In sharp contrast to its former reputation as little more than a booming business centre and convenient stopping point for travel elsewhere in the region, Singapore has emerged as one of Southeast Asia’s hottest travel destinations in recent years. Contributing to this recognition is a combination of accolades both old and new. Since its inception in the mid 1960’s Singapore has always been regarded as Southeast Asia’s most veritable cultural melting pot. With this cultural diversity comes as a robust foodie culture, charming ethnic enclaves and a unique spirit of cultural acceptance.
As the result of a long and meticulously orchestrated plan on the behalf of the government to transform the city-state from a “Little Red Dot” to a destination people would actually want to visit, Singapore now also boasts a surprisingly long list of attractions, many of which are among the finest of their kind in the world. As a nice cherry on top of all of this, Singapore is also one of the world’s cleanest, greenest and safest countries.
Top Destinations in Singapore
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Singapore is one of only two metropolitan cities in the world with a rainforest within its city limits. This isn’t so surprising when one considers that, as recently as the 1930’s, Singapore was home to its own species of tiger which roamed freely throughout the island, which was then almost entirely shrouded in dense lowland tropical rainforest.
Of course, a large portion of the island has since been developed into an ultra-futuristic city- but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still wild areas within shockingly close confines to the country’s urban areas. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve encompasses a dense tropical rainforest just 12 kilometres from the city’s urban centre. Despite its relatively small size, it is said to contain some of the highest biodiversity per-hectare of anywhere in the world. The 163 hectare tract of steamy rainforest contains more than 500 species of fauna and 800 species of flora.
To the delight of those looking to get away from the urban fervour of the nearby city, Bukit Timah also contains dozens of kilometres of well-kept trails, some of which are designated for biking, taking you straight into the heart of the forest’s interior. Although there aren’t tigers roaming around anymore, hikers stand a good chance of spotting other exotic residents such as macaque monkeys, monitor lizards, pythons, flying lemurs and dozens of colourful tropical birds.
The rainforest and its inhabitants are clearly the star attractions of Bukit Timah. You’re almost guaranteed to spot some of the resident macaque monkeys that live in the area. Other iconic species that visitors should keep their eyes peeled for include hornbills, bizarre flying lemurs known as colugos and red-cheeked flying squirrels.
Within the centre of the park is its namesake, Bukit Timah Hill. At just 163 metres tall, ascending Singapore’s “Mount Everest” may not be the most monumental achievement ever, but the journey through pristine rainforest to get there makes it more than worthwhile.
For a birds-eye view of the rainforest and a look at some of the fascinating canopy critters that flutter around at its roof, head to the Tree Top Walk, which can be accessed from several trails within Bukit Timah and the adjoining nature reserve, MacRitchie Resevoir Park.
How to get there:
By Train/Bus: The nearest MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station to the park is Bukit Gombak MRT on theNorth-South Line. From there, it’s either a 45 minute walk or a 10 to 15 minute bus ride. The bus stop isCourt Bukit Timah, from where you’ll cross the pedestrian bridge and turn right to walk along the main road. Turn left onto Hindhede Road andkKeep walking until you arrive at the nature reserve’s gate and the visitor centre.
Surrounded by high-rise buildings, close to the beating heart of the city, Singapore’s Chinatown is a dazzling display of contrasts. As incense and the fragrant smells of traditional food pour out into the streets, old and new blend seamlessly to create an atmosphere that is as charming as it is authentic. Chinatown is the ethnic enclave representing Singapore’s majority population. As such, it’s one of the best places in the country to capture the essence of Singaporean cultural identity. No trip to Singapore would be complete without a visit to this bustling red and gold-hued district.
One of Chinatown’s central focal points is the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple. Seemingly pulled straight out of a Kung Fu movie and plopped into the heart of Singapore’s downtown district, it’s a massive and ornately designed four-story Tang Dynasty-style temple that’s pretty hard to miss. The Buddhist Culture Museum,on the third floor, houses over 300 Buddhist artefacts from around the world and offers free English-language guided tours every Tuesday and Thursday. The biggest reason people visit the temple is, of course, the solid gold two-metre tall stupa on the fourth floor which houses the sacred relic –said to be an actual tooth from the Buddha.
Although it’s not related to Chinese cultural heritage, Sri Mariamman Temple is one of Chinatown’s biggest attractions. It’s the oldest shrine in Singapore and the most prominent place of worship for Tamil Hindus (the largest sect of people of South Asian origin in the country). Built to honour the goddess Mariamman, the deity of disease and protection, the temple was originally constructed in 1827 and has undergone several renovations since.
Nowhere encapsulates Chinatown more astutely than Chinatown Street Market. Hundreds of stalls line the streets here, adorned with Chinese lanterns and selling everything from beaded bracelets to jade Buddha figurines. In addition to the prolific souvenir shopping available in the street market, it’s also an excellent place to sample traditional Chinese food.
Right in the middle of Chinatown is the Temple of Heavenly Happiness. Also known as Thian Hock Keng, it’s the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore and one of the most interesting. Built in the early 1820’s, it is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore, and also one of the most picturesque with it’s elaborately decorated interior.
How to get there:
There are no less than eight different bus stops along the city’s public bus routes that can drop you within half a kilometre of the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple. The closest of these is on Maxwell Road.
By Train: The Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple is easily accessed by MRT (the country’s rapid transit train system) from just about anywhere within Singapore’s city-proper. Due to its hulking size and the buzz of both tourists and locals surrounding it, it’s pretty difficult to miss. From the Chinatown MRT Station, you can just follow the scent of incense to get there.
Gardens by the Bay
Spanning over 100 hectares of reclaimed land adjacent to Marina Bay Sands is the simply spectacularGardens by the Bay. Commissioned by the government to reinforce an already well-earned reputation as being a “Garden City,” Garden’s by the Bay is the world’s most ambitious and expensive horticultural project –total construction costs exceeded a billion dollars, not including the value of the land.
Perhaps the most memorable feature of the Gardens by the Bay complex is the Supertree Grove. Particularly when lit up at night, this collection of 18 artificial trees, some standing as tall as 50m high, creates an otherworldly atmosphere that you truly have to see to believe. Each artificial tree functions as a vertical garden that has been engineered to provide natural air conditioning to the area and contains more than 200 species of plants.
The Conservatory Complex at Gardens by the Bay comprises two ultra-futuristic cooled conservatories, the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome is the largest column-less glass structure in the world and features a mild arid climate meant to replicate climactic conditions of the Mediterranean and other semi-arid tropical regions such as parts of Australia and the United States of America.
The Cloud Forest replicates climates found in cool, moist conditions found in mountainous tropical rainforests and features species from Asia, South and Central America and Africa. While slightly smaller than the Flower Dome, it also contains the largest indoor waterfall in the world.
There are also a series of spectacular waterfront gardens Bay Central Garden, Bay East Garden andBay South Garden. Each has been designed with a particular theme in mind and are spectacular in their own right.
How to get there:
At the time of writing, the nearest MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station to Gardens by the Bay is StationBayfront MRT Station. The station is an interchange between the Circle Line and the Downtown Line.From there it’s about a ten minute walk.
Little India is the heart of Singapore’s vibrant South Asian ethnic community. Its compact streets are brimming with scenes that you’d expect to find in India itself –albeit quite a bit cleaner. Indians make up the third largest population in the country and India is a thriving hive of activity with a number of stunning attractions. Per capita, there are more religious buildings here than anywhere else in the country. While these attractions offer more than enough reason to visit Little India, it’s the unique vibe and abundance of authentic and delicious food that lure most visitors.
Probably the most colourful building in all of Singapore is located right in the heart of Little India at House of Tan Teng Niah. As the name would indicate, it’s not actually of Indian descent. Instead, it’s an architectural vestige of Chinese colonisation, and it’s the only of its kind in the neighbourhood. While its architecture may not be inspired by Indian design, its colour certainly is.
The star attraction of Little India is Sri Veeramakaliamman. It’s not only one of Singapore’s hardest-to-pronounce destinations, but also one of its most ornate temples. Lying at the heart of the neighbourhood, this Hindu temple dates all the way back to the 19th century –ancient by Singaporean standards. Much of the structure has been built recently, though, which is apparent by the vividness of its colours. Literally hundreds of tiny, colourful, intricate statues adorn the temple’s exterior and the interior is just as impressive. Worshippers congregate at the temple on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, which can offer a great opportunity for witnessing local culture in action.
Just up the road is Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple which, to the untrained eye, looks quite similar to Sri Veeramakaliamman. Similarly, it’s adorned with a multitude of intricate and colourfully designed statues. The purpose of the temple, however, is quite a bit different. Rather than being devoted to Hindu deities, Sri Srinivasa is dedicated to Krishna.
Often referred to as the Temple of 1,000 Lights, The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya is one of the most popular temples in both Little India and Singapore. Built in 1928 by a Thai Monk, its construction has significant Siamese influence. The 15-metre tall Buddha statue within is the main draw, bringing worshippers and tourists alike for its religious significance and beauty.
How to get there:
Little India is served by its own train station at Little India MRT Station, right in the heart of Little India, on the North East Line and the Downtown Line.
If there is any one place that you absolutely must see while you’re in Singapore, it’s undoubtedly Marina Bay –a meticulously designed and constructed district in the heart of the city, centred on a picturesqueMarina Reservoir lined with many of Singapore’s most iconic and modern structures. This architectural marvel is the result of an ambitious land reclamation project that has been on-going since the 1970’s. The result is nothing short of spectacular, and squarely qualifies Singapore as having one of the world’s most dazzling cityscapes.
Arguably Singapore’s most iconic structure, Marina Bay Sands Hotel is a futuristic-looking series of three towers topped by what appears to be either a boat or a spaceship, depending on you perspective. The towers and surrounding complex have become a visual symbol of Singapore and are, collectively, the fourth most expensive building ever constructed.
The Infinity Pool on the hotel’s roof (the boat-looking area that’s also known as SkyPark) is both the highest and longest pool of its kind in the world. From the vantage point of the 57th story, the entire city can be seen beneath you whilst floating at the edge of the massive pool.
At the foot of Marina Bay Sands Hotel are two equally eye-catching structures: Louis Vuitton’s Island Maison Store and the Art Science Museum- both part of the Marina Bay Sands complex. The former is a glassy marvel of modern construction built to look as though it is floating above the bay. The latter was designed to resemble the welcoming hands of Singapore and its ten fingers -and is often lit with an incredible display of lights making it even more conspicuous. The hotel complex also houses a world-class shopping mall and a dazzling array of renowned and Michelin-starred restaurants.
How to get there:
By Train: Bayfront MRT Station is the nearest station that connects the underground MRT (Mass Rapid Train) to Marina Bay Sands and its surrounding area. The station is an interchange between the Circle Lineand the Downtown Line and can be easily accessed from either.
Little more than 150 years ago, Orchard Road was a simple lane lined with fruit orchards, a nutmeg plantation and pepper farms. In 1958 the road’s first department store was built, and developers haven’t looked back since. Today it’s the bustling centre of Singapore’s frenetic shopping scene. Nearly every reputable brand, Western or otherwise, can be found within this 2.2 kilometre stretch of road, making it one of the very best places in Asia for a spot of retail therapy.
Beyond its intended purpose as a vast paradise for shoppers, Orchard Road is a must-see destination within Singapore for other reasons. First of all, it’s one of the best places to observe the local life of modern Singapore. While the Singapore’s ethnic enclaves offer fascinating insight into local culture’s traditional way of life, Orchard Road is a great place to witness the antithesis of it, which is just as profound and interesting in its own right. Beyond that, the architecture in the area holds its own merits.
Singapore’s biggest and most glamourous shopping mall on Orchard Road is Ion Orchard. Its futuristic façade has become the face of Orchard Road in many ways, while its interior contains practically anything and everything you could ever need or desdire. From swanky premium designer brands to boutique fashion labels and everything in between, ION is usually the first place people go when they want to shop ‘til they drop. One can literally spend an entire day roaming the kiosks, isles and retail outlets of this massive shopping mall.
One of the newer shopping malls on Orchard Road is Orchard Central Shopping Mall. In addition to having a huge selection of retail outlets to choose from, the mall also has an eclectic modern vibe, an Art Trail containing many quirky works of art, and even the world’s tallest indoor climbing wall…just for good measure.
Paragon Shopping Centre is a multi-award winning shopping mall with distinct architecture and an undoubtedly high-end vibe. If its luxury in-trend brands that you seek, you will almost certainly find them here. It’s also home to a wide array of eateries. If you’re in the mood to splurge, Paragon is a great place to do it.
How to get there:
Orchard Road is served by the Orchard MRT Station as part of the underground Mass Rapid Transit station on the North-South Line.
Sentosa, a man-made island accessible from mainland Singapore, packs more entertainment venues and attractions per square metre than anywhere else in the country –and probably the region. With beaches filled with fine imported sand from Malaysia, theme parks, nightlife, restaurants and some of the world’s most luxurious resorts, visitors here won’t be short on things to see or do. Quite literally, Sentosa was created from nothing to become Singapore’s most exclusive getaways.
Sentosa Island boasts more than 3 kilometres of beautiful manmade beaches. Once you feel the soft imported sand between your toes, it will become easy to forget that you’re literally within a few short kilometres of one of the world’s busiest ports and bustling cities.
Palawan Beach is considered to be the best among the three major beaches in Sentosa for families. In the immediate vicinity are two attractions that are sure to be a hit with the kids: Port of Lost Wonder with a kids playing zone and themed picnic areas, and KidZania Singapore which offers fun experiential education programs for kids. A unqiue fact about Palawan Beach is that it’s southern tip is actually the southernmost point of continental Asia, and the closest to earth’s equator.
Siloso Beach is where you go if you want to forego relaxation for excitement. This is where the bulk of the island’s beach bars and more adult-oriented activities take place. It’s considered to be the hippest area in Sentosa, and is the best place to go to see and be seen. In addition to its upscale bohemian vibe, Siloso Beach is also the best place to go for activities such as beach volleyball, kayaking, cycling and rollerblading.
For those who seek peace and tranquillity, Tanjong Beach is your go-to spot. Here you’ll find little more than a relatively peaceful stretch of sand and palm trees. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to imagine, for a day, that you’ve slipped away to a secluded island paradise that’s far away from the bustle of Singapore City.
Probably the biggest attraction in Sentosa is Resorts World Sentosa. This is the largest integrated resort in Singapore, and at a construction cost of nearly $5 billion dollars, is one of the most expensive complexes on the planet. Within the confines of this sprawling complex you’ll not only find a world-class resort, but also a world-class casino, marine-life park, maritime museum and, it’s biggest attraction, a full-fledged Universal Studios Theme Park. This is a massive complex with Hollywood-themed rides, live shows and movie-sets. Seven themed areas throughout the park are designed to take you on a cinematic and geographical journey to places such as New York, Ancient Egypt and even Madagascar.
How to get there:
By Train/Cable Car: Head to the Harbourfront MRT Station on the North East Line and the Circle Line. Take Exit B (Harbourfront Centre) and follow directional signs leading to the Singapore Cable Car station at Harbourfront Tower II.
You can also take a ferry or bus across the channel to Sentosa Island from Harbourfront MRT Station.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens is the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, which hints to its significance to Singapore from both a cultural and aesthetic point of view. Established in 1869 during the British occupation, the compound’s colonial-era design is equally pleasing to the eye and historically intriguing. More than that, though, the Gardens have, since their inception, served as an important scientific institution and place of conservation, recreation and education. Through its well-preserved design and the continuity of its purpose, the Singapore Botanic Gardens are considered to be one of the world’s foremost examples of a British tropical botanic gardens, and one of Singapore’s must-see destinations.
The main attraction within the park is the National Orchid Garden. The site contains a staggering 1,000 distinct species and 2,000 orchid hybrids- the largest orchid collection on earth. Within the Orchid Garden are a number of smaller attractions as well. Burkill Hall is a colonial plantation building that once served as the home of the former director of the gardens. Just behind it is the VIP Orchid Garden, which houses hybrids that have been created as part of an “orchid diplomacy program” to honour more than 100 celebrities and dignitaries around the world.
There is also a tropical rainforest covering six hectares of the compound that are part of the original landscape prior to development. Singapore is one of only two major cities in the world to have a tropical rainforest within its city limits –so it’s a must see just for the sheer uniqueness of it.
Located at the northern end of the gardens is Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, said to be the first of its kind in Asia. The children’s play areas include the water play area, a small playground, a tree-house with slides and a maze and an interactive exhibit that teaches children some of the finer details of photosynthesis.
How to get there:
By Train: Singapore Botanic Gardens is served by the Botanic Gardens MRT Station as part of the underground Mass Rapid Transit station on the Circle Line and Downtown Line. The station is located near the Singapore Botanic Gardens along Bukit Timah Road.
The Quays and Riverside
The bulk of Singapore’s historical sites are located along the Singapore River, which is the major artery serving downtown Singapore. It’s on the banks of this river where the foundations of modern Singapore was laid, and where Singapore’s best strolling can be done.
Clarke Quay is a historical quay adjacent to Marina Bay in the heart of Singapore’s downtown area, intersected by the Singapore River. In addition to being a picturesque place to take a walk, this attractively designed area is the beating heart of Singapore’s thriving nightlife scene, and one of the best places in the country to get a feel for Singapore’s nocturnal pulse.
Just upstream of the Singapore River is Boat Quay, which once handled three quarters of all shipping in Singapore until the early 19th century. Though it no longer serves this function, its array of beautifully preserved shop houses and distinctly local vibe seemingly transports you to that foregone era. Boat Quay is also home to some of Singapore’s best museums, making it a must-see for many visitors.
Further upstream is Robertson Quay. Although it lacks major attractions, Robertson Quay isn’t entirely without appeal. The collection of surprisingly nice riverside restaurants and residential vibe of the area makes it a great place to go for a change of pace within the city centre.
The undisputedly most photographed attraction in all of Singapore is a rather quirky looking statue known as the Merlion. This isn’t technically in the quays, rather at their edge in the neighbouring districtEsplanade, not far from the iconic Raffles Hotel (the oldest hotel in Singapore and home of the originalSingapore Sling) and Singapore Flyer (the largest ferris wheel in the world). Any of these destinations, in addition to being “must see” in their own right, serve as excellent starting points for exploring the quays and riverside area.
From Esplanade, walk up the river a short distance to reach Boat Quay. Here you’ll encounter a spattering of museums, of which the Asian Civilization Museum is easily the best. It’s one of Singapore’s newest, largest and most well curated museums. Within it you’ll find some of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating historical relics, and learn a great deal about the history of the region in the process. Just next to it you’ll find the Raffles Statue. Sir Stamford Raffles is often credited as being the founder of modern Singapore. The statue lies, supposedly, in the exact location where he first stepped foot on the island. Aside from the Merlion, it’s Singapore’s most selfied attraction.
To learn more about Peranakan culture, which forms a crucial part of Singaporean cultural identity, head to the Peranakan Museum. Nearby, be sure to check out the former Singaporean Parliamentary building, The Arts House, which is not only one of the country’s most historically significant buildings, but is now one of the country’s best arts venues.
Walk further along the river and you’ll come across Clarke Quay, the country’s nightlife centre. You’ll recognize it when you get there based on the seating areas that lead down to the river. Once the blistering heat of the tropical sun has been subdued, locals and tourists alike can be seen sitting next to the river enjoying the ambience of the area.
Although there is a great range of restaurants and eateries in Clarke Quay, most come for the dazzling array of bars and clubs lining the river and surrounding area. If you’re looking for a rush, one of the biggest tourist attractions is the G-Max Reverse Bungy. As the name indicates, it’s basically like a bungee jump –but in reverse. Rather than jumping from the top of something, you’re launched into the air at speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour on a giant rubber band. It’s not for everyone but, for those who seek adrenaline rushes, it’s certainly worth trying. Just beyond the hoopla of Clarke Quay’s main bar and club area is For Canning Park. With lush trees, vegetation and a wide-open expanse of greenery perfect for picnics and jogging, it’s a world apart, but only a few steps away.
How to get there:
By Train: Because the quays riverside area covers a rather large expanse of Singapore’s downtown, there are several ways to get there, depending on where you want to start. To see the area in its entirety, it’s best to start from Esplanade MRT Station on the Circle Line and walk from there.
Closer to Boat Quay is Raffles Place MRT Station on the North-South Line and the East-West Line.
To go directly to Clarke Quay, head to the Clarke Quay MRT Station, which will drop you right in the thick of things.
Alternatively, you can tour the area coming from the opposite direction by heading to the Singapore River from Chinatown MRT Station and follow it down to Marina Bay.
Things to do in Singapore
Be a culinary explorer
Because of Singapore’s incredible wealth of ethnic diversity, the country boasts one of the region’s most exciting culinary prospects for eager foodies. Because of this diversity, defining “local food” is sometimes tricky in Singapore. Most of the “local” dishes originated somewhere else but have, over the years, developed distinctly local methods of preparation and flavours that can’t be found elsewhere. Those wishing to sample the unique cuisine on offer in Singapore will have no shortage of options to choose from. From ultra-lux five star restaurants to humble food stalls tucked away in decidedly local hawker centres, there’s something for everyone.
Perhaps the best places to sample traditional Singaporean cuisine is in the narrow alleys of its abundanthawker centres. Scattered strategically throughout the city proper, they were created by the Singaporean government in a bid to de-clutter Singapore’s streets and to monitor the sanitation of street food.
One of Singapore’s most well-known hawker centres is Maxwell Centre. Located in Chinatown opposite of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, it’s convenient to slot in for a visit while visiting the area’s highlights. The centre has well over a hundred stalls, some of which have become popular mainstays for locals. Of these,Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken and Zhen Zhen Porridge are the most popular. The former serves up Singapore’s most famous Chicken Rice –an iconic dish- the latter serves up famous porridge and an absolutely delectable raw fish salad.
The oldest hawker centre in Singapore, and also one of the most popular with both tourists and locals alike, is Lau Pat Sat. Located in the heart of the Central Business District within walking distance from Chinatown and Marina Bay, it’s really convenient for sustenance while sightseeing. The building was originally constructed 120 years ago using iron frames shipped from Scotland. Lau Pat Sat isn’t only one of Singapore’s most picturesque hawker centres, it’s also one of the most varied. Here you can find anything from localized Korean barbecue to to-die-for Satay.
When visiting hawker centres in Singapore, particularly the most popula ones, timing is of the essence. Most hawker stalls operate until they run out of ingredients and the most popular stalls will run out the quickest. If you want to try some of Singapore’s most famous food, you’ll need to get there early to do it.
Be sure to bring a pack of tissue paper with you to the hawker centre or purchase one from one of the “aunties” or “uncles” peddling them.
Napkins aren’t provided from any of the hawker stalls, so these will prove useful after devouring some of your delicious food. Before you get to that point, though, they will prove useful for an entirely different and unexpected reason: to help you reserve a seat.
Hawker centres are bustling venues -particularly around lunch and dinnertime. Most of the time you’ll end up sharing a table with locals. If you see a seat that is available, simply place a piece of tissue paper on it while getting your food. This rather bizarre practice is respected by locals as a perfectly legitimate means of reserving your seat, even when the centres are crowded.
Also, as a general rule of thumb, follow the locals when shopping around for things to eat. There are endless options to choose from and, unless you’re following the lead of an informed local, there will probably be a bit of guesswork involved in selecting what to eat. Singaporeans know good food and aren’t afraid to wait to get what they want. The most well-known food stalls often have long orderly queues that are easy to spot. It will take some time to make your way through the queue, but the ends will justify the means.
Enjoy the original Singapore Sling
You wouldn’t be alone if one of your first introductions to Singapore was in the form of an adult beverage. For better or worse, the Singapore Sling, a gin-based cocktail sweetened with cherry brandy and fresh fruit juices, is one of the country’s most globally recognized contributions. The original recipe was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel in 1915 as a means of subduing Singapore’s stifling tropical heat. Although the recipe has changed a bit over the years, its intended purpose remains the same.
Although you can find Singapore Slings throughout the country and, indeed the world, the Long Bar at Raffles Hotel is its birthplace. A visit to this hallowed watering hole for a sample of its famous libation has become something of a rite of passage for travellers to Singapore. Even if the cocktail itself doesn’t interest you, the ambiance of the colonial-era hotel- Singapore’s oldest and most famous- is worth it in its own right.
The original Singapore Sling is served up at The Long Bar in the historical Raffles Hotel in City Hall. It’s a short walk away from City Hall, Esplanade or Raffles Place MRT Stations.
Is there ever a bad time to enjoy a cold, refreshing Singapore Sling? Particularly during the sizzling equatorial heat of Singapore’s mid-day sun, we like to think not. Many bars in Singapore, including the Long Bar, do offer Happy Hour promotions between five and seven o’clock in the evenings, though.
If you’re not too concerned with having the “original” Singapore Sling, there are other attractive alternatives.1-Altitude is Singapore’s most renowned rooftop bar. Located on the 63rd story of one of Singapore’s tallest buildings, it offers unrivalled birds-eye views of downtown Singapore. Alternatively, head to Ce La Vi atopMarina Bay Sands. Just next to the world-famous infinity pool, it overlooks Marina Bay and the rest of downtown Singapore. Although it’s not quite as high as 1-Altitude, it is at least comparable in terms of the view that’s on offer.
Roam the “supertree” forest of Gardens by the Bay
With total construction costs of Gardens by the Bay exceeding $1 billion dollars, it’s the most expensive patch of man-made greenery in the world. With such a stratospheric price tag, one would hope to be totally blown away by what is on offer. Luckily, Gardens by the bay not only delivers, but exceeds these expectations. A walk around the garden of “supertrees,” for which the park has become world-famous, is not something you’ll get the chance to do elsewhere.
This forest of supertrees, were not simply created with beauty in mind but functionality too. The supertrees are essentially vertical gardens that collect rainwater to both irrigate the accompanying vegetation but also cool the air surrounding the grove and act as air venting ducts for the nearby conservatories. They’re distinctly Singaporean in this way –well thought out, brilliantly engineered and pleasing to the eye. In this way, a walk around the supertree grove is the perfect way to get a feel for Singapore’s unique approach at modern city-building.
Gardens by the Bay is, as the name would indicate, close to Marina Bay and Marina Bay Sands. It’s easily accessed from anywhere in the city via the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) System.
The supertree grove is most beautiful at dusk, after the sun has dipped below the horizon. When the trees light up, they are simply magical.
Be sure to bring a tripod along to take great photos of the supertree grove at night.
Shop ‘til you drop
In terms of sheer variety, there may be no place in Southeast Asia with more options to choose from per square kilometre than Singapore if shopping is your thing. It’s the favourite pastime of many Singaporeans. Consequently, you never need to go very far to come across a shopping mall or retail centre. Quite literally everything under the sun can be found if you’re looking for it -from Western designer favourites to locally brewed brands and typically “Asian” goods like Buddhist talismans and traditional handicrafts.
Need a bit of motivation? Singapore has you covered. Tourists may be eligible for a refund of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) on purchases they made while shopping. Simply keep the receipts for all your purchases and, when you leave Singapore, you may be refunded the value of taxes that you paid. GST is charged at a rate of 7% of the value of all goods and services –so you stand to get a reasonably nice discount! Go here for a list of conditions that must be met in order to qualify for the GST refund.
The centre of Singapore’s shopping world is Orchard Road. With no less than six large, well provisioned shopping malls within this 2.2 kilometre stretch of road, nearly every reputable brand of consumer product, Western or otherwise, can be found.
Of these malls, ION Orchard is the biggest and most glamourous. If that’s still not fancy enough for you, head to Paragon Shopping Centre. This decidedly luxe mall not only has an award-winning ultra-modern design, but it houses some of the world’s most premium brands. There’s also Orchard Central Shopping Mall, which is one of the new kids on the block, but also contains a great selection.
If it’s consumer electronics you’re looking for, look no further than Funan Digital Life Mall. This is truly a one-stop shop for anything related to electronics, be it cameras, computers or phones. All of the stores follow Singapore’s strict trading standards and, consequently, offer reasonable prices.
For handicrafts and more traditional goods, head to Chinatown Point and its adjoining Singapore Handicraft Centre. This sprawling complex has more than 200 shops, where you’ll find plentiful souvenirs, lacquerware, and traditional art. Within the same area, you can also head to China Square Central Flea Market. On Sundays, the aisles are lined with tables selling antique goods and anything else you would imagine to be found in a flea market. If you’re looking for a different kind of shopping experience, this is a great option.
The great thing about shopping in Singapore is that you can do it almost any time. Most of the shopping malls in Singapore operate between eight o’clock in the morning and eleven in the evening.
Many seasoned travellers of Southeast Asia come to Singapore thinking that its business as usual when it comes to bargaining. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, that isn’t really the case in Singapore. Typically, a price is a price and what you see is what you’ll get. There are some cases where there may be an exception. For example, if you are buying used products or plan to buy more than one of something. Generally speaking, bargaining efforts are typically met with disdain. Singaporeans are typically quite reasonable people, though -so just use proper judgement.
Soak in the world’s largest and highest infinity pool
Take one look at a photo of the insane infinity pool atop Marina Bay Sands and ask yourself this: “why not”!? It’s not only the largest and highest infinity pool in the world, but it towers over what may very well be one of the world’s most dramatically beautiful cityscapes. From this lofty aquatic perch the entire city is laid out before you in a sprawling carpet of beautiful and futuristic architecture. When leaning over the edge of the impossibly long and impossibly high infinity pool, little doubt is left in your mind that you are taking part in a privileged and exclusive experience –and that’s what it is. The only catch to experiencing Singapore’s most incredible infinity pool is that it doesn’t come cheaply –you have to stay at the hotel to enjoy it.
The famous infinity pool is part of the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort. To get there, simply take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit System) to BayFront Station.
Due to Singapore’s equatorial climate, the infinity pool can be enjoyed year-round. To maximize your viewing pleasure, though, it may be a good idea to avoid the months of June through October. This is when Singapore is most likely to be affected by the haze of forest fires drifting over from Indonesia.