Said to be the Switzerland of Asia, Singapore boasts not only with high-rise buildings covered in shimmering modern architecture, but a multi-ethnic population, a huge variety of food and not to speak of all the entertainment and events to choose from.
There are many reasons why I love Singapore and if you are looking for some inspiration, there are all the highlights you cannot miss!
Buy a regular EZ-Link card for the MRT or get a tourist pass which allows unlimited travel for up to 3 days and off you go zipping around with Singapore’s ultra efficient and always on time public transport.
Expect to be surprised, overwhelmed and most definitely swept off your feet!
Explore the iconic Marina Bay Sands
Of course, you haven’t been to Singapore if you haven’t see the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. But don’t worry it’s not hard to miss and you will sooner or later see the impressive ship-like building set right in Marina Bay just opposite the city’s skyline and downtown.
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
If you want to dive into luxury shopping, visit The Shoppes, boasting pretty much all international luxury brand under the sun! Even if it’s not in your budget, take a wander around and catch a glimpse of people ice skating (at 30 tropical degrees outside), take your chances at the casino or tour in an old-school gondola through the mall just like in Venice!
Right outside the mall you can find the ArtScience Museum, the snow-white lotus shaped building below the Marina Bay Sands. Now you may think “not another boring museum”, well this one is not!
The smart inside will definitely impress and there are ever-changing exhibitions happening, I went to a really cool one about the Titanic, perfect for a rainy day in Singapore.
Rise high on the Marina Bay Sands Skypark
You may not have a spare couple of hundred dollars to sleep in the most spectacular hotel in Singapore and soak in the world’s largest infinity pool, but you can still visit the Skypark on level 57 which is open to the public but will set you back S$23.
Of course you will get breathtaking views of the skyline and hundreds of boats in the harbour from here, however you may want to reconsider spending that money on visiting one of the bars or restaurants on the same level as you pretty much just pay for the views and you can really get them at many other places all over Singapore!
If you do decide to head to one of the venues (like the CE LA VI Bar) on top of the Marina Bay Sands, keep in mind that they are popular and you may want to make a reservation beforehand in order to not be disappointed when you show up. Entrance here is free but drink prices start around $S20.
Alternatively there are a few other rooftop bars I recommend checking out which you can find at the end of the post.
Go green at the Gardens by the Bay
One of the newest additions to the superlatives of Singapore are the Gardens by the Bay, a huge futuristic garden featuring jaw-dropping 25 to 50 meter high Supertrees (as tall as a 16-storey building), a magical Cloud Forest as well as a massive glass greenhouse boasting beautiful flowers and plants called the Flower Dome.
Inside the dome there is even a Mediterranean restaurant that serves up dishes using herbs and vegetables grown “in-house”.
Climb the Supertrees
A highlight of every visit is the 25 meter high walk over the skybridge between three of the Supertrees. The views are insane!
The highest tree in the middle even offers a rooftop bar and a food court housing different types of cuisine. There are some mixed reviews on food and service at this place which is ever-changing though, so feel free to check it out yourself!
It’s free to just wander around the park, but there is a fee if you want to visit the inside of the cooler domes or climb the Supertrees. Check out the opening times & prices here.
See the “Wonder Full” light & water show in Marina Bay
If you happen to be around the Marina Bay in the evening, you do not want to miss catching the beautiful light and water show happening right in front of the Marina Bay Sand and can be seen from the opposite side near the famous Merlion (half-fish, half-lion, this is one of the earliest landmarks in Singapore) too. From here you can see the laser lights going off from the rooftop of the hotel which will give you some fun shots of the iconic ship.
When & where to watch
To catch a closer glimpse it’s however better to be right below the Marina Bay Sands Hotel looking towards the skyline as there is music playing as well as visual effects animations in the water. There are two shows happening every night. One at 8pm, the other at 9.30pm and also an additional one at 11pm on Friday and Saturday. The show last for about 15 minutes and is completely free.
Come a few minutes before the start to catch a seat and enjoy what’s said to be the largest light show in Southeast Asia!
Go wild at the Singapore Zoo & Night Safari
Said to be one of the best Zoo’s in the world, so of course I had to visit and see if it’s as impressive as I imagined! Put on your walking shoes and off you go exploring this beautiful animal kingdom. From elephants to kangaroos to wild tigers and pandas, you can get up close and personal with all animals as they live in they natural surround with as little barriers possible.
And OMG, you can even have breakfast with orang utans here!
If you are a nighthawk, you can also pay a visit to the Zoo in the darkness to spot all the nocturnal activities. The Night Safari is an open-air zoo at the Singapore Zoo located in a tropical forest which you can explore either on foot or by tram. Animals are again separated by natural barriers instead of fences from the visitors, resembling the open concept of Singapore Zoo.
Have some beach fun on Sentosa Island
Whether you are looking for some relaxing beach time away from the hustle bustle of the city, a crazy foam party, some screaming fun at the Universal Studios, handshake with a celebrity at Madame Tussauds or one of the best waterparks in town, you have come to the right place!
Over 3.2km of white sandy beaches are waiting for you on Sentosa Island! Check out hip Siloso Beach near all the theme park fun, go for a dip, hang in the sun chairs or surf the amazing man-made wave.
Head to idyllic Palawan Beach with it’s suspension bridge linking the beach to the Southernmost Point of Continental Asia, a great place to get a closer look at the nearby ships waiting in the harbour.
It’s a man-made beach but very picturesque and a great spot to hang out for an afternoon just don’t expect crystal clear water as its name twin in the Philippines, it certainly can’t keep up with that one!
Lastly, there is Tanjong Beach, a tranquil oasis with only one bar so you will sure find some peace and quite here. It’s also a bit further from the Sentosa Express train so assuming even less people would hit this beach. Probably the most romantic out of the three beaches, with the ships twinkling beautifully in the distance at dusk.
How to get to Sentosa Island
The quickest way is the Sentosa Express train from Harbour Front MRT Station, when you arrive here simply follow the signs to level 3 of the VivoCity Shopping mall where the Express train departs.
You can also take a leisurely stroll along the Sentosa Boardwalk from the VivoCity Shopping Mall (above Harbour Front MRT Station) waterfront promenade. Actually, walking might be overrated as there are travellators for your tired feet so you only have to hop on. This is free to use, but only till the end of December 2016, guessing they will make it a paid attraction then.
Finally, the fanciest way to get to Sentosa Island is taking the cable car which will give you an aerial view of the island and looking back at the skyline and harbour. It’s certainly the coolest mode of transport to get to the island but definitely not the cheapest.
Soar high with the Singapore Flyer
Rise high above the never-ending skyscrapers of Singapore with the big ferris wheel called the Singapore Flyer. It’s one of the tallest ferries wheels in the world similar to the famous London Eye, however the huge crowds have failed to appear and visitorship is declining. It sure has some wonderful views, best time to ride at night!
There is also a cool nightclub just below the wheel called Shake Club, if you want to get your dancing shoes on afterwards!
Mix old and new in Chinatown
When I arrived to Singapore for the very first time, I stayed in Chinatown and it has been one of my favourite parts of the city ever since.
The traditional Chinese quarter boasts with beautifully restored colourful shophouses, a bustling mix of old and new, amazing street food and traditional shops and markets.
If you want to learn about Singapore’s early pioneers, head to the Chinatown Heritage Center on Pagoda Street.
It’s okay to get a bit lost in the small alleys while having a look around at traditional Chinese medicine halls, teahouses and hunting for souvenirs! At the old-style shopping mall called People’s Parks Complex you can predominately buy many electronic items.
There is also a local foodcourt downstairs where frog leg and shark-fin soup is not uncommon to be found. To sample on the best street food Singapore has to offer, definitely visit the Maxwell Food Centre close by!
Just opposite the food center you can visit the huge buddhist Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, one of the most popular attractions in Chinatown and certainly an interesting one. You can even catch a glimpse over the perfectly aligned rooftops of the shophouses from the top level. Or visit the contrasting Sri Mariammam temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple.
Finally, not far from the center of Chinatown you can find the Baba House, a museum showcasing Peranakan history, architecture and heritage. Of course it makes for some beautiful snaps from outside while giving some great insights into the life of an ancestral home of a Straits Chinese family living in Singapore a century ago.
Make sure you book in advance as spots are limited.
Shop on fancy Orchard Road
Here you can literally shop ’til you drop. On this 2.2km strip you can find 20 malls, from futuristic ION Orchard to 313@Somerset, featuring a mix of local and international brands, you will be simply overwhelmed with the options! Many malls are connected underground so you don’t even have to leave the air-condition or walk in the rain, yay!
Find hidden gems at Haji Lane
If you are tired of all the fancy shopping options on Orchard Road and looking for something more unique, you have to visit Arab Street and its cute parallel alley called Haji Lane!
Little India should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Singapore, to feel the vibe (which is very different than in other parts of town), smell the intense fragrances, buy some cheap nick-nacks or even if you just feast on the delicious curries.
My favourite part around here is definitely Arab Street which is next door to Little Indian and lined with textile stores, shops selling all sorts of carpets and clothes and atmospheric Middle Eastern cafés and restaurants with views of the golden dome of the imposing Sultan Mosque.
Singapore’s hipster boutiques are to be found just around the corner from Arab Street on a narrow alley called Haji Lane where you can hunt for unique pieces from womens and menswear, accessories and homewares next to a few cute cafes and bars.
Party it up at Clarke Quay
Clarke Quay is an essential stop for nightlife and having a good time in Singapore. The historic riverside quay offers several blocks of restored warehouses all housing restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
If you want to kick off the night before heading to one of the clubs like Attica, Zouk, The Crazy Elephant or Club Dream and many more, you may want to come to the pedestrian-only Read Bridge, a popular spot to gather before to have a few drinks and chat up locals or other travellers alike. However, there has been a new liquor law introduced in 2015 to restrict public sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm which unfortunately regulates this gathering these days.
Sip a Singapore Sling on one of the many rooftop bars
Of course you can drink the famous Singapore Sling at the iconic Raffles Hotel, where the national drink was first created, but I’d rather head to one of the rooftop bars instead. Read up here on the whole experience of drinking a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel, I had a really similar one!
My rooftop bar pick
My favourite pick when it comes to rooftop bars is the NewAsia Bar on top of the Swissotel The Stamford at City Hall. This bar frequently makes it on top of the “Top 50 Bars in the World” lists and is also the longest running rooftop bar in Singapore.
Get here a little before the sun sets as it is then still uncrowded and you get the top spots for some beautiful snaps. Absolutely my favourite rooftopbar for a relaxed drink and some nibbles with the absolute best view and I sure had some legendary parties here too!
Other cool rooftop bar options
The highest rooftop bar in town can be found at Raffles Place, 1-Altitude is an alfresco dining area split over 3 levels which even has trees at 63 floors above the ground! There is an entrance fee but you get a free drink for that at the top along with astonishing 360 degree views.
Or would you rather want to visit the highest microbrewery in the world? Hit LeVel 33 and enjoy incredible views across Marina Bay while sipping on a range of house-brewed craft beers.
If you happen to be on Sentosa and feel like visiting a rooftop venue, try SkyLoft Sentosa at iFly Singapore, the world’s largest themed wind tunnel for indoor skydiving – really nothing you cannot do in this city!
Alternative: Rise high for cheap! You can visit the 50th story skybridge of one of the newer The Pinacle @Duxton, an iconic housing project in Singapore’s public housing history and hard to miss as it’s huge.
The skybridge is open to the public and only costs $5 which you can simply pay with you EZ-Link card which you use for public transport. This doesn’t work with the tourist pass though, but then you can simply pay in cash.