Last updated: 18th May 2021
About Singapore – The Green and Clean City
The city-state of Singapore is the 2nd smallest country in South East Asia (Maldives is the smallest). Singapore is an island nation – it has one main island and 62 small offshore islands. After 144 years of British rule Singapore became an independent country in 1965. It’s diverse with a unique mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and British culture. It’s a modern cosmopolitan city with a skyline that reminded us of Shanghai – full of glistening towering skyscrapers. Singapore is an important financial hub of Asia and has the busiest port in the world. Be warned it’s one of the most expensive cities we’ve visited (especially by South East Asia standards) so we held back a little on those cocktails!
Top 10 Things To Do In Singapore:
1. Explore Chinatown
We started our first day of exploring Singapore in Chinatown. The first thing we noticed was how immaculate everything is, this is not like the gritty Chinatown of Bangkok. Instead this is easily the cleanest Chinatown we’ve ever visited. In fact everywhere in Singapore is sparkling clean and tidy. After wandering around the shops and colourful painted shophouses we dived straight into the food and ate at the Maxwell Food Centre located here at one of the many hawker stalls inside.
Sri Mariamman Temple
In Chinatown is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore – The Sri Mariamman. It’s an important place of worship for Tamil Hindus in the country. It has to be one of the most colourful templates we’ve ever seen. Full of oranate and elaborate details, especially the 6 tier tower entrance – sculptures of mythological figures and deities. You will need to make a small donation for taking photos inside.
Thian Hock Keng Temple
This template was built in 1839 and is just like the traditional Chinese temples we saw in Beijing – constructed with no nails. It’s dedicated to Mazu, Goddess of the Sea so that Chinese immigrants could come here to give thanks for their safe journey across the South China Sea.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Finally in Chinatown you can’t miss this 5 storey temple which also has a museum exhibiting Buddhist art. It’s a fairly new temple built in 2007 and free to enter but remember to dress appropriately. The temple holds a holy relic – a tooth claimed to belong to Buddha that was discovered in Myanmar.
2. Get a Selfie at Merlion Park
At Merlion park is the ‘Merlion’ – a half-fish half-lion statue. The mythical creature’s fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village (Mer means sea) and the Lion head represents Singapore’s original name ‘Singapura’ (means Lion City in Malay). Take a brolly with you if you are visiting during the monsoon seasons – December to March and June to September. It was wet most of the time during our visit as we’d expected. Garth noticed everyone had 7-Eleven umbrellas, so we bought a brolly from the shop next to our hotel. Suddenly we were now locals! and blended in nicely 🙂
3. Take in the views from SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands Hotel
The biggest landmark of Singapore has to be the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It’s one of the most iconic luxury hotels in the world. It’s an amazing piece of architecture, the whole place is colossal. Inside looks just like a cathedral, it has it’s own casino, high-end shopping mall and even a man-made canal like Las Vegas.
Perched on the roof is the SkyPark, it looks like a spaceship has landed on the top of three skyscrapers. The SkyPark has a breathtaking infinity pool with Singapore’s skyscrapers as the backdrop. SkyPark also has an observation deck and a roof top bar – Ce La Vi.
We had a drink at the Ce La Vi skybar. It costs S$20 each to enter, but this can be redeemed against your drinks when you get the bill. The panoramic views across Marina Bay and the opposite side across the Singapore Strait sea are amazing. The bar doesn’t have access to the main observation deck below but you can sneak a peak (from a distance) at the infinity pool. From what we could see the guests in the pool were going crazy taking selfies! The only way to access that pool is to stay the night at the hotel, something we’ll definitely consider for a future stopover.
4. Visit the Bio-domes and SuperTrees of Gardens By The Bay
Continuing our top 10 things to do in Singapore – at #5 is the must see attraction of Singapore – Gardens By The Bay. Garth loved this place as he’s a keen gardener. Set in 250 acres of reclaimed land, the gardens are free but you pay to enter the bio-domes. We visited the three main attractions of the gardens.
Giant Supertrees and Skyway
The 18 futuristic trees look like something straight out of sci-fi movie. The ‘super trees’ are designed to mimic real trees, collecting rain water and capturing the sun’s energy with solar panels. They are planted vertically with thousands of tropical climbing plants including vines and ferns. Come back in the evening at 7.45pm or 8.45pm to watch the free ‘Garden Rhapsody Light Show’ – the supertrees are covered in lights which dance synchronised to music, very cool! (arrive early to find a good spot). The light show is solar powered from light collected during the day.
The Flower Dome
Welcome to the world’s biggest glass greenhouse. As you enter there’s a lovely aroma, they replicate the cool-dry climates of regions like South Africa and the Mediterranean. The collection is displayed as themes from different countries of the world. Some are jam packed full of colour, we loved all the orchid plants, the various cactus from the USA and the 1,000 year old olive trees. We’ve also never seen so many people with selfie sticks taking photos!
The Cloud Forest Conservatory
This conservatory is bigger than the Flower Dome and is like stepping into a scene straight from the movie Avatar. It has the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and has a cooler climate replicating the moist and damp climate of tropical mountains. Spiralling walkways weave their way around the mountain forest showing different plants that grow at each altitude. When you’ve arrived at the top make your way to the mist filled Cloud Walk. It really is spectacular inside and a great place to relax and a welcome respite from Singapore’s city heat.
Singapore is so rich in greenery everywhere you turn. We noticed even the concrete pillars of the motorway flyovers are covered in climbing plants aswell as some residential skyscrapers no wonder it’s also called the ‘garden city’.
5. Walk around Singapore Botanic Gardens
At number 5 of the 10 best things to do in Singapore – head on over to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. This place is huge – 60 acres of gardens and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the must-see National Orchid Garden here – the world’s largest collection of orchid species, 3,000 to be exact. The rolling lawns and various gardens make for a leisurely afternoon.
6. Sip a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel
Not far from Marina Bay is Singapore’s iconic and luxurious Raffles Hotel. The colonial-style hotel dates back to 1887 and is named after the city’s founder Sir Stamford Raffles. We loved the gorgeous chandeliers inside and the immaculately dressed doormen. It’s also the birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail, first shaken in 1915 so we couldn’t say no to trying this quintessential drink. Phil ordered a regular sling and Garth had the champagne version. They cost S$30 each yikes! but nice and boozy so it was worth it. Want to make your own? here’s the recipe. If you get a bowl of peanuts you are supposed to toss the husks onto the floor – a customary tradition of the Long Bar.
Before you leave check out the gift shop for a cheeky souvenir. It has everything you can think of branded with the Raffles logo.
7. Look for different styles of Shophouses
Singapore has a unique Peranakan heritage – people with mixed Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage. You’ll see Peranakan shophouses all over Singapore. Look up to see the colourful windows on these historic rows of terrace houses. Many have survived since the early 1900s and the architectural styles vary depending on when they were built. They are either 2 or 3 storeys and have a large open ground floor that were used by merchants to trade goods and the upstairs were used as living quarters. The most Instagrammed homes are along Koon Seng Road and the fully restored NUS Baba House which is also a museum.
8. Eat Chilli Crab at Hawker Food Centres
Chilli Crab is the signature Singaporean dish, it’s a delicious, takes ages to eat and you’ll end up with sticky fingers. Don’t like chilli? then try the black peppercorn version instead. The best place to eat Chilli Crab at a reasonable price are at hawker food centres. These are food courts that are packed with individual stalls, if they have a long queue then you know it’s going to be good. The vendors used to sell food on the streets until the government banned them and created hygienic premises for them to cook.
Make sure you try some other Singaporean dishes like:
- Hainanese Chicken Rice – Simple roasted chicken served with rice cooked in chicken stock.
- Laska – A spicy noodle soup made with coconut milk, vegetables and different meats.
- Char Kway Teow – Sweet and spicy fried noodles with Chinese sausage, it’s made with lots of Soy sauce.
- Bak Chor Mee – Egg noodles, pork balls and minced pork.
9. Watch Spectra – Singapore’s Evening Light Show
We watched the free water projection and laser show opposite the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It lasts 15 minutes and is a whole lot better than the light show we watched at Hong Kong. Showtimes are Sunday to Thursday at 8pm and 9pm / Friday and Saturday at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.
10. Go to Clarke Quay at night
The last of our favourite top 10 things to do in Singapore was going to Clarke Quay each night. We visited one of the many waterside restaurants. Popular with tourists for nightlife there’s a real buzz to the place. Loads of bars, live music and clubs, it’s safe and a great spot for a bit of people watching with a glass of wine.
Other Singapore Attractions:
- Arab Street – Singapore’s muslim quarter. Visit Haji Lane for textiles and cafes or the Sultan Mosque.
- Little India – Lots of colourful painted shophouses with shops and Indian eateries.
- Orchard Road – For numerous shopping malls – high street and mostly high-end stores.
- Singapore Flyer – Ride the world’s second largest observation wheel – panoramic views of Marina Bay.
- ArtScience Museum – Visit the Future World exhibition. Located in the lotus like structure next to Marina Bay Sands.
- Universal Studios Singapore – Theme park located on Sentosa Island.
The best way to get around Singapore is to use the super efficient MRT trains. They are cheap and clean. Just tap the reader with your card at the start and end of your journey. EZ-Link cards can be bought from MRT stations and 7-Eleven shops.
Singapore Practical Information & Useful Advice
Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Singapore Tips
- Tip #1: Pack light – Singapore is hot and humid all year round.
- Tip #2: There are no Uber taxis – so use Grab instead.
- Tip #3: Hotels are expensive – July to August have the cheapest rates.
- Tip #4: Jaywalking, spitting on the floor and chewing gum are illegal.
- Tip #5: The tap water is safe to drink in Singapore.
Singapore Fast Facts
- Airport Code: SIN – Singapore Changi Airport.
- Time: GMT +8 hours. Singapore Standard Time.
- Currency: Singapore Dollar (symbol: $)
- Language: English. Also Malay, Tamil and Mandarin.
- Population: 5,850,342.
- In An Emergency – Call 999 for police and 995 for ambulance and fire brigade.
- Electricity: Plug type C, G and M. Voltage is 230V / 50Hz.
- Best Time To Visit Singapore: January to April during the dry season.
- Worst Time To Visit Singapore: December to March and June to September are the monsoon seasons.
- Famous For: Being a rich city, century old temples, green spaces, orchids and hawker food,
- History: The British established Singapore as a trading port in 1818. The Japanese took control during World War 2 until 1945. In 1963 Singapore became an independent country.
- 5 Must See: Chinatown, Gardens By The Bay, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Clarke Quay and Raffles Hotel.
- Local Food: Eat chilli crab or black pepper crab – Singapore’s signature dishes.
- Getting Around: Is easy using the MRT underground.
- Trivia: The national anthem of Singapore is printed on the back of the $1,000 note in tiny text.
- TV & Film: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) was filmed in Singapore.
- Best Photo Spot: Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay (even better at night).
- Hidden Gem: Ann Siang Hill Park.
- Souvenir: A miniature bottle of a Singapore sling base mix from Raffles Hotel.
How We Did It
- We paid for 3 nights at the D’Hotel Singapore a nice boutique hotel in a good location.
- We bought tickets for the Big Bus tour on our first day to get our bearings of the city.
- We found a good deal on flights to Singapore with Cathay Pacific from the UK.
- We visited Singapore at the end of December.