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. Founded in 1859, the gardens were where the Brazilian seeds that gave rise to the great rubber plantations of Malaya were first nurtured in 1877. Henry Ridley, named the gardens’ director the following year, recognized the financial potential of rubber and spent the next twenty years persuading Malayan plantation-owners to convert to this new crop, an obsession that earned him the nickname “Mad” Ridley. In later years the gardens became a centre for the breeding of new orchid hybrids.

Recent additions have extended the park all the way north to Bukit Timah Road, where the Botanic Gardens MRT station (a long journey from downtown on the Circle Line) offers a route to the least interesting part 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. Note that if you’re feeling peckish while visiting, there are plenty of restaurants and cafés in the gardens itself or nearby at Tanglin village.

Once through the Tanglin gate, you can take a sharp right up the slope to the Botany Centre just ahead, a large building containing an information desk with free garden maps. Alternatively, continue straight down the path from the gate, lined with frangipanis, casuarinas and the odd majestic banyan tree, for five minutes to reach the tranquil main lake, nearly as old as the gardens themselves. At the lake’s far end, paths run through a small tract of surviving rainforest to the ginger garden, packed with flowering gingers as exotic and gaudy as anything you could hope to see in the tropics.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Singapore features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Where to stay in Singapore: an area by area guide

Where to stay in Singapore: an area by area guide

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 wea…

22 Oct 2015 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
Video: 17 things not to miss in Singapore

Video: 17 things not to miss in Singapore

Singapore has many sides. You can take in Little India, Arab Street and Chinatown before heading for a cosmopolitan night out hosted by some of the world's top …

04 Feb 2015 • Site Editor videocam Video
20 unforgettable things to do at night on your travels

20 unforgettable things to do at night on your travels

Twilight ballooning in Albuquerque, New Mexico Few sights are more magical than hundreds of tethered, glowing hot-air balloons illuminating a dusky night sky. …

12 May 2014 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month