Though she may be small, Singapore is mighty. Spread across 64 islands, with the mainland only measuring 50 kilometres from east to west, and 27 kilometres from north to south, it packs a punch. Singapore is one of the world’s greenest cities despite many skyscrapers and apartment buildings, with its ethos of becoming a city within a garden (and not the other way around). It is also world-famous for its cultural and food scenes, so if you’re planning a holiday there soon, here are our favourite things to do in Singapore.
Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay are iconic, with their Supertree Grove often featured in postcard pictures of Singapore. You could easily spend at least half a day at Gardens by the Bay – from experiencing the gardens at 22 metres above the ground on the OCBC Skyway, to the popular Cloud Forest that mimics the ecology of the tropical highlands, to the dazzling twice-nightly Supertree Grove light show.
Singapore is renowned for its shopping culture, with more shopping malls per square mile than any other country in the world! No matter what you’re looking for, you’re bound to find it in one of the many malls on offer. Short on time? We recommend heading to Orchard Road, Singapore’s famous shopping street where if not neighbours, malls are interconnected making for easy passage. An added bonus? The shopping malls are an air-conditioned haven and a good spot to take a break from the intense humidity.
The almighty Marina Bay complex is sprawled across its namesake bay, presided over by the towering Marina Bay Sands hotel with what looks like a canoe on top. The area also has a lovely promenade, casino, convention centre, rooftop bar and restaurant and mall. It’s almost a micro city within a city. Enjoy a stroll along Marina Bay to see the 28-foot-tall MerLion statue before indulging in a drink at rooftop bar, Spago, with its impeccable 57th-floor views, and having a meal at one of the many eateries in Marina Bay Sands shopping mall. Marina Bay was designed by architect Moshe Safdie, who also designed Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport.
Sentosa Island day trip
One of the easiest day trips to take, Sentosa Island is just a short distance from mainland Singapore. You can take the Sentosa Express train, Singapore cable car or Sentosa boardwalk to reach the island depending on your time and budget. At just under 5 km2, Sentosa is jam-packed with attractions, spa and wellness retreats, and dining options. Its most popular places include the S.E.A Aquarium, Universal Studios, and the Sentosa Golf Club.
Singapore is a foodie’s heaven with its cuisine influenced by countries like Malaysia, China and India. You can choose to eat at a high-end restaurant but to get a real feel for Singapore, you must visit a couple of hawker markets like Tiong Bahru Market in its namesake neighbourhood or Maxwell Road Food Centre in Chinatown. These are open-air food courts where you’ll find each stall selling extremely affordable food. Popular dishes include kaya toast, laksa, Hainanese chicken rice and chilli crab; all considered to be national dishes of Singapore.
With the high humidity and temperatures, it’s essential to stay hydrated! Start your day off with a traditional kopi-o (black coffee with sugar) or teh tarik (mixed to the perfect drinking temperature by ‘pulling’ it back and forth between two vessels); enjoy a refreshing bubble tea or sugarcane juice at lunch time; and end the day with a classic Singapore Sling. This cocktail was invented at the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel in 1915. Sip your cocktail while munching on peanuts and brushing their shells onto the floor for an iconic Singapore experience.
Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Botanic Gardens were founded in 1859. This lush green space is divided into three ‘cores’ for you to explore: the Tanglin core (the garden’s oldest with its entrance at the historic Tanglin Gate), the Tyersall-Gallop core (interspersed with the existing rainforest) and the Bukit Timah core (built for the children of Singapore with treehouses and a farm). We particularly love the National Orchid Garden which features over 1,000 species of the delicate flower, as well as 2,000 hybrids.
National Gallery Singapore
For the art-lovers, we would recommend allowing at least half a day to do the National Gallery Singapore justice. Here, you’ll find over 9,000 pieces of artwork, the largest public collection of modern art in Southeast Asia!
Explore various neighbourhoods
Even though mainland Singapore isn’t very big, its diverse melting pot of cultures means it is full of vibrant pockets of community. Discover Kampong Glam, the Muslim Quarter, which has been around since the 1800’s and is the perfect combination of religion, the old and the new; or Little India, one of the most colourful neighbourhoods that there is with shopping, food and history around every corner.
Jewel Changi Airport
Just like the Marina Bay area, Jewel Changi Airport was also designed by the famous architect Moshe Safdie. With a nod to Singapore’s nature ethos, the Jewel’s centrepiece is the Rain Vortex (the world’s tallest indoor waterfall) which is surrounded by a terraced forest. The Jewel is also a shopping, dining and entertainment hub – so much so that it is a tourist attraction (whether you’re catching a flight or not), and Changi Airport offers travellers an extra early check in so you have time to explore before their flight.
For first-time travellers, this is just a selection of our favourite things to do in Singapore. It is the perfect destination for a stopover or holiday with plenty to see, do and eat. Spend 4 days here on Globus’ Independent Singapore package or add it as an extension to some of our Asia tours.