Delays aside, the travel bubble with Singapore will soon become a reality, and we’re excited! Here, with a little help from the team at our sister magazine down there, we present a big list of fun and fab things to do in the Lion City.
#1 Stroll through Gardens by the Bay
This gigantic waterfront garden has a cool, futuristic feel and plenty of exotic plants, making it a wonderful spot for a leisurely walk. Must-see sights include the Flower Dome, which focuses on Mediterranean flora, and the Cloud Forest, a misty tropical wonderland with a roaring indoor waterfall (the tallest in the world until it was taken over by the one at Jewel Changi Airport, also in Singapore!). Want to get closer to the space-age Supertrees? Hit the Skyway trail after dusk for a surreal 22-metre-high stroll amidst the glowing structures. If you have kids to keep amused, toddle off to the huge Children’s Garden, which has sprawling tree houses, a water-play area and a toddler zone (free entry, too).
#2 Sail aboard a tall ship
The Royal Albatross is a traditionally rigged ship, and the only one of its kind in Asia. With elegant carvings and interiors made from 100-year-old hardwood, the tall ship is the masterpiece of Hollywood rigger Jim Barry, who designed the ships used in Pirates of the Caribbean. There are various options, from a signature Sunset Sail to Dinner Cruises with three- or six-course options and more. If you want to pop the question while on your Singapore escape, there are special packages for that, too! The ship also offers fun experiences such as a mast climb and the chance to get behind the helm.
#3 Wander around Little India
The cultural enclave of Little India has lots of interesting lanes to explore. Grab a tasty dosa at Komala Vilas on Serangoon Road, visit the famous Moghul Sweet Shop in Little India Arcade, marvel at colourful temples or find out your fortune from a street-side parrot astrologer. Ladies will also love the neighbourhood for beautiful saris, cheap eyebrow threading and intricate henna tattoos. If it’s a kooky late-night experience you’re after, try shopping at Mustafa Centre – the 24-hour mall sells everything you could possibly want, and then some!
#4 Get your thrills at Universal Studios
If Ocean Park and Disneyland are your staples for a fun day out, you won’t want to miss Singapore’s biggest theme park. For the best experience, get your hands on a queue-jump pass for a few extra dollars, or head along on a weekday when things are quieter. Expect rollercoasters, 3D experiences, water rides and movie-set towns and eateries.
#5 Search for Singapore’s black-and-whites
Singapore’s iconic and beautiful colonial bungalows were built by the British in the period before World War II. There are around 500 “black-and-whites” still standing on the island. Some are rented out for homes, businesses or restaurants – sadly, a few are empty as rents are high. Exploring the key neighbourhoods where these houses can be found is a pleasure. For starters, try Wessex Estate, Dempsey, Mount Pleasant, Goodwood Hill, Adam Park and, further out from the centre, Seletar and Sembawang.
#6 Ogle amazing art at the National Gallery
The National Gallery is home to the biggest public collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art in the world, with a whopping 8,000 artworks on display! Opened in 2015, the gallery occupies the former City Hall and Supreme Court heritage buildings; it’s a big space – matching the likes of Musée d’Orsay (France) and the Tate Modern (UK) in size. If you’re more “foodie” than “arty”, you should still visit for the plethora of restaurants and bars at the venue.
#7 Have fun on Sentosa
If you’re hitting Sentosa with kids, there are a number of attractions worth trying (beyond just lazing on the beach). The Megazip is a must-do, with a 450m zipline across jungle, sand and sea, plus other great activities to try. Fort Siloso is a great spot to learn about Singapore’s fascinating military history. The Luge is also popular; the 1.2km track lets you whizz down slopes and around hairpin corners on go-karts. iFly is an indoor skydiving complex where you can float and flip in a state-of-the-art wind tunnel – the largest in the world. And snap-happy tourists will love the Trick Eye Museum for its interactive 2D and 3D scenes and outrageous illusions.
#8 Take off down a MacRitchie
Reservoir trail Aside from being a beautiful location for a jog, MacRitchie Reservoir has five scenic hiking trails through the forest. Ranging from 3km to 11km, each path gives you magnificent views of the reservoir and its surrounding bush, as well as chances to spot heaps of creatures like long-tailed macaque monkeys, wild boars, squirrels, snakes and monitor lizards. (For more great walking and jogging spots in Singapore, visit expatliving.sg and search for “hiking trails”.)
#9 Visit the Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari
Animal enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Singapore’s award-winning zoo, home to over 300 species. Highlights include white tigers, baboons, elephants, Komodo dragons, meerkats and cute pygmy hippos. Little ones will love the Kidzworld area, which has a water playground, obstacle course, farmyard animals and more. If their legs get tired, you can tour the zoo by guided tram. Another option is an evening visit; the Night Safari offers an elusive look at beasts and critters that are soundly snoozing during regular zoo hours. Meanwhile, the newer River Safari next door has over 6,000 animals that live in or along the world’s most famous rivers.
#10 Walk across the Waves …
the Henderson Waves, that is. Known for its iconic curvy architecture, this is Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge. It’s only 274m in length, but there are some great green zones to explore on either side, in the form of Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. While you’re there, drop by HortPark, a popular green space that offers activities for the whole family, from a fun Nature Playgarden for the little ones, to beautiful themed gardens to explore.
#11 Chill out at Kampong Glam
A short walk from Bugis MRT station, the Kampong Glam district has rows and rows of vibrant shophouses hiding quaint cafes, trendy boutiques, laidback bars, Middle Eastern restaurants and more. For a traditional taste of Malay culture, visit the stately Masjid Sultan Mosque, or the old fabric and trinket shops nearby. Bustling Haji Lane is one of Singapore’s trendiest alleyways.
#12 Marvel at marine life in the S.E.A. Aquarium
Home to more than 100,000 animals and more than 800 species, the S.E.A. Aquarium on Sentosa goes all out when it comes to learning about the deep blue sea. Its Open Water Habitat is one of the biggest in the world, and filled with enormous sharks, rays and turtles. Fancy staring at them over dinner? There’s actually a high-end dining spot called Ocean Restaurant that offers just that experience.
#13 Head across to Pulau Ubin
For just two or three bucks, you can catch a 10-minute bum-boat from Changi Village to one of Singapore’s biggest offshore islands. Pulau Ubin is like taking a step back in time – local villagers still live on the island and offer an insight into what life was like before the city became a bustling metropolis. Hire a bike near the ferry point on the other side and cruise around the rural island for a few hours. There are also some harder mountain bike trails, if that’s your thing. Keep an eye out for monkeys and wild boars – and don’t miss the Chek Jawa wetlands trail.
#14 Spend an afternoon at the Botanic Gardens
Still one of the top parks in Singapore for hitting with a picnic mat, the Botanic Gardens has plenty of meadows, picturesque foliage and public sculptures to stumble upon. If you want to admire beautiful blooms, make your way to the National Orchid Garden, which houses over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids. It’s nice to plonk yourself down by Symphony Lake, too – especially when it’s staging a free classical musical concert.
#15 Relax at a rooftop bar
With towering high-rise buildings at every turn, it’s no shock that Singapore is home to some of the best rooftop bars in the world. And not only are the views amazing, the drinks are top-notch too. Try LeVeL33, Mr Stork, Smoke and Mirrors, Zafferano, 1-Altitude or CÉ LA VI for starters! (For a full list, visit expatliving.sg/drinks-view-rooftopbars-singapore.)
Don’t miss our shopping guide to Singapore, including Orchard Road and lots of less-visited neighbourhoods, at expatliving.hk/best-places-to-goshopping-in-singapore
This article first appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.