(BEGODI) – Singapore is a dynamic island city-state off the south of Malaysia. Although small in size and population density, it is a robust global financial centre. In world rankings, it comes out top as the most expensive city, closely followed by Hong Kong. Despite its economic strength, it is not an unreasonable place to plan your holiday to. This is because it displays an array of wonderful street food, parks, and budget shopping spots, making it possible to stretch your buck. You can therefore enjoy a good period of time taking in all that this innovative metropolis has to offer. Here is our guide to the popular areas and must-see attractions for your next visit to vibrant Singapore.
Many people say that spending time in Singapore means spending most of your time eating. Since the island is such a melting pot of cultures, it boasts a generous variety of incredible food. Street food culture here is huge, as with most places in Asia. However, the way that it is organised is true to Singapore’s personality of impeccable cleanliness and efficiency. Instead of hoards of street vendors lining the populated and humid alleyways of the city, street food sellers are systematically found in hawker centres.
Resembling a large food court, hawker centres are the main places to grab a bite for both locals and travellers alike. There are over 100 of these centralised food halls throughout Singapore. In order to maintain a high standard of hygiene and food safety, stall holders need to have a valid sellers licence. This license is provided by the environmental ministry.
You can expect to find well-prepared delicacies from Indian, Chinese, Malay, Thai, Vietnamese, and many other popular cuisines of the region. Note that these stalls accept cash only, and can get incredibly busy. It is a good idea to do as the locals do and ‘snag your seat’ by placing a pack of tissues on your chair to save yourself a spot while you wait in line for your food.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
For a day of lush leisure head to the Botanic Gardens, west of the main downtown area. These gardens are beautiful, abundant and open from 5 am to midnight every day. Entry is free and open for everyone to enjoy.
Further north and dwelling in the Upper Seletar Reservoir, you will find the national zoo. Boasting the title of the ‘world’s best rainforest zoo’, this 26 hectare park is home to over 2 800 animals and 300 different species. It holds the world’s first free-ranging orang-utan habitat, and you can see many apes, crocodiles, lions, zebras, otters, and pigmy hippos to name a few of the animals living at the zoo.
Singapore Night Safari
Connected to the Singapore Zoo is the Night Safari – the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals. It opened in 1994, with over a third of its animal inhabitants being endangered species. Through a 40-minute tram ride ‘safari’, the park aims to educate guests about the importance of wildlife conservation. You can also walk through marked trails and watch performances and shows on site.
Jurong Bird Park
Although it is a branch of the Singapore Zoo, the Jurong Bird Park is located 20 km south west from the zoo and night safari. It is Asia’s largest bird park, covering over 20 hectares of land of diverse and threatened birdlife. A greater appreciation for the avian world is promoted through naturalistic exhibits, interactive feeding sessions, and high quality shows.
As its name suggests, this area celebrates the Indian population in Singapore. It is a pulsating district full of life and colour. You can smell mouth-watering aromas of authentic dishes wafting out of family kitchens and restaurants throughout the streets. Tamil signs, flower-garland vendors, sari shops and Hindu temples are signs of India’s traditions that live in the fibre of the area. There are also modern eateries, boutique hotels, mosques and churches present here in beautiful juxtaposition. The 24-hour Mustafa Centre is worth a stop if you are looking for anything from groceries to electronics.
Deep in the heart of Singapore’s downtown area you will find the famously narrow streets of ever-bustling Chinatown. From authentic Chinese food to the cheapest souvenirs in town, old meets new with effortless harmony here. Temples exist alongside contemporary eateries and hip hangouts. You can learn about the history of the area at the Heritage Centre, showcasing the lives of the Chinese who largely founded Singapore.
Joo Chiat and its neighbouring Katong area are probably the most distinctive and ethnically interesting areas in Singapore. The district houses the history of the Peranakan population, created by marriages between Chinese or Indian men (historical merchants) and local Malay or Indonesian women during colonial times. Pre-war architecture of pastel coloured double-storey shophouses detailed with ornate gold lining and ceramic decoration remains in Joo Chiat today. You can indulge in the delicious fusion food of the Peranakans, known as ‘nonya cuisine’ or eye the traditional clothing.
This energetic neighbourhood is the epicentre of Malay culture in Singapore. Although you can learn about Malay history and culture at the Heritage Centre palace, the area offers so much more than just that. Haji Lane is a must-visit for shopaholics as well as anyone seeking an eclectic bar and cafe scene. As expected, food is another treat presented in this district. You can enjoy mouth-watering specialities from Malaysia as well as Japan, the Middle East, and even Mexico and Europe.
Nestled along the banks of the Singapore River in the main downtown core of the city, Clarke Quay is one of the city’s most effervescent nightlife spots. The area is filled with bars, restaurants, clubs and shops, and is the riverside hub for fervent diners and partygoers.
Shopper’s paradise, Orchard Road is a 2.2 km stretch of high-end and fast-fashion brands. It is the main place to get some retail therapy in the city, and is home to the famous Centrepoint shopping mall.
Arguably Singapore’s trendiest neighbourhood, Tiong Bahru is a quaint area of art deco shophouses, hipster cafes, and indie bookstores. In the centre of this residential district sits the Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre. Here you can find a plethora of fresh groceries and delicious dishes for sale.
Another artsy area to explore is Holland Village. This bohemian enclave has everything you seek from restaurants and bars to stores and salons. It is a popular hangout district for young Singaporeans and expats.
Haw Par Villa
Merging western technology with eastern mythology, Haw Par Villa is an ‘oriental Disneyland’ of sorts. Primarily a theme park, it contains over 1000 statues and 150 modelled scenes from Chinese folklore and Confucianism. It was erected by the brothers who created the Tiger Balm ointment, and remains the only mythological park of its kind. Entrance to the park is free for locals and tourists.
Gardens by the Bay
Home to the world’s largest greenhouse, Gardens by the Bay spans 101 hectares along the borders of Marina Bay. This landscaped horticultural wonder has won many awards since its grand opening in 2012. It is made up of 3 waterfront gardens: Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. Bay South is largest of them, and houses the infamous solar-powered Supertrees. These vertical gardens collect rainwater, supply ventilation, generate solar energy, provide lighting and aid water technologies for the surrounding conservatories. They are great examples of how Singapore is proactively working toward urban sustainability and inspiring visitors to get involved.
More than just a ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer is a 360 degree observation wheel and the largest of its kind in Asia. It presents locals and visitors with spectacular panoramic views of the entire island city. On a clear day you may even be able to see as far as Malaysia and Indonesia. For an added luxury experience, you can enjoy high tea, a meal of fine dining, or simply sip on champagne and cocktails while in this remarkable revolving orb.
Marina Bay Sands SkyPark
Another incredible observation point is the SkyPark that sits on top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel towers. Guests of the hotel have exclusive access to the breathtaking (world’s largest) infinity pool that overlooks the entire Singapore skyline. However, even if you are not a hotel guest you can enjoy this view at the SkyPark Observation Deck. 57 storeys above the city, the sights are truly spectacular both day and night.
The self-proclaimed ‘State of Fun’ Sentosa Island was built for the exclusive purpose of leisure and relaxation. It consists of a collection of beaches, theme parks, golf courses, shops and dining options. A playground for all ages, the island is located 15 minutes outside of Singapore’s centre. You can access it by monorail, cable car, road or boardwalk.
Universal Studios Singapore
Found in the Resorts World on Sentosa Island, Universal Studios Singapore is Southeast Asia’s first Hollywood movie theme park. There are over 20 attractions and themed zones for the whole family to explore together. Water rides, roller coasters, performances and faraway lands as well as a Hollywood Walk of Fame all feature here.
Indoor skydiving at IFly Singapore
Also located on Sentosa Island is the unique IFly Skydiving Centre. It is the world’s largest themed vertical wind tunnel, giving you the freefall feeling of a real skydive. Created by SkyVenture, IFly uses wall-to-wall airflow and multiple overhead fans to produce this safe and accurate freefall stimulation. It can accommodate 20 flyers at the same time. Each flyer gets the opportunity to enjoy two ‘skydives’.
Possibly the best place to learn about Singapore’s history and culture, the National Museum is the country’s oldest museum. Far from boring, the exhibitions are interactive and visually arresting, immersing you in compelling narratives. The building itself is a beautiful piece of neo-classical architecture, seamlessly fusing the old and new in its design.
Housed in the former City Hall and Supreme Court buildings, the National Gallery showcases its pieces in these iconic spaces. It presents the world’s largest collection of modern Southeast Asian art and together creates the country’s largest museum. The gallery focuses on providing a unique and inspiring experience of art to all of its visitors. It is thus a great place to delve into the rich history and heritage of the region.
Singapore Art Museum
With a focus on contemporary art, Singapore Art Museum exhibits interdisciplinary collections in a wide range of art forms. It is an ever-evolving research-led space, with the exhibitions changing every few months. Seeking to make art accessible to all, it is one of the most important art museums in the region.
It is clear that Singapore is a buzzing and forward-thinking place overflowing with things to see and so. There is truly something to match the needs of every type of person. Each location and activity is memorable and pushes the envelope of innovation. With so much to offer its guests, Singapore is definitely not to be missed on your next trip to Southeast Asia.
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