Singapore is one of my favorite countries to visit. I have been there at least 8 times, and will be living there for three month next winter. My first time there in 2002, we did all of the touristy thing—Raffles, the Night Safari at the Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, the Botanic Garden, Orchard Street, Chinatown—and some of these places have remained my favorites. There are also new places that have been built more recently or expanded—Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa, Gardens by the Bay, the ArtScience Museum.
1. Gardens by the Bay
The gardens are extensive, but the Supertrees are my favorite part. The Supertrees are between 80 and 160 feet tall and there is a walkway between some of them. Plants and ferns grow on the tree structures. We were there at sunset and saw the transition from day to night. The trees are lit at night and they are gorgeous. There are also more conventional gardens at this location—a flower dome, a cloud forest and a children’s garden. The MRT station is pretty far from the gardens but a new station much closer is slated to be opened in the next couple of years. Find out more about Gardens by the Bay Singapore here.
2. Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands is an engineering marvel that opened in 2010. It cost $8B to build and is a world unto itself with 2500+ rooms, a casino, shopping, and restaurants. The hotel infinity pool is at the top and has amazing views of the city, making it one of the top Instagram spots in Singapore. It is expensive to stay there but you can get a day pass to go up to the pool. I have only seen Marina Bay Sands from the ground and plan on going up to the top the next time I am in Singapore.
3. Clarke Quay
Last time I was in Singapore, I had dinner in Clarke Quay (pronounced “Key) and then took an after dinner stroll along the Singapore River. It is an area full of restaurants and bars and is beautifully lit at night. You can also take a boat ride on the river which I did on my first trip to Singapore. We watched a group of people go on the swing bungy which drops people from 50M high over the river. It was exciting to watch but I don’t think I’ll be doing that anytime soon.
4. Orchard Road and Shopping
Orchard Road is a long street full of shopping malls, one after another. Singapore is a shopping mecca and I have spent whole days in shopping Malls—ION, VivoCity, Bugis Junction and Suntec are just a few. Anything you want, you will find–from inexpensive to high end designer goods. I like to go to the malls in the middle of the day when it is hot outside.
5. Sentosa Island
Sentosa has undergone significant growth since I was first there in 2002. The highlight of my visit was the aquarium. We walked under a tunnel and saw fish and sharks swimming all around us. It was like being inside the aquarium. I also loved the Butterfly Park and spent quite a bit of time there trying to get the perfect butterfly photo.
Sentosa is full of things to do with a water park, beaches, adventure park and even a Madame Tussauds. If you want to go off the beaten track, you can also take a walk to the marina to see where Singapore’s uber-rich live.
By the way, here is my friend’s list of over 100 things to do in Singapore.
6. ArtScience Museum
The Art Science Museum is one of my favorite museums in the world. I love that it is a museum that brings together art and science. In March, I saw an exhibit on street art around the world. I also viewed the permanent exhibition called Future World: When Art Meets Science which was an unique experience of being immersed in a digital art installation. There was even an installation where visitors could use their own smart phones to create with the digital art.
7. Experience the Ethnic and Cultural Diversity: Chinatown, Arab Street, Little India
I love the diversity of Singapore. Walking down the street, you’ll see a Chinese Temple, a Hindu Temple, Buddhist Temple and a Church. Chinatown, Arab Street, Little India are all over the city. The food courts all have all different types of food. On my recent trip, I spent time in Little India—bustling even at 11 pm—and at Mustafa, a store with seven stories and bargains on everything from Indian spices to jewelry. It is very crowded on the weekends and is open 24 hours a day.
8. Jurong Bird Park
A morning at Jurong Bird Park was an opportunity for me to see birds I have never seen before. There are hundreds of species of birds in the park. There are huge aviaries and even penguins (indoors, of course). They now also have sleepovers for kids at the park.
9. Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Gardens has one of the best orchid gardens in the world. Coming from the northeastern United States, it is an unusual experience to see orchids in their natural climate. There are hundreds of types of orchids in the gardens. I love orchids and go to the gardens almost every visit. It’s best to go early in the morning to avoid the heat. For more on the Orchid Gardens, check out this post.
10. Hawker Center and Chili Crabs
Singaporeans are foodies and there are excellent places to eat all over the island. Chili Crab is Singapore’s national dish. It is spicy and delicious and comes with mantou (a bread for soaking in the sauce). I’ve been to Long Beach Seafood Jumbo Seafood and other places on the east coast. You can’t go wrong by taking a cab to any of the restaurants on the East Coast. Hawker Centers are where locals eat and I also love them. Market Street, Maxwell Place, Chinatown, Old Airport Road, Adams Road, Bedok are a few that I like. Once you arrive, look for the stalls with the longest lines—if you are patient, you’ll have an incredible dish. Read my post on Hawker centers for more information.
11. Nature Reserves– Bukit Timah and Surgei Buloh
Singapore is full of high rises and indoor malls, so when I had the chance to go the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, I took it. This was another morning excursion and it got plenty hot when I was done with my walk. The park is full of trees with an easy walkway. It was very tranquil. Next time I am in Singapore, I am planning to visit Surgei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
12. Haw Par Villa
One spot that most people do not go to is Haw Par Villa. I visited it with my partner, a Singaporean. Her parents brought here there regularly as a child (I think to make her behave). The Villa was built by one of the brothers from the family that started the Tiger Balm company. In it, you will see dioramas from Chinese mythology, including the 10 Courts of Hell, a crab with a female head, a love story between a snake and a man and other supernatural tales. It’s very unique and a definite experience not to miss. Some of the exhibitions are not appropriate for younger children.
13. Fishing Paradise in Orto
A friend of ours took us to go fishing at Fishing Paradise at Orto in Yishun. We caught a really big fish. Actually, he caught it and let us help. And then, made us hold it for a photo. It was very slimy. We released the big fish but kept one of the smaller ones to eat. Lots of Singaporeans go fishing in the ocean for squid and many other fish. Orto has other activities like go karts and paintball as well as a restaurant bar.
Hope you enjoyed this list of my top 13 things to do in Singapore. Have you been? What are your favorites?
About the Author: Sue Davies of Travel for Life Now
Sue Davies is an avid traveler and has been to 42 countries plus Antarctica. Her partner in life and travel, Regina Ang, is a native of Singapore. Together, they write the travel blog: TravelForLifeNow where they share their experiences viewing temples, wildlife, culture and having affordable off-the-beaten path adventures. Favorite experiences include kayaking in Antarctica, chasing the Northern Lights in Norway and camping in the Sahara Desert. Follow her on Twitter here.