We highly recommend spending a few extra days in Singapore to explore this little red dot that presents a melting pot of architecture, culture and food. From the visual treat that is Gardens by the Bay, the colourful neighbourhoods of Little India and Chinatown, Michelin starred hawker food (link to dining), to old temples juxtaposed against shiny new skyscrapers with
rooftop bars (link to dining/bars). Here’s the lowdown of all the best things to see and do in Singapore.
1. Admire the view from Marina Bay Sands (MBS)
Where do you start when exploring a new city? For the best views and to get an overall impression of Singapore- start at the very top. Sands SkyPark Observation Deck is just the place, perched on top of Marina Bay Sands. The view is equally incredible by day where you can see across the sea or at night when the glittering skyline twinkles with city lights. The price to access the observation deck is S$23 (you can buy tickets online).
This lets you access the outer edge of the viewing deck, while if you visit the Ce La Vi bar (similarly priced but redeemable against a drink) you can still have magnificent views, and relax at a shaded table but you won’t be able to access the lower deck.
Sands SkyPark Observation Deck
Ce La Vi L57-01, North Sky Park, Sands
Skypark Hotel Lobby,
Tower 3, Singapore
Tel: (+65) 6688 8888,
2. Take a culinary or sightseeing tour
Sideways Vespa Sidecar Touroffers a novel way to see Singapore from the sidecar of a vintage Vespa and allows you access to all the hard to access back streets.
Take a Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour to get a guided view of the city complete with multilingual onboard commentaries – it’s a great way to take in all the sights with minimum effort. There’s also the amphibious DUCK tour on a vehicle that navigates both land and water which kids will enjoy.
Trishaw Uncle will pedal you all over central Singapore in his little three wheeled trishaw of yesteryear – a fun experience for the family.
If you are on a time budget note that Changi airport offers a free sightseeing bus tour straight from the airport (book ahead).
Foodies can book a culinary tour at a food market to sample local delicacies with Wok N Stroll, or dine in someone’s house for the ultimate appreciation of local culture and food with Noshtrekker. While Jane Tours offers black and white house tours, neighbourhood tours and culinary tours too.
3. Visit Gardens by the Bay or Botanical Gardens
The “garden city” initiative by the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has resulted in an amazing abundance of greenery and parks in Singapore. Gardens by the Bay with its magnificent Supertree grove, flecked with purple is one of the most recognisable attractions in Singapore. There is direct access from MBS hotel into Gardens by the Bay (free to enter). If you are travelling with kids, bring their swimmers as there is a fantastic free outdoor water play area with fountains and a playground. Then make your way through the gardens towards the OCBC Skyway atop the Supertree Grove. This raised walkway (S$8) affords excellent views of the gardens so get your camera ready! If it’s raining (or if the heat becomes too much) you can visit the indoor climate controlled conservatory Cloud Forest and Flower Dome inside Gardens by the Bay (ticketed) where you’ll see rare flora and fauna plus the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.
Another park worth a stroll in is the UNESCO world heritage site of the Singapore Botanic Gardens which is free to enter. Check out the National Orchid Garden while you are there (fees apply) and if you have kids, search out the free Jacob Ballas children’s garden complete with a treehouse, slides, sandpit, waterplay (bring swimmers) and vegetable garden.
4. Check out Chinatown
Start at Temple Street or Pagoda Street where you can browse the trinket shops and purchase a memento teapot with matching cups, chopsticks with your name on them and other knick-knacks. If you are here on the weekend, know that free
walking tours take place every Saturday at the Chinatown Visitors Centre at 10:00am (reserve ahead). Look out for the stunning Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum* which is worth a look around. There are restaurants for lunch in Chinatown and nearby Ann Siang Hill with its colourful shophouses or check out a hawker market in our ‘Where To Eat’ guide (link to f&b).
Chinatown Visitors Centre,
2 Banda Street,
5. Look around a museum
For a spot of culture there are plenty of museums worth a visit. Adults and kidsalike will love the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay offering a highly interactive digital-forward experience at Future World amongst other temporary exhibitions. The compact yet highly recommended Chinatown Heritage Centre offers a glimpse into the lives of Chinatown’s early migrant residents. For art lovers, check out the stunning National Art Gallery housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall, and the National Museum of Singapore which showcases the country’s history and culture.
6. Visit the zoo or aquarium
Consider a trip to the Singapore Zoo, one of the world’s best zoos which is home to over 2,800 animals including free-ranging orang-utans. Or for marine lovers, the stunning S.E.A Aquarium where you can admire manta ray, sharks and other marine animals through the world’s largest ocean viewing window.
7. Get you thrills at Universal Studios
Sentosa is home to Universal Studios Singapore featuring 24 rides, shows and movie-themed attractions including Battlestar Galactica, Transformers The Ride and Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase. There are other thrill seeker’s activities on the island too from bungee jumping to indoor skydiving, and for kids – the Luge with its go karts, plus beaches aplenty and the free water playground at the Palawan pirate ship.
8. Look around Little India
Tekka Centre is one of Singapore’s most vibrant wet markets where you’ll find stalls of spices and stunningly colourful fresh produce from exotic vegetables and herbs to coconuts (try some refreshing coconut water straight out of the shell at one of the drinks stalls), to counters of fresh seafood. A separate section of Tekka Centre sells made-to-order hawker food from prata to biryani, where you can fuel up before your next stop. Food stalls are rated “A” to C for hygiene (“A” being the cleanest). A few streets down, take a peak inside the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples*. There’s plenty of opportunity to window shop at the various gold and sari shops along the way.
665 Buffalo & Serangoon Roads,
Little India, Singapore
Tel: +65 6733 2225
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple,
141 Serangoon Road, Little India,
9. Take a riverboat ride
If time allows, jump on the river taxi (5pm – 7pm and 8am-10am weekdays only, ticketed) at Esplanade for a scenic tour of Marina Bay. Your riverboat will take you past Boat Quay, colourful Clarke Quay and on to Robertson Quay where you can get off and have signature Singapore Chilli Crab at Red House (see other dining options here – link-) or complete the tour and end up back at Esplanade for views of the Merlion, Singapore Flyer, the Helix Bridge and the CBD skyline.
10. Sip a Singapore Sling admiring Singapore’s skyline
Sipping a cocktail and admiring Singapore’s glittering skyline by night is a definite must-do. Take your pick from one of the many rooftop bars from Ce La Vi to Level 33 (link). Time your rooftop visit well and you’ll also be able to catch the Marina Bay Sands ‘Spectra’, a free outdoor light and water show staged to the symphony of music, displayed over the water at the MBS promenade nightly at 8pm and 9pm.