The 10 top things you must do in Singapore

Cheryl Heng
The tropical island nation is tiny, but it's packed with great things to see and do.
Cheryl Heng
The 10 top things you must do in Singapore
Imaginechina

A panoramic view of Singapore’s downtown and financial center. Begin your exploration of the city around Marina Bay, with various famous landmarks such as ArtScience Museum and Marina Bay Sands located here. 

If you are looking for a destination with tropical green dotted with urban landscapes and a mouth-watering food culture to boot, it’s Singapore you should be headed to.

Jewel Changi

First up on your itinerary has got to be checking out the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. It’s right inside Changi Airport, so it’s definitely not far off from whichever terminal your flight lands at. At 40 meters high, the Rain Vortex cascades through an oculus (eye-shaped feature) in the middle of Jewel Changi. This architectural paradise links three terminals yet is also a shopping wonder with 10 stories of retail and dining zones. Staying true to Singapore’s reputation as a city in a garden, Jewel is a lush rainforest with thousands of trees and shrubs. Head up to the Canopy Park for manicured themed gardens and life-sized animal topiaries. To entertain the little tots, pick between the Pokemon Centre, Foggy Bowls or Discovery Slides.

Marina Bay Sands

For another genre-defying lifestyle attraction, follow the crowds to Marina Bay Sands. An opulent resort complex that defines the Singapore skyline, Marina Bay Sands is home to a luxury shopping mall, convention center, hotel, casino and the ArtScience museum.

Pool day? Enjoy the splendor of Singapore from the Skypark, with the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool. Only hotel guests have access to the iconic infinity pool. But for S$23 (US$17), you can opt for the Skypark observatory deck. It is open to public but has less impressive views.

The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands has every luxury brand imaginable. Yet. And they are not resting on their laurels, providing shoppers with a luxurious boating experience right in the middle of the mall. Paddle through the canals of The Shoppe in a beautifully-crafted Chinese wooden boat.

Immerse yourselves in a dynamic digital universe of interactive exhibitions at the ArtScience museum. Installations revolve around concepts of space, art and science in a prominent lotus-shaped building. Singapore can be a particularly rainy place, especially in December. Don’t let the heavy tropical rain ruin your visit — retreat to the museum for a cozy day.

Gardens by the Bay

A city garden spanning over 101 hectares with captivating waterfront views may not sound amazing to you but prepare to be stunned by super-sized man-made trees of up to 16 stories. In the day, the Supertrees serve as excellent canopies providing shade. By night, the iconic giants enchant with a Garden Rhapsody light and sound show.

it is free to enter Gardens by the Bay, but it has two ticketed attractions. Cloud Forest stuns with a conservatory veiled in mist. Explore the lush vegetation from tropical highlands up to 2,000 meters above sea level, including orchids, ferns and bromeliads. Your next ticketed attraction is Flower Dome, where is perpetually spring. Here, you will find a glass greenhouse of floral artistry, surrounding you with colorful and delicate blooms.

Bugis Street Area

You’ll need to pace yourself here, there is much to see in Singapore’s bustling downtown. The Arabic Quarter or Kampong Glam is a 15 minute walk from the Bugis MRT station. A highlight is the Sultan Mosque’s giant golden domes shining brilliantly in the strong sun.

Stroll down Haji Lane, Now a trendy strip of cafes, boutiques and traditional wares. It is one of Singapore’s few indie ‘hoods, with colorful murals that accompany your trail at every corner.

If a neoclassical church with swathes of green lawns and al fresco restaurants sound like an ideal evening plan, make your way down to Chijmes. It’s likely you chance upon a wedding if you are there on a weekend evening. After all, it is a charming chapel. .

The 10 top things you must do in Singapore
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Gardens by the Bay is Singapore’s iconic scene with super-sized man-made trees of up to 16 stories.

Orchard Road

Orchard Road remains the grand dame of Singapore’s retail scene. Be it luxury labels or bespoke designs, it is a bustling shopping hub that satiates your shopaholic impulses. Start your retail journey at shopping complexes like ION Orchard or 313@Somerset.

Drop by Emerald Hill for a respite from the bustling boulevard. Tucked away with colorful Peranakan shophouses — Peranakan refers to descendants of southern Chinese in the Malay archipelago — it makes for an ideal evening stroll. Savour a drink or two at quaint al fresco bars and restaurants at Emerald Hill, with the swankiest being No. 5 Emerald Hill.

Clarke Quay

Clarke Quay is irrefutably Singapore’s most vibrant nightlife district. Along the Singapore River, drinking venues run the gamut from colonial-style pubs to live music bars. Ask any roaming young locals in Clarke Quay and it’s likely they are headed to Zouk next, a popular nightclub.

The riverside quay is also a little epicentwr of fine dining. Rows of riverfront Victorian buildings serve up a varied platter of cuisines: Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and even Nonya (a Peranaklan blend of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian) dishes.

The Merlion statue has arguably passed its heyday, but snap a photo with it anyway if you are near Clarke Quay. The lion head is said to represent the discovery of Singapore, by Prince Sang Nila Utama who sighted a beast later revealed to be a lion. The fish tail is symbolic of the nation’s humble beginnings as a fishing village.

Sentosa Island

Round off your trip to Singapore with its island of fun and adventure. Sentosa is teeming with kid-friendly attractions, exploring the island will take up an entire day.

There are various ways to arrive at Sentosa, but swimming is not one of them. Take the cable car for the most expensive and scenic option. Otherwise, it’s a 20-minute walk (still scenic!) or the monorail (really fast).

For full-fledged entertainment, nothing rivals Universal Studios Singapore. Adrenaline-pumped rides and award-winning stage shows await at the theme park, complete with a spectacular fireworks display at night.

Adventure Cove Waterpark promises a splash of a good time, while the SEA Aquarium enthrals with a marine realm of more than 100,000 aquatic animals. If time permits, take your pick from Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Megazip Adventure Park or iFly Singapore (indoor sky diving).

Love the beach? Sentosa’s beaches are beloved by Singaporeans, so head to the sun-soaked stretch of sand to unwind for the evening. Tanjong Beach Club is a hit with families and groups alike, serving up classic beach bites and ice cold tipples. Sprawl on a sunbed and relax with the soothing sounds of the sea.

Southern ridges

Pick an early morning to explore the small forested hills of Southern Ridges. That way, you will avoid the blazing, afternoon sun as you make your way to the summit of Mount Faber. You also get a terrific view of the Singapore skyline and Sentosa Island.

Along the 10-kilometers of Southern Ridges, you will come across Henderson Waves. It is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, unique for its undulating curved structure. Continue on and the next stretch brings you to Forest Walk, an elevated walkway that brings you at eye-level with the forest canopy. The entire stretch takes three hours and definitely worth every drop of sweat to unveil the natural beauty of a metropolis.

Pastel shophouses at Katong

It’s postcard-perfect — rows of traditional Peranakan shophouses in whimsical color palettes. Small details like flower motifs and other intricate flourishes on these terrace houses symbolises traditional Peranakan décor. Katong is a rich, storied neighborhood to discover more about Peranakan culture. Visit Katong Antique House, The Intan or Rumah Kim Choo if you fancy a mini museum tour.

The best laksa in Singapore is right in this neighborhood. At 328 Katong Laksa, it is common for queues to snake beyond its doors. If you wish to try authentic Peranakan nosh instead, eat at Guan Hoe Soon Restaurant. Whipping up Peranakan cuisine since 1953, it is Singapore’s oldest Peranakan restaurant.

Sucker for colorful buildings? Head down to Old Hill Street Police Station. It’s multicoloured window shutters will have you in awe

Chinatown

Bold red and gold tones running across the neighborhood may clue you in on Chinatown’s rich cultural history. Yet, this district is more than just a heritage enclave. Singapore’s oldest places of worship are found here, such as the Sri Mariamman Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum.

It is also a meld of hidden haunts and unpretentious eateries. Get lost in the maze of food stalls at Chinatown Complex, the largest hawker center in Singapore. Too hot? Dine at Chinatown Food Street where it has a glass-canopy shelter with cooling system. It has fewer options, but it recreates an authentic Singapore dining experience in one street.

While exploring Chinatown, it’s likely that you will spot a striking green-and-yellow building — the People’s Park Complex. For a glimpse of Singapore’s yesteryear, visit this six-story podium of shops and offices. Its rooftop used to be photographers’ well-kept secret, with sweeping views of downtown Singapore.

Keong Saik Road on Ann Siang Hill has a treasure trove of great dining spots and cool joints. The coolest resident of this buzzing street is definitely Potato Beach Club. Sate your appetite with gourmet burgers or chill at its eccentric rooftop garden with grilled skewers and drinks.

Burnt Ends dishes out delightful meats fired by coal, so meat-lovers, take note. The list goes on, with Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant, The Populus Coffee & Food Co and DON HO.

The 10 top things you must do in Singapore
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Clarke Quay is irrefutably Singapore’s most vibrant nightlife district. 

Food

Hawker food in Singapore always ensures a satisfying, hearty and affordable meal. Locals brace the heat every day to join snaking queues during lunch time, making the hardest decision of the day — what’s for lunch?

Prep yourself for plates of satay, chicken rice, Hokkien mee, prata and nasi lemak (the list goes on — carrot cake, fried oysters…) If you share, you might even have space for a bowl of dessert like ice-kachiang.

Tourists flock to Lau Pa Sat for striking colonial architecture and mouth-watering local dishes. But for a more authentic and affordable experience, head to Chomp Chomp Food Centre or Amoy Street Food Centre.

Your crash course on Singaporean cuisine is not complete without a drink. Pick from coffee, tea, soy drink, sugar cane or fruit juice — they are all easily found at any hawker centre.

A tip: If you drink your coffee or tea less sweet, you can the stall vendor that.

Most Singaporeans choose their level of sweetness when getting their daily dose of caffeine. The entire drink is always customisable — say siew dai/shao tang for less sugar or kosong for no sugar. For a chocolate drink, order a cup of Milo. If a rose-flavored drink piques your taste buds, go for Bandung.


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