With beautiful gardens, incredible architecture, and some of the best food on the planet, Singapore has earnt every one of its superlatives. Enjoy the best the island nation has to offer with our pick of the best things to do in Singapore.
In recent decades, few cities have seen as much change as Singapore. Transformed from colonial outpost to a garden city at the heart of Asia, Singapore’s journey has been remarkable.
Today, famously clean streets, framed by leafy gardens, are overlooked by colonial-era shophouses under a futuristic skyline.
Tucked amongst the diverse neighbourhoods are a host of excellent activities unique to Garden City.
Enjoy the best of this culture-rich, food-obsessed city-state with our curated guide to the very best things to do in Singapore.
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1 – NATIONAL GALLERY OF SINGAPORE
The National Gallery of Singapore opened in 2015 after a 10-year renovation to convert two national monuments into the world’s largest collection of modern Southeast Asian Art.
Formerly the City Hall and the Supreme Court, the new gallery is a fitting tribute to Singapore’s central role in the development of Southeast Asian art.
The collection features a huge array of modern art explaining the influence of European culture on Asian techniques as well as a special focus on life in Singapore throughout the years.
One of the highlights is Xu Beihong’s portrait of Lim Loh – one of the pioneers of Singapore who fought with the Chinese against the Japanese.
Don’t Miss — After strolling through the galleries, visit the old government buildings. The former Supreme Court foyer has a history of Singapore, and the Rotunda Library and Archive is one of the many great photo opportunities in the building.
DETAILS | NATIONAL GALLERY OF SINGAPORE
hours – 10 am to 7 pm daily | cost – $20 | free guided tours – Friday to Sunday 1:30 pm
2 – GARDENS BY THE BAY
Gardens by the Bay is a massive horticultural extravaganza on a large area of reclaimed land. It includes greenhouse domes and huge tree-shaped structures lined with solar cells. It is rightly, one of the most popular things to do in Singapore.
There are two main sections to Gardens by the Bay: The Flower Dome & Cloud Forest and Supertree Grove.
FLOWER DOME & CLOUD FOREST
These two gigantic greenhouse domes bring a wonderful mix of the world’s flora to the edges of Singapore.
Cooled to a delightful 23°C – 25°C, the Flower Dome is the world’s largest glass greenhouse. Inside, explore a huge array of plants from Australia, South Africa, California, and the Mediterranean.
Next door, the Cloud Forest is an indoor tropical forest featuring a 35-metre waterfall and exotic plants only found above 2,000 metres. It’s best seen from the aerial walkway that winds around the roof of the dome.
Tickets — $53 for both | hours – 9 am to 9 pm | Guided Tours – Free tours of the Flower Dome are available on selected days between 2 pm and 5 pm. Check their website for dates.
Gardens of the Bay includes a grove of 12 supertrees. Acting as giant vertical gardens, they contain thousands of plants from over 200 species. It’s free to stroll around Supertree Grove (5 am to 2 am) however, there are a few other ways to take in the massive spectacle.
Supertree Observatory // Located on the top of the largest supertree, equivalent to 16 storeys high, the Supertree Observatory provides one of the best views of the Gardens by the Bay. Hours – 9 am to 9 pm | Cost – $14.
OCBC Skyway // This 128-metre curved walkway is suspended 22 metres above the ground between 2 of the supertrees allowing for a closer inspection of the structures and their plants. Hours – 9 am to 9 pm | Cost – $12.
In our opinion, there’s not much point paying for both the Supertree Observatory and the OCBC Skyway. Start with the observatory which provides a better view, then decide if it’s worth doing the walkway, which you can see below you.
Garden Rhapsody // At night the solar cells on the Supertrees come ablaze in a 15-minute light and sound show. Performances start at 7:45 pm and 8:45 pm every day. The best viewing spot is the circular platform between the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the gardens.
3 – MARINA BAY SANDS SKYPARK OBSERVATION DECK
With its boat-shaped roof and dramatic location, Marina Bay Sands Hotel has become the iconic feature of the Singapore skyline and an unmissable experience in the city.
The SkyPark Observation Deck, 56 stories above the bay on top of the hotel, provides amazing panoramic views of Singapore, Gardens by the Bay, and the nearby Southern Ridges.
How & When — A timed-entry reservation must be booked in advance – book here. The SkyPark Observation Deck is open from 11 am to 9 pm with the final entry at 8:30 pm. Aim for thirty minutes before sunset to catch the best light.
Facilities on the SkyPark Observation Deck — There is a small bar selling beer, wine, Singapore Slings, and some basic snacks so you can have a drink to watch the sunset. However, it’s standing room only; there are no seats on the deck to take in the views and the other bars on the roof are not accessible with a SkyPark ticket.
How to get to SkyPark — From the Marina Bay Sands Shopping Mall, follow the signs to the SkyPark Observation Deck. The entrance is in the northern tower of the Marina Bay Sands hotel.
4 – SPECTRA SOUND & LIGHT FOUNTAIN SHOW ON MARINA BAY PROMENADE
Spectra, a futuristic sound and light show on the Marina Bay Promenade, is one of the most entertaining, free things to do in Singapore.
The 15-minute outdoor production features dancing water fountains, light projections and lasers, choreographed to a spirited orchestral soundtrack. It’s an awesome spectacle that easily rivals the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.
Best location to see Spectra — The best location to see Spectra is from the promenade just in front of the Marina Bay Sands Shopping Mall. However, you’ll need to get there a few minutes early for a position at the front.
Sunday to Thursday
8 pm | 9 pm
Friday & Saturday
8 pm | 9 pm | 10 pm
5 – SINGAPORE BOTANICAL GARDENS
Located at the end of Orchard Road, the Singapore Botanical Gardens is the only tropical garden in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The gardens were established on the current site in 1859 and played an important role in transforming Singapore into a Garden City.
Spread across 82 hectares, the gardens are one of the best things to do in Singapore when you’re up for a shady way to relax.
National Orchid Garden // The highlight in the Botanical Gardens is the National Orchid Garden which contains thousands of species of orchids. There’s an easy path to stroll around and a beautiful coolhouse that recreates the environment of a tropical forest.
DETAILS | SINGAPORE BOTANICAL GARDEN
hours – 5 am to Midnight, daily | cost – free, except for the National Orchid Garden which is €15 (8:30 am to 7 pm).
6 – BOAT QUAY & CLARKE QUAY
Boat Quay is a historic section of riverside entertainment set beneath Singapore’s modern skyscrapers. A charming row of colonial-style buildings are bursting with every conceivable cuisine along with touts encouraging you into their establishments. You’re not going to find the best quality food Singapore has to offer, but it’s great for a boozy night out.
Clarke Quay is a riverside entertainment venue, reclaimed from old warehouses. It’s particularly buzzy on Friday and Saturday nights with pubs lining the water and a host of restaurants located around the area.
It’s currently undergoing restoration work so much of the area is covered up with construction boardings. Most of the restaurants are still operational and the riverside section is still walkable.
7 – EXPLORE SINGAPORE’S DIVERSE NEIGHBOURHOODS
Singapore is a multicultural city and tucked between its skyscrapers are some wonderfully quirky neighbourhoods to explore. Each reflecting the different populations that have contributed to Singapore’s success.
It’s only a few blocks wide, but the streets to the west of the Esplanade are packed with some wonderful old buildings. Here you’ll find grand museums, whitewashed stucco houses and one of Singapore’s premier addresses: The Fullerton Hotel. Make sure you pop into the lobby.
Chinatown is the epicurean epicentre of Singapore. The maze of narrow roads includes souvenir shops, boutiques and trendy wine bars, making it a popular attraction in Singapore. The highlight is Chinatown Food Street, a hawker centre with an amazing array of street food on Smith Street.
Kampong Glam is Singapore’s Muslim Quarter and one of the city’s oldest residential areas. The best streets to explore are Haji Lane and Arab street; two narrow laneways comprising 19th-century shophouses converted to cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. Grab a coffee at %Arabica and stroll past the gold-domed Sultan Mosque.
8 – LONG BAR RAFFLES
Raffles is a luxury colonial-style hotel in the heart of Singapore with tree-lined courtyards, boutique retail outlets, and high-end restaurants.
Originally the Long Bar was nothing more than a row of tables pushed together facing the road; a meeting point for Malay rubber workers farming the surrounding plantations.
Although it’s had many homes within the hotel, the Long Bar retains the earthy décor inspired by Malay life in the 1920s. In keeping with the bars relaxed roots, it’s still socially acceptable to throw your discarded peanut shells on the floor, about the only place in Singapore where littering is tolerated.
The Singapore Sling was invented in Raffles in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon who designed a colourful gin-based cocktail that allowed women to covertly drink alcohol in public when it was not the etiquette of the time.
A Singapore Sling is a whopping $37 at the Long Bar but other cocktails are a more reasonable $28, while a beer is even better value. The queues can be long and we estimate you should allow about 1 minute per person in front of you.
9 – SOUTHERN RIDGES WALK
The Southern Ridges is a 10-kilometre hiking trail connecting 5 of Singapore’s most popular open spaces: Kent Ridge Park, Hort Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Mount Faber Park, and Labrador Nature Reserve.
Hiking in these green spaces as skyscrapers flit in and out of view is one of our favourite things to do in Singapore, especially on a hot day.
The best section of the walk is about 6 kilometres long and takes about 2 to 3 hours. It begins at car park B at the top of Vigilante Road in the Kent Ridge Park and winds its way eastwards along the top of the ridge taking in several sights.
ATTRACTIONS ON THE SOUTHERN RIDGES WALK
- Canopy Walk // A 280-metre elevated boardwalk that explores the forest canopy.
- Hort Park – Themed and landscaped gardens including a greenhouse, café, fine dining, and toilets.
- Alexandra Arch // An 80-metre-long bridge shaped like a giant leaf. LED lights on the bridge change colour as dusk falls.
- Forest Walk // A 1.3-kilometre elevated walkway zig-zagging through the canopy of the forest.
- Henderson Waves // A 274-metre wooden pedestrian bridge shaped like a wave, lit by LED lights from 7 pm to 7 am.
- Mount Faber // A high viewpoint over the city and docks. A cable car runs down to the MRT station at the bottom of the hill and then across the water to Sentosa Island.
10 – NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE
The National Museum of Singapore is a fascinating exhibition that explores life in Singapore across different stages of its evolution, evocatively displayed in various permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Modern Colony showcases the cosmopolitan life of Singapore as a British Colony in the 1920s when women started to occupy more visible public roles.
Growing Up explores life in Singapore in the 1960s when newly acquired independence bought uncertainties, social unrest, and an emerging cultural style.
There’s also an immersive installation that transforms drawings from natural history into 3-dimensional animations on a multilevel dome.
DETAILS | NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE
hours – 10 am to 7 pm daily | cost – $15 (free for Singapore Citizens)
11 – HAWKER CENTRES & STREET FOOD
Hawker Centres are an essential part of Singapore life. These open-air food courts with a variety of cuisines, serve some of the best and cheapest food in the city with a healthy dose of atmosphere.
Here are a few to check out.
BOON TAT SATAY MARKET & LAU PA SAT HAWKER CENTRE
Each night, the cars of Boon Tat Street are replaced with plastic tables as smoke wafts from the row of street food vendors serving nothing but satay. Affectionately known as Satay Street, it’s one of the best foody experiences in Singapore.
If you’re not up for satay, head inside to the Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre for a wide selection of cuisines.
The Hawker Centre is open daily from 7 am to 2 am. Satay Street starts from 7 pm each night.
MAKANSUTRA GLUTTONS BAY
Gluttons Bay is a pedestrianised street in the Marina Bay area lined with an appetising selection of food stalls.
There’s plenty to tuck into including Thai, halal Italian, Chinese, as well as kebab delights from Pakistan. Cool off with an interesting assortment of chilled desserts from the Sweet Spot and grab a drink from the Gluttons Bar.
Gluttons Bay is open from 4 pm to 11 pm Tuesday to Thursday; 4 pm to 11:30 pm Friday and Saturday; and 3 pm to 11:30 pm on Sunday. Closed Monday.
CHINA TOWN COMPLEX
The Chinatown Complex has over 260 stalls serving a huge selection of food from around the globe. Local dishes include chili crab, BBQ chicken wings, char kway teow, and chicken fried rice. The specialty is Xiao long bao, the small Chinese soup-filled dumplings.
Chinatown Complex is a lunch venue open from 12 pm to 7 pm.
With designer brand names, unique products, and a culture of embracing a craft, Singapore is a great destination for shopping.
Orchard Road // Orchard Road is one of the most popular destinations for shopping in Singapore. Huge malls provide an escape from the heat and a great place to pick up some big brand names.
Raffles City // Raffles City is a huge shopping mall in the Civic District of Singapore. You’ll find designer brands; big department stores and a very popular food court.
Shoppes At Marina Bay Sands // The shopping mall at Marina Bay Sands has the largest collection of luxury brands in Southeast Asia across 800,000 square feet of retail indulgence.
13 – HAVE A NIGHT OUT ON AMOY STREET
Located within Chinatown, Amoy Street has a rich history of being the meeting place for a night out in Singapore. Originally the home to Malay, Chinese and Arab immigrants, Amoy Street later became the opium-smoking centre of colonial Singapore.
The street’s iconic shophouses were added in the 1830s and today they are filled with eateries, bars and cafes catering to food-obsessed Singaporeans.
Here are a few places to try in Amoy Street.
Dumpling Darlings // For a variety of delicious, creative dumplings, a few well-executed noodle dishes and a winning cocktail list, Dumpling Darlings is a great way to embrace Singapore’s relaxed food culture.
Hashida // Hashida showcases the craft and precision of Japanese cooking in a refined experience by renowned master chef Kenjiro Hashida. It’s top-end dining with sleek service and incredible food.
Birds of a Feather // Spice up your Singapore evening with the Sichuan Flavours at Birds of a Feather. Set in a restored shophouse, contemporary western cuisine is delivered with Asian romance.
Employees Only // Employees Only is a hidden cocktail bar with a dark and moody speakeasy vibe. Pull up a seat at the bar and order a creative cocktail or book ahead for New York-inspired eats.
14 – TAKE IN THE VIEWS FROM A ROOFTOP BAR
Singapore has a skyline worth savouring from above. Enjoy a cocktail with a view from one of our favourite rooftop bars in Singapore.
LeVel 33 // Level 33 is a microbrewery with one of the best views in Singapore. Located in the Marina Bay Financial District, the bar has sweeping views of Marina Bay Sands and the city skyline. To score a good seat on the outdoor deck, it’s a good idea to book in advance – level33.com.sg
Cé La Vi // Cé La Vi is the rooftop bar and restaurant on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. They have a restaurant and a club, but for the best views, it’s hard to go past the Skybar. Booking ahead is advisable – celavi.com
SKAI Bar // For contemporary dining and crafty cocktails, the SKAI Bar at Swissôtel The Stamford offers awesome views in a Scandi-inspired setting. Bookings can be made for the restaurant or bar on their website – skai.sg
15 – JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT
More than just a transport hub, Jewel Changi Airport is a must-see Singapore attraction. A 10-story dome-shaped façade of glass and steel houses a host of entertainment options, restaurants, retail outlets and unique urban spaces.
The highlight is the 40-metre rain vortex, surrounded by a rainforest containing over 2,000 trees. On the rooftop, stroll among 14,000 square metres of gardens, walking trails and play areas.
Some of the highlights at Jewel include –
HSBC Rain Vortex // The mighty cascade at the centre of Jewel is the largest indoor waterfall in the world. There’s a light and sound show daily at 7:30 pm, 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
Shiseido Forest Valley // With the waterfall at the core, the Shiseido Forest Valley is a lush tranquil space to unwind while waiting for your flight. A gentle hike circles through the forest from the ground floor to the Canopy Park on the top level.
Butterfly Garden // A tropical habitat with a profusion of flowering plants, lush greenery and a 6-metre grotto waterfall is home to over 1,000 butterflies across 40 species.
Paid Attractions // While the Forest Valley, Rain Vortex & Butterfly Garden are open 24 hours a day and free to visit, there are also a few attractions with an entrance fee including a Hedge Maze, Walking Nets and a Canopy Bridge.
THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE WITH KIDS
Singapore has a passion for food and a reputation for quality bars. But there’s plenty to do in Singapore with kids.
The Singapore Zoo occupies 28 hectares on a forested catchment area on the northwest side of the island. It’s regarded as one of the best rainforest zoos in the world. Open 8 am to 6:30 pm daily.
Take a tram ride through the jungle to see a myriad of nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. Hotel pick-up and guide is included. Book online via getyourguide.com which includes an option of taking dinner.
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS SINGAPORE
Get a dose of adrenaline at Universal Studios Singapore with rides, shows and attractions across various themed sections based on blockbuster movies and TV shows. The park is open from 11 am to 6 pm. Book skip-the-line tickets from getyourguide.com.
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