Singapore, that tiny city-country on the tip of the Malay peninsula is just overflowing with culture. There is so much more than meets the eye here. Before I came for the first time, I had already dismissed it as an expensive urban jungle but what I found was rich cultural heritage, ethnic neighborhoods with proud histories, and oh my gawd the food! Singapore exceeded my expectations and I was truly sad to leave. This is certainly not an all-encompassing guide, but here are my favorite ten things to do in Singapore. (updated Dec 2022)It would be rude to come to Singapore and not spend most of your time eating. Here are my favorite things to do in Singapore (spoiler alert: eating is #1) Click To Tweet
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I’m not even joking. Don’t even THINK the word “diet” or “healthy” and test how much your stomach will allow you to shove in there. Singapore has a wide array of cuisines, reflecting its rich cultural diversity. When you mix Malay, Chinese, Indian, and others, you get heaven. The best places to sample many types of food are the hawker centers which are a type of food market with individual stalls selling a specific item. I loved hearing locals argue over which place is best for what dish.
Here’s one of the many lists out there to guide you: http://www.singapore-guide.com/top10/top10-singapore-hawker-centres.htm
I visited the Maxwell Food Center in Chinatown on more than one occasion and tried many things including sugarcane juice, laksa, curry bun, satay, oyster omelet, Hainanese chicken rice, carrot cake (made from daikon radish, not carrot) which is pictured below.
The hawker centers in Little India are also fantastic for Indian/Pakistani/South Asian food. I enjoyed a delicious fresh dosa here. There are numerous regular restaurants in Little India as well. Many people find the hawker centers to get hot and sweaty so an air-con venue is a nice change of pace.
Another thing I eat daily when here is Kaya toast for breakfast. Kaya is a jam made from coconut, palm sugar, egg yolk, and pandan leaf. It is a cross between caramel and coconut custard and served on toast with butter and a side of delicious Singapore coffee. The coffee here is typically served with condensed milk and is delicious. You also get Kaya toast with a soft center egg to dip it in to get that mix of sweet and savory.
I could spend this entire blog talking about food in Singapore but instead, I’ll leave you with this guide of must-try dishes in Singapore.
The city is full of greenness but if you really want to be immersed in nature in a relaxed way, head to the Botanical Gardens. I prefer the morning to beat the heat and the crowds. Give yourself time because it’s pretty big. I suggest at least two hours.
The Orchid Garden inside requires an admission fee of SGD $5, but completely worth it. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The rest of the gardens are free.
Many of you have seen pics of these alien trees that light up at night, but nothing can prepare you for how jaw-dropping it is in person. This was well worth the time and money. I’ve actually went twice and will likely go again sometime. The trees are more than just pretty. The Flower Dome extracts hundreds of liters of water a day from the humid atmosphere to create a Mediterranean climate inside and then expels it from the supertrees. All the conservatories here are run in a sustainable way.
There are several “domes” here of other attractions including the Cloud Forest, the Flower Dome, and the Floral Fantasy. Each of them has a separate admission fee. My favorite is the Cloud Forest which is a forest inside of a glass dome. It is educational for all ages and teaches about the effects of climate change in a fun way. The Floral Fantasy is the newest and is also beautiful. I haven’t yet visited the Flower Dome but people love it.
At night there is a gorgeous light show among the tree grove.
The diversity in Singapore is what makes this country so interesting and unique. You will find mosques, Hindu temples, Chinese temples, and churches all within blocks of each other.
I probably spent the most time here, since my hotel was here. Chinese New Year was still in effect and the decorations were fabulous. I loved seeing red lanterns strung above the streets. There are several food courts here as well as temples and even a mosque and Hindu temple.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is in the heart of Chinatown and the streets surrounding it are festive and scenic. It’s always amazing to see the juxtaposition of old traditional buildings with modern skyscrapers in the background
This is another vibrant fun neighborhood to stroll around. Visit the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple and stroll up and down Serangoon Road to enjoy lively music and vibrant colors. Definitely try some food here!
One of the most famous sites in Little India is the House of Tan Tieng Niah. This house is one of the most colorful in the country, and is the last remaining example of a historic villa. It was constructed in 1900 by a local businessman named Tan Teng Niah. At the time, the neighborhood was an industrial zone (Tan’s candy and rubber factories were located nearby) and many of Singapore’s ethnic-Chinese businessmen lived here. As Singapore grew rapidly, social change occurred in the 20th century and the neighborhood became today’s Little India. Many of the old merchant homes were destroyed and replaced with modern buildings. Luckily, the Tan Teng Niah house survived, underwent a full restoration in the 1980s and is now a registered historical landmark.
The focal point for the Muslim community in Singapore is the stunning Sultan Mosque. It was constructed in the 1920s but the history goes back to the early 19th century when Sir Stamford Raffles signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein allowing the British East India Company to establish a trading post in Singapore.
Make sure if you plan to go inside you cover your shoulders and knees. The shopping is fun here on Haji Street for vintage and unique fashion. There are also cool cafes and the only place in the city where you will see graffiti.
The Raffles Hotel is a grand colonial-era hotel. The Long Bar is where it was invented, but I think it’s best enjoyed in the lovely courtyard.
This is a historical and well-preserved historical riverside quay on the Singapore River with shops, restaurants and bars.
This a cool interactive museum with digital installations housed in a beautiful lotus-shaped building in the Marina Bay area. As cool as it was, I was miserable here because it was so crowded and too many very young children. Perhaps it would have been better at a more strategic non-weekend time.
This is a double helix-shaped pedestrian bridge linking Marina Centre with Marina South in the Marina Bay area. It is quite spectacular at night with great views.
Go to the observation deck of this infamous hotel for a view of all of Singapore. More info here.
I do not recommend staying here, as famous as it is. Don’t waste your money. Learn from my mistakes. Read here and laugh at my misfortunate at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
Go and visit the famous Merlion Statue/fountain. He’s prettier at night. He is a local legend and a globally-recognized icon. He is located at a scenic spot located at One Fullerton, Singapore, near the Central Business District. The story behind him is cool. He has the body of a fish but the head of a lion. The fish body symbolizes Singapore’s origins as a fishing village. The lion head represents the city’s original name of Singapura (lion city in Sanskrit).
Check out the Bird Park, Fort Canning Park or Sentosa Island. The Peranakan Museum and Museum of Ice Cream also look fun. The Peranakan museum is currently closed for renovations, FYI. You can also consider a day trip to Johor Bahru in Malaysia.
Not to mention that Changi Airport is a destination in itself. Schedule some extra hours for the airport if you have the time. The Jewel has the World’s Largest Indoor Waterfall.
A few places I can vouch for include the Scarlet Hotel in Chinatown. It’s a luxury boutique hotel housed in a 1924 art deco building with a row of 1828 shophouses. The location cannot be beaten. Unfortunately, some rooms don’t have windows which I hate but overall it is a charming hotel.
Check out the first ecologically friendly hotel in Singapore, The Parkroyal on Pickering. The rooms are beautiful and well lit and the edge of Chinatown location is wonderful. Look at the view at sunrise from the pool deck!
Another very nice hotel I would recommend is the Jen Singapore Orchardgateway by Shangri-La. It’s on upscale and stylish Orchard Road, practically connected to a shopping mall with the MRT, and has a fabulous rooftop infinity pool with panoramic views.
The metro system is called the MRT and is very easy to use. They have an easy to follow color-coded system. It is clean and safe and runs from 530 am to midnight You can now pay by using your contactless tap-and-go credit card. Make sure you have the card available to tap out as you exit.
They no longer have uber but you can download the Grab app and it works much the same way. Make sure you choose the correct payment type because it defaults to cash.
Although it is too hot for many people to do long walks, it is a pleasant city to walk and extremely safe, even at night.
They use the Singapore Dollar. 1 SGD is 0.75 USD or conversely, 1 USD is 1.36 SGD. It’s always a good idea to have some cash but most places will take a visa or mastercard. I did run into a few hawker stalls that didn’t accept cards and a massage place where no foreign credit cards were accepted which is why I always have cash.
According to the constitution, the national language is Malay but it also recognizes 3 other commonly used languages, English, Chinese and Tamil. Singaporeans often speak Singlish among themselves. Singlish is an informal, colloquial form of English. I rarely encountered anyone who didn’t speak English.
I would love to return to Singapore. It is the perfect gateway to Southeast Asia, but make sure you spend a few days and don’t just pass through!
What do you love to do in Singapore that I missed?