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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Outside the temple, devotees in their hundreds line up awaiting their turn, and building up their courage by dancing, shouting and singing
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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