An easy entry point for first-time visitors to Southeast Asia, the absorbing city-state of Singapore has evolved from a colonial port into a slick shrine to wealth and consumerism. With fascinating Chinese and Indian quarters, excellent museums, world-renowned restaurants and great shopping, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for days. Here's our guide to the best things to do in Singapore.
1. Stay in Chinatown
Chinatown’s once characterful shophouses have been rendered improbably perfect by restoration, but the area is still home to many shrines and shops specializing in Chinese food, medicine and other products. Exploring Chinatown is among the essential things to do in Singapore.
Chinatown was one of the most colourful districts of where to stay in old Singapore. Unfortunately, after independence, the government chose to grapple with its tumbledown slums by embarking upon a redevelopment campaign that saw whole streets razed. Getting a taste of the old ways of Chinatown now often means heading off the main streets into the concrete municipal housing estates, where older trades linger.
Find some attractive accommodation options to stay in Chinatown in our guide to the best places to stay in Singapore.
2. Enjoy the views of the Singapore Skyline
The towers of the Financial District are amazing viewed from the Singapore River or Marina Bay. The skyline of Singapore is a spectacular sight, featuring a mix of modern skyscrapers and historic landmarks and you should add visiting this area to your list of things to do in Singapore.
Some of the most iconic buildings in the city's skyline include the Marina Bay Sands, a resort complex featuring three 55-story towers connected by a rooftop sky garden and infinity pool; the Singapore Flyer, a giant Ferris wheel with panoramic views of the city; and the ArtScience Museum, a distinctive lotus-shaped building that houses a variety of interactive exhibits.
3. Hit the dancefloor in the many clubs of Singapore
Singapore’s clubbing scene is small but seriously happening, with space-age decor and regular visits by world-famous DJs. Clubbing, or going to nightclubs, is a popular activity in Singapore, and the city has a vibrant nightlife scene with a range of clubs and bars to choose from.
Many of the clubs in Singapore are located in the central business district or in the Orchard Road area, and they generally stay open until the early hours of the morning. There are clubs that cater to a variety of musical tastes, including electronic dance music (EDM), hip hop, and pop. Some popular clubs in Singapore include Zouk, which is known for its electronic music, and Attica, which is known for its hip hop and R&B music.
There are also a number of rooftop bars and clubs in Singapore, which offer panoramic views of the city skyline and a more laid-back atmosphere. It's worth noting that Singapore has strict laws regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol, and it is illegal to drink in public places.
4. Get to know the local arts scene
Even on a brief visit, it’s hard not to notice how much money has been invested in the arts: Singapore offers an excellent range of cultural events in all genres, drawing on both Asian and Western traditions. Prime downtown property has been turned over to arts organizations in areas like Waterloo Street and Little India, and prestige venues like Theatres on the Bay bring in world-class performers – at top-dollar prices.
This isn’t to say that all is hunky-dory: questions remain over whether creativity is truly valued when censorship lingers. Not as openly as in the 1970s and 1980s, but still within established red lines regarding party politics, ethnicity and religion that no one dares cross. More cynically, some say that support for the arts is a way to keep Singapore attractive to expats and its own occasionally restive middle class.
5. Visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Chinatown’s biggest, newest and brashest temple has its own museum, roof garden and, most memorably, thousands upon thousands of Buddha figurines. Right at the end of South Bridge Road is something of an upstart – the imposing Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the most in-your-face addition to Chinatown’s shrines in many a year.
The place simply clobbers you with its opulence – even the elevators have brocaded walls – and with its thousands upon thousands of Buddhist figurines lining various interior surfaces. It also boasts its own museum and a gallery of Buddhist art.
On this tailor-made trip to Unique Singapore you will enjoy plenty of entertainment, from visiting ethnic neighbourhoods like Little India and Chinatown, to night safaris, authentic street food and sampling the eponymous cocktail, or two. Singapore is, in short, the ideal introduction to Asia in one fell swoop.
6. Explore the delights of Little India
Little India is easily the most atmospheric of Singapore’s historic quarters, with colourful south Indian-style shrines, spice shops and outlets blaring Tamil music. Visiting this area is one of the best things to do in Singapore for an authentic experience.
Little India is a neighbourhood in Singapore that is known for its vibrant Indian culture and heritage. Located in the central part of the city, Little India is home to a large number of Indian-owned businesses and restaurants, as well as temples and other cultural landmarks. The area is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, who come to experience the sights, sounds, and flavours of India.
Explore the infamous Singapore Sling and fabulous shopping and nightlife, colourful neighbourhoods and mouth-watering cuisine with our tailor-made tour to Indulgent Singapore.
7. Hike in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Crisscrossed by several easy trails, this pocket of primary rainforest offers an authentic jungle experience, minus leeches but with the prospect of coming face-to-face with hyperactive macaques. The nature reserve at Bukit Timah was established in 1883 by Nathaniel Cantley, then superintendent of the Botanic Gardens.
Anything genuinely wild seems to be anathema to Singapore’s park authorities, so don’t expect a full-blown jungle-trekking experience. All four trails, colour-coded on maps, consist largely of family-friendly boardwalks, steps and stretches of proper road. Most people tackle the red trail which is the road up to the summit at a paltry 164m. A flight of narrow steps halfway along – the Summit Path – offers a shortcut to the top.
8. Enjoy the river view by night in Boat Quay
Boat Quay is alfresco dining at its best, the reflected lights of its myriad riverside bars and restaurants dancing on the waters of the Singapore River by night. Boat Quay is a historic waterfront area in Singapore located along the Singapore River. It was once a busy centre of trade and commerce, with boats coming and going from the river carrying goods from around the region.
Today, Boat Quay has been transformed into a popular dining and entertainment destination, with a range of restaurants, bars, and clubs along its waterfront promenade. The area is known for its lively atmosphere and picturesque setting, with views of the river and the nearby financial district.
9. Watch the fire walkers at Thimithi festival
The annual fire-walking festival is centred on the Sri Mariamman temple, a Hindu shrine that, in true multicultural Singapore style, happens to be in the heart of Chinatown. Dramatic Hindu ceremony sees devotees proving the strength of their faith by running across a four-metre-long pit of hot coals at the Sri Mariamman Temple.
Outside the temple, devotees in their hundreds line up awaiting their turn, and building up their courage by dancing, shouting and singing
10. Visit Changi Prison Museum
Centred on a replica wartime chapel, this is a hushed and moving memorial to the horrors perpetrated in Singapore during World War II. The infamous Changi Prison was the site of a World War II POW camp in which Japanese jailers subjected Allied prisoners, both military and civilian, to the harshest of treatment.
Those brutalities are movingly remembered in the Changi Museum. It was once within the prison itself – where drug offenders are still periodically executed – but was moved wholesale just up the road when the prison was extended in 2001.
11. Immerse into the Arab culture in Arab Street
The area around Arab Street is a fascinating mix of curio shops and alternative boutiques, and its informal Arab and Malay restaurants are a great place to chill out in the evening.
Some of the notable attractions in Arab Street include the Sultan Mosque, a grand mosque with a golden dome and intricate architectural details; the Arab Street District, a shopping destination featuring a range of stores selling traditional Middle Eastern goods and the Haji Lane, a narrow street lined with colourful shophouses and independent boutiques.
There are also a number of restaurants and cafes in the area serving a variety of Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, including falafel, shawarma, and kebabs. Arab Street is a great place to visit to experience the culture and history of Singapore's Arab community.
12. Visiting Zoo and Night Safari is one of the best things to do in Singapore with kids
Spot polar bears and Malayan tigers at this excellent zoo. One section is entirely devoted to nocturnal animals and open, appropriately, at night. On a promontory jutting into Seletar Reservoir are the Singapore zoo and its offshoots, the Night Safari and River Safari.
All are consistent crowd-pleasers, which is partly down to their more “open” philosophy. Many animals are confined in spacious, naturalistic enclosures behind moats, though creatures such as big cats still have to be caged. It’s a thoughtful, humane approach that may well please even those who don’t generally care for zoos.
Enjoy lush rainforests and cool night safaris, a glittering skyline and gorgeous Sentosa beaches on this tailor-made Singapore Family Fun Adventure
13. Go on an Orchard Road shopping spree
Orchard Road is a bustling shopping district in Singapore known for its wide range of stores, malls, and entertainment options. Located in the heart of the city, Orchard Road is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and it is known for its vibrant atmosphere and endless shopping opportunities.
Some of the notable shopping malls on Orchard Road include Ion Orchard, a high-end mall featuring designer brands and luxury goods; Ngee Ann City, a multi-level mall with a range of stores, including fashion, electronics, and home goods; and Plaza Singapura, a popular mall with a mix of local and international brands.
14. Have some fun experiences at Universal Studios
Packed with hair-raising rollercoaster rides and fantastic re-creations of everything from big-city America to ancient Egypt. Universal Studios is divided into seven themed zones, encompassing everything from ancient Egypt – the least convincing of the lot – to DreamWorks’ animated hit Madagascar. Taking your kids here is one of the best things to do in Singapore on a family holiday.
Standard tickets offer unlimited rides, but there’s much more to do than get flung around on cutting-edge roller coasters or, in the case of the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure, on a circular yellow raft: museum-type exhibits unwrap the world of film production, and you can watch musical spectaculars in a recreation of Hollywood’s Pantages theatre.
15. Visit the National Museum
Take stock of Singapore’s transformation from a rustic island to hi-tech metropolis, a story enlivened by plenty of oral-history clips. The National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in Singapore, and it is a leading cultural institution in the city. The museum is home to a wide range of exhibitions and programs that showcase the art, culture, and history of Singapore and the region.
The museum has a number of permanent exhibitions that cover a wide range of subjects, including Singapore's history, art, and cultural traditions. There are also temporary exhibitions that focus on specific themes or topics, such as modern art, photography, and design. The museum also hosts a range of educational programs and events, including workshops, lectures, and film screenings.
16. Taste delicious local street food
Singapore is nothing if not a foodie nation: along with shopping, eating is a mass pastime here. A mind-boggling number of food outlets on just about every road cater to this obsession. One of the joys of the eating scene is its distinctive and affordable street food, featuring local Chinese and Indian dishes you won’t find in China or India, served up in myriad hawker centres and food courts, as is great Malay and Indonesian food.
Also worth discovering is Nonya cooking, a hybrid of Chinese and Malay cooking styles developed by the Peranakan community. Western food of all kinds is plentiful too, though it tends to be pricier than other cuisines from Asia, which are equally available. Quite a few of the more run-of-the-mill restaurants swing both ways by offering Western and Asian dishes, and there’s no shortage of upmarket places serving a fusion of the two.
Choose the best places to eat in our guide to where to eat in Singapore.
17. Enjoy the nature of the Botanic Gardens
Genuinely world-class, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens feature everything from the jungle and ornamental tropical shrubs to a dazzling collection of orchids. Singapore has long made green space an integral part of the island’s landscape, but none of its parks comes close to matching the refinement of the Singapore Botanic Gardens – aptly anointed as the island’s sole UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These days the park extends all the way north to Bukit Timah Road, where the Botanic Gardens MRT station gives access to newer, less interesting parts of the gardens; the itinerary that follows assumes the classic approach up Tanglin and Napier roads to the Tanglin gate at the start of Cluny Road.
Southeast Asia is arguably one of the best places to travel, to choose a destination that suits you, read our guide about cool places to visit in Southeast Asia.
18. Cross the MacRitchie Treetop Walk
The Treetop Walk is a popular attraction in Singapore located in the MacRitchie Reservoir Park. It is a 250-meter-long suspended bridge that takes visitors on a guided tour through the treetops of the rainforest, offering panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness.
The Treetop Walk is a great way to experience the beauty of Singapore's rainforest, and it is a popular destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The walkway is suitable for all ages and abilities, and it is wheelchair-accessible. There are also a number of other attractions in the MacRitchie Reservoir Park, including hiking trails, picnic areas, and a children's playground.
19. Go to Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island is a popular tourist destination in Singapore known for its beaches, attractions, and entertainment options. Located just off the southern coast of Singapore, the island is accessible by a short causeway or cable car ride from the mainland.
Sentosa Island is home to a number of popular attractions, including the Universal Studios Singapore theme park, the S.E.A. Aquarium, and the Wings of Time outdoor show. The island also has a number of beautiful beaches, including Siloso Beach, Palawan Beach, and Tanjong Beach, which are popular for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.
20. Visiting Siloso Beach - one of the best things to do in Singapore for swimming
Siloso Beach is a popular beach located on the island of Sentosa in Singapore. It is known for its fine, white sand and crystal clear waters, and it is a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and beach activities. The beach is located near a range of amenities and facilities, including restaurants, bars, and water sports rental shops.
Siloso Beach is a great place to spend a day relaxing in the sun and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. There are a number of beachside restaurants and bars that offer a range of food and drinks, as well as tables and chairs for lounging.
- Best for luxury: Marina Bay Sands
- Best for unique design: Hotel Pickering, Singapore
- Best for families: Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa
- Best for budget: KINN Capsule Hotel
- Best for location: The Scarlet Singapore
Where to stay in Singapore:
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Ready for a trip to Singapore? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to Singapore. If you travel further in Singapore, read more about the best time to go and best things to do in Singapore. For inspiration use the itineraries from The Rough Guide to Singapore and our local travel experts. A bit more hands-on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.
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