Singapore is a city-state (similar to Monaco and the Vatican) located between Malaysia and Indonesia and is made up of about 60 islands. It’s multicultural, cosmopolitan, modern, and young. Here you’ll find a complete guide to visiting Singapore, including what to do, where to eat, and where to stay in one of the major destinations to visit in Southeast Asia.
Cultural plurality has existed in Singapore since its foundation in the 19th century, when the British began to use it as a commercial port. After gaining independence in the 1960s, Singapore left behind the port area that it was in the past to give way to growth. With a strong maritime history, Singapore managed to expand its area over the years, and today it plays an important role in the world economic scenario: it is one of the four Asian Tigers, one of the main financial centers and its port is one of the busiest in the world.
All of the cultural plurality and modernity of Singapore can be seen in its main attractions and modern buildings; including the largest infinity pool in the world, a 101-hectare park with man-created trees that are up to 50 meters high, and its ethnic neighborhoods.
What to do in Singapore – Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is one of the most famous attractions of Singapore and the reason for my fascination with the city. It’s like a futuristic botanical garden in an area that would fit 100 soccer fields. The highlight of the park are the giant Supertrees, which are artificial trees that reach up to 50 meters in height, and light up beautifully at night.
The park itself is free and you can walk around and be amazed by everything it has. You’ll also find a walkway among the Supertrees called Skyway (paid entrance required), from which you can climb up and walk among the Supertrees to have a panoramic view of the gardens and the surrounding areas.
Also, if you are not into being outdoors, you can head to the closed areas with air conditioning such as Flower Dome – the largest glass greenhouse ever seen worldwide; and Cloud Forest – a reproduction of tropical forest that displays rare plants, crystals, and houses the tallest indoor waterfall in the world.
What to do in Singapore – Art Science Museum
The Art Science Museum is a museum located at the Marina Bay Sands and its architecture is inspired by a beautiful lotus flower. It’s a must for every itinerary in Singapore.
When visiting the Art Science Museum, don’t miss the opportunity to see the Future World permanent exhibition; especially the Crystal Universe, where you can have a unique experience of walking on a path completely surrounded by LED lights from floor to ceiling.
What to do in Singapore – National Gallery
The National Gallery of Singapore is a space dedicated to the presentation, promotion, research, and study of the arts of Southeast Asia and Singapore, in addition to receiving international exhibitions. It’s also housed in two buildings that used to be the former Supreme Court and the City Hall.
Before you visit the National Gallery, make sure to check out the current exhibitions.
What to do in Singapore – Kampong Glam and Sultan Mosque
Kampong Glam is a super historic, cultural, and (currently) hipster district in Singapore. Here you’ll find street art and cafes, restaurants of different ethnicities and, if you are looking for something to buy, you’ll also find stores selling carpets, lamps, jewelry, souvenirs, etc.
While in Singapore, you can also visit the Sultan Mosque. Located at the Kampong Glam, it’s very easy to find it with its golden domes and palm trees in the middle of a busy, urban area. You can enter the mosque to learn about it with a guided tour which happens from Saturday to Thursday at 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 4 pm; and Friday at 2.30 pm and 4 pm (please check the current operation times).
What to do in Singapore – Little India
Little India is a historic area of Singapore and is the center of the Indian community in the city. In the surrounding area are temples, mosques, shops, and Indian restaurants.
In Little India, you’ll find the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Singapore, where you can enter for free and witness the ceremonies.
What to do in Singapore – Chinatown
As in many cities, Singapore’s Chinatown is also lively and colorful. In Chinatown, you’ll find street food, cute houses, and shops with facades painted in different colors, as well as temples such as the Tooth Relic Temple.
What to do in Singapore – Clarke Quay and Boat Quay
Clarke Quay and Boat Quay are on the banks of the river, have unique architecture in Singapore and in the area you will find several restaurants, bars and watch a lot of people coming and going.
What to do in Singapore – Marina Bay Waterfront / Merlion
The figure of Merlion, who is half fish and half lion, is the symbol of Singapore and also a free attraction in the city.
From the Merlion statue, you can watch the Spectra Water Show, a show that mixes water, lighting and sound in a spectacle that lasts approximately 15 minutes. It runs every night at 8 pm and 9 pm, with the addition of one more time on Fridays and Saturdays at 10 pm.
What to do in Singapore – Singapore Botanic Gardens
A haven in the midst of the fast-paced life of every big city, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is an excellent leisure area, whether for practicing physical activities or just taking a stroll and taking pictures. Admission is free, but the main attraction is paid separately (S$ 5), at the National Orchid Garden, where several species of orchids are placed – all with wildly different shapes and colors. The orchid is the national flower of Singapore.
What to do in Singapore – Singapore Flyer
The Singapore Flyer is a giant ferris wheel that is more than 160 meters high, making it visible from many different points in Singapore. It is taller than the London Eye, in London, and the complete turn (in air-conditioned cabins) lasts approximately 30 minutes.
What to do in Singapore – Orchard Road
Orchard Road is the equivalent of the Fifth Avenue, in New York, or the Champs-Élysées, in Paris, meaning it’s the place to shop in Singapore. There are countless malls with famous designer stores and a great variety of restaurants. Orchard Road is your place if you are interested in buying something and taking advantage of the tax refund.
What to do in Singapore – Chinese Garden
The Chinese Garden is a 13-acre garden filled with classic white bridges and Chinese pagodas. It is located slightly far from the city center, in western Singapore. The highlights here are the Bonsai Garden, an area with bonsai trees from different Asian countries, and the Bai Hong Qiao bridge.
What to do in Singapore – Sentosa Island
Sentosa is a resort island that deserves at least a full day of your itinerary or an overnight stay. The most beautiful way to get to Sentosa is by cable car. When you arrive, you can enjoy the Universal Studios theme park, relax on the artificial beaches and/or go to the Madame Tussauds museum.
Where to eat in Singapore
From Michelin-starred restaurants to street food stalls, the culinary options in Singapore promise to please all tastes (and budgets).
The city’s classics are: Song Fa Bak Kut Teh (famous for the pork rib soup that costs around S $7 and guaranteed its place on the Bib Gourmand guide); Din Tai Fung (Taipei’s chain famous for its Chinese dumplings); and Maxwell Food Center for chicken rice (choose one of the many stalls – I recommend the famous Tian Tian, Ah Tai and Maxwell – and enjoy the combination of rice and chicken for as little as S$ 3).
More luxurious restaurant alternatives in Singapore with Michelin stars are: Braci and Burnt Ends (the first Italian and the second with Australian barbecue, both with one star); and Oddete (inside the National Gallery and with two stars).
For drinks, options include Atlas (a bar with Great Gatsby vibes that has a full gin menu from different parts of the world, including Brazil and Peru); Potato Head (trendy Indonesian group offering special drinks, hamburgers and other foods); OUE (which has the perfect view of the Marina Bay, best to reserve a place on the balcony); Native (with a more sustainable proposal, using ingredients and liquors from Asia, such as Laos, Indonesia and Thailand); and Operation Dagger (which is a coffee shop during the day and at night turns into a bar with stylish drinks).
For coffee, brunch and other foods, I recommend Ronin Café (which has a very relaxed vibe); Fynn’s (place I always go for brunch on the weekends); Apiary (with ice cream and homemade desserts and with great quality – the coconut ice cream was added to my list of favorites); and Yixing Xuan Teahouse (which has a whole menu of teas and that also sells all the supplies for you to replicate at home).
Where to stay in Singapore
When it comes to accommodations, prices make Singapore closer to Europe than the rest of Southeast Asia, but I believe that hotels in the city complete your experience and are worth the investment.
Where to stay in Singapore – Marina Bay Sands (daily rates from S $ 420)
Marina Bay Sands is the most famous of all Singapore hotels is an architectural show and an attraction in itself. A hotel with 2,560 rooms spread over 57 floors of 3 futuristic towers, which are covered by the Sands Sky Park (which features the largest infinity pool in the world, almost 3 times the size of an Olympic pool). The complex also has a shopping mall, casino and the Art Science Museum.
Where to stay in Singapore – Mandarin Oriental (daily rates from S $ 340)
Located just a short walk from the Art Science Museum, some rooms at the Mandarin Oriental offer a ceiling-to-floor window with views of Singapore’s skyline. The highlights go to the pool on the 5th floor (with an Italian restaurant and exclusive drinks) and the Chinese restaurant that offers brunch at two times on weekends in the all you can eat style.
Where to stay in Singapore – The Westin Marina Bay (daily rates from S $ 380)
The Westin is an option of hotel in the business area of Singapore, but that’s also close to the Marina Bay Sands. The rooms have the same window style as the Mandarin, but they manage to be more comfortable and spacious. From the infinity pool on the 35th floor you can see the lotus flower at the Art Science Museum and from the hotel you can walk to Gardens by the Bay, Chinatown and nearby attractions.
Where to stay in Singapore – Shangri-la Singapore (daily rates from S $ 290)
Singapore’s Shangri-la was the first hotel of the chain and features a design that aims to integrate architecture with nature. When staying here, you’ll be close to Orchard Road (and its shopping centers) and the Botanical Gardens.
Where to stay in Singapore – Naumi Hotel (daily rates from S $ 280)
Close to the National Gallery and Clarke Quay, staying at Naumi Hotel you will be close to the action and still have access to the infinity pool on the 10th floor.
Practical information for visiting Singapore
The currency used is the Singapore dollar (SGD). International credit cards are widely accepted.
The official languages of Singapore are English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. “Singlish”, a combination of words and intonations in English, Malay and Mandarin, is widely spoken in Singapore, but is not easily understood by tourists.
Transport: The metro (MRT) is excellent and covers a wide part of the city.
Let me know in the comments what you think of Singapore and if you have been or intend to visit the city.
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