I feel that I am an expert on Singapore because I have lived here for a while and every week, I uncover new things to do in Singapore, places to see and new interesting tourist attractions. This post will be updated regularly, almost every month, and features my personal selection of the 100 best things to do in Singapore.
Sometimes, I add some bonus new attractions and I marked others as closed, moved or changed. As anybody who has ever been to Singapore will know, the city changes at a remarkable pace and some new tourist spots come up while others disappear. Fret not, I try to keep this list as updated as possible. Even if you are in Singapore on a long layover, you should head out into the city and explore.
Psst! If you find something incorrect, let me know so I can fix it for others!
In order to make your life easier and your trip to Singapore easier to plan, I have organised this list by neighbourhood. Singapore is pretty small by any main city standards, but you can always be more efficient and make sure you don’t spend your day criss-crossing the city. Wondering what to do in Singapore? Pick a neighbourhood and go explore with this list of the best attractions in Singapore.
Shall we get started? Let’s take a look at Singapore’s best points of interests, landmarks, parks, temples, buildings and museums!
- Things to do in Sentosa and Vivo City
- Sentosa beach life
- Haw Par Villa
- Vivo City walk
- Southern Ridges and Henderson Waves
- Gillman Barracks
- Cable car to Sentosa
- Spend a day at the spa
- Adrenaline-pumping activities to do on Sentosa
- Universal Studios Singapore
- Adventure Cove Waterpark
- Sail into the sunset in a one of a kind ship
- Explore Resorts World Sentosa
- Mingle with the rich and famous at Sentosa Cove
- Things to do in Singapore’s Marina Bay
- Gardens by the Bay
- Marina Barrage
- Marina Bay Music and lights show
- River cruise
- The views from the Bay East Garden
- Enjoy the sunset over the Singapore skyline
- Clifford Pier
- Explore the trading heritage of the city on a walking tour
- Art Science Museum
- Ce La Vie instead of the Marina Skypark Observatory
- The casino
- Fountain of wealth
- The Singapore Flyer
- The Helix bridge
- Things to do in Chinatown
- The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
- Walking tour of Chinatown
- Chinese medicine
- Thien Hock Keng Temple
- Chinatown wet market – Chinatown Complex
- Have a S$2 Michelin starred meal at Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle
- Lau Pa Sat
- Food tour of Chinatown
- Explore Duxton Hill
- Do as expats do on Club Street
- Tea appreciation workshop
- Have yum cha (dim sum)
- Go to the rooftop of People’s Park Complex
- Chinatown Heritage Center
- Things to do in Bugis and Colonial Singapore
- Things to do in Kampong Glam and Arab Street
- Things to do in Little India
- Things to do in Orchard
- Things to do in Tiong Bahru
- Things to do in the North of Singapore
- Things to do in the East Coast of Singapore
- Other things to do in Singapore
Things to do in Sentosa and Vivo City
Sentosa is a man-made island accessible via a bridge from the main island and well known to visitors as one of the main attractions in Singapore.
The island is 500 hectares and is located about 20 minutes from the business district. Aside from several entertainment and leisure options and the beach, Sentosa also has a golf club and a residential development located on the southeastern coast and made of 2,000 of the most exclusive homes in Singapore called Sentosa Cove.
Getting to Sentosa can be done by tram or foot from Vivo City, by cable car, by car or by bus. There is no MRT service to the island and motorbikes are not allowed. taxis will have to pay an entry ticket between S$3 and S$7 depending on day/ time. Moving inside Sentosa is free of charge through their network of buses.
Sentosa beach life
Man-made Sentosa is the island state true beach life. Most visitors forget that this is an island so one of the best things to do in Singapore is simply laze on the beach. There are a few beaches that will satiate all your sun, sand and sea needs.
If you are looking for the real beach life, there are essentially three beaches in Sentosa. Siloso Beach is where the buses usually stop. Here you can find all sorts of water sports and activities so it is one of the busiest and most active beaches on Sentosa. I like Coastes for a beach restaurant and bar where you can simply chill in casual surroundings. You can find out more here.
Next to Siloso there is Palawan Beach which is quieter and longer and which has a few family-friendly activities the kids will love. A day (or a few hours) on Palawan Beach is a great activity to do with kids in Singapore, especially when they’ve had enough of the urban maze. Palawan Beach is best known for the suspension bridge that you may have seen on Sentosa photos and which connects the island to the Southernmost Point in continental Asia.
The beach also has a few kids attractions like the Pirate Ship or Kidzania. For a more grown up but also family friendly beach club serving fabulous real tapas, check out FOC which is right where the taxis stop and on the border between Palawan and Tanjong Beach. It is one of my favourite Spanish restaurants in Singapore. More details on Palawan Beach here.
Lastly, Tanjong Beach is the farthest and classiest bit of beach in Singapore. Here Singapore’s beautiful people come to chill in the weekends, especially on Sundays when there are DJ sessions and other activities at Tanjong Beach Club.
The Club also organises cinema under the stars sessions, yoga gatherings, etc. and is always a great way to spend a day out. You can book a bed for the day with a minimum consumption so you can enjoy some relaxation or simply put your towels down on the beach area which is public. Tanjong Beach Club, or TBC as the locals call it, is packed in the weekends but peaceful during the week.
Sentosa is a fascinating place full of fun facts and secrets, check out my article about the 10 things you didn’t know about Sentosa to find out more.
To enjoy Sentosa’s beaches, just bring sunscreen, a hat and a towel. And beware, this is an artificial island in front of the world’s second shipping port and so the water and the sand sometimes are polluted with oil spills so just look out.
Haw Par Villa
The villa and sprawling grounds were built by the Aw brothers, the founders of the famous Tiger Balm ointment. During WWII the villa was taken over by Japanese troops who used it as a view point to watch for ships. After being left almost abandoned, Haw Par Villa was bought by the Singapore Tourism Board in 1985 and guided tours are now available.
This is a place to explore and experience Chinese folklore and mythology in a surreal landscape and architecture. You should come with an open mind and expect to be wowed by the over 1,000 weird structures, sculptures and designs.
Do not miss the change to get into the Courts of Hell, a permanent exhibition that showcases, with figurines and sculptures, the major sins and the punishment offenders would get in Hell. It is pretty hard core and not for the little ones. It is hard to explain how you will feel after a visit to Haw Par Villa but tales and stories won’t lack you.
Haw Par Villa organises tours at 10am on most weekends and there are lots of tour companies who will also take you on a guided tour of the park, it is THAT famous and a must-see attraction in Singapore. There are many other activities and events happening on the grounds as it is a pretty popular Singapore landmark.
The park opens from 9am to 7pm daily. You can find more info on their website.
Vivo City walk
Vivo City is a shopping mall with undulating outside spaces and a pleasant decked walk along the water towards the Resort’s World Sentosa and the Keppel Marina. Although there are a lot of malls in Singapore, this is probably a good one to try because of its open air spaces.
If you are keen to go to Sentosa, this is a good starting point as you can walk along the bridge to Sentosa or take the free tram from the mall.
Southern Ridges and Henderson Waves
The Southern Ridges is one of Singapore’s parks but aside from the usual jungle that abounds on the island, here you can also find great architectural structures.
The park connects Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve for 10km of walking trails. Watch this video to have a feel for what to expect in the parks.
I especially like Henderson Waves, a bridge that is famous for its undulating shape. Very romantic at night and famous places to visit in Singapore, both for teenagers looking for a cool place to hold hands, visitors to take Instagrammable shots and locals walking the trails.
Make sure to also walk through the canopy walk, the suspended forest walk, and the many trails that go up and down the hill. You can top it all off at HortPark where there are regular workshops, or head for Gillman Barracks (see next).
Gillman Barracks is a contemporary art cluster in the West of Singapore which combined dining options, art studios and galleries in the same compound in the middle of greenery and jungle. You can simply get into the galleries that you like or go on a guided history and art tour of the area which are offered by Friends of the Museum in cooperation with the Economic Development Board.
Even if you are not so much into art, Gillman Barracks is a good place to unwind, enjoy a lunch or a drink and carry on with your sightseeing of Singapore.
Details on the tours can be found here where tickets are available. Each gallery has its own opening hours. Check out my recommendations on the best al fresco places in Singapore which includes some in Gillman Barracks.
Cable car to Sentosa
Mount Faber is a great place to enjoy panoramic views of the city and, on a clear day, gives you views over Sentosa and the Southern Islands. You could get to Sentosa by taxi, bus or tram but the cable car sure is a more scenic journey.
Spend a day at the spa
One of the best things to do on holidays is having a massage. Pamper yourself with a 60 minute spa treatment at any of the day spas in Singapore where indulgence is in order. You can pick from any of my suggested day spa options.
I highly recommend heading to the Sofitel So Sentosa Spa which offers the option to use the facilities for the entire day of your treatment after or before having it. That means you can laze around the great pool, enjoy organic and healthy food at the restaurant, cover yourself in mud, chill in the waterfall pool, sweat it all out at the steam bath and enjoy some bubbles in their jacuzzi. A fabulous day to take care of yourself and yourself only.
Adrenaline-pumping activities to do on Sentosa
Sentosa is more than just the beach and it is a great destination for tourists who have a bit more time and need a break from all the cultural attractions.
The island was constructed with entertainment in mind so you can go golfing, fishing, sailing or just take some adrenaline pumping activities like skydiving at iFly, zip-lining at MegaPark or surfing at Sentosa Wavehouse. I highly recommend iFly where you can quickly master the art of skydiving safely and so pretty cool acrobatics. Check out the video below.
If you try skydiving in the safe environments of an indoor space and want to go try it in the wild, check out guide to the best skydiving places in Asia to get inspired!
There are a host of other activities you can partake in, from Segway tours to shows. Check out the details on the Sentosa Island website.
Universal Studios Singapore
One of the fun things to do with kids in Singapore is bringing them to Universal Studios. Unlike other similar parks in the chain across the world, Universal Studios on Sentosa is relatively small and unpacked. In fact, you will not be queueing much for the rides here so you could even be done in half a day. This makes for a good day out with the kids or the grown ups.
The park is located in the leisure complex of Resorts World Sentosa and opens from 10am to 10pm every day. Read this post for more details on Universal Studios Singapore. There are often special events and themes happening, like Halloween Nights (not just during Halloween time). The park has free wifi and all sorts of facilities. Check more details here.
Adventure Cove Waterpark
Singapore has its own waterpark on Resorts World. Like Universal Studios, it is not very large but enough to put away the heat that usually permeates. And this one is not just for kids, Adventure Cove Waterpark focuses on the rides so get ready to scream.
You can also snorkel in a coral area or rent cabanas for two. More details here.
Sail into the sunset in a one of a kind ship
From Sentosa you can embark on a journey onboard the Royal Albatross, a rare ship there are only 150 in the world of for something special to do in Singapore.
You can go on a sunset cruise where a BBQ dinner will also be served and, although the views may not be fabulous, as you will be cruising on the channel, you do get to enjoy Sentosa’s shoreline and a quick trip to Lazarus.
This is perhaps one of the most romantic things to do in Singapore and a good way to get away from the city and out at sea.
The Royal Albatross has regular sunset cruises with just a drink or full dinner a few times a week. Find more details here.
Explore Resorts World Sentosa
One of the most fascinating thing to do in Singapore is simply take all the craziness of man-made developments in. There are two places to do that, on Sentosa Island, where everything entirely is like an amusement park for adults (and children) or at marina Bay where things are of a different kind of over the top.
At Resorts World Sentosa everything that makes Singapore so unique converges in the main shopping and entertainment open-air area called Fortune street. Here you can shop, eat or have an ice cream. There are plenty of stores geared towards tourists and locals and a lot to tempt you with spending money. You can also walk all the way up the promenade and see the replica of the Merlion and there are always food and family-related events taking place.
This is where this artificial feeling one sometimes has in Singapore come in full swing. But don’t let it deter you, it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours being a child again and you can combine it with the rest of activities on Sentosa to make a full day out of it.
Mingle with the rich and famous at Sentosa Cove
Sentosa Cove includes several mansions with direct canal access to the water, a few condominiums as well as a doze dining outlets located around the One 15 marina. The houses here are over the top and show the real money that exists in Singapore.
Around the Quayside Isle promenade you can walk among boats and super yachts anchored at the marina and feel as if you were in the South of France. While this makes for a lovely day out it is also miles away from the other neighbourhoods in Singapore.
Find out all about this playground of the rich an famous in my neighbourhood guide.
Things to do in Singapore’s Marina Bay
When thinking about what to do in Singapore Marina Bay is definitively high on anyone’s list. This is because it is one of the best known attractions in Singapore and because the emblematic Marina Bay Sands has become the city’s most iconic tourist spot, despite its recent opening and the fact that is was built on land that did not exist in the 70s.
Plans for the development of Marina Bay were laid in 2003 when the master plan for the area was presented and included two promontories, a beachfront promenade and a new business district. In 2004, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore was tasked with the land management and development of the area. Esplanade and the Merlion Park were opened a year earlier in 2002.
Growth and development of Singapore’s marina has not stopped since but reached a milestone with the opening of Marina Bay Sands Hotel in 2010 after the country and Asia recovered from the 2008 financial crisis.
Beyond the main attractions, there are a lot of hidden gems and unusual things to do around Marina that you may miss when fully absorbed by the skyscrapers and the shiny lights. Let us walk you through our list of attractions.
Gardens by the Bay
Sometimes overshadowed and hid behind by the big brother Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay is my most favourite part of Singapore and it is one of the top-20 most checked in places on Facebook!
This avatar-ish park is large and takes long to explore. I recommend doing so just before sunset and start at Marina Barrage.
Shhh! This is Singapore’s best kept secret and one of the best places to see the sunset in Singapore, but I did not include it in the list because it is such an incredible place I don’t want it discovered, but I will spill it all in the next item on this list.
So what’s there to see in Gardens by the Bay? Loads! And to make it more convenient, the park only closes at 2am so if you come before sunset you will be able to enjoy the beautiful light, the music and light show, dinner and then explore the park when it is empty. This is one of my most valuable tips on visiting Singapore: Go to Gardens by the Bay at night when the park has no crowds and the lights make it magical and romantic.
The Gardens by the Bay Light Show is a must see. The show happens in the supertree grove area several times every evening so just check the latest timings online. Tip: The best way to enjoy the show is by laying down under the largest supertree, on the base of it where there is a small sitting area, and looking up with your head resting against the ledge. This way you get the best view of the show which actually happens on the treetops and the bridges. Read all the details of the show in my guide.
There are three parts of Gardens by the Bay that are accessible only with a paid entrance ticket but the rest of the park is free.
The first one is the Flower Dome, an indoors but cooled area where plants and flower from all over the world are on display. This is a great place to go in Singapore with kids.
The OCBC Skyway is another popular place. You get a ticket and can go up to the suspended bridge that connects all the supertrees.
Lastly, the Cloud Forest is an impressive greenhouse type of place where you can find a 25 meter mountain veiled by a waterfall and filled with plants and flowers. There is also a special orchid section, the official flower of Singapore. The Cloud Forest mountain can be “climbed”.
When you decide what to wear for the day bear in mind that while the rest of indoor spaces at Gardens by the Bay are air-conditioned, the Cloud Forest is usually warmer at mid-20s Centigrade as it tries to replicate the tropical environment the plants grow in.
Gardens by the Bay has a few dining alternatives, from the fine dining Pollen (which has the nicest terrace and chef’s table) to more casual fast food chains like MacDonalds or the rooftop Indochine at the top of one of the Supertrees.
For the smallest in the house, the Children Garden is sure to keep them super happy. Here they can play with water features and fountains and get wet. Best of all, entrance is free! I told you there were only three places were an entry ticket was required.
Gardens by the Bay is a place where you can spend many hours. The park is huge and there is a lot going on. Check out the many trails on the maps and explore the dragonfly lakes, the sculptures that dot the park, the benches and swings, the canyon, the sun pavilion…or just chill on the grassy buts. Gardens by the Bay also offers guided tours for groups of up to 12 people or just go on a self-guided tour following one of the maps you can buy for S$1 at the garden’s shops.
Gardens by the Bay opens from 5am to 2am but the SkyWay, Cloud Forest and Flower Dome is only opened from 9am to 9pm. The Children’s Garden opens from 9am to 9pm on weekends and 10am to 6,30pm in weekdays. There are guards that patrol the gardens at night so do not even think about doing anything your mum wouldn’t approve of. You can find more details on Gardens by the Bay in their website.
Very few come to the Barrage, the barrier protecting the Marina from the sea. This part of the city, behind the Gardens by the Bay, provides an incredible view over the skyline and the most jaw dropping sunset views.
When you get to the main an engineering building you do not realise that its rooftop is covered with grass and is a popular place for a picnic and to fly kites. This is one of Singapore’s secret places and one only known to a few tourists.
The rooftop of the barrage is open as long as the park opens and you can get there by either walking the spiral path or by taking the lifts.
Marina Bay Music and lights show
The 13 minute music and lights show has been playing day in day out since 2010. The best place to see it is from the seating area in the middle of the Marina Bay Sands promenade.
I have written a detailed guide on the Music and Lights Show to make the most of it and I used to live in a condominium that had direct views (and sound) to it.
The show has not been changed since starting in 2011 but it is well-worth enjoying it. You can catch it every evening twice on weekdays and three times during the weekends. Timings and details can be found here.
Not necessarily a fascinating tourist attraction in Singapore but going on a bumboat Singapore River Cruise is a great way to see the city from up close and from a different angle.
You can jump on and off at any of the stops but make sure to make it all the way down to the marina area because the perspective you get of the Art Science Museum from the water is very interesting. See the embarkation points on the map below.
You can also combined the music and lights show at the marina with your cruise starting at 730pm and booking the special cruise. This is a fabulous way to truly experience Singapore.
You can buy tickets at the embarkation points. at $25 per adult Find more details here.
The views from the Bay East Garden
Bay East Garden is on the other side of Gardens by the Bay and you can get there from the main park area by crossing the bridge over the Barrage. This is one the latest parts of the park to open and it is mostly made of greenery and lawns.
However, when the sun sets this is one of the most impressive places to see the sunset as you can catch the sun going down against the Singapore skyline.
Enjoy the sunset over the Singapore skyline
Singapore is a beautiful city at night and one of the highlights of your visit to Singapore will surely be enjoying the sunset at one of the many rooftop bars.
The CBD (Business District) is a great place to do that not only because there are many rooftop spots but also because the skyline is prettiest. I compiled a list of the best rooftop bars in the CBD to help you choose but the best piece of advice I have is to decide which side of the marina you want to see the views off as the sun does not set against the Marina Bay Sands Hotel but on the city side.
In my opinion, the best views over the Marina are from Level33 where you can see both the Business District and Marina Bay Sands. The bar also brews its own beer on the 33rd floor of the Financial Center, the highest brewery in the world. You can see more photos of my visit here. They
don’t just do great drinks but also amazing food and the views are fabulous. Go early as Level33 fills in quite quickly.
Before the development of the marina, the opening of the marina barrage and the closing of the Singapore river to the sea, Clifford Pier used to be the main disembarkation point for sea visitors to Singapore who would descend from their larger ships and get on smaller river bumboats.
When the river was finally closed and the barrage opened in 2008, Clifford Pier lost its important and function and was gazetted as a conservation building and renovated into one of the most beautiful 5 star hotels in Singapore, the Fullerton Bay Hotel.
If you walk in the area or go for a drink at the Red Lantern, the rooftop bar at the Fullerton Bay, you may walk through the pier building but would not realise its importance as it just looks like a beautiful colonial building of which there are a few in the area.
But if you are staying at the hotel or come to enjoy the afternoon tea at the main foyer you may notice the large docks and engineering pieces that are still on display by the shore and are a reminder of Singapore’s maritime past.
Explore the trading heritage of the city on a walking tour
One of the nicest ways to explore Singapore is on a walking tour. Although the country is not very old, several remnants of the British colonial times and WWII are well-preserved and can be explored to get a reminder that it did not always look like this.
There are a host of walking tour options available in the central part of Singapore but one tour company I highly recommend is Context Travel. Their guides are always knowledgeable docents on the topic so you get a historian, an art specialist, an urban planning PhD or a chef, depending on the tour. This gives you extra knowledge that is not in a book and you will not find in the internet.
Did you know that all of the Marina area is on reclaimed land? Did you know that the Raffles Hotel used to be on the beach? For this and other fun facts and in-depth understanding of what the city was like pre-21st century extravaganza check out the Historic Walk tour.
For other ideas, our list of free-walking tours in Singapore hits the nail and is a must-have when planning your Singapore vacation. Lastly, there are marked self-guided tours with placards and markers at main sightseeing spots in Singapore which can be organised into handy tours through the many free apps available.
Did you know that most of what lies beyond the exit of the river into the Marina is reclaimed land? The Raffles Hotel once stood in front of the sea.
Theatre, auditorium and shopping center all in one topped with dining options by the marina and in the shape of the famously stinky durian fruit.
Esplanade is worth admiring from the outside or you can go in to find stores focused on the art (music instruments, designers, jewellers, etc.) and most of Singapore’s main theatre and music performances.
Outside, on the main stage between the two buildings and facing the water there are regular outdoor events taking place from concerts or plays or performances. You can also enjoy traditional BBQ food by the side of the building in the outdoor food area.
Find more information about the plays and events taking place here.
Art Science Museum
The Art Science Museum is one of the most iconic landmarks of Singapore. and the combination between the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the museum is probably one of the most photographed spots in Singapore.
The Museum is the place where you can find innovative, creative and modern exhibitions by the likes of Lego or renowned artists like Dali. The building stands out for its incredible architecture, in the shape of an open hand or a flower. At night, it is lit magically.
One of the most famous permanent exhibitions is the Future World, a favourite Instagram spot for visitors to Singapore.
Art Science Museum is open from 10am to 7pm daily, all days of the year. One Thursday a month the museum stays open until 10pm and offers special per out sessions with performances. Children come free on Friday evening for a children day out.
Ce La Vie instead of the Marina Skypark Observatory
Do you want some beautiful views over the city? I have already told you about a few places to see the sunset, but if you want to go up to the top of marina Bay Sands, do yourself a favour and har our local advice: Skip the Skypark and, for the same money, get a drink at swanky Ce La Vie.
This bar and restaurant is right above the observatory deck and does not cost anything to get to. What is more, for the price of the ticket to the observatory deck you get a cocktail. Isn’t that much better?
And that is not all. Ce La Vie offers free drinks for the girls on Wednesdays, like at many other places in Singapore, which have Ladies Night deals.
Keen for other Ladies’ Night offerings in Singapore? Check our round-up.
Alright, so you are not a gambler. And you don’t like crowds. And you hate indoors smoking. Still, even if it is just from above, the Singapore casino is a lesson in organized gambling.
The casino is a much fascinating place, not least because it occupies 15,000 square meters spread over 4 floors in the iconic hotel but also because of the many hidden elements to it, the underground sections and the high-stakes tables and clubs. Check out some of the most incredible facts about Marina Bay Sands and the casino here.
Despite its relatively modest size when compared to other casino complexes around the world, the Sands casino is so important to the economy of Singapore that it contributes to 2% of the country’s GDP and it is one one of Sands Group most successful casinos, before Las Vegas and even Macau.
The Singapore casinos attracts a lot of visitors to the city although the are not so much into sightseeing as they into gambling and many of them never leave the premises of Resorts World where the other casino is, or Marina Bay Sands.
Although entrance to the casinos to foreigners is free, locals and permanent residents of Singapore need to pay S$100 to get in. More information on the casino here.
The symbol of Singapore is a half lion half mermaid spitting water like a fountain, across the water from the Marina Bay Sands hotel.
The Merlion is best visited at sunset time and at night when the background lights of the Business District make the water shine and it is less hot. This is one of the most important attractions in Singapore so you should expect lots of people around the statue in what is called the Merlion Park.
Fountain of wealth
The Fountain of Wealth is a modern creation believed to be a place one comes to ensure a return to Singapore and good fortune. It is registered in the Guinness Book of records as the largest fountain in the world and it is located in Suntec City Mall.
The fountain’s water is stopped three times a day from 10am to 12pm, from 2pm to 4pm and from 6pm to 7,30pm for visitors to walk in the smaller inner circle three times for luck. More details here.
The Singapore Flyer
There are wheels like this in several parts of the world but the one in Singapore provides one of the best views. However, note that you can pretty much get the same view from several other places, for free or for the price of a drink, so consider if it is worth it.
Alternatively, the Singapore Flyer also offers four course meals served privately in your own capsule for something a bit more special.
The Singapore Flyer is open from 8,30am to 10,30pm daily. Each flight takes about half an hour, yes it does turn slowly. More details on their website.
The Helix bridge
This is perhaps the most emblematic bridge in Singapore. The Helix as it is known, was open in 2010 and is a metal pedestrian bridge connecting Marina Central with Marina South that has become one of the most popular landmarks in Marina Bay.
The bridge is a left-handed DNA and is as beautiful during the day as it is at night when it is lit. Look out for the for the pairs of letters c and g and at and t which represent cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine, the four bases of DNA and which are illuminated at night.
Aside from being an architectural masterpiece, the bridge has 4 platforms from which you can admire the Marina Bay area and Art Science Museum.
Things to do in Chinatown
Chinatown is one of our most favorite places to explore in Singapore. It is where most of the Chinese legacy can be found and where the culture of this majority group in Singapore is most present and preserved.
Chinese represent about 60% of the population of Singapore and were the first arrivals into the island. As they were primarily merchants and traders, they were allocated the area by the Singapore River in what is today the CBD and Chinatown.
See this map below from the beginning of the 19th century and drawn by Lieutenant Jackson who was tasked by Sir Stamford Raffles, from the British Empire, to draft out the plan for the Town of Singapore to grow as migrants started to arrive with promises of growth and wealth.
Today’s street names in the area have been kept from Raffles planning efforts who allocated names based on the purpose of each street (temple street for the Hindu temple, etc.).
As Chinese migrants came from several different parts of China, each was given a specific sector in the neighbourhood which is reflected in the architecture and heritage that can still be seen today and the clan buildings that are still in use and which dot the neighbourhood.
The Hokkiens settled in Telok Ayer and the river waterfront, the Teochews along today’s Clarke Quay and Fort Canning and the the Cantonese and Hakka at Kreta Ayer. Remnants of that period have been preserved in the form of temples and monuments which you can explore today.
But Singapore’s Chinatown is not just a neighbourhood full of culture and heritage but also the booming business district so old buildings blend in with flashy skyscrapers.
As one of the most culturally-rich parts of the city, many of Singapore’s attractions and points of interest can be found in Chinatown so let’s get down and explore and make sure to read our guide to the best things to do in Chinatown and check out the Chinatown tour offered by Context Travel which is a fabulous way to explore the neighbourhood and most of the landmarks and points of interest mentioned here with the help of an expert guide.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
The newly built Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum opened in 2007 and is one of the most picturesque and beautiful buildings in Singapore.
As most of the locals and temples in Singapore are Buddhist, it is no surprise that the largest and most well-known of them is a Buddhist temple, however new it may be.
The Museum houses a giant stupa weighing 3.5 tonnes and made from 320kg of gold, of which 234kg were donated by devotees. Inside, there is a Buddha tooth relic. Visitors cannot approach the stupa which is only accessible to the monks.
Another main element in the museum is the “10,000 Buddha Pavilion” housing a large prayer wheel, which is a rotating cylindrical book shelf engraved with Buddhist scriptures. The relic room is on the fourth floor and can only be accessed during certain times. You will need to take your shoes off.
You should not miss the chance to climb up to the rooftop garden which provides respite from the crowdedness and high-rise buildings in the area.
Free food is available in the basement dining hall, as is tradition. For an insider tips and to find out everything you need to know to make the most of your visit read our guide to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.
The museum opens from 7am to 7pm daily. You can find more details here.
Walking tour of Chinatown
You can explore Chinatown on foot at your own simply taking it all in. The traditional Chinese medicine stores, the souvenir shops, the many outlets with Chinese signs. It all contributes to taking you deep into China. The Heritage Center can provide guidance if there is anything specific you are after.
For a true sense of the area and an in-depth tour of the past, present and future as well as the many traditions that would go unnoticed, take a guided tour of Chinatown with Context Travel. I highly recommend them as they can give you an insight you would miss otherwise. Chinatown is so sophisticated and complex under the surface that this tour is a pleasure to partake in.
You can also sign up for one of the free tours offered and which you can find here.
The world of traditional Chinese medicine is fascinating and very new and unusual to foreign visitors to Singapore. In Chinatown you will find a lot of the stores selling plenty of dried ingredients ready to be blended, mixed or taken together to relieve any pains.
The Thye Shan Medical Hall, opened in 1955 in Chinatown, is one of the oldest Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shops. Tell the owner what ailments you have and wait to receive the prescribed concoction. There are also TCM doctors in hand to provide a consultation and they make their own products at a facility in Singapore.
Even if you do not visit this store or have any ailment to fix, it is very interesting to simply wander into ay of the TCM stores in Chinatown (there are many!) and ask the shop staff to help you understand.
I did just that in my video and you can watch some of the strangest medicine you can get from cordiceps to rare fish, spices, plants, herbs and anything from the animal or plant world. You can find details of the events and talks they offer here.
Thien Hock Keng Temple
Built in 1842, the Hokkien Thien Hock Keng Temple is one of the oldest in Singapore and it is outstanding for its architectural ingenious: the temple is built with no nails. As you walk through the Telok Ayer and Amoy Street area, on the border between old Chinatown and new CBD, you will not be able to miss this beautiful working temple.
The temple was built in 1940 by the Hokkien clan who also housed their offices in the building. The facade and interiors are covered in phoenixes, carvings, intricate designs and the traditional green and red paint common in Chinese architecture.
During marked Chinese celebrations the temple comes alive with incense, traditional Chinese wishes hanging, prayers and celebrations.
More details can be found on the website of the temple.
Chinatown wet market – Chinatown Complex
Open markets in Singapore are called wet market because well, the floors tend to be quite wet with the melting ice. For a modern city like Singapore, the wet markets are not only an institution and a sign of the city but also one of the most fun places to visit in Singapore. You can still haggle for the prices of vegetables, fruits, flowers and other meats/fish at the wet markets and a lot of them don’t have marked prices.
In fact, you may even find that locals pay a different prices than you may be quoted if you look like a foreigner, even if you live in Singapore! Wet markets are also one of the most authentic places in Singapore and probably the only situation where you might hear Chinese dialects spoken.
Although pretty much every neighbourhood has its own wet market, there are two that are particularly traditional and genuine: the Chinatown Market and the Tiong Bahru Market.The Chinatown Market is located at the end of Smith Street and is also well known for having one of the two Michelin-starred hawker center stalls in Singapore. See the next item on this list of attractions in Singapore.
At the market you can find all the regular foods you can buy at any supermarket plus some weird and unusual items like shark (still largely served at Chinese restaurants in Singapore in the form of shark fin soup), eel, frogs (for the frog leg porridge), sea snakes and interesting fruits that you may have never seen before and the name of which you have never heard.
Look out for durian, a priced Asian fruit with a fool smell and a strange taste that is a polarizing love or hate food and which you will quickly recognise (hint: it looks like the Esplanade building).
Have a S$2 Michelin starred meal at Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle
See the video above of the owner of the famous soy chicken rice stall in Chinatown Market. Notice how happy he is? He has not stopped smiling since he was granted a Michelin star in the first Michelin Guide to Singapore in 2017 and became the cheapest restaurant with a star and one of the most affordable meals in Singapore.
And what is best, he has not changed the prices and his regular customers continue to come every day. The difference? The queues that are now lining up in his humble stall to buy Hong Kong style soy chicken rice.
Lau Pa Sat
Lau Pa Sat is one Singapore’s most famous, and longest standing landmarks and the hawker center of choice by visitors to Singapore because of its slightly more hygienic look, its central location and its outdoor evening satais.
Located in the heart of the Business District, the market’s distinctive octagonal shape and beautiful columns were designed by British architect George Coleman. When the it was moved from its original waterfront location and rebuilt in 1894, Municipal Engineer of Singapore and Scotsman James MacRitchie added a graceful clock tower and a new cast-iron supporting structure.
The market was restored in 2014 and the original intricate designed of the columns and the ceiling are a stark contract with the surrounding tall glass office buildings. Lau Pa Sat is the only authentic hawker center in the CBD and during the day, hundreds of office workers in their suits and ties flock to the market to buy traditional hawker center dishes “chopping” (or reserving) their seats with the all-too-common tissue paper packet.
Lau Pa Sat buzzing satay street market everyday from 7pm is one of the must-see places in Singapore and one of the most traditional meals you can have. If you are looking for some fun things to do in Singapore, watching the staff and customers order plates of BBQ satay and won beers in the heat of the tropical weather, this is it. People watching has never been as fun anywhere else.
Food tour of Chinatown
Lau Pa Sat is a beautiful piece of colonial architectural development and has a lot of food stalls but it is not as expansive and frequented by locals as the other foodcourts of Chinatown like Maxwell, which has some stalls open almost all 24h of the day, or Chinatown Market.
For any visitors to Singapore food is a highlight and here more than anywhere else, food is a real Singapore attraction. What makes Singapore truly great is the breath of food options. Because of the city’s multi-cultural background an reality, you can find pretty much any cuisine.
Hawker centers can be overwhelming to anyone wanting to try the local foods. Signs are in English and many of the dishes are not your typical noodles and rice so food tours are a fabulous way to explore Singapore’s history, today’s most favourite past time while also enjoying a meal. I recommend this food tour of Singapore but you will find that there are a lot of options.
Explore Duxton Hill
Duxton Hill used to be the enclave of prostitution and a small red light district with several dodgy karaoke bars that of questionable business objectives. But that has changed in the last 5-10 years slowly but steadily, as the karaoke bars have been replaced by cycling, Lulemon stores, yoga studios, interesting restaurants and alternative stores.
In the evening Duxton transforms into one of Singapore’s most popular expat hangout with outdoor seating at most bars and restaurants overflowing with guests sharing a drink. Come on a Thursday or Friday night and enjoy a fabulous margarita and some tacos at Lucha Loco, an authentic Sicilian meal at Etna or a creamy imported mozzarella dish at Latteria Mozzarella. Or just go with the flow and pick any place that appeals to you, any cuisine is available.
Do as expats do on Club Street
Club Street is even more popular and established as the expat hub of Singapore as Duxton Hill. The street is closed on Friday and Saturday night from 7pm to ensure the safety of every customer and the bars and restaurants put chairs and tables on the pavement. Here is where every office worker in the nearby CBD comes to unwind after work.
Club Street is also well known for being a pretty shophouse street and during the day you can come snap lovely photos with the colourful houses behind. At one end of Ang Siang Hill, the street that crosses with Club Street and which is generally bundled in when people mention the latter, there is a small hill with a cute colonial wooden walkway and some greenery.
Most of the shophouses on Club Street have lovely rooftops from where you can see the shophouse architecture of Chinatown so just look up to locate one you like favourite PS Cafe for truffle fries.
Tea appreciation workshop
Tea is a major part of Chinese traditions and culture and in Chinatown you can find a few really traditional and authentic tea houses where workshops and appreciation classes are provided and you can learn how to choose, store and brew the perfect cup of tea.
I particularly enjoyed the workshop you can see in the video above which was carried out at Yixing Xuan teahouse which is located in Tanjong Pagar road, at the heart of Chinatown.
Have yum cha (dim sum)
Yum cha, literally translating to “drink tea”, is the Cantonese meal of dim sum enjoyed for brunch in traditional tea houses and it is one of the age-old Chinese traditions you can enjoy in Chinatown the way locals do. If you have been to other Cantonese parts of China, like Hong Kong, you will already be familiar with the term and the practice.
There are a few dim sum places that are very well known like Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung but I suggest you go local and authentic and have the real tea house experience at one of the yum cha houses in Chinatown.
Try the Yum Cha Restaurant off Temple Street in the heart of Chinatown as they are authentic yet cater to foreigners with menus in English and with some pictures. Marble top tables, wooden chairs, tiled floors, antique furniture, everything will make you feel like you are back in China and it is not the result of someone trying to imitate but it is a pretty authentic setting.
If you want to be authentic, dim sum is traditionally a morning /lunch time meal but not evening food, just like parathas are breakfast items, but nowadays you can have it for dinner as well in most dim sum places as they have become more commonplace. The staff will go around pushing a dim sum trolley from where you can simply select the dim sum that you like. You can also pick from the menu but this is a much more fun thing to do in Singapore.
Do not leave without trying the Xiao Long Bao, the fried carrot cake (and remember, there is no carrot in the carrot cake), the crispy prawn wantons and some of the vegetables. There is a full menu if you want something more than steamed buns.
Check out their menu here.
Go to the rooftop of People’s Park Complex
This is one of Chinatown’s most emblematic buildings and it features on almost every skyline picture. It is impossible to miss it because of its sheer size.
But a lot of people do not know that you can go up to the rooftop of its carpark for some expansive views over Chinatown and for a close up Instagram shot of its symmetrical yellow flats.
Chinatown Heritage Center
For a real glimpse into Chinatown’s life and heritage, the Heritage Center does a really good job with lots of information and background.
Walking tours depart from the office here as well and it is a good place to start your exploration of Chinatown. The amount of information hidden in this packed building is astonishing so do not miss a chance to stop by.
Things to do in Bugis and Colonial Singapore
You remember I told you that in the past the Raffles Hotel was by the ocean? If not, scroll back up the Marina part so you can see the before and after photos from the 70s.
Bugis is the neighbourhood to the east of the central business district and the Marina and, together with the Singapore river Chinatown, is the former colonial neighbourhood of Singapore. Here is where you will find all of the former colonial buildings and structures, from the Parliament House to the well-known Raffles Hotel.
The best way to explore this area is on foot as most tourist attractions are close to each other. I wrote a neighbourhood guide to Bugis which will be useful if you are going t explore the area as it also gives recommendations for where to eat and shop.
Tea at the Raffles Hotel
The Raffles Hotel in Singapore is the first one in the brand currently owned by Accor Hotels Group and the oldest hotel in Asia.
As the Hotel is not accessible to non guests the only way you will get to see it inside is by booking at one of the restaurants. I highly recommend trying afternoon tea in the famous Tiffin Room where many of the Raffles main events happen.
The hotel is completing a massive renovation after 130 years of history, in 2018 and will reopen in the summer with a new face but preserving its original soul. Read some of the most fascinating parts of the Raffles Hotel history to have a feel for how important it has been to Singapore’s history.
Have a Singapore Sling
Different from actually having tea at the hotel itself, a Singapore Sling, the famous drink that was concocted by the barman at The Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel, is best enjoyed while throwing peanut skins on the floor of the bar that has survived from then, although it has actually been renovated a few times.
If you are not familiar with the Singapore Sling, expect it to be sweet and fruity and served with a slice of pineapple.
Fort Canning Battle Box
Fort Canning Park was the site of the palaces of 14th century Malay Kings and served as the Headquarters of the Far East Command Centre and British Army Barracks during the WWII.
The decision of the British Command to to surrender Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 was also made on the hill, in the Underground Far East Command Centre, commonly known as Battle Box, which reopened for tours in 2016.
Located in the middle of the city Fort Canning is a great place for a break. The park plays host to a variety of festivals and other outdoor activities like Shakespeare in the Park. You can also visit the Spice Garden and the ASEAN Sculpture Garden.
Several events and tours are organised in Fort Canning and a visit to the Battle Box and the main remnants of WWII is a highlight of Singapore for history buffs. Find out more details here.
National Gallery of Singapore
The newly opened National Gallery with the extension into the site of the old High Courts is a gift to Singapore’s art scene and a stunning building to explore even if just from an architectural point of view without any considerations for the exhibitions inside.
Modern and contemporary artists are on display with installations as far fetched as foam structures, puppet shows and large paintings. This is also one of the few places in Singapore where you can enjoy an almost 360 degree of the city for free from their rooftop. I have written a detailed guide to the museum so you can make the most of your visit.
While there are a few restaurants and bars at the top that are worthy of designer uber-sophisticated cocktails, you don’t have to sit down and spend S$30 per cocktail to enjoy the views, just walk up to the 6th floor.
The National Gallery opens from 10am to 7pm on weekdays and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday. You can find more details about the exhibitions and the guided tours here.
Asian Civilizations Museum
The Asian Civilizations Museum is located by the Singapore River and it showcases art from China, Southeast Asia, India, and the Islamic world. As the nexus between all the cultures in Asia, the Museum also focuses on showing the inter-relations among the countries.
The museum also offers guided tours and is open from 10am to 7pm everyday and until 9pm on Friday. More details can be found here.
This is one of the places where bars, restaurants and nightclubs can be found under the same roof, literally. Clarke Quay is best explored when the sun sets and the lights come out, as do the party-goers and tourists.
here are usually two types of people in Clarke Quay, younger locals regulars of the bars and clubs and tourists attracted by the music and the lights. Even if you are not one of either, it is still worth enjoying the views and people-watching. Pick one of the bars with views over the river and if you want to be a bit farther from the buzz, cross the river and watch it from the other side.
Have chilly crab
If you come to Singapore asking what is a traditional Singaporean dish you will most likely be pointed in the direction of chicken rice or chilly crab, both of which are associated with Singapore and Singapore only. There are a lot of other dishes that are popularly known to be famous here but are also traditional of other countries.
Perhaps one of the most typical things for visitors to Singapore to do is to enjoy chilly crab at one of the Jumbo restaurant locations. There are a few of them but perhaps the most scenic is the two by the river and in particular, the one across from Clarke Quay where you can enjoy river views with a side of chilli crab sauce and bread rolls.
Make sure to wear the bib so you don’t get the orange sauce on your white dress. And order the fried bread buns, the best part of the chilli crab is the sauce!
Visit the Peranakan Museum
Did you know that although Singapore is a melting pot the only truly Singaporean heritage not inherited from other countries is the Peranakan one? Peranakan are the mixed Malay and Chinese children of migrants who came to Singapore from the 13th century when the city was a major port in the Straits of Malacca.
While the same cultural heritage can be found in Malacca itself and Penang, it is also distinctive of Singapore.
Peranakan culture has elements of both cultures and is recognizable for the blue tiled artworks, the vintage wooden furniture and the delicious meals. Visit the Peranakan Museum to find out more.
Dip kaya toasts into poached egg
Kaya toast is one of the most famous Singapore breakfast items. It consists of two thick slices of toasted bread with a slice of butter (yes, a slice, not a bit spread), a slab of kaya jam (made with egg and coconut), one poached egg and soy and chilli sauce.
Although the item can be found across hawker centers in town, one of the most well known institutions is the chain of Ya Kun Kaya Toast cafes which were started by a Hainanese immigrant in the 920a when he arrived in Singapore and decided to open a stall on Telok Ayer with two partners.
There are lots of stores of the same chain across Singapore but I recommend heading to the original one in Far East Square in Chinatown because that is also where the experience will be more authentic. This is not he original location of the stall as Ya Kun moved it a few times but it always remained within a small perimeter from the original coffee stall. Ya Kun can also be found overseas in 11 countries.
The stall at Far East Square opens at 7,30am Monday to Saturday and closes at 7pm. on weekdays and at 4,30pm on Saturday. Sunday opening times are from 8,30am to 3,30pm. More details can be found on their website.
Visit the National Museum of Singapore
This is Singapore’s oldest museum and was opened in 1887. Here you will be able to find all about Singapore’s history and past. The museum building is also worth a visit regardless of its content because of its white colonial architecture, dome and details.
Read our guide to the museum to find out how to make the most of your visit.
Things to do in Kampong Glam and Arab Street
Kampong Glam is the Malay and Islamic district of Singapore and where you will find most of the Middle Eastern inspired Muslim fabrics, lanterns, food and alike. While the Geylang and Katong areas of the east are the primarily Malay communities, here is where the rest of the Muslim migrants used to live.
The Malay royalty moved to Kampong Glam when an agreement was signed between the British East India Company, Temenggong Abdul Rahman and Sultan Hussein in 1819 to set up a trading post in Singapore. After that, the Sultan brought all his family from the Indonesian island of Riau and established his residence here.
Kampong Glam is pretty small and can be fully explored in a couple of hours, provided you do not sit down for coffee or for any delicious food but make sure to look up and notice the beautiful shophouses in the area. This is the place where traditional islamic items were sold and some of those shops are still open today. You can find attar (essential oil parfum), traditional hajj products, fabrics and spices.
Today, while some of the former items are still on sale, Kampong Glam is the center of the hippie and bohemian in Singapore. There is live music, jazz concerts, yoga nights, craft cocktails and coffeeshops.
For a laid-back and easy way to explore, follow my neighbourhood guide to Kampong Glam.
Walking tour of Kampong Glam
There are a lot of tours and options for guides in Singapore and, while many of the attractions in Singapore you can visit and explore on your own Kampong Glam is perhaps one where I would strongly recommend going on a walking tour.
Why? Because every single building, store and even first level of the shop houses along the Kampong Glam area is filled with stories that talk of a past gone by and an era that is still trying to survive modern Singapore ways and hipster looks.
Book one of the expertly led tours of Kampong Glam with Context Travel which will tell you all about this fascinating part of Singapore that is so much hidden in plain view and so interesting.
Hajji Lane is one of the coolest streets in Kampong Glam and the whole of Singapore and it is the main area most people associate with Kampong Glam.
A small and narrow pedestrian lane in the Arab neighbourhood, Hajji Lane offers a few cafes and bars, including a good jazz club, Blue Jazz, and several hipster and local designer shops selling clothes and other accessories. The best way to explore it is on a shopping spree following our shopping guide as each little store packs a lot of goodies and is very peculiar and unique in its own way, with several hand-made unique items being sold there.
The area around the lane is also known as Kampong Glam and it is a mixture of old and new, bohemian and hand-made with traditional.
Although Hajji lane lines at the center of the Muslim quarter you won’t find any more shisha here, the Government sadly banned it in 2015.
Sultan Mosque is the shiniest and most easily recognizable mosque in Singapore. Its golden dome takes on a precious hue at sunset that is best seen from the rooftop bar at Maison Ikkoku.
The small area around the mosque and Hajji Lane is the official Muslim/ Arab Quarter otherwise known as Kampong Glam Malay Heritage District. The mosque was finished in 1826 thanks to financing from Sir Stamford Raffles at the request of Sultan Hussain Shah, Ruler of Temasek, former name of Singapore.
You can find more information about the mosque on their website.
Malay Heritage Center
Located in the Kampong Glam area, the Malay Heritage Center is a sort of museum and destination to learn more about Malay culture in Singapore. The building was the former residence of the Sultan and was built in the 19th century following architecture that is reminiscent of Malacca. Even if you do not go in, the building is worth a visit from the outside, for its pretty entrance and colonial architecture.
The Malay Heritage Center is open everyday but Monday from 10am to 6pm.
Things to do in Little India
Little India is the Tamil part of Singapore and the neighbourhood where Raffles decided the Indian migrants would be allocated living spaces.
Today, the area is still very authentic and you truly feel like you are in South India, with the smell of spices and jasmine, the ladies wearing colourful saris, the sound of the temple prayers, the golden bangles, the Bollywood signs and the Tamil language being largely spoken.
Aside from this list, I also wrote a neighbourhood guide to Little India you can take with you and which gives you ideas on where to eat and shop as well as what points of interest there are.
The markets of Little India
Little india is synonymous with markets. There are the more organised type at Tekka, the wet market, the stalls of street vendors in every narrow lane or the permanently crowded, opened 24h Mustafa Center.
I recommend spending sometime exploring the many street vendors selling fruits and vegetables you will not find in Chinatown or Tiong Bahru and typical Indian items.
This is also a photographers paradise with explosions of colours and photogenic settings giving way to a host of frames and portraits.
Our beloved Mustafa is one of the coolest most fun places to see in Singapore but don’t spend too much time there because it is sure to get on anyone’s nerves after long exposure.
Mustafa is a sort of department store where you can find pretty much anything (including some really odd things) from appliances to any sorts of food, clothes, furniture, snow balls, trainers, vegetables and perfumes. The place is busy at any time of the day or night, a 24h shopping haven. Or nightmare, as you are most likely going to get lost in one of the many buildings and floors.
You are almost guaranteed a lower price here than anywhere else, that is if you find what you are looking for because the alleys are not organised in a logical manner that would help you locate what you need.
You can find more detail here.
Little India walking tour
There are several walking tours of Little India including some free options but as you know, I am a big fan of Context Travel so couldn’t but recommend their Little India tour where a historian will uncover the fascinating past and present of this buzzing multi-cultural neighbourhood.
House of Tan Teng Niah
Besides its colourful facade which was the product of a recent restoration effort, and the fact that if you type Little India on Instagram this is by far the most location-tagged place, this building is one of the few Chinese villas left in Little India.
The residence was built by Tan Teng Hian, a rubber smokehouse merchant and one of the few Chinese businessmen in Little India, for his wife in 1900. The building is said to have European influences. Look up to the bamboo tiled ceiling.
Street art in Little India
Singapore has a lot of street art in several of its neighbourhoods but Little India has some of the largest share. As you walk through the streets, look out for wall murals that make for beautiful photos.
Visit the Hindu temples
Little India has a thriving Hindu community who congregates around the main southern India style temples with their intricate and colourful roofs and interiors.
If you visit Little India you cannot miss the two main Hindu temples of Shree Lakshminarayan and Sri Veeramakaliamman. At times of prayer both temples fill with lit oil candles, drums and singing.
Make sure to remove your shoes before getting in. These temples, built during the British Colonial times, were the center of Indian culture and social gatherings and helped original settlers feel more at home.
Here is my list of all the most beautiful temples in Singapore including Buddist and Hindu.
Things to do in Orchard
Orchard Road is the shopping district of Singapore. It is a large boulevard lined with shopping malls and department stores selling all the international brands. The area is lined with malls, high-end apartments and office buildings.
Orchard road should be avoided at all costs on Sunday when it is absolutely packed with shoppers.
Ion Sky viewing point
56 levels and 218 meters above Orchard Road ION Sky gives a great view over the commercial heart of the city, for free. You can also see the city through the state-of-the-art BEHOLDTIM telescopes, the first telescope of its kind in Asia.
Public access to ION Sky is from 3pm – 6pm daily. It pays to go late to see the golden hour sunlight but you will have to pay an entrance fee at sunset.
Orchard Road is the place to come for a real shopping spree, mind you Singapore prices are not particularly low.
The 2.2km road is a continuum of shops and malls each specialising in a different niche. There are higher-end malls like Paragon, Ion Orchard and Scott’s Plaza and more affordable options like Lucky Plaza or Far East Plaza. If you did not stop it would take you half an hour to walk it all but no doubt you will be tempted to get into some of the malls.
Details and information about Orchard Road can be found in its official website which is worth checking out because of the many ongoing offers and events always taking place.
This is one of the most intagrammable and beautiful streets in Singapore and one where fashion photo shoots are a daily staple.
But before its role as a fashion backdrop, Emerald Hill was one of the estates off Orchard Road where nutmeg was grown, until 1860s when the local beetle killed all the plantations and they were replaced by rubber and pineapple.
Today, the street is lined by beautiful Baroque and Peranakan shophouses in colourful designs and lots of plants and wooden decks. There are also a couple of bars that give a glimpse of what it is like to live in a shophouse that is 100 years old. Hint: dark! I like No.5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar which also serves food.
You can explore Emerald Hill on an Open House art-based tour which takes place in public spaces and private homes through the street where art pieces have been put on display.
Singapore’s only UNESCO site, the Botanic Gardens and the only tropical and botanic garden in the UNESCO list, is a sprawling park featuring lakes, ponds, waterfalls, lawns, plants and flowers that expand 82 hectares.The above video should give you a good feel for what to expect.
The Botanic Gardens were first created in the 19th century by Stamford Raffles and developed since as a center for horticulture and botanic research including successfully growing the rubber trees in Singapore and Asia.
Things to do in Tiong Bahru
Tiong Bahru is the oldest public housing estate in Singapore built before the war, and it has one of the first hawker center in Singapore. The name means New Cemetery and is the combination of a Chinese and a Malay word that refers to the area formerly surrounding the estate.
In recent years, the area has been gentrified and evolved into the central of hipster in Singapore but it still very much preserves its soul and despite the arrivals of expats and hip-searching locals, it still preserves is soul from the 50s.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most hipster things to do in Singapore then is to walk the streets of Tiong Bahru, look for one of the first artisanal specialty coffee shops, some local designer stores, a local book publishing house and the signature shophouses and Art Deco inspired buildings.
Let’s take a tour of Tiong Bahru, one of the coolest areas in Singapore.
Tiong Bahru heritage trail
Heritage trails are available pretty much in every neighbourhood represented in this guide but the one in Tiong Bahru is particularly recommendable because it talks about a more recent past of Singapore and it is very easy to follow.
Tiong Bahru Hawker Center
Nobody can come to Tiong Bahru and not explore the hawker center which is the first one to open in Singapore in 1955 and was renovated demolished and reopened in 2004 and renovated again in 2017, even Anthony Bourdain visited when he was here on his 24h food quest of Singapore. Here is a list of what to eat at Tiong Bahru Marke.
Street art in Tiong Bahru
Like Little India, Tiong Bahru has quite a few murals on main walls that are worth looking out for. Unlike Little India, the murals here are not modern street art but depict scenes of regular life in Tiong Bahru, especially in the past. In particular, Yip Yew Chong murals are famous across Singapore for depicting local Singaporeans in traditional settings.
These are a few murals that you should look our for. Tiong Bahru used to be known for the many bird cages the residents had hanging outside their homes and there is a mural with that.
You can find a list of all the murals by Yip Tew Chong on his website.
This real life bookstore is one of the reasons a lot of people come to Tiong Bahru. They are one of the few local publishers and fully into the book scene with book readings and launches. There is also a vending machine outside that will dish out a mystery book.
There are not a lot of old bookstores in Singapore and this one is not particularly old as it opened in 2005, but if you get in and walk past the cashier and into the back rooms you will find a world of 80s and 90s memorabilia that will transport anyone of that age right to their childhood.
The store opens from 10am to 6pm on Sunday and Monday and until 8pm the rest of the week. More details on their website.
Qi Tian Gong Temple
This is one of the oldest temples in Singapore dating back to the 1930s when Tiong Bahru was established. The temple is dedicated to the monkey god and is practically open to the street. Devotees go through the day for prayers and incense is always burning.
More details on the temple can be found on its website.
Look up for architecture
One of the most interesting parts of Tiong Bahru is its architecture. Make sure to look our for the spiral staircases at the back of the shophouses and the roofs of the Art Deco buildings some of which imitate an airplane (find block 81 and 82 which the locals refer to as airplane buildings). The architecture is best admired from the distance.
Singapore’s coffee culture
Today Singapore is full of specialty coffeeshops but this is only a recent trend which mostly started in Tiong Bahru and with Forty Hands. It is no surprise that the area is well known for the many cafes, bakeries and other places ready for an Instagram shot and a shot of caffeine.
I love the cupcakes from Plain Vanilla, the coffee from Forty Hands, the croissants from Tiong Bahru Bakery, the brunch at Open Door Policy and the cakes from Drips Bakery.
Things to do in the North of Singapore
The north of Singapore is usually ignored by most tourists because it is far, it is less well-connected than the rest of the country and it has less of the well-known Singapore landmarks and attractions but if you are staying a bit longer or enjoy real unspoiled nature, this is the place to go get your fix.
Shuang Lin Monastery and Temple
This beautiful Buddhist Temple is a feast to the eyes. It was founded in 1898 by Master Xian Hui on land donated by Low Kim Pong when he stopped over Singapore on his journey back from Myanmar to China.
As the temples and monastery are very old, they have undergone several restoration efforts and are considered a National Monument. The nine storey pagoda was constructed in the 70s.
The monastery complex is brightly painted in blue and red and made of several gardens and peaceful areas where devotees chant and pray. Service is still offered following mostly Burmese Buddhist. Look out for the offerings and for the tree of fortune with the wishes of pilgrims and visitors.
The monastery opens from 8am to 5pm daily. More details about events and timings can be found on their website.
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See is a very large monastery and Buddhism teaching complex in Singapore which organises several workshops, retreats and classes teaching anything from how to lead a healthy vegan diet to meditation and Buddhism principles.
The complex aims to be a Buddhist hub and it succeeds with a huge area made up of temples and teaching halls. There are golden stupas in the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, Chinese temple structures, Memorial Halls, stores selling products and merchandising and several rooms.
The monastery opened its doors in 1921 in the middle of the Singapore forest, in a rubber plantation, as a place of teaching and lodging for the monks visiting Singapore and it has grown since. Its name comes from the original location on a “Bright Hill” and that is also the name of the road it is on today.
The monastery public areas are open from 6am to 10pm. Wear appropriate clothing covering shoulders and knees. More information can be found on their website.
Singapore’s version of New York’s Coney Island is one of the latest parks to open in Singapore and one of the best places to see wildlife, especially otters.
The island is located on it own private island and owned by the famous Haw Par Villa brothers, the founders of Tiger Balm (side note: Tiger Balm is one of the best souvenirs you can buy in Singapore, it is small, affordable and useful for anyone!).
Coney Island is a place to go spend the day in or at least a few hours. You can walk, cycle, get close to nature (do not feed the monkeys), see the birds and, on select Saturday mornings in some months, attend a free guided walk.
The park is 50 hectares so it is best to pack lunch from one of the picnic emporiums offering cold cuts, breads and other ready to eat foods and head for a day in the wild. Or at least as wild as Singapore can get.
You can also combine Coney Island with the Northern Riverine Loop and cycle the path ending at Coney Island West gate and then explore the park. That would make for an awesome day out in Singapore.
The park closed in 1998 and reopened at the end of 2015 as an environmentally rich area. Contrary to its namesake, Coney Island in Singapore is not an amusement park but a nature reserve.
As this is pretty wild and untouched, make sure to bring repellent and sunscreen.
Coney Island opens from 7am to 7pm and can be reached on bus 84 from Punggol exchange. More information here.
MacRitchie Reservoir is one of my favourite places. It is a fantastic place to spend a half day trekking through real tropical forest.
The longest trail is 12km through sometimes-rocky signposted paths and thick jungle and it has a loop on a suspended bridge over the park that has awesome views. There are shorter walks that are flat and on wooden boardwalks around the reservoir area. You can also hire canoes and paddle in the water which is regularly filled with students practising and running races.
The park has several picnic areas and a cafe at the entrance where you can buy basic Malay and Indian snacks like samosa or friend chicken and drinks (don’t miss the fresh coconuts). Be careful with the monkeys who have learned to literally steal your lunch from your hand and are pretty vicious, unfazed by humans so hide your valuables and food in your backpack.
While on your walk, look out for large monitor lizards, turtles, birds and snakes. There are also a host of free tours and activities organised in MacRichie so check out the official park’s website for more information.
MacRitchie Reservoir opens from 7am to 7pm.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Sungei Buloh is far from Singapore’s city center and this is why even locals and residents don’t even know about it. In fact, it is so far that you can see Malaysia from its shores.
But did you know that one of the best things to do in Singapore is spotting crocodiles in the wild? I kid you not. Sungei Buloh has a few of them although you are more likely to see the massive monitor lizards who regularly roam around the visitor’s center.
This wetland reserve is best known as a birder’s paradise and is full of bird watching huts and towers where avid photographers can hide in while they spot the birds. You can see Malaysia across the water.
Even if you are not a bird lover, Sungei Buloh is a good place to feel like you are somewhere really far away, for when the city gets to you. There are boardwalks that are above mangroves, mudflats and forests and the main trail going around the park takes about an hour to complete.
While you are in the area, why not visit some of Singapore’s farms most of which are located in the Kranji area? Not a lot grows in Singapore as it is a small country, but whatever does is grown there. Scroll down for one of the most interesting ones.
The park is open from 7am to 7pm. You can get there from Kranji MRT on the bus 925 or the Kranji Express which runs in the weekends. Getting a taxi back will be tough so take the bus to avoid being stranded. There are free tours organised in the weekends where you can get experts insights into the wildlife. Find more information here.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is another large green area of Singapore. The park is home to 40% of Singapore’s flora and fauna and a great place to spot turtles in the wild.
One way to explore Bukit Timah is by combining it with MacRitchie as the two parks are connected so you can start in one and finish in the other. In the weekends, Bukit Timah is a bit less crowded than MacRitchie.
Make sure to climb the hill all the way to the top and to find the pond where the turtles are chilling as they are easy to spot when they come up to breathe.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is open from 7am to 7pm and you can find more information here.
The name is as glamorous as the owner of this friendly vegetable grove and cafe, Poison Ivy, who has a particular sense of humor.
For people who grew up in the city, Bollywood Veggies is a good place to come see where mangos, papayas and pineapples grow as most of Southeast Asia’s vegetables and fruits are grown here.
You will also be able to buy some of the few locally-grown fruits and vegetables to take home or enjoy a vegetarian meal at the cafe made with the ingredients available form the farm. After a visit to Singapore’s wet markets, Bollywood Veggies is a good way to go full 360 and understand where all these colourful fruits came from. Although slightly unusual, this is one of the nicest and most interesting things to do in Singapore, especially with kids who will learn that fruits don’t grow in fridges.
Bollywood Veggies is open from 8,30am to 5,30pm during the week and from 8am to 6,30pm in the weekends and public holidays and closed on Monday and Tuesday. Farm tours are available every last Sunday of the month and there are other children activities on offer too. You can find more information here.
Night safari at Singapore Zoo
Of course, you can also visit the zoo during the day, but one of the best things to do in Singapore is actually experiencing the nocturnal animals at Singapore’s Night Safari, the first of its kind in the world. Once the “day zoo” closes, the night zoo opens and you can explore the park from 7,15pm until midnight. While most families go as soon as the park opens, if you go later, you will probably be among adults.
There are a lot of activities at the Night Zoo but one of the best is cruising around in a tram or on a boat in the River Safari while you see the various animals in their own natural habitat. It is a great insight into some of the animals that are not usually seen in other zoos because they are hidden during the day. There are also creatures of the night shows where you can see the animals from closer.
Unlike other zoos, the Singapore Zoo is pretty good, animals have a lot of space and everything is very well done.
The Singapore Night Zoo is a great thing to do with kids in Singapore because the entire area is children themed. There are restaurants where you can eat in kid-friendly environment, with kid’s menus and lots of activities that will make all the family happy. However, because it is so popular and it receives well over 1 million visitors every year, you will no doubt be surrounded by crowds. If your children are older or you are going as adults, go later, the later the better. In fact, go at 10pm if you can.
For the complete experience, spend a night in the wild glamping in the zoo. You can get a package with the tours and dinner and a tent for the night.
You can buy tickets only and you should to avoid some of the queues. Singaporeans love to queue and the Night Zoo is a great place to do just that. But don’t despair, I would still recommend going and simply managing your expectations. Food is available at the many outlets but it is expensive so you might as well eat before and go later. The Singapore Night Zoo is far from the city, about half an hour’s drive. More details here.
Go to the races
I am referring to horse races which you can enjoy at the Kranji Racecourse. Races are an eminently gambling affair in Singapore but they make for a fun day out and they are one of the most unusual things to do in Singapore.
I wrote a guide about horse racing in Singapore which will be useful to find out more and to know what to expect, especially if it is your first time.
Like Pulau Ubin, Lorong Buangkok is an old kampong, a Malay village, of which there are only two in Singapore, and this is the only one on the main island.
Here, life happens at a slower pace and although a few visitors come by everyday, the mostly elderly residents have simple lives and live in harmony with nature. Visiting Lorong Buangkok before it fully disappears is probably one of the highlights of any visit to Singapore.
Things to do in the East Coast of Singapore
The East of Singapore is primarily a residential area where a lot of families live. It is also the center of the Malay community, the heart of the Red Light District and of beautiful traditional shophouses.
The area usually encompasses pretty much everything that is east of the business district and the marina and up until Changi Airport in what is a really large part of Singapore. As a result, there are a lot of Singapore attractions which are located in the east coast.
So let’s see what’s there to do in the East of Singapore.
I have spoken about camping and there sure are a lot of places to do that in Singapore but why not take that experience to the next level with some proper glamping.
Let the folks from the Glamping Society take care of the set-up for you so you do not need to worry about anything related to the set up and only need to turn up to your cosy teepee tent.
This may sound really weird but it is a fun activity to do in Singapore. You basically go to a prawning place which has a pond with prawns, sit and have a drink while you wait for the prawns to bite.
Pulau Ubin is one of Singapore’s most iconic spots but one which most tourists don’t visit. As the name indicates, it is an island 10minutes from the main island only accessible by boat and one of the last places to see real kampong (or traditional) life in Singapore. There is no electricity and the 24 households that still live there do so in largely traditional ways. This is a must do in Singapore.
To get to Pulau Ubin, take a boat and then rent bikes on the island to go explore this nature paradise and cultural center.
There are guided tours in the weekends and most importantly, the opportunity to see a habitat that has practically been untouched. Read more about it in my Guide to Pulau Ubin or, to make it even more special, camp on the island with my guide to Camping in Singapore. Camping in Pulau Ubin is free.
Cycling on East Coast Park
East Coast Park stretches for 15km along the beach on the Eastern coast of Singapore. It goes pretty much from the Marina area all the way to Changi airport.
The park is a popular spot for families and one of the most “normal” beaches in Singapore. It is also hardly visited by tourists who tend to favour the flashier and more developed man-made islands of Sentosa.
One of the best things to do in East Coast Park is renting bikes and cycling it for as long as you feel like. For an extra element of fun, rent a tandem bike or a pair roller blades. You could also put your towel down but it is not the nicest beaches and it has views ver the thousands of container ships awaiting in the Singapore Channel, not a pretty sight.
Along the way you will find bars, restaurant and various other outlets, mostly congregated in spots so you can stop and have a drink half way.
The park is open all day as there are no fences or entrances, but the bike rental places usually close at 10pm. You can check everything there is to know about cycling in Singapore in our guide here. You can find more details about East Coast Park here.
If you are into golf you are in luck because there are 13 golf clubs and 30 golf courses in Singapore. The country has high rainfall which is very conducive to green lush gold courses although golfing in Singapore is pretty expensive and the locals escape to Bintan and Batam for more affordable tea times.
I put together a list of the best golf courses in Singapore to help you get started.
Geylang is Singapore’s Red Light District and Malay food mecca. As contradictory as it may sound to have both the Muslim neighbourhood and the Red Light District together that is the case in Singapore.
Singapore being always so rule-abiding and organised, Geylang has been zoned as an official and legal prostitution zone. Originally, the area was a marsh filled with coconut plantations at the mouth of the Kallang River where sea gipsies and, later on Malays, used to live.
Today, Geylang and the surroundings is a mixture of heritage shophouses with traditional colonial architecture from the turn of the 20th century, hawker centers with go-to Malay food, and outlets for the oldest profession in the world.
The best thing to do in Geylang is to simply have a walk around. Look out for the pretty shophouses and the great Malay food with recipes as peculiar are frog leg porridge. Check out my neighbourhood guide to Geylang for details of a great day excursion.
Go horse riding
There are stables at Gallop Stable in Pasir Ris where you can go horse riding without being a member. Singapore has other horse stables around but they are usually members-only and with high fees. At Gallop Stables you can come and try it out and then see if you would like to join this fabulous sport of the rich. Or practice your craft if you are only visiting Singapore.
Xtreme SkatePark @ East Coast
This skate park is the right place to practice your jumping skills both on skates as well as on bikes. Even if you are not either, you can come here to see the amazing skill and talent of some of the experts. It is easy to get lost watching them go up in the air and turn and loop.
The park is free and open to everyone and has three separate spaces catering to everyone’s experience level.
Joo Chiat shophouses
This row of shophouses is one of the most famous backgrounds for Instagram photos in Singapore. They are pretty, well preserved and in beautiful pastel colors.
Changi Point Coastal Walk
This boardwalk extends over 2 km long and has six distinct parts: Creek Walk, Beach Walk, Sailing Point Walk, Cliff Walk, Kelong Walk and Sunset Walk. The park is open all day long and is a great way to enjoy a stroll along the sea. This is also a great place to watch the sunset in Singapore.
You can find all the details here.
This is the ultimate fruit and one that you will either love or absolutely hate. Most people cannot even tolerate the smell of the fruit and it is forbidden in public spaces like the MRT or lifts across the city because of its completely unbearable pungent smell.
If you want to try it, one of the best places to do so is the East Coat. A well known durian seller is Ah Hung D24 Sultan Durian, the D24 refers to the type of durian as there are many. You should not eat the durian directly with your hands but use plastic gloves (trust us). This stall is located on a street that specialises in selling durian but beware that a lot of them have been reported to switch the fruit after you picked it. Ah Hung is one of the most honest vendors.
If you do not want to try the fruit but want to give the flavour a go, when it is the right season durian is available in many stores in the form of ice cream, cream puff, etc.
Other things to do in Singapore
There are a lot of fun things to do in Singapore that are not specific to a single area so we have decided to list them all here.
Did you know that there are a few islands near Singapore that are still part of the country?
I talked about Pulau Ubin and Coney Island but there is also a group called Southern Islands which are around 20-40min by ferry from the Marina South Pier ferry terminal.
The Southern Islands are made of three islands, St John’s, Kusu and Seven Sisters. Both Kusu and St. John’s are easy to visit while there are no scheduled ferries to the Seven Sisters. St. John’s Island is relatively large and offers various picnic opportunities, some paths across the forest and a pretty crescent shaped white sand beach, Lazarus beach, popular with day yachters from Keppel and One15 Marina. This is the nicest beach you will find in Singapore but it does require some effort.
Kusu Island receives its name from the word tortoise in Chinese and is certainly has a few of them. The island is also accessible on the same ferry heading to St. John’s and is a much smaller island without the beaches of St. John’s. Instead, the island is a good spot for a picnic and has two interesting shrines, one Taoist at the bottom of the stairs and one Muslim at the top of 152 steps. Both are still worshipped by pilgrims.
Go cocktail bar hopping
Let us tell you about the best thing to do at night in Singapore via the video I made.
The Singapore cocktail scene has massively developed in the last few years and today there are a few respectable and pioneering cocktail bars serving their own spirits, blends, spices and bitters. Some of them are speakeasy and hard to find, others are more approachable.
What makes the cocktail scene in Singapore so interesting is the blending of east and west and the Asian influence on the drinks.
It consists basically on what the name indicates: two slices of (often colourful) sandwich bread wrapped around a thick slice of ice cream in many different strictly local flavours like yam, sweetcorn or honeydew (although you may also find commercial versions with strawberry or vanilla). You can buy these from the street vendors that can be found across town for just S$1.
The item is so popular and representative of Singapore that world renowned chef Andre incorporated it into his menu at the now defunct Restaurant Andre where he served it as desert in his set menu. He took his inspiration from one of the street vendors who is still selling the ice cream in his late age.
Stroke a cat
Singaporeans love their furry friends and there are a lot of pet cafes in town. You do not need to go to Tokyo for that experience. If you are missing your feline or canine friend or want to spend some time with the calming effects of stroking a pet head to one of Singapore’s animal cafes.