Top things to see and do in Singapore

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, food, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. We call them our Big Five and they’re everything you'll need to experience the essence of a new city. Here, Samantha Wasson checks in from the fascinating Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore. There's so much more to Singers these days than just a quick fix of retail therapy. The city has become a world-class travel destination in its own right...

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore. Image: Samantha Wasson

Top things to see and do in Singapore


Singapore is often dismissed as a superficial shopping mecca; a good place to give the credit cards a workout and then move on.

Although it remains the ultimate stopover location, Singapore has much more to offer than shopping malls, and the further afield you go the more you will get out of your time in this island state. With lush environs and drool-worthy cuisine, intriguing sights and cultural diversity, this fascinating city-state is far from a one-dimensional destination.

Here’s a city guide to the top things to see and do in Singapore.

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore: Raffles Hotel

Shopping

Let’s get this out of the way first – Singapore is still a great place to shop. Brilliant even. Orchard Road, home to every label from Mango to Gucci, is undoubtedly a premier destination for shoppers from around the globe.

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If you are after something a bit more quirky and unique, head to Arab Street and Haji Lane. Here you can create your own perfume, purchase gems and jewels, and pick out some funky fashion and accessories.

While you’re there, sample some Moroccan or Lebanese delicacies and spend some time in a tearoom, replete with the scent of mint, apple and cinnamon from the hookahs.

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore. Image courtesy of Orchard Road

History

Singapore’s colonial history is on display all over town, but it is Raffles Hotel that truly epitomises the majestic splendour of the past. As you stroll across the lobby, taking in the manicured gardens, or sit sipping away on a Singapore Sling, it’s easy to envisage the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Christian Louboutin or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge doing the very same thing.

For history of a different kind, take the bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s last bastion of kampung living. The island features next to no development, plenty of wildlife and some lovely scenery.

Most people choose to hire a bicycle to navigate Pulau Ubin, but it’s equally pleasant to walk the seven kilometres’ round-trip to the Chek Jawa Wetlands.

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore: Pulau Ubin. Image: Samantha Wasson

To get the backstory on Singapore (and much of wider Asia for that matter), add the excellent Asian Civilisations Museum to your to do list. Spend as much or as little time as you want perusing the thousands of artefacts on display. You’ll leave with a newfound understanding of where it all began for this modern economic masterpiece.

Culture

There are so many cultural things to see and do in Singapore. To truly appreciate the melting pot of different cultures here, it’s worth heading to the various ethnic enclaves around the city.

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore

Chinatown is of course great for food and shopping – where in Singapore isn’t? But it’s the atmosphere and the distinctive architecture of the three-storey, pastel-coloured shop-houses that make Chinatown something special.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre is an immersive experience, transporting the modern traveller to 1950s Singapore. Featuring recreated living quarters and workshops of the various tradespeople key to Singapore’s historical development, the exhibition is well worth a look.

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore: Little India. Image: Bigstock

Food

Singaporeans certainly know good food. In fact, food is such an intrinsic part of the culture it may as well be the national religion. As celebrity chef and gourmet traveller, Anthony Bourdain says, ‘What you do in Singapore is eat.’

Sure there are plenty of fancy-pants food options in Singapore, but why fork out for expensive nosh when there is an abundance of delicious and cheap food on every street corner? The city is renowned for its hawker centres, which serve up chicken rice, laksa and roti at great speed and with a low price tag. Be sure to check out Newton Circus and Maxwell Road.

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore: Enjoy tasty street eats.

Relaxation

For relaxing things to see and do in Singapore, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens are a perennial favourite for communing with nature, while the new kid on the block, Gardens by the Bay, is definitely making its mark on the tourist trail. These gardens are an odd combination of the artificial and natural.

Things to see and do in Singapore

Things to see and do in Singapore

The skywalk, 22 metres above the ground, provides panoramic views of the gardens and the city beyond, including the hard-to-ignore Marina Bay Sands complex.

To truly indulge, head to MBS and take the trip to the SkyPark Observation Deck where you can sit at the bar on top of the world and be treated to a spectacular outlook no matter which way you turn your head. Sadly, the Infinity Pool on the 57th floor is available only to hotel guests.

Do you have any tips for top things to see and do in Singapore? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.

Additional images: Bigstock

 

Samantha Wasson

About the writer

Samantha Wasson is a freelance writer and former educator who lives in Sydney but whose heart remains in Vietnam, where she lived for three years. She has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the United States, with a brief sojourn in Africa. Highlights from Samantha’s international escapades include: studying German in Freiburg, volunteering with an elephant rehabilitation project outside Chiang Mai and travelling by motorbike through the Mekong Delta. Lowlights include: ‘climbing’ Mount Kinabalu, nearly dying on the Great Barrier Reef and being ripped off in Beijing. She has worked for MSN/Officeworks, Swinburne University, Deakin Business School, Aussie Home Loans, Seek, TAFE Queensland, ARI Registry Services, SocietyOne, Acquire, School Places, Ivanhoe Grammar, Australian Teacher Magazine, Lead Generation and 2SER. A lover of literature and travel, Samantha subscribes to Augustine of Hippo’s observation that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.

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