Things to do in Singapore main

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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!

Contents

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.


Sentosa suspended bridge Palawan

Sentosa suspended bridge Palawan

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.


Palawan Beach Sentosa

Palawan Beach Sentosa

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.

More active way of enjoying Sentosa is to go ziplining on the Megazip where you fly over the jungles and beaches. More information and bookings here.

Haw Par Villa


Haw Par Villa

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.


Haw Par Villa Sculpture

Haw Par Villa Sculpture

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 Courts of Hell

Haw Par Villa Courts of Hell

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


Henderson Waves

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).


Henderson Waves Singapore

Henderson Waves Singapore

Read my Guide to the Southern Ridges to find out everything there is to do. The trails are open at all times and you can find more information on their website.

Gillman Barracks

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


Sentosa Cable Car

Sentosa Cable Car

A cable car connects Mount Faber peak with Sentosa. The journeys flies over Resorts World Sentosa and offers a bird’s eye view over this manmade achievement.

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. Book your Sky Pass ticket online here.

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 one of the best hotel rooftop pools in Singapore, 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


Universal Studios Sentosa Source

Universal Studios Sentosa Source

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. You can also book your day pass online with hotel pickup 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


Royal Albatross Source

Royal Albatross Source

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

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.


Singapore’s first land reclamation projects Source

Singapore’s first land reclamation projects Source

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.

There a great walking tour  where you can discover the secrets of Marina Bay as you visit the Merlion, learn about the history of Clifford Pier and the Fullerton Bay Hotel, a visit the Red Dot Museum and the Marina Bay Sands, after crossing the DNA-shaped Helix Bridge. You can book this tour online here.

Gardens by the Bay


Supertrees from above

Supertrees from above

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.


Gardens by the Bay lakes

Gardens by the Bay lakes

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.


Gardens by the Bay Skyway

Gardens by the Bay Skyway

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.


Flower Dome Singapore

Flower Dome Singapore

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.


Supertrees at night

Supertrees at night

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.


Children Garden Gardens by the Bay

Children Garden Gardens by the Bay

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.


Sculptures Garden by the Bay

Sculptures Garden by the Bay

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.

Marina Barrage


Singapore Marina Barrage Singapore Landmark

Singapore Marina Barrage Singapore Landmark

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.


Marina Barrage

Marina Barrage

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


Free light show display nightly at Marina Bay

Free light show display nightly at Marina Bay

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.

River cruise


Singapore river cruise

Singapore river cruise

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.


Map Singapore River Cruise

Map Singapore River Cruise

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, or get a little discount by booking online here. Find more details here. If you would prefer to see Singapore by land you could always take the Hop On/Off bus tour here, a 3 hour segway tour here through Marina bay, or even an escooter tour here that also includes a taste of Singapore’s best foods.

The views from the Bay East Garden


Singapore from the barrage

Singapore from the barrage

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.


Map of Bay East by Gardens by the Bay

Map of Bay East by Gardens by the Bay

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


Level 33 Brewery Singapore Source

Level 33 Brewery Singapore Source

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.

Clifford Pier


Clifford Pier

Clifford Pier

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


Singapore’s Heritage building

Singapore’s Heritage building

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.

Esplanade


Esplanade Photo courtesy of Allan Espolong

Esplanade Photo courtesy of Allan Espolong

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


Art Science Museum

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’s day out. You can book your tickets online here.

Ce La Vie instead of the Marina Skypark Observatory


View of Skypark from Ce La Vie

View of Skypark from Ce La Vie

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.

The casino


Singapore casino

Singapore casino

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.

Merlion


Merlion

Merlion

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


Fountain of Wealth Singapore – Photo courtesy of Allan Espolong

Fountain of Wealth Singapore – Photo courtesy of Allan Espolong

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


Singapore Flyer

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. If you prefer a romantic way to see the Flyer, you should book this admission with a Singapore Sling online.

The Helix bridge


Helix bridge

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.


Map of Singapore Chinatown 1822

Map of Singapore Chinatown 1822

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. There are also a trishaw tour including dinner and walking tours of Chinatown available.

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum


Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic Museum

Singapore Buddha Tooth Relic 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.


Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Singapore

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Singapore

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


Chinatown Singapore

Chinatown Singapore

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.

Chinese medicine

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


Thian Hock Keng Temple

Thian 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


Chinatown

Chinatown

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 hawker center

Lau Pa Sat hawker center

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 with Context Travel but you will find that there are a lot of options.

Explore Duxton Hill


Lucha Loco

Lucha Loco

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 dim sum Source

Yum Cha dim sum Source

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


People’s Park carpark rooftop

People’s Park carpark rooftop

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


Chinatown Heritage Center

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.

Sri Mariamman Temple


Sri Mariamman Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple

Sri Mariamman is a Hindu temple, typical of the South Dravidian Indian style, right at the centre of Singapore’s Chinatown. Along with being the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, dating back to 1827, it was gazetted as a national monument in 1973 and is one of the most visited Singapore attractions.

Created by a Penang government clerk, Naraina Pillai, Sri Mariamman was a place of refuge for South Indian Tamil Hindu migrants, serving as a shelter of sorts before they found permanent employment and accommodation. It still serves as a place of worship for the Tamil community of Singapore.

Its most notable feature is the large six tier intricate gopura at the entrance. Along the gopura and surrounding wall of sculptures of Murugan, Krishna and sacred seated cows. You should definitely venture inside if you get the chance as there is a gorgeous mandala painting and various shrines depicting important deities, gods and scenes from the Hindu epics.   

The venue also plays host to the annual timiti (firewalking) festival which is one of the more interesting things to do in Singapore. The festival is held roughly a week before Deepavali or the Festival of Lights.

For more information visit their website.

Admire Chulia history at Masjid Al-Abrar & Masjid Jamae Mosques


Masjid Al-Abrar

Masjid Al-Abrar

Chinatown stands testament to Singapore’s religiously integrated society. I have told you about the various temples, but there are also churches and mosques dotted around the area. The Masjid Al-Abrar Mosque, also known as Kuchu Palli (hut mosque in Tamil) and Masjid Chulia, is one of the oldest mosques making it one of the must visit Singapore points of interest.

Immigrants from the Coromandel Coast of South India are known as Chulia and were among the first settlers in Singapore. Masjid Al-Abrar was first set up as a makeshift thatched hut in 1827 as a place of worship. Two years later, in 1829, the mosque was granted a 999-year lease that was held in trust by Hadjee Puckery Mohamed Khatib.

The humble hut was transformed into a brick building only in 1855 ands was gazetted as a national monument in November 1974. Other renovations were carried out between 1986 and 1989. Today it can house 800 people with an adjacent shophouse that was converted into a madrasa and prayer hall for women in 1998.


Masjid Jamae

Masjid Jamae

While not one of the most visited Singapore tourist places, Masjid Jamae is another Chulia mosque in Chinatown Singapore on South Bridge Road that was built in 1826. It is right next to Sri Mariamman. Due to its age, it holds important historical and cultural significance.

The mosque you can see today was constructed between 1830 and 1835 although it was originally demarcated in 1826. While basically unchanged since renovations took place, it is still a beautiful building to see with a mix of South Indian and Neo-Classical styles. Other than the main carpeted prayer area which is reserved for Muslims, anyone may visit this lesser known Singapore tourist spot.

See antiques at the Musical Box Museum


Musical Box Museum exterior

Musical Box Museum exterior

Straight after visiting Thian Hock Keng Temple, hop on next door to the pale beige and blue double storey shophouse that is the Singapore Musical Box Museum. This delightful little museum looks at Singapore’s past in a unique way, through musical boxes. It is one of the cutest hidden Singapore tourist attractions.

Mr Naoto Orui, the founder of the museum, displays his personal collection of these little melodic devices. You can also choose to take a guided tour if you are interested in the origins of the boxes. You can also book a tour on their website.

Chinese Methodist Church and Fairfield Methodist Church


Chinese Methodist Church

Chinese Methodist Church

There are two Methodist churches that are both great off the radar Singapore points of interest worth visiting in Chinatown that are both steeped in history. Methodist Christianity was introduced into Singapore in 1885 by two missionaries, William Oldham and James Thoburn. After their arrival small congregations formed in Amoy Street. It moved to a shophouse in Nankin Street (today’s Jong Lim Park), then Boon Tat Street in 1905 and finally to the junction of Telok Ayer Street and Cecil Street in 1913.

Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church which began as a small makeshift tent on a vacant plot and trasnformed into a proper structure in 1924, erected by local Methodist bishop, George. H. Bickley.

The wonderfully unique building you will see today was designed by Denis Santry of Swan & Maclaren with both European and Chinese influences, for example the European arches with a Chinese-style roof. There are Chinese characters throughout the building which portray both Christian and Chinese values such as gong (恭, ‘reverence’ or ‘respect’), qian (虔, ‘piety’ or ‘sincerity’), and sheng (圣, ‘holiness’).

During the Japanese Invasion of Singapore, a buffer wall was erected in 1941 to protect the Church from bullets.


Fairfield Methodist Church

Fairfield Methodist Church

The Fairfield Methodist Church has quite a different origin story. It actually started out as a theatre called the Metropole (or the Jing Hwa) Cinema. The building was designed by local architect Wong Foo Nam and was one of the top three cinemas in Singapore back in its heyday. It was renovated in 1986 when it was transformed into the Church it is today.

Visit the Majestic, a historic cinema


The Majestic

The Majestic

While not one of the top things to see in Singapore, the Majestic does have a perfectly Instagrammable facade. If you visit the Majestic today, you’ll find a modern shopping mall, but what you might not have known is that the building was actually home to the former Tien Yien Moh Toi Theatre (or “Tin Yin Dance Stage”) which was an opera house. It was even designed by the very same architectural firm that designed the Raffles Hotel, Swan and Maclaren.

Its most notable feature is the intricately detailed green and pink tiled facade that illustrates opera scenes, with flying dragons and other animals.

A decade after opening, the famous Shaw brothers rented out the property and transformed it into the Queens Theatre showing the latest movies from Hong Kong. It was then taken over by the Japanese during World War II, displaying only Japanese propaganda movies.

The theatre became The Majestic after it was tenanted by The Majestic Film Company and then in 1983 transformed into a shopping mall after being bought by the Cathay Group.

Try Bak Kwa pork

Try Bak Kwa pork

Trying Bak Kwa should be on your list of the top things to do in Singapore. Bak Kwa is the Hokkien (or Fujian) answer to the US beef jerky. Yet the difference is that Bak Kwa is barbecued over a charcoal fire, so it maintains its oily goodness instead of being totally dried out.

Try one of the two variants of the snack, the first being chewier from thinly sliced pork and then second being tender from minced pork. Bee Cheng Hiang is the most well known gourmet Bak Kwa retailer in Singapore with two outlets in Chinatown alone at 69 Pagoda Street and 189 New Bridge Road. If you’ve had Bee Cheng, the next best is Fragrance Bakkwa also on New Bridge Road or Pagoda Street. Both brands are preservative free.

See the best hawker centres in Chinatown

There’s no better way to explore Chinatown in Singapore than through its flavors. There are various different hawker centres, eateries and cafes in Singapore Chinatown and going on a personalized guided food tour is probably the best way to savor all of the delicious tastes, it’s also one of the most fun things to do in Singapore if you ask me.   


Entrance to Chinatown Food Street

Entrance to Chinatown Food Street

The three top hawker centres in Singapore include Singapore Chinatown Food Street on Smith Street, Maxwell Hawker Centre and Chinatown Complex Food Centre. Singapore Chinatown Food Street is not really a centre per se and is more a covered street lined with food kiosks. Some of the best stalls include duck from Tiong Bahru Meng Kee (Stall No. 7), Satay Skewers at Old Airport Road Satay Bee Hoon & BBQ Steamboat (Stall No.2) or Kway Teow at Food Street Fried Kway Teow Mee (Stall No. 8).


Maxwell Food Centre

Maxwell Food Centre

Maxwell Food Centre (originally Maxwell Market) opened in November 1928 during the Japanese Occupation as a market selling fruits and vegetables. It was only at the end of the war in 1946 that the first restaurant opened its doors. It wasn’t until 1987 that the wet market transformed into a hawker centre. It was finally given a facelift in 2001 but many of the stalls contain history and are second or third generation family businesses.

Try handmade sausages, liver rolls, ngoh hiang (fried meat roll) and egg slices at China Street Fritters or the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice for the Singaporean dish.


Liao Fan Chicken Rice

Liao Fan Chicken Rice

Chinatown Complex Food Centre is probably the most famous of the lot due to its credibility as having the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice Noodle. So for foodies, this is by far one of the best things to do in Singapore.

The hawker centre, originally known as Kreta Ayer Complex, was built in 1981 as a part of the urban renewal of the Chinatown. The idea was to create a central location for the multitude of street illegal vendors in Singapore’s Chinatown. It also helped to sanitize and clean up the area.

Apart from the Michelin winner Hawker Chan, there are many other great options from Zhong Guo La Mian Xiao Long Bao to Jia Ji Mei Shi, from Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu to Ah Lo Cooked Food.

For a tour of the best known hawker centres in Singapore, I always push for Context Travel when it comes to tours because the guides are all either locals or are extremely knowledgeable in the area or on the topic as they have actually lived what they are talking about, it’s not just some script. Context Travel provide a walking foodie tour of all the best hawker centres in the Chinatown including the Chinatown Complex, Maxwell Food Centre and Amoy Street Food Centre.

You won’t only be tasting the treats, you’ll also be learning about the history and cooking methods of each dish tried.

There are a few other tours that I would recommend beyond Context Travel that include:

1. Chinatown Food Street in Smith Street

2. Chinatown Singapore Walking Tour

3. Chinatown Food Tasting & Walking Tour

4. Chinatown Food Adventure (3.5 hours)

5. Go one step beyond with a food tour in Chinatown, Little India and the Malay Village

Learn about shophouse architecture


Shophouses in Craig Road

Shophouses in Craig Road

While shophouses are not unique to Singapore, the country does have some of the best and most beautiful examples in Southeast Asia. Something particularly unique to the Lion City though is the evolution of these workplace domiciles.

There are in fact four marked periods from the 19th century till today. Visit Craig Road to see three of the four styles in one go. The first style is quite ordinary with no lavish touches. They were built in the 1840s as a basic two-floor building with two windows and one door. Simple and structured.

From the 1900s things started to get a bit more intricate with ceramic panels under the windows that were glued with plaster. The most detailed and decorative of the lot come with the third wave, in fact they could be seen as a bit overly embellished. You will know it is a third wave shophouse from the Chinese characters that line the facade.   


Potato Head

Potato Head

The last of the shophouses are the fourth wave Art Deco buildings which have square windows, no wooden shutter and have the addition of a spike on the roof. For the newer Art Deco design, check out the popular eatery Potato Head at 36 Keong Saik Road or stroll along Ann Siang Road.


Blair Road shophouses

Blair Road shophouses

Blair Road another one of the most wonderful places to go in Singapore to take some pictures of shophouses for the Gram. These particular shophouses have a simple Peranakan design with a hint of European influence. Don’t forget to look down and marvel at the detailed tiles.

Visit the Tintin Shop


Tintin Shop interior

Tintin Shop interior

This is a quick little stop for all Tintin enthusiasts. The shop has all kinds of memorabilia from the cartoon including life sized figurines. There is also tons of merchandise for sale from puzzles to t-shirts to watches and figurines. See more information here.

Explore the history of Telok Ayer

Telok Ayer Green 01

Telok Ayer used to be a bay and a Malay fishing village that became a hub for Indian Lightermen who unloaded cargo from merchant ships. Two Indian Muslim buildings were erected there Al-Abrar Mosque and Nagore Durgha Shrine to serve the growing community.

The bay was turned into land in 1900 because of overcrowding and later became the area for Chinese immigrants. Today there is a little park called Telok Ayer Green next to Thian Hock Keng temple with plaques describing the history of the area, definitely one of the under the radar tourist places in Singapore.


Nagore Dargah Shrine

Nagore Dargah Shrine

Nagore Dargah is a shrine that was built by the Chulias between 1828 and 1830. As there are no historical records of the shrine, the construction date remains a mystery.

Search for Yip Yew Chong’s murals

Yip Yew Chong’s murals

Just like in Tiong Bahru, you can see some more murals by local artist Yip Yew Chong including the Paper Mask & Puppet Seller at Mohamed Ali Lane (side wall of house 227 South Bridge Road) or the 44m long mural at the back of Thian Hock Keng Temple.

The mural at the back of the temple is quite different from his other ones which usually capture daily life in Singapore from the past. This one is basically a history of Singapore in a painting from the first migrants to modern Singapore.

This is definitely one of the most instagrammable spots in Singapore. Read more about his inspiring stories on his website.

Siang Cho Keong Temple


Siang Cho Keong Temple

Siang Cho Keong Temple. Image by Jnzl (CC BY 2.0)

While Siang Cho Keong Temple in Amoy Street is not the most extravagant temple, it is a quaint building to visit to catch a glimpse of the decorative Hokkien temples. Built in 1869 it is one of the earliest temples in Singapore and is dedicated to sailors coming from Fujian.

Being one of the lesser visited Singapore attractions, Siang Cho Keong Temple is quiet and peaceful. Look up at the entrance and you’ll find a wonderfully ornate swallowtail roof with a dragon relief and Buddha statues.

Kong Chow Wui Koon Cultural Centre


Kong Chow Wui Koon Cultural Centre

Kong Chow Wui Koon Cultural Centre

After learning about the different shophouse architecture phases, you may want to see more of the fourth-wave Art Deco inspired buildings. The Kong Chow Wui Koon building is a fantastic example from this period. It is home to the The Chinese Clan association of the same name that formed in 1840 by Xinhui clansmen.

The current building became home to the association in 1924. So the newer design is in contrast to its ancient origination. The association is home to the first Martial Arts and Lion Dance troupe, as well as many other firsts.

Apart from the building, it is a fun place to visit in Singapore to learn more about Chinese culture and its history in Singapore as they host ongoing cultural events from Cantonese opera to Lion Dancing. There are also various multimedia kiosks surrounding the building.

Check their tour schedules on their website or just stroll in and take a look.


Poon Yue Association

Poon Yue Association

Walk 2 mins from the Kong Chow Wui Koon Cultural Centre and you’ll find another heritage site known as the Poon Yue Association, one of those Singapore attractions that almost pops out of nowhere. The association was founded in 1879 by the Poon Yue (or Pan Yu) emigrants who came in from Guangdong. Their philosophy is one of promoting the traditional virtues of mutual help, support and protection. They practice this by providing scholarships and hosting cultural events.

Relax at the longest sky garden in the world


The Pinnacle@Duxton

The Pinnacle@Duxton

It’s definitely not hard to miss the Pinnacle@Duxton, especially if you’re walking along Duxton or Keong Saik. This goliath residential building is a 50-storey giant that is home to two of the world’s longest sky gardens.

But don’t just admire the building from afar, you can actually visit the top sky garden on the 50th floor which is open to the public between 9am to 9pm daily, except during special events for a S$6 fee per person per day. There is a limit of 200 people per day though, so it’s best to go early. If you’re looking for things to do in Singapore that not many people know about, this is it. Visit their website for more information on where to enter.  

Indulge in a cup of artisanal ice cream

My readers will know that I have a very large sweet tooth, so one of my best places to visit in Singapore would of course involve dessert. I don’t know how many times I’ve visited Apiary on Neil Road, but I think it’s fair to say it’s many.

You’ll first notice the store with your nose as the smell of baking waffles is heavenly. Inside, it’s all light and airy with touches of light wood shaped like a bee hive.

The ingredients used are all natural with no artificial colorings or preservatives. The dairy products are also pasteurised on site. While my favorite flavor is Ferrero Rocher, you’ll find an entire list of amazing treats from Black Sesame to Baileys & Brownie to Milk Chocolate & Cookies. Ask for a sample taste to make sure experience one of the most delicious things to do in Singapore. Find out more here.  

Have brunch in a colonial house


PS Cafe leather couches

PS Cafe leather couches

After walking the busy streets of Chinatown, you may want to get away from all the hustle and bustle and do some serious chilling out. The perfect place to take a rest in Singapore’s Chinatown is the gorgeous PS Cafe.

You’ll find decorative ceilings, black leather banquettes and white marble tops in the former colonial residence. The ambience is refined and chic with a Western menu that has an Asian twist like pesto pasta with laksa leaf.

They are also known for their scrumptious cakes that are always on display. And don’t forget the adults-only rooftop bar if you really want some respite. It’s not one of those Singapore tourist places with screaming kids, but a more refined calmer experience.

Eat a traditional Singaporean breakfast


Flickr Andrew M. Annuar (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Flickr Andrew M. Annuar (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A typical Singaporean breakfast is simple and quick and can be found at any of the Ya Kun Kaya Toast stores in the city. The meal consists of kaya toast with either cheese, peanut butter or ice cream and comes with soft-boiled eggs and kopi.

The kopi is not like the artisanal beans you’ll find elsewhere but is rather made by wok-roasting the beans with sugar and margarine to a dark brew. It is rich, sweet and piping hot.

The stall in Singapore Chinatown at 18 China St, Far East Square, is the original one where Hainan-born Loi Ah Koon began selling the breakfast staple in 1944. It’s an institution and one of the top places of interest to go in Singapore.

Visit one of the many bars in Chinatown Singapore


Yellow Pot Bar at Six Senses Duxton

Yellow Pot Bar at Six Senses Duxton

I really had to mention the newly opened Six Senses in Duxton as one of the best places to visit in Singapore. It’s designed entirely by Bond Girl turned hotel interior stylist Anouska Hempel and screams elegance. The gold and black Art Deco Yellow Pot Bar is a posh affair that is elegant and cozy. Make sure to try their signature Escape to Kaifeng which consists of gin with chrysanthemum. It should definitely be one of the top places to visit in Singapore to put on your list. Here is my full review of the boutique hotel.

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One of the most inventive bars in Singapore Chinatown is the underground Operation Dagger. The dimly lit bar is located on trendy Ann Siang Hill, where the mixologists are surrounded by a cloud of diffused lightbulbs and jars of herbs and spices. Co-owner and creative director Luke Whearty has created a list of unique beverages that you will find nowhere else. But the best part is that if nothing suits your taste buds, just tell one of the bartenders what you like and they’ll whip something up for you. More on Operation Dagger here.

Two locals bars in Singapore Chinatown that you must try if you’re into something more locally inspired are Native and Nutmeg & Clove. Brainchild of Vijay Mudaliar, Native in Amoy Street is a bar that forages local ingredients to serve some highly inventive alcoholic treats like Thai rum with crunchy ants or pink jasmine blossoms sourced from Ann Siang Hill and then prepped in a rotary evaporator. Read more about Native here.

Nutmeg & Clove on the other hand tells the history and culture of Singapore through its wonderful cocktails. The menu is actually inspired by William Farquhar’s Collection of Natural History Drawings. Each drink tells a story of Singapore’s past, along with the gunny sacks and 60s posters on the walls. See their full menu here.

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

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


Long Bar Singapore

Long Bar Singapore

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. You can book your guided tour of the Battle Box online here.

National Gallery of Singapore

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. Or just skip the queue and book your ticket online here.

Asian Civilizations Museum


Asia Civilizations Museum (Source- Museum)

Asia Civilizations Museum (Source- 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. You can book your e-ticket here.

Clarke Quay


Clarke Quay

Clarke Quay

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


Chilli crab Jumbo Source

Chilli crab Jumbo Source

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


Peranakan Museum

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. Book your ticket online here.

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


Opened in 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is the country’s oldest museum

Opened in 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is the country’s oldest museum

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 a guide to the museum to find out how to make the most of your visit and book your ticket online here.

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. If you prefer a guide to take you to all the hidden areas, take this guided tour of Kampong Glam called the “Sultans of Spice”.

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


Hajji Lane

Hajji Lane

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


Sultan Mosque Singapore

Sultan Mosque Singapore

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. Book your tickets online here.

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. If you prefer a guided tour of Little India, you can book one online here. The local tour guide will give you all the inside information of Little India including where all the streets got their names.

The markets of Little India


Singapore Little India

Singapore 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.

Mustafa Center

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


House of Tan Teng Niah

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


Street art on Little India

Street art on 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


Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple

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.

Learn about Singapore’s Indian community

To get a deeper understanding of the Indian community in Singapore, you should visit the Indian Heritage Centre. I recently visited the centre and had a great time trying on the traditional clothing, scrolling through the multimedia displays and just generally learning about the the heritage of Singaporeans of Indian descent.


Indian Heritage Center exterior

Indian Heritage Center exterior

If you decide to visit the centre, it should be at the beginning of your Little India walking tour as it will provide much needed insight into the area. There are guided tours of the museum and interactive screens where you can learn all about the history of this interesting and diverse culture.

More information about the center here. You can also reserve your ticket online here.

The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple


Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple

Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple

Built in 1928, the Thai Sakya Muni Buddhist temple in Little India Singapore is a striking temple located along Race Course Road. It was originally a structure that sheltered a statue of Buddha that the Venerable Vutthisasara brought to Singapore.

After donations from the famous Haw Par Villa/Tiger Balm brothers, the temple grew in size and grandeur. Make sure to walk to the back of the temple to admire the golden done which has the 300 ton 15m high Buddha inside. There are a multitude of lights surrounding the statue which gives the temple its nickname the 1000 Lights Temple.

Leong San See Temple


Leong San See Temple

Leong San See Temple

Another must visit Buddhist temple in Little India is the Leong San See Temple (Dragon Mountain temple in Chinese). It’s actually located directly across from Sakya Muni, but houses a statue of the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin. It was the abbot of this temple that requested Vesak be a public holiday in 1956, which was accepted and is still celebrated today.

Explore the Little India Arcade and Campbell Road


Little India Arcade

Little India Arcade

Little India Arcade is one of the most atmospheric streets in the neighbourhood. The Arcade is a cluster of Neo-classical buildings that date back to 1913, although the current Arcade was opened in 1995. You can’t miss the salmon and orange building when walking along Campbell Street that houses souvenir shops and eateries.


Little India Arcade mural

Little India Arcade

There is a store that sells small clothing for deities, statues of Hindu Gods, as well as gorgeous jasmine flower bracelets and garlands used for festivals and celebrations. Visiting the Arcade and exploring all the wonderful stalls is one of the most fun things to do in Singapore.  

Visit the Tekka Market


Tekka Market

Tekka Market

If you haven’t visited a wet market (fresh food market) in Southeast Asia before, this is your chance. Opening in 1915 in a different location and originally called Kandang Merbau Market, it was demolished and rebuilt in its current location in the 80s. It is a lively, colorful market with a vibrant energy where you will find many of the herbs and spices used in authentic Indian dishes that will satiate your Singapore sightseeing cravings.  

Kampong Kapor Methodist Church


Kampong Kapor Methodist Church

Kampong Kapor Methodist Church

There are two churches to visit in Little India, the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church and the Church of the True Light. The Kampong Kapor Methodist Church started as a group of 10 Malay speaking Chinese citizens. The actual church was built later in 1929 and revamped in its current Art Deco style in the 80s. The church offers services in English, Tamil, Malay and Peranakan and has missions in various countries across the world.


Church of the True Light

Church of the True Light

The Church of the True Light is an Anglican church in Campbell Road that was completed in 1952. It started as a congregation for Heng Hua and Hock Chew Chinese from Fujian that met in a barber shop. In 1940 the land was finally acquired and it took a few decades to raise funds to construct an actual building.

Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall


Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall

Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall

After the death of the famed activist, the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall was constructed in 1950 by the then Indian prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Starting as a small memorial the hall expanded into several buildings and even a library as a response to the public’s donations and proposals.

After renovations in 2011 the Hindi Society occupied the building, but you can still visit the impressive library that is filled with books about and by Gandhi, all in several languages. More info on the Memorial here.

Angullia Mosque

There are several Anguilla Mosques in Singapore, but the one in Little India was the first, being built in 1892 and completely reconstructed in 1970. The mosque is named after the famed wealthy Gujarati Muslim trader who sold spices, sugar, timber and other items. Angullia Mosque still belongs to the very same family, a direct line from Anguilla himself. More information can be found here.

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple


Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple came about after a group of Indian residents wanted a Hindu temple that was devoted to Narasinga, one of Vishnu’s avatars. Construction finally started in 1855 and was complete in 1885. The Chettiar community later brought in some more idols from India which led to the temple’s expansion in 1914.

After some renovations in the 1950s and a wedding hall financed by a famous local businessman, P. Govindasamy Pillai (PGP) in 1965, the temple changed its name to Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple translated as the source of light or abode of prosperity and has become one of the most famous Singapore tourist spots. Anyone looking to partake in the Thaipusam festival will start here.  

Learn about Islam at Abdul Gafoor Mosque


Abdul Gafoor Mosque exterior

Abdul Gafoor Mosque exterior

While there are flashier mosques in Little India and others with more history, Abdul Gafoor Mosque is a beautifully underrated mosque in Singapore’s Little India with beautifully intricate details to admire. The architectural design reflects Saracenic and Neoclassical elements with the facade holding a lovely sundial.

When I visited, one of the caretakers offered to walk me around the premises and told me more about Islam. I learned a lot about this often misunderstood religion and there are several books and pamphlets to take away for free. Remember to take off your shoes at the entrance and slip on one of the robes to cover your shoulders or legs.

Rex Cinema

Rex Cinema is an historical cinema that opened in 1946 on the former premises of the Singapore Boxing Club. It screens Tamil and Hindi movies to a primarily local audience. It is the meeting point for fun and entertainment for the Indian community in Singapore and really is a fantastic way to have an authentic experience.

Eat authentic Indian food


Ananda Bhavan food

Ananda Bhavan food


I absolutely love Indian food. I have visited the country too many times to mention and always enjoy visiting the many restaurants and tasting all the most authentic treats. Little India has some Indian institutions if you want to test the delicious dosas or vegetarian delights. When you’re looking for places to visit in Singapore, put all of the below on your list.

Little India has remained largely unchanged as Singapore embraces the hipster coffee shops and Western fine dining. Here are my favorite South Indian vegetarian restaurants in Singapore.

The first treat you should try in Singapore’s Little India is the south Indian dosa that is popular in Kerala, Karnataka and the Tamil Nadu states. The most popular place to chow down on dosas is the Mavalli Tiffin Room, or MTR, which is actually an outpost of the Bangalore based dosa institution located on Serangoon Road.

These dosas are actually quite unique in that they are both fluffy but crunchy, the masala dosa is my favorite. You should also try the vada idli, a great alternative to the rice based dishes as it is made with semolina. Remember to get mango lassi or a masala tea to wash everything down. MTR is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner only closing between lunch and dinner.

Another institution is The Banana Leaf Apolo that has been going since 1974. The restaurant serves mostly south Indian food on a banana leaf and you are expected to eat the food with your hands. The fish head curry and chicken tikka masala are both super spicy but oh so delicious.

If you can’t handle spicy food, you should rather give Banana Leaf a miss as they will not tone down the spiciness. There are two outlets, one on Race Course Road and one in the Little India Arcade. The Banana Leaf Apolo is only open for lunch and dinner. You can book a seat on their website here.


Komala Villas

Komala Villas

What can be more authentic than sitting on cushions on the floor? Komala Villas like the Banana Leaf serves meals on the same biodegradable dish and you should also eat with your hands. Opening its doors in 1946, Komala Villas also serves traditional South Indian and vegetarian with food like dosa, uttapam or vadas. Yet you will also find North Indian options with naan, rice and lentils in gravy.

While the original outlet is located on Serangoon Road there are other locations on Race Course Road and Buffalo Road with a sweets store on Serangoon Road.


Ananda Bhavan

Ananda Bhavan

The final restaurant I would recommend, and is one of the oldest opening in 1924, is Ananda Bhavan. While the original outlet is no longer standing, there are a few offshoots in Little India with the most vibrant one being in front of Mustafa Center.

You will find both North and South Indian vegetarian food served on banana leafs at mostly shared tables. You can get dosa or thali with lentils, potato curry, rice, papadom, chapati, chutneys and other curries. Ananda Bhavan serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. More information here.

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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


Ion Skyview

Ion Skyview

56 levels and 218 meters above Orchard Road ION Sky gives a great view over the commercial heart of the city. 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. In order to gain access to the deck, you will need to purchase S$50 worth of goods in the shops. Show your receipts to the reception at the desk to get a ticket. Receipts and entrance must on the same day.

Orchard road


Ion Orchard

Ion Orchard

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.

Emerald Hill

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.


No5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar

No5 Emerald Hill Cocktail Bar

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.

Botanic Gardens

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.


Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens

They are a wonderful place to stroll around, to read a book or to come for a picnic. There are also a couple of al fresco restaurants in the park that provide a great spot for a break.

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


Tiong Bahru

Tiong Bahru

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.

If you are not so keen on hawker center food, there are some great brunch spots in Tiong Bahru and one of the best croissants you will find in the city.

Street art in Tiong Bahru


Bird singing corner mural in Tiong Bahru Bird singing corner mural in Tiong Bahru

Bird singing corner mural in Tiong Bahru Bird singing corner mural 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.

BooksActually

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.

Butter coffee by day, yakitori by night


"Hua Bee Restaurant"

Hua Bee Restaurant

Hua Bee is one of the oldest coffee shops in Tiong Bahru and has been in operation since the 1940s when the uncle of the current operator, Ong Ngah (Hokkien for ‘baby’), opened it. The store started serving drinks, bread, and eggs and in the 60s added fishball noodles.

What makes this place unique is the fact that it is is one of the few remaining coffee shops in Singapore that still serves coffee with a slice of butter in it, well before this drink became a hipster trend. But this is not the fancy version you find in the large cities across the world, but rather a more humble version with traditional Chinese coffee and a simple slice of butter for just a couple of dollars.

The store became famous in the 90s because it was the set for Eric Khoo’s 1995 R rated movie, Mee Pok Man. The movie featured the love between a poor noodle seller and a prostitute and showed a. poor slum of Singapore. Its rating, and the many accolades it received abroad, made it an iconic film of the decade. It also starred Malaysian-born, Crazy Rich Asian star Michelle Goh as the young prostitute co-protagonist. The movie was replayed in 2014 and its rating changed in 2004 when Singapore reviewed the rules.

On top of being a drinks and noodle store, Hua Bee transforms into a refined and expensive Japanese yakitori restaurant at night under the name of Bincho, which can be accessed via the backdoor. The decor stays the same, but the front door of the restaurant remains closed and the alter ego of the place comes into play.

Qi Tian Gong Temple


Qi Tian Gong Temple

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


Tiong Bahru architecture

Tiong Bahru architecture

While it’s fun to see all the hipsters and trendoids walking around Tiong Bahru, one of the most interesting parts of this gentrified part of Singapore is its architecture.

Looking at the beautiful display of both late Art Deco Streamline moderne and colonial shop houses will transport you to somewhere in Singapore’s past before the housing development of the 50s kicked in.

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). There is also Block 78 which is shaped like a horseshoe.

The reason why most of these buildings look like various transportation is that the main architect, Alfred E. Church, was inspired by technology and speed. You will need to look closer to see the cars, trains, ocean liners and planes. There are also nautical elements within the houses like porthole windows and curved corners that are reminiscent of a ship’s bridge. 

On a closer look, you will notice the nautical elements built into the residential houses, such as the rounded windows, which resemble portholes; and the clean, curved corners that resemble the bridge of a ship.The architecture is best admired from a distance. Also look out for the Dancing Girl sculpture by Lim Nang Sang who also created the famous Merlion sculpture.

Singapore’s coffee culture


best cupcakes in Singapore Plain Vanilla cupcakes

Best cupcakes in Singapore, Plain Vanilla cupcakes

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.

Air Raid Shelter


Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter

Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter

Tiong Bahru is home to the first public air raid shelter in Singapore that was built for WWII. It’s located in the basement of block 78 in Guan Chuan Street, and was used by Singaporean citizens during the Japanese bombings of 1942. 

While the area was spacious for those who had to escape here (about 100 people at a time), there was limited ventilation so it could get very hot and extremely dark. They had to wait for about 20 mins until the sirens stopped. The windows were only added later after the shelter was converted into a warehouse.


Inside Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter

Inside Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter

There are free guided tours available from the National Heritage Board, but you can also go inside by yourself and read the various information plaques.

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


Shuang Lin Monastery

Shuang Lin Monastery

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.


Shuang Lin Monastery pagoda

Shuang Lin Monastery pagoda

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

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See

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.


Pagoda of 10000 Buddhas at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See

Pagoda of 10000 Buddhas at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See

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.

Coney Island

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


MacRitchie suspended bridge

MacRitchie suspended bridge

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.


View from MacRitchie suspended bridge

View from MacRitchie suspended bridge

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

Sungei Buloh

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.

Bollywood Veggies

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


Singapore Zoo

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.

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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. You can book a ticket to the zoo here, and you can reserve your night safari here.

Go to the races


Horse race at Kranji Racecourse

Horse race at Kranji Racecourse

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.

Lorong Buangkok

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. If you are interesting in finding out more about this area and its Malay heritage, you can book a tour online here.

So let’s see what’s there to do in the East of Singapore.

Go glamping


Glamping Society

Glamping Society

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.

Prawning

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

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

Singapore 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.

Golfing

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

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


Joo Chiat Shophouses

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.

Try durian


Durian and durian puff

Durian and durian puff

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.

Southern Islands


Kusu Islands. Photo courtesy of Allan Espolong

Kusu Islands. Photo courtesy of Allan Espolong

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.

Have an ice cream sandwich


Ice cream sandwich man

Ice cream sandwich man

An ice cream sandwich is another quirky Singaporean food that makes every Singaporean proud and is one of the most fun things to eat in Singapore.

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.