets that you won’t find a single item of litter flowing in the wind. Its focus on conservation and beautiful aesthetics is best exemplified by the vibrant Gardens by the Bay.
While we also recommend visiting the Singapore Botanic Garden, there’s something truly unique about this installation and its futuristic designs. With a selection of gorgeous gardens and incredible biodomes, you can easily escape the rush of downtown alongside 800 species of plants that represent multiple climates from around the world.
The Gardens by the Bay eloquently mixes nature with art. In one area, you’ll find giant desert cacti, followed by a man-made mountain with a beautiful waterfall. Later stumble upon giant sleeping babies floating in the air. The most memorable part of the experience is the Supertree Grove. The grove features several towering “trees” connected by a canopy walkway.
Have Sunset Cocktails at the Marina Bay Sands
There’s no doubt about it: the most iconic structure in Singapore has to be the Marina Bay Sands. This trio of towering buildings is connected at the top by a ship (well, at least it looks like a ship), which in turn is home to most incredible infinity pool overlooking the city.
The infinity pool isn’t for everyone. In fact, only guests of the hotel can access the pool — and it’s one of the priciest properties in Singapore. Stays at the hotel start from $500 a night, so this is definitely one for a special occasion.
If your budget can’t quite stretch that far, you’ll still have the opportunity to experience a small taste of the hotel’s luxury, because everyone is free to access the SkyPark Observation Deck at the Marina Bay Sands. Located on the 57th floor, the views from up here are unrivaled. In my opinion, the best time to visit is at sunset — you can see the epic views in my photo above, but here’s the view from another angle, too:
Grab yourself a cold Singapore sling and wait for the sunset; in either direction, the views are spectacular.
You’ll either be looking towards the dense city, packed full of skyscrapers, or out towards the water, with greenery, gardens, and dozens of ships. To me, that summarises Singapore perfectly: skyscrapers, ships, and scenery! And yes, one of the best parts of being up in the SkyPark is getting to watch the Gardens by the Bay light show from above.
I saved visiting Marina Bay Sands for my final night in Singapore and it was the perfect send-off for my time in the city. I got to toast to a wonderful trip, watch the city begin to light up, and point out all the spots that had made my trip so special.
Walk through Chinatown
With such strong connections to China, it’s no surprise that visitors will find an air of authenticity about Singapore’s Chinatown. The neighborhood comes with a flurry of tiny mom-and-pop shops and delicious home-style restaurants in one is one of the oldest districts in Singapore.
Begin your experience at the local metro station and walk down Pagoda Street. Teeming with your typical gift shops, parlors and restaurants, continue on until you reach the Chinatown Heritage Centre. Discover the fascinating past through a series of exhibits before returning to the bustle of the local streets.
Chinatown is also home to a number of temples, including the Hindu Sri Mariamman temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic. If you’re staying nearby, you may hear the ceremony drum beat from the Buddha Tooth Relic temple as early as 4am. When jumping between attractions, shops and restaurants, you’ll find heritage markers placed throughout, further guiding you through the importance of Singapore’s Chinatown.
If you can’t get enough, explore Chinatown on this exciting night tour. Visit a traditional medicine hall, with dinner and a trishaw ride included all alongside your knowledgeable guide.
Have a day at Sentosa Island
Famous for its highrises, technology and business, you’d be forgiven for thinking you won’t have a beach day in Singapore. But if you’re traveling around South East Asia and are missing the beach bum lifestyle, then you can get your fix at the magical Sentosa Island.
The island is where you’ll find the Maritime Museum and the Insta-worthy Merlion statue, but the three local beaches are all the more reason to visit. Each of the trio offers something different. If you just want to relax away from the city, then make your way to Tanjong Beach for peace and a drink on the golden sands. For families, you can’t go wrong with Palawan, while if you want some action, lie down your towel at Siloso Beach.
If you want to see more of the island, then have your choice between the world’s largest aquarium, the Adventure Cove Waterpark, and Universal Studios! As you can see, you won’t have a hard time staying entertained.
Watch the Singapore Grand Prix
As Formula 1’s original night race, the Singapore Grand Prix has always been at the forefront of innovation, entertainment and action-packed racing. That’s just some of the reasons you should time your visit to coincide with race day. The street circuit meanders around Marina Bay with the city’s epic skyline creating the perfect backdrop to watch the fastest racers on the planet.
The race’s central location makes it easy to get from downtown to the track, while some nearby hotels offer views of the race from their high-priced balconies. Aside from the action on the track, the Singapore Grand Prix is renowned for its fan entertainment, with an array of trackside parties, interactive events and on-track concerts featuring A-list musicians.
The race generally takes place in September across a 4-day race weekend with the main event kicking off on Sunday night.
Go to Clarke Quay
Once a worldwide center of commerce and trade, today Clarke Quay has to settle for being one of the biggest hubs for dining, nightlife and entertainment in Singapore. During the day, you’ll find plenty of shopping, waterside eats and river taxis ready to take you up and down the Singapore River.
Clarke Quay covers both sides of the river and goes to another level at night, when the quay’s mix of rainbow lights reflects on the water, making it an intriguing destination. Travelers join locals and young professionals fresh from a day in the central Business District with the beers flowing, food flying in every direction and a great concentration of live music.
One of the prominent establishments in Clarke Quay is the Crazy Elephant. Known for its cheap beer and music, enjoy a parred back experience that’s a welcome contrast to the often refined Singapore nightlife.
Ride the Singapore Flyer
Reaching the dizzying height of 540ft (165m) the Singapore Flyer is one of the tallest observation wheels on earth. The wheel’s sheer size and presence has made it as much a part of the Singapore skyline as the more famous skyscrapers. A popular alternative to the Marina Bay Sands observation deck, visitors can capture exceptional views across the 30-minute experience.
As you continue to slowly rise from the comfort of your air-conditioned capsule, you’ll be able to see the entirety of Marina Bay and the downtown streets. But keen observers will be able to make out Sentosa Island, beyond to the Singapore Strait and even the northwest islands of Indonesia!
Complete the MacRitchie Treetop Walk
Guiding you through the largest reservoir in the country, the MacRitchie Trail is the local choice for a run or hike through beautiful nature. The trail features 6.8 miles (11km) of pathways, with the main highlight being the enormous suspension bridge complete with excellent views as you cross.
It takes a couple of hours to complete the entire walk, but with little elevation gain, there’s no stopping anyone from doing the whole thing. But remember to bring along plenty of water to stay hydrated under the searing sun. Exploring the reservoir doesn’t have to be done on foot as you can also rent kayaks to get a better look at the wetlands. Keep your eyes and ears open for the flying lemurs that call the reservoir home.
Go on a walking tour
Sometimes there is no better way to get to know a place than to walk the streets and take it all in at a slow pace. Singapore is home to a wide range of walking tours that cover a whole breadth of topics, from history and architecture to food and nature. While we have listed a great food tour below, you can really get to know Singapore on any of these experiences on foot.
On this history and culture walking tour, see all the cultural highlights within Civil District, Marina Bay and Chinatown with a wonderful guide to guest ratio. Rather than just taking photos and moving on, receive invaluable insight into each location with the help of your expert guide.
For something a little different, this military-focused walking tour explores Singapore’s wartime history. Over 2.5 hours visit some of the key battle sites, including a historic colonial fort.
Embark on a night safari
Tired of the usual zoo experience? Spice things up on with a night safari next to the amazing Singapore Zoo. The exceptional experience occurs within the neighboring wildlife park, which is only open at night between 7.30pm and midnight. It guarantees to differ from any zoo experience you’ve had before as you get to look into the lives of the animals under the moonlight.
As you prepare to experience the jungle at night, over 100 species are already roaming in the distance, including alligators, tigers, and elephants. From your seat aboard the electric tram, which runs around the perimeter, visit four different sections that divide up the big cat species with native animals, Malayan tigers and Australian marsupials.
A big highlight for traveling families is the Creatures of the Night Show, along with the bat enclosure that brings the entire family up close and personal with giant fruit bats.
Wander the Botanic Gardens
Featuring the most extensive orchid garden in the world, the Botanic Gardens is the definition of an urban oasis and one of the top things to do in Singapore. Just west of the bustling malls along Orchard Road, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is flush with tranquility, along with manicured gardens and pristine lakes.
You can explore the green space along the boardwalk that snakes through a section of ancient rainforest which outdates the gardens and features over 150 rare plants. Next up, visit each of the three lakes, the best of which is Swan Lake home to mute swans sent over from Amsterdam.
It goes without saying that the major attraction in the gardens is the National Orchid Garden. Since the late 1920s, orchids have been planted right here with the space now displaying 1000 species and 2000 hybrids. At any given time, you can see 600 orchids each with their own interesting names.
Shop til you drop at Orchard Road
Steps away from the world’s largest orchid garden, you won’t find a single such flower on Orchard Road. But that’s not what makes this stretch of pavement one of the busiest in Singapore. As the city’s major shopping street, you can easily spend a whole day jumping between stores until your legs give out.
Along the road, you’ll have your choice of several major malls with prominent department stores and high-end brands. Head to Paragon for your designer fashion, including Singapore’s own Raoul. ION Orchid is all about streetware, while 313@Somerset will be a hit with the younger crowd.
Before heading on home, if your legs have some life left, make your way to the Tanglin Shopping Centre for ornamental gifts, craftwork and local art.
Take the kids to Universal Studios
Bringing the sights and sounds of Hollywood to Singapore, one of the best things to do in Singapore with kids is to make the trip to Universal Studios. On Sentosa Island, the theme park steals the show with a range of attractions that will keep the young ones busy and happy with plenty of excitement on offer for us older folk.
Some of the best kid-friendly rides include the Puss in Boots themes Giant Journey in Far Far Away and the Sesame Street Show, a dancing extravaganza. If you’re feeling ready for a heart-in-mouth experience, then head to Sci-Fi City, where the world’s tallest dueling rollercoaster can be found.
Other thrilling parts of Singapore’s Universal Studios include Ancient Egypt, where you can ride the hair-raising Revenge of the Mummy rollercoaster. Grab yourself a Sentosa FUN Pass to skip the line and enjoy all the other attractions on the island.
Visit Fort Canning Park
If you embarked on the military walking tour of Singapore, you would have crossed paths with the Fort Canning stronghold. The fort was built in the mid-19th century as a way to defend Singapore from any attacks. But it wasn’t until almost a century later that it became a major bunker during the Second World War.
103 years after the last brick was laid down and Fort Canning opened, the building was surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. As of August 1965, when Singapore became an independent republic, Fort Canning is no longer in the hands of the Japanese and has become a prominent cultural hub. The building and surrounding park is home to regular performances and festivals, along with being a lovely spot for a picnic.
Before heading off, experience the Battlebox, a museum that explores the WWII defeat through its subterranean rooms that replicate scenes from the war.
Explore the National Museum of Singapore
If Fort Canning has piqued your interest, then receive the full-scale of Singapore’s storied past at the National Museum. Within the architectural marvel, which opened in 1849, the museum does an incredible job of bringing the city’s stories to life through a variety of multimedia exhibits.
As the original home of the city’s historical records and an artifact repository, the space was always destined to become a world-class museum. Inside you’ll find a variety of halls that dive into different topics, spanning from Singapore’s beginnings as Temasek (sea town), its colonial era, wartime efforts and the prominent “We Built a Nation” exhibit that explores Singapore’s first ten years of independence after 1965.
Dine in Little India
Alongside Chinatown and the eclectic arts’ districts, Little India is one of the most vibrant parts of Singapore. With the powerful aromas floating through the air, temples around every corner and, of course, some amazing food. In fact, if you’re after cheap eats, then this is the place in Singapore to go.
As you wander around town, looking for a place to eat, keep an eye out for any place with guests eating by hand. Go there for the most authentic Indian food in the city. Just be sure you can handle the heat and being the only tourist!
Another must-visit part of Little India is the Tekka Center, a hawker hub with local eats, fresh produce and plenty of energetic shopping. But the best way to see the entire district is on this walking cultural and food tour. Your guide will take you far off the tourist trail, embarking on a trip to the cultural and historical highlights of Little India with plenty of food along the way.
See the Haw Par Villa
For all Singapore’s finely tuned and manicured parks, it’s nice to know there’s one that is a little rough around the edges. A veritable gem and a cultural highlight of Singapore, Haw Par Villa is one of the most unique attractions in the South East Asian city. Founded in the 1930s by the man that brought your Tiger Balm, Aw Boon Haw, the park began with over 1000 ornate sculptures and displays that taught traditional Chinese values.
One of the most enlightening parts of Haw Par Villa is the Ten Courts of Hell, a series of dioramas that show what Hell is in Chinese spirituality. Raw and unapologetic, the park is a fascinating look into Chinese mythology and doesn’t concern itself too much with pleasing the masses. As a result, it’s far from a tourist trap and with recent renovations, it’s a wonderful place to take a walk.
Complain About the Prices at Raffles
It’s a rite of passage when it comes to travel in Singapore: practically every visitor to this nation decides to drink a Singapore sling in its birthplace. And off they go to the Raffles Hotel, queue up for access to the Long Bar, order their cocktails, then wince when they’re greeted with the bill.
Yes, they’re expensive.
But it’s also an absolutely iconic experience that you can only have in one place in the world. To me, that’s what travel is all about: those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that simply can’t be replicated.
So you bet I went straight to the Raffles Hotel upon arriving in Singapore and yes… I did shudder when I saw the 39 SGD (29 USD/24 GBP) price tag. And then I paid it.
To be fair, this was an experience. The Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel has a fascinating history and the vibes it offers up are immaculate.
Still, there are alternatives.
If you’re planning on visiting the SkyPark Observation Deck in the Marina Bay Sands resort, then get more bang for your buck by heading straight to Ce La Vi (the bar inside Marina Bay Sands) and use the ticket price on a Singapore Sling. Enjoy much the same view without having to pay to enter, just be sure to avoid wearing your flip-flops.
A fantastic alternative is One Altitude Rooftop Bar, within one of the tallest buildings in Singapore. Enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the city and Marina Bay Sands. Entrance is a bit steep, but it includes two free drinks.
Join a culinary tour
Contrary to almost all of South East Asia, Singapore isn’t a notably cheap place to eat out. But with such amazing culinary experiences to be had, tucked into every nook and cranny in town, spare some money in the budget to taste the best of it on a food tour around Singapore.
For a food tour with tons of variety, join a highly rated culinary experience called 10 Tasting with Locals. The private tour brings you to the best eats in town while seeing plenty of cultural highlights along the way.
Spend time in Merlion Park
A representation of Singapore’s humble beginnings as a small fishing village and its growth into the “Lion City”, Merlion is one of the top attractions in Singapore. Placed on Sentosa Island, the colossal statue is of a mythical creature by the same name. At the top is the head of the lion, which soon makes way for the body and tail of a fish with “Mer” meaning the sea.
The Merlion statue found its forever home in Merlion Park back in 2002. Along the Singapore River, the structure is flanked by a large raised platform offering magnificent views of the city and the beguiling art piece. Alongside Merlion is its cub, while you can also find five more replica statues around Singapore.
Get your art fix at the National Gallery
Offering a strong focus on modern art from the 19th century to now, the National Gallery has the largest collection of art from this era, in all of South East Asia. Visitors can split their time between two buildings which combine to host over 9000 pieces of art.
The gallery’s buildings are City Hall and a part of the city’s former Supreme Court. For an elevated experience, you can sign up for a free tour, held in either Mandarin or English, which will help you uncover a new perspective of the many outstanding works.
Singapore’s National Gallery also plays host to many workshops throughout the year along with live performances and presentations just for kids.
Explore Pulau Ubin
A time capsule that will take you back in time by 50 years, Pulau Ubin is a fascinating look into Singapore as it once was. Pulau Ubin was once a mining hub, home to large granite quarries that sustained the local community. But when the quarries closed, most left leaving a community with a population of less than 50.
Those that remained continued their way of life, making it one of the most fascinating experiences to have in Singapore. After taking the brief 10-minute ferry from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, you’ll be swept up by the peaceful island, a world away from one of the world’s iconic cities. Aside from exploring local villages, Pulau Ubin is home to one of the few examples of natural habitat around Singapore, the Chek Jawa Wetlands. You can stroll through the park on a meandering boardwalk or rent a bicycle for a leisurely ride.
Check in to your flight early
As someone that experienced a 24-hour layover in Singapore and never left the airport, I can verify that Jewel Changi Airport deserves its spot on the list of the world’s best airports. Far more than a place to arrive and leave, the massive airport is part shopping mall, part dining mecca and entertainment hub.
Aside from the free PlayStations, highlights of Jewel Changi include the enormous 7-story indoor waterfall, 300 stores with infinite possibilities for that last-minute gift along with an interior forest with elevated walkways. Each of the three terminals has their own garden, while you can also choose between two cinemas and a 4-story-tall slide for young and old.
You may be in no rush to leave Singapore, but we won’t blame you for checking in early to experience this one-of-a-kind airport.
See St. Andrew’s Cathedral
Within Singapore’s Civic District is a Neo-Gothic monument that stands out in sheer beautiful contrast to the many modern skyscrapers. St. Andrew’s Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the city, surrounded by lush vegetation with the minimalist spire rising out of the canopy.
The cathedral was built in the middle of the 1800s and was the first Anglican church in the country. For almost a century, it held mass until it was transformed into a makeshift hospital during the Second World War. Today you can appreciate the ornate architecture up close, while also admiring the interior designs. The surrounding grounds are also a lovely place to enjoy an afternoon picnic.
Walk the Southern Ridges
Comprising 5.6 miles (9km) of easy to moderate walking trails, the Southern Ridges is the perfect way to experience the best parks in the city. The innovative trail connects Singapore’s MT Faber, Kent Ridge and Telok Blangah Parks on an often elevated walkway with plenty of views along the way.
Mt Faber is one of the oldest parks in the city and home to Singapore’s second tallest hill. Covered in forests, hikes through the park offer far-reaching views of southern Singapore along with the ocean and islands beyond. From there you can complete the roughly 60-minute walk to Kent Ridge Park.
But prepare to stop and admire the scenery along the way as the trail guides you through the undulating canopy called the Henderson Waves, before reaching Telok Blangah for panoramic city views. Next up is the Elevated Walkway that takes you high into the forest for a walk among the birds and butterflies. Finally, you’ll reach Kent Ridge Park, where one of the last defeats in the Battle of Singapore took place.