Singapore has earned a reputation as an expensive stopover destination, but truthfully, it is so much more. It has a rich and diverse culture that can be explored all throughout the city. The food is among both the most affordable and most delicious cuisines in the world. Locals in Singapore are friendly, the public transport system is efficient, and the sidewalks are impeccable.
As a result of all this, Singapore is an amazing city to visit with so many things to do and places to visit. When you’re planning a trip to Singapore, here are 12 places you should go. If you follow along, you’ll experience Singapore more like a local than you would if you merely visited Orchard Road.
1. Visit Gardens by the Bay
Beautiful greenery and towering, metal tree-like structures blend together to create Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.
It is a stunning feat of architecture, where these huge ‘supertrees’ generate power, collect rainwater, and contribute to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere. The structures are filled with thousands of trees and look incredible.
Two supertrees are connected by a large sky bridge, called the OCBC Skyway. Consider checking this out during sunset as the view looks out over Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, and the entire Gardens by the Bay.
The stars of the show, however, are the two large domes—the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. The Cloud Forest contains the second tallest indoor waterfall in the world and is designed to mimic a real-life cloud forest.
The Flower Dome contains thousands of flowers and beautiful sculptures. It is certainly impressive, but if you’re short on time then consider giving this one a miss.
Getting to Gardens by the Bay
If you’re staying centrally, you can definitely walk to Gardens by the Bay. Alternatively, Grab (a local version of Uber) is an affordable option in Singapore. If you pick up a Singapore Tourist Pass, consider taking the Circle Line or Downtown Line and alight at Bayfront MRT station.
What it Costs: SGD $28 for both domes, but it’s cheaper if you choose to do just one. SGD $8 for the OCBC Skyway.
2. Eat at a Hawker Centre
In 1967, Singapore separated from Malaysia. There was a lot of work to be done to advance the country, and one of the first issues to resolve was one of unsanitary food preparation by street hawkers.
Singapore’s solution was the introduction of government-owned “hawker centers” all around the country. These were food courts where street vendors could now set up and ell their food with affordable rents.
The government ensured stringent sanitary regulations were adhered to by the vendors.
Today, hawker centers are where most locals eat their meals, and visiting one is absolutely one of the best things to do. They are cheap, hygienic, and absolutely delicious.
We recommend tourists aim to eat most of their meals at hawker centers in Singapore as they are where you find the best and most authentic dishes.
What to Try: Roti prata, mee goreng, laksa, and samba; stingray.
3. Shop on Orchard Road
Singapore has earned a reputation worldwide for its shopping, and nowhere in Singapore is more renowned for it than Orchard Road.
This is one of the city’s best places to visit. Here you will find countless shopping malls lining the street. High-end, air-conditioned shops are abundant. Most are boutique shops and luxury brands—any popular brand you can think of, you’ll find it here. Some popular brands, such as Prada or Gucci, even have numerous shops along the street.
If you’re a big shopper with money to spend, then Orchard Road will be the place for you. If you’re on a backpacker budget, then you have Lucky Plaza in the middle of the street, where you can find cheap shops and a bunch of reasonable moneychangers.
Even if you aren’t into shopping, Orchard Road is well worth spending a couple of hours. At the very least, the air-conditioned malls offer respite from the Singapore heat.
4. See the Monkeys & Explore Macritchie Reservoir Park
Singapore has maintained Macritchie Reservoir as it’s the oldest reservoir in Singapore, offering a massive green space in the center of the island.
The park contains a four-hour track that takes you all around the island.
Wildlife is abundant here, with a lot of the native animals to Singapore found within the park (thankfully, excluding the tigers). Avoid interacting with the animals, including the monkeys.
There is a cool treetop walkway in the middle of the park where you can cross a suspended bridge 25-meters above the ground. This is a great way to see the forest from the sky, but not for those who are afraid of heights.
Safety tips for being around monkeys: Never feed any wildlife in Singapore, especially monkeys. Be conscious of any food you are carrying and make sure to hide it deep inside your bag. Do not corner monkeys and avoid eye contact. They can be cute, but they can also be very aggressive.
5. Eat & Shop in Chinatown
Skyscrapers tower above the old quarter of Chinatown, located right in the heart of downtown Singapore.
The entire area is alive with shops, stalls, and markets offering countless souvenirs and trinkets. As a result, Chinatown is one of the best places to visit in Singapore if you’re shopping for gifts to take back home.
Sri Mariamman Temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple are found within Chinatown and are a great way to experience Singapore’s diverse cultures. The Sri Mariamman Temple is a Hindu temple found right in the heart of Chinatown, with exquisite interior detailing and colors.
The Buddha Tooth Relic temple is worth visiting as it’s a five-story museum where you can browse historic relics and artifacts.
What to eat in Chinatown
More than just affordable shopping, Chinatown is, unsurprisingly, home to some of the best Chinese food in Singapore. Make sure to try the classic dishes like Hainanese rice, pork buns, and dumplings at the Maxwell Food Centre.
6. Explore Clarke Quay & Visit the Merlion
Consider spending an evening exploring Clarke Quay in downtown Singapore, one of my favorite places to visit.
You’ll find a bunch of upscale eateries, bars, and nightclubs, as well as bridges across the rivers and boats to take you along it.
You can take a walk along the canal which will take you all the way to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel at the end. Along the walk, you will find countless photo opportunities as the sun sets lighting up the Marina Bay Sands Hotel across the water.
The Merlion was also relocated to the iconic Merlion Park in 2002. If you choose to walk along the pathway, you will cross paths with it. You have to take the time to visit the merlion and take a photo if you’re in Singapore.
7. Go to the Asian Civilisations Museum
Gain a better understanding of Singapore’s history and culture by visiting the Asian Civilisations Museum and National Gallery.
Here, you will get to explore Asian civilizations whilst focussing on how they interconnect with Singapore’s history.
I try my best to learn about the history of any new place I visit and I found the Asian Civilisations Museum to be the best place in Singapore for this. Another great spot is the Peranakan Museum located at the foot of Fort Canning Park.
Singapore also holds a massive event called the Singapore Bicentennial Experience. If this is on when you’re visiting, definitely grab some tickets and go along—it is entirely free.
8. Stroll down Arab Street & Haji Lane
Singapore has a significant Islamic community, and Arab Street is the cultural hub for the community.
It is a creative spot where you can find numerous trendy hangouts and cafes. Kampong Glam Cafe is one great spot that is well worth checking out. The mee siam here is one of the best in Singapore.
Masjid Sultan Mosque is also worthy of your list of top things to do as it is the national mosque of Singapore.
Haji Lane is an iconic street lined with colorful buildings just waiting to feature in your next Instagram post. Prices here are inflated, but it is still a stunning place to explore and photograph.
Tips for Visiting Mosques in Singapore
Be respectful and remember to dress conservatively. Cover your shoulders and knees (and obviously everything in between).
9. Experience the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo
The Singapore Zoo is great, but quite frankly, you can find great zoos all around the world.
The night safari in Singapore is a unique experience that allows you to see nocturnal animals in their natural habitat—ones that would typically be sleeping during normal zoo hours.
Visiting the Singapore Night Safari
Take the tram tour and view the Creatures of the Night show, or book a Night Safari tour that includes roundtrip transportation.
10. Relax at Sentosa
Found on the southern coast of Singapore, Sentosa is a small island attached to the main island of Singapore by a bridge.
Sentosa was historically used as a military base, but it has since been transformed by the government into a major tourist attraction.
It contains a number of activities, including Madame Tussauds, the S.E.A Aquarium, and three man-made beaches.
These man-made beaches have perfect white sand that is meticulously maintained. The bays are protected by nets making them safe to swim in. Bars & restaurants are also strategically placed on the three beaches.
Best beach on Sentosa Island
Tanjong beach is the third beach along. Being the furthest from Singapore’s main island, it tends to be the quietest and is our favorite pick.
11. Go to Universal Studios
A great option for those with kids (or anyone who is simply young at heart) is to spend a day at Universal Studios on Sentosa Island.
There are a bunch of thrilling rides, shows, and attractions. Tickets generally cost around SGD $100, depending on where you book. If you’re going during the busy season or on a weekend, you’ll want to consider getting an Express Pass as the queues can get ridiculously long.
Compared to other parks in the world, you may find the park quite small, boasting just 24 attractions, but it’s easy to spend a day here without getting bored. To get as much done in your day, try starting at the right side of the entrance then work your way through all the attractions.
How to get to Universal Studios
If you have a Singapore Tourist Pass or an EZ-Link Card, take the MRT to Harbourfront. Otherwise, drive or book a GRAB to take you here. You’ll then either walk 10 to 20min across the boardwalk or take the Gondola. The boardwalk is a pleasant, covered walk with travelators to make it a bit easier.
12. Wander Around the Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Gardens, founded in 1859, are located quite centrally in Singapore near Orchard.
The gardens are a spectacular display of flora, showcasing the historical uses of plants in Singapore’s culture. Displays are set up to show how some plants were used for food, whilst others served purposes such as shelters.
The National Orchid Garden is renowned as one of the best in the world and contains over 1000 species of orchid and over 2000 hybrids, meaning it should absolutely round out your top things to do while visiting Singapore.
The garden itself is free, but the National Orchid Garden as a $5 admission fee that goes toward maintaining the garden.
By Delilah Hart
Delilah is a travel blogger from Auckland, New Zealand. She shares tips, itineraries & destination guides on her website, Our Travel Mix, to help you travel better. You can follow her adventures on Instagram or Pinterest.