A city bursting with attractions, activities, day trips and of course, shopping, Singapore is a destination the whole family will enjoy. Welcome to our Singapore travel guide.
It’s one of the cleanest and orderly cities in the world, and it’s also one of the safest, with shops and restaurants open until late in the night to accommodate the night owls. And while it has a reputation of one of the shopping capitals of the world, there’s more to the island state than malls.
Things to See and Do in Singapore
When researching things to do and see in Singapore, Marina Bay is often top of the list. It’s famous, mainly due to its epic transformation as the city-state developed. With the Marina Bay Sands complex as its focus, many of the city’s attractions revolve around the Bay, such as the Science Museum, Casino, and shopping and dining options. There’s also a light show that happens every night at around 8:00pm so it’s worth checking out during the day and the evening.
Right on the cusp of Marina Bay is Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s answer to a futuristic park. There’s a skywalk over the gardens, seashell-shaped greenhouses to recreate mountain climates, and hundreds of trees and plants to discover. Head to the top of the Marina Bay Sands to truly see the spectacle that is the Gardens. The space is 250 acres of reclaimed land and it’s open into the evening so you can experience all the magic of the lights as well.
Clarke Quay is packed with bustling bars and restaurants beautifully positioned on the riverside. There are also boutique shops to pop your head into as you stroll the sidewalk with a full tummy. Most restaurants offer al fresco dining so you can enjoy the balmy nights by the river and then head into one of the many bars for a night-cap.
Shopping on Orchard Road
It’s one of the most iconic streets in Singapore and when you walk it, you’ll understand why. Orchard Road is the epicentre of shopping in Singapore, often compared to London’s Oxford Street. There are local and international department stores right next door to tiny boutiques and local designers. Of course, there are also restaurants lining the street and inside the malls so you’ll never go hungry while you shop up a storm.
Explore the Southern Ridges
The Southern Ridges is a 10km stretch of connecting trails that lets you walk among the trees. Get away from the inner city and literally walk above it. As you walk, you’ll also be afforded panoramic views of the city, harbour and Southern Islands.
Singapore Night Safari
Finally, the Singapore Night Safari is a unique attraction where you can get up close and personal with the nocturnal animals. There are more than 1000 animals to visit and almost 60 exhibits, with animals from all over the world.
Read our guide to the top 10 things to see and do in Singapore.
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Best Places to Visit
A man-made island built for recreation, Sentosa has become the hot resort spot, as local and international tourists flock to the sandy shore. Located just south of Singapore, Sentosa is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Singapore, even just for a weekend. There’s also plenty to do on the island, including Universal Studios, the Singapore Butterfly and Insect Kingdom and the Aquarium.
Universal Studios was opened in 2010 and is one of Singapore’s latest attractions. There are seven themed sections with rides and shows that all relate to major hit movies. You can visit Hollywood, New York, Egypt and Madagascar all in one day.
China Town – and temples
It’s important to note that Singapore is made up of diverse cultures and ethnicities. China Town is the perfect place to visit to indulge in some authentic Chinese food and grab some shopping bargains. You can also learn about the history of Chinatown at the Heritage Centre, which explains how the Chinese immigrants founded Singapore. There are also several temples to explore.
Along Serangoon Road, Little India is also a lovely place to explore. With several Hindu temples, mosques and churches, a visit to Little India is sure to ignite all of your senses, as multicoloured shop-houses, spiritual chants, delicious aromas and the smiles of the people, transport you to the subcontinent as you walk along the street.
For the kids, Westgate Wonderland is a must. It’s the largest rooftop playground in Singapore and has larger-than-life replicas of characters. The playground evokes feelings of a magical garden with oversized insects, musical flowers and 10m tall tree houses. Just pack a change of clothes because there are some wet areas.
Kon Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
Make your holiday extra special with a visit to the Kon Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. It’s a spiritual sanctuary where people can learn the teachings of Buddha. You can do a guided tour to get the most out of your visit. Just remember to dress appropriately, with covered shoulders and knees.
Best Time to Visit
It really is summer all year round in Singapore so you can’t go wrong with the weather. Be mindful of the humidity though and the weather can be a bit temperamental so always carry an umbrella. What’s great about Singapore though is if it rains, just head indoors to the shopping centres for a couple of hours.
Be mindful of the traditional festivals that happen in Singapore. It can be wonderful being in the city for the festivals, but it also means bigger crowds and higher prices. Chinese New Year is usually celebrated in January or February depending on the lunar calendar. It’s a fantastic spectacle to see with markets, lion dances, festive feasting and an annual street parade.
The city also celebrates the Hindu festival of Holi. Again, it’s a wonderful festival to be part of with the colours, music and dancing.
For the Muslims in Singapore, Eid is one of the city’s major cultural festivals. Muslims around the city don coloured traditional clothing and visit their family and friends to feast, celebrating the end of Ramadan.
National Day occurs on the 9th August, when Singapore celebrates its independence. There are live performances and fireworks.
And of course, there’s Christmas to consider, with a Christmas Wonderland overtaking Gardens by the Bay with light sculptures and a Christmas market.
The Singapore Grand Prix is also usually held in September, and there are plenty of reasons to make sure you check it out, at least once.
Tours and Deals
It’s quite easy to do Singapore on your own. The public transport system is exceptionally easy to use and the MRT is the fastest way to get around the city. The rail network is so extensive that almost every attraction in Singapore is within walking distance from a station. Of course, there are also individual tours you can do, including a Sentosa Island tour, a city tour that takes in all the major sites of Singapore city, and a river cruise. You can even go on night tours around the city so you can see all the buildings and attractions lit up. There are also food tours you can take and walking tours so you can enjoy everything as you get some exercise.
Choosing Where to Stay in Singapore
Known for its extravagance, there’s no shortage of luxury accommodation options in Singapore. But there are some lovely guesthouses too. If you need some help narrowing down your options, we’ve collated the top hotels in Singapore into one list here.
When it comes to luxury, it’s hard to go past the Marina Bay Sands. With three towers, 55 stories, an infinity pool on the 57th floor and a gorgeous spa, the hotel is reportedly the most expensive stand-alone resort property ever built. It’s so famous that it has become synonymous with the Singaporean skyline. There are also three levels of gaming floor space, 80 restaurants and more than 300 retail shops so there’s something for everyone.
In the heart of Singapore’s business district and perfect for the business traveller is Sofitel Singapore City Centre. The boutique style hotel turns on the homely touches, with in-room colouring books and wellness and relaxation books next to the bathtub. Like all Sofitels, the place positively teams with fresh cut flowers and artist-in-residence Arianna Coroli has created a magnificent collection of boisterous and energetic flower still-life works that dominate the public areas. Racines restaurant has creates two menus from the same ingredients, an eastern and then western preparation. The high tea is what brings in the crowds however. The club level is worth the extra investment with hearty snacks and great wines on offer throughout the day. It is an oasis in the middle of the city.
Heading over to Sentosa, the Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa is a boutique resort on Palawan beach with swimming pools (yes plural), breathtaking views of the South China Sea and a peaceful spa. It has a rustic, colonial feel with surrounding greenery. Heaven on earth.
Beach Villas, also on Sentosa, has a panoramic view of the harbour and Labrador Park. Plus, there’s a huge pool with direct-room access.
A neoclassical landmark, the Fullerton Bay Hotel was once home to the General Post Office, Exchange Reference Library and the Ministry of Finance. It has since been declared a national monument so it’s an ideal spot for those interested in Singaporean history. There are cultural artefacts behind the Aberdeen façade and the hotel even offers tours of the grounds. Adorned with chandeliers and a marble-mosaic foyer, each room has floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the natural light and waterfront position. Included inside the hotel are art galleries and a heritage gallery. Truly for the historians out there.
Capella Singapore is the perfect position for business travellers, with easy access to the financial and shopping districts. The hotel is situated on 30 acres of sprawling hillside and is a much-needed respite from the hectic city. The colonial elegance seeps through the stylish residence which was previously used by the British Royal Artillery.
If you’re after some opulence, check in to the St Regis. While it may look like an office tower, it’s anything but, and the fleet of luxury cars parked at the hotel’s entrance provides some clues into what lies inside. The art-deco rooms each have a butler and there are six options for food and drinks inside, including a Michelin-starred sushi restaurant.
The term ‘guesthouse’ encompasses many different meanings in Singapore, including anything from a refurbished shop house through to old houses. Either way, they’re an inexpensive option for travellers looking to save some money.
The Shophouse is right in the centre of Arab Street, a great location to reach all of Singapore’s top historical sights. With a bistro on the bottom and a bar on the rooftop, there are ample opportunities to mingle with other guests.
Perfect for families due to the large private rooms, the Mitraa Inn is located in Little India, meaning it’s exceptionally convenient to get to all of Singapore’s attractions. It’s clean and modern with all the amenities you would expect.
The Quarters Hostel is an excellent option for those in a party mood. Located just near Clarke Quay, the rooms are comfortable and clean, and being in such a busy location, there’s always something happening.
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Best Places to Eat in Singapore
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Headed by Taiwanese-born chef, Andre Chiang, Restaurant Andre captivates the imagination of everyone who sits down at a table. The restaurant has one key principle: eight dishes on the menu correlating to eight elements. For example, the use of bold flavours evoke ‘memory’ whereas the dishes used to evoke the element of ‘purity’ use very little seasoning.
If you’re after something the locals truly love, head to Iggy’s. The award-winning restaurant serves creative, delicate flavours drawing inspiration from all corners of the world. It’s set in the swanky Hilton Singapore so perfect for a special night out.
Arguably the best steak restaurant in Singapore, CUT by Wolfgang Puck is part of the Marina Bay Sands complex. With décor and ambiance that oozes class and sophistication, celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck doesn’t do things in half, importing the finest and freshest cuts of beef from all around the world.
Les Amis, a classy French restaurant is an institution. With an air of old-school elegance and an extravagant, yet delightful menu, the chefs play on traditional French cuisine with a twist. Plus, the wine cellar stocks more than 2000 labels, one of the largest in Asia.
It may not be the best hawker centre in Singapore but it’s most definitely the most popular and the busiest. Lau Pa Sat Food Court sits up to 2500 people and is located right in the heart of the CBD. There’s a huge amount of variety when it comes to food, but bear in mind that prices are slightly inflated due to its location and its popularity.
Ask the locals though and they’ll tell you that Old Airport Road Food Centre is where you need to go to get the best hawker food. It’s not that pretty and a little outside the city centre but it’s definitely worth the distance, especially for the specialties they provide including stay noodles and rojak, an Indonesian fruit and vegetable salad.
For breakfast and brunch, head to Tiong Bahru Market. It’s one of the only hawker centres open at that time of day, with many stalls opening their doors at 7:00am. However, the best of what the Market has to offer is probably better enjoyed a bit later in the day as the dish, Tiong Bahru, is mostly meat based.
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Cultural Experiences in Singapore
Despite popular opinion, Singapore is not just about shopping. There are plenty of cultural experiences to enjoy.
A recent addition to Singapore, the National Gallery Singapore opened its doors in 2015. It’s the largest visual arts venue in Singapore due to its size and it houses the National Collection as well as other South-East Asian works stretching from the 19th century through to present day. Even if you’re not into art, the food scene inside is a must-visit.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was built in 2002 to house the tooth relic of Buddha and to serve as the Chinese Buddhist cultural centre. It’s built in Dynasty style and includes a museum with ancient artefacts.
The oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore, Thian Hock Keng was assembled in the early 1840s without a single nail being used. The building, rather, is a collection of stone, tiles, wood, carvings and columns.
Head on over to the Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple on the island. It’s located in the heart of Chinatown and its entrance is what makes it a true Singapore landmark – an ornamental tower is made up of six tiers with sculptures of deities, and mythological beasts and beings.
From shopping to culture, to enjoying the beach and the sights, Singapore is a multicultural society. It’s exceptionally family-friendly and perfect for any holiday.