Singapore: Ultimate guide of things to do in Singapore
31 March 2015
Welcome to Singapore! It can be tough to keep coming up an array of cool things to do in Singapore and awesome ideas for activities around town. But that's where the EL team comes in! After years of playing tour guide to billions of friends and family, our Expat Living Singapore team has got all sorts of tips around the best things to do on the island – from family-friendly days out to off-the-beaten-track nights out.
(Psst...! Looking for weird things to do in Singapore? Head here. Or how about 'alternative' activities in Singapore? Jump in here. After free stuff to do with kids? Look no further. Or even more things to do? Step this way.)
Stroll through Gardens by the Bay
The gigantic waterfront garden has a cool, futuristic feel and plenty of exotic plants, making it a wonderful spot for a leisurely walk. Must-see bits include the Flower Dome, which focuses on Mediterranean flora and the Cloud Forest, a misty tropical wonderland with a roaring indoor waterfall (the tallest in the world). Want to get closer to the space-age Supertrees? Hit the Skyway trail after dusk for a surreal 22-metre high stroll amidst the glowing structures. If you have kids to keep amused, toddle off to the huge Children’s Garden, which has sprawling tree houses, a water play area and a toddler zone (free entry, too).
18 Marina Gardens Drive. 5am-2am (general areas), 9am-9pm (ticketed areas). $28 (adult), $15 (child) for entry to Cloud Forest and Flower Dome; $5 (adult), $3 child for entry to OCBC Skyway. For more info, call 6420 6848.
Hike along the Southern Ridges
Great for nature lovers (or folks with a hankering for fresh air), The Southern Ridges trail weaves through the treetops of Mount Faber all the way to Labrador Nature Reserve. As you clomp along the avant-garde wooden bridge, you’ll get a wondrous view of lush greenery and birds flitting through the trees, along with Singapore’s urban skyline. Look out for monkeys, plus you can stop for a drink en route at Alkaff Mansion.
From Mount Faber Park, 109 Mount Faber Road.
Spend an afternoon at Botanic Gardens
Still one of the top parks in Singapore for hitting with a picnic mat (as mentioned in our handy picnic round-up!), the Botanic Gardens has plenty of meadows, picturesque foliage and public sculptures to stumble upon. If you want to admire beautiful blooms, make your way to the National Orchid Garden, which houses over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids. We love plonking down by Symphony Lake too – especially when they’re staging a free (and fairly regular) classical musical concert.
1 Cluny Road. $5 (adults), $1 (students above 12), free (children below 12) for entry to National Orchid Garden. For more info, call 6471 7138.
Wander down a MacRitchie Reservoir trail
Aside from being a beautiful location for a jog, MacRitchie Reservoir has five scenic hiking trails through the forest. Ranging from 3km to 11km, each path gives you magnificent views of the reservoir and its surrounding bush, as well as chances to spot heaps of creatures like long-tailed macaque monkeys, squirrels, snakes and monitor lizards.
Along Lornie Road. For more info, visit the National Parks Board’s website.
Sungei Buloh Wetlands
If you fancy getting acquainted with Singapore’s unique wildlife, keep this serene nature reserve high on your list. It’s recently opened a new extension that boasts a coastal boardwalk and a mid-canopy walk, both of which let you get much closer to a host of critters, including monitor lizards, mudskippers, herons, horseshoe crabs and lots of creepy crawlies. As you head deeper into the mangrove trees, you might even spy a crocodile. Getting back after you’ve had a good look-see can be tricky, so try booking a cab on your way out or grab a bus to Kranji MRT.
301 Neo Tiew Crescent. 7.30am-7pm.
Visit the Singapore Zoo and River Safari
Animal enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Singapore’s award-winning zoo, which is home to over 300 species of creatures. There are heaps to see in each zone – from baboons in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia to komodo dragons in the Reptile Garden – as well as lively animal shows. Kids in tow will love the Kidzworld area, which has a water playground, an obstacle course, farmyard animals and more. And if their little legs get tired of walking, you can tour the zoo by guided trams.
While you’re here, the River Safari next door is worth a visit too. This new park house over 6,000 animals that live in or along the world’s most famous rivers. Highlights include Giant Pandas and a cruise along an Amazon-like river.
80 Mandai Lake Road. $32 (adult), $21 (children 3-12); $28 (adult), $18 (children 3-12) for River Safari. For more information, head here.
...And stay on for the Night Safari! Stirring to life after dusk, the Night Safari offers an elusive look at beasts and critters that are soundly snoozing during regular zoo hours. While visitors are free to trek through the dimly lit park on foot, the guided tram is a wildly popular option for its unique insight into the nocturnal habits of the animals – you might even spot some friendly ones roaming freely as you trundle past. Mammals seen along the trails include spotted ‘laughing’ hyenas and Malayan tapirs.
80 Mandai Lake Road. $42 (adult), $28 (children 3-12) for entry. For more information, head here.
Cycle through Punggol Waterway Park
With heaps of foliage and cycling and joggling paths along calm waters, Punggol Waterway Park is lovely for an afternoon jaunt. Bring along your bicycle or skates, or rent them from stalls along the stretch, and enjoy breezing past the peaceful backdrop of nature. Bird-watchers have plenty to keep an eye out for too, such as rose-ringed parakeets and collared kingfishers. Kids can have fun running amok in the watery playground.
Sentul Crescent Road. For more information and directions, head here.
Explore the streets of Chinatown
The busy alleys and shophouses of Chinatown are ripe with Chinese heritage, and a great place to load up on souvenirs too. Duck into shops for antique wares, Chinese tea leaves, traditional remedies, clothing and more, before stopping by the hawker stalls and eateries along Smith Street for a local meal. Prominent places of worship, including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple to the Sri Marriamman Hindu Temple, are also a short walk from one another. Aside from historical sights, Chinatown is teeming with cool bars and restaurants to try – check out Ann Siang Hill and Club Street for some of the best spots. (Psst...we've rounded up the trendiest drinking spots in Singapore - head here for a full guide.)
Various streets, including Sago Street and Temple Street. For more information, head here.
Wander around Little India
The cultural enclave of Little India has lots of interesting lanes to explore. Savour Indian desserts from the famous Moghul Sweet Shop in Little India Arcade, visit temples or find out your fortune at a streetside parrot astrologer. Ladies will also love Little India for beautiful saris, cheap eyebrow threading and intricate henna tattoos. If it’s a kooky late night experience you’re after, try shopping at Mustafa Centre – the 24-hour shopping mall sells everything you could possibly want, and then some.
Shop for local designers
While high street labels are aplenty in Singers, fashionistas have a decent choice of local designers to get their hands on too. We recommend Depression for monochrome, streetwear-inspired threads for both men and women, or Hansel for whimsical designs often inspired by local culture. Head here for more of our favourite local labels.
Get up to your ears in art at Singapore Art Museum
Art hounds can easily spend an entire afternoon getting stuck into Singapore Art Museum. With a strong focus on Singaporean and Southeast Asian artists, their special exhibitions never fail to leave one pondering. Be sure to stop by the Museum Label shop, too. The whimsical merchandise here is designed by local artists, and often has meaningful, cheeky nods to Singapore’s culture and idiosyncrasies.
71 Bras Basah Road. 10am-7pm. For more information, call 6589 9580.
Chill out at Kampong Glam
A short walk from Bugis MRT, the Kampong Glam district has rows and rows of vibrant shophouses hiding quaint cafes, trendy boutiques, laidback bars, Middle-Eastern restaurants and more. For a more traditional taste of Malay culture, visit the stately Masjid Sultan Mosque or the old fabric and trinket shops nearby. Families can also make a pit-stop at the Children Little Museum on Kandahar Street, a delightful archive of olden day toys, antiques and curios from the 50s to the 80s. You can’t miss the giant robot out front.
For just two bucks, you can catch a 10-minute bum boat from Changi Village to Singapore's biggest island. Pulau Ubin is like taking a step back in time – local villagers still live on the island and offer an insight into what life was like before Singapore became a busy city. For around 10 dollars, you can hire bikes near the ferry point on the other side, and cruise around the rural island for a good few hours. There are also some harder mountain bike trails, if that's your thing. Keep an eye out for monkeys and wild boars, plus head to the Chek Jawa wetlands trail.
Live it up at Sentosa Cove
Apart from having some of the swankiest cribs in Singapore, Sentosa Cove boasts an impressive stretch of restaurants at Quayside Isle, its luxury haunt. We like Earl of Hindh for its colonial-inspired interiors and richly spiced Indian cuisine. To unwind in style, look out for W Singapore’s monthly pool party, which spoils the hip set with disco-house grooves, summery nibbles and Supersoaker fun.
Brave the fabled oddities in Haw Par Villa
One of the most unique places in the actual world (or so we think), Haw Par Villa has over 1,000 statues, not to mention the 150 dioramas, that dramatise Chinese legends and folklore. Have a good laugh as you witness characters such as Fu Lu Shou, Confucius and the Laughing Buddha doing some very odd things indeed. Ten Courts of Hell, Journey into the West and numerous other exhibits aim to take you on an experience through ancient times, complete with blood, gore and, er, human crabs. The level of weird here is so famous amongst locals that it’s even inspired a homegrown music video.
262 Pasir Panjang Road. Open daily from 9am-7pm. Free admission.
Bukit Brown Cemetery
Bukit Brown is currently under construction in the part near Sime Road, but it's still worth heading there for a walk around - either with your dog or guests (it's pedestrianised and away from roads, so perfect for pooches). Some of the Chinese graves are huge and intricately designed, while others are overgrown and spookily peeking out from the depths of the jungle. Start your walk down the path that runs alongside the outdoor equestrian arena on Jalan Mashhor and enjoy a 60-minute loop. You can end with a walk along Mount Pleasant, which is littered with huge, stunning black and whites.
Tour Changi Museum
For a poignant look back at Singapore’s wartime past, visit Changi Museum. Here, you’ll find lots of photos, letters and artefacts from prisoners-of-war that shed light on their plight while being interned at Changi Prison. For a more immersive experience, rent an audio tour set ($8) to listen to real stories of survivors as you explore. The museum also has a little chapel (replicated from the one built by POWs during the war) where you can light a candle for the victims.
1000 Upper Changi Road. Open daily from 9.30am-5pm. Free admission.
Step into the past at Kampong Buangkok
Believe it or not, Singapore still has one surviving kampong (traditional village) amid its jungle of high-rise apartments. Home to less than 30 families, the rustic cluster of zinc-roofed houses near Hougang has been standing since 1956 and feels like a portal to the past. It’s common to see cats, dogs and chickens roaming about, as well as more exotic wildlife in the surrounding foliage. Word has it that Kampong Buangkok is slated to be redeveloped by the government in due time, so make a trip down before it disappears.
5 Lorong Buangkok.
Visit the National Museum of Singapore
The National Museum of Singapore is Singapore’s biggest museum, and regularly features exhibits full of Singapore’s historical and cultural artefacts. Keep tabs on their website for their latest interactive workshops and outdoor movie screenings.
93 Stamford Road. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Free for citizens and permanent residents, $6 (adults), $3 (students) for foreign visitors.
Catch music and art at the Esplanade
The Esplanade's intimate Outdoor Theatre often plays host to live music gigs spanning all kinds of genres - from jazz to pop rock – and makes a decent chill-out spot by the bay. Look out for scheduled shows on their website. If your guests prefer visual candy, stop by Jendela (Visual Arts Space) at Level 2 for ever-changing exhibits – often spotlighting local artists.
1 Esplanade Drive. Open daily from 11am-9pm.
Board the Singapore River Cruise
Take a tranquil tour of Clarke Quay, Boat Quay's colourful shophouses and historic bridges, plus Marina Bay's modern landmarks by boarding a traditional bumboat. Here, you'll get the best view in town while learning about Singapore River’s long history. The boat ride is best done after sunset for an incredible view of twinkling city lights and the laser show.
Board at jetties along Clarke Quay. For more information and a map, visit the official website.
Visit the junkyard for knick knacks
If shabby chic is your thing, you will love the junk shops that sit behind the Turf Club in Bukit Timah. They are piled - and we mean piled - high with everything and anything you might want in a home. Whether you're looking for dining chairs, tables, desks, mirrors or storage, these shops have everything by the dozen and for insane prices. Simply dig (on your hands and knees through cobwebs sometimes!) through the pieces to find the item you love, take a photo and show it to the staff. They will come up with a price (as there's no way they can tag the stores!) and you can haggle a little too. On our last visit, we saw a huge vintage carousel (merry go 'round), a lifesize statue of Jesus and a wooden hot tub.
2 Turf Club Road
Try a durian (go on, we dare you!)
The spiky, pungent ‘King of Fruits’ usually gets lots of extreme reactions and flak from foreigners. But whether you end up loving it or swearing off another bite completely, it’s one of those things you have to try once just for kicks. Geylang (the non-dodgy bit) is famous for durian stalls - for a wide selection, try Ah Hung Company. Open 24 hours, durians here range from $5 to $18 depending on type and (debatable) tastiness.
204 Geylang Road.
Soak up sun on Lazarus Island
For the best sand-and-sea experience in Singers, jump on the ferry from Marina South Pier to Lazarus Island – next to St John’s island. A morning visit is your best bet, when the powdery stretch of sand is usually empty, save for a few other day-trippers. Pack along some food and drinks for a sandy picnic, and enjoy splashing in turquoise waters. Although there’s zero infrastructure here, internet access is still decent (for folks who’d like to upload envious shots of the day onto Facebook).
Board a ferry at Marina South Pier, 31 Marina Coastal Drive. For a step-by-step guide to getting to Lazarus, head here.
Visit Gillman Barracks
Taking roost in former colonial barracks, the art hub’s cluster of galleries always have cool contemporary art show going on (head here to get the lowdown on each gallery). After spending an afternoon gazing at the intriguing artworks here is a treat, retreat to one of their hip restaurants for a hearty dinner. We like The Naked Finn for beautifully grilled seafood and bespoke cocktails.
9 Lock Road. For more info, email email@example.com.
Watch a local gig
If your guest is the type who loves sniffing out new records and bands, they’ll be thrilled to know that the local music scene is alive and kicking. Aside from the Esplanade’s frequent shows on the outdoor stage, live music bars like Hood Bar and Café and Timbre take pride in plugging homegrown bands with original tunes. Keep an eye on pop-up gig series like The Diarists Sessions too – they often spotlight new and rising talents.
With Singapore’s third wave coffee scene thriving, café-hopping has become a genuine hobby. And a handful of cafes have hit on a new fad to rake in the crowds – cuddly kitties. Taking after Tokyo’s cat cafes, there are currently four cosy spots where you can grab a cuppa and mingle with the furballs. Cat Café Neko No Niwa and The Company of Cats have a soft spot in our animal-loving hearts for only taking in rescued and abandoned cats.
Zoom down The Luge
If you’re hitting Sentosa with little ones, The Luge is worth a pit stop. Popular with families, the 1.2km track lets you whiz down slopes, hairpin corners and smooth stretches on slick go-kart style vehicles. The joyride takes all of two minutes, but don’t be surprised if the kiddos want a second (or a tenth) go.
Near Beach Station, Sentosa. $15, $3 for children under 6 riding tandem with a paying adult.
Marvel at marine life in S.E.A Aquarium
Home to more than 100,000 animals of over 800 species, the S.E.A. Aquarium realm on Sentosa goes all out when it comes to learning about the deep blue sea. Its Open Water Habitat is one of the biggest in the world, and filled with enormous sharks, rays and turtles. Fancy staring at them over a fancy dinner? There's actually a high-end dining spot called Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora that offers just that experience.
The indoor skydiving complex lets guests float and flip in a state-of-the-art 16.5 feet wide wind tunnel – the largest in the world. And since this does away with the daunting task of leaping out of a plane, it’s perfect for folks who get a bit jittery about heights - and kids! Suitable for ages seven and above, each ‘flight’ is supervised by fully-qualified instructors, who will train you before ‘take off’ and keep you on the right track during the dive.
43 Siloso Beach Walk, #01-01, Sentosa. Call 6571 000.
Get your hands on a queue jump passes for a few extra bucks, or head along on a week day for the best experience at Universal Studios. Sure, it's not as huge as the ones in the States, but a day in this wacky theme park definitely makes for a fun day out - with or without kids. Expect rollercoasters, 3D experiences, water rides and movie-set style towns and eateries.
Trick Eye Museum
Snap-happy tourists will love the Trick Eye Museum for its bevy of interactive 2D and 3D scenes that make for fun, outrageous illusions. Just pose in the right spots (pointed out with markers) and you could be balancing on a circus elephant’s trunk or flying on a broomstick. It’s a hilarious, light-hearted way to spend a few hours, and you’ll leave with lots of photos to baffle friends and family with.
8 Sentosa Gateway, Sentosa. For more info, call 6577 8888.
Visit a rooftop bar
With towering high-rise buildings at every turn, it's no shocker that Singapore is home to some of the best rooftop bars in the world. And not only are the views amazing, the drinks are top-notch too. Head here for our pick of the best bars to feel on top of the world.
Dance till you drop at a local DJ night
While we get a fair share of hyped-up international acts in Singapore’s clubs, the local DJ arena isn’t to be dismissed either. In recent years, parties fuelled by Singaporean beat-meisters have been gaining a following amongst both locals and foreigners. Our favourites include Sunday at the Training Shed (funk, reggae, soul and disco) at Labrador Park, Poptart (indie pop and rock) at Kyo and Drop Shots (drum & bass) at Koi Bangers + Izakaya.
Tags : Singapore
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