There are hundreds of attractions and lots to do and see in Singapore – but here’s 25 things Travelife.ca writers suggest you put on your “must do” list when in Singapore:
1 - Fly the Flyer
The city’s newest and most exciting attraction is the Singapore Flyer, the largest Ferris wheel in the world which stands 30 metres higher than its closest competitor, the London Eye. The Flyer now dominates Singapore’s skyline and the 30-minute ride in its glass pod will give you some great photo opportunities of the city. You can see as far as Malaysia in this beauty.
2 - Visit Jurong Bird Park
There are lots of bird parks in the world, there’s only one Jurong Bird Park. Located on 20 hectares of lush greenery, award-winning Jurong allows visitors to become “buddies” with lots of colourful species of birds, with a program that allows you to hold friendly parrots. The kids love it! There’s also the Waterfall Aviary, the penguin exhibit, an African wetlands exhibit and kids can even have breakfast with the beautiful flamingos.
3 - Ride a Bum Boat
The tiny boats that use to carry supplies up and down the Singapore River now ferry tourists along the busy waterway surrounded by the city’s entertainment districts, lovely parks and its forest of futuristic skyscrapers. The bum boats started out being called “bump boats” because in the early days of Singapore there were so many of them they would bump into each other on the river. The “p” was later dropped.
4 - Tour Changi Airport
It may sound crazy, but don’t be in a rush to leave Singapore’s international airport when you arrive; or get there well before your flight is scheduled to leave when you depart. Changi is the best airport in the world and well worth a tour. Its lounges and public areas are bright and spacious and it even offers travellers free internet and places they can shower or sleep should their flights be delayed. Its shopping areas put 5th Ave. to shame.
5 - Enjoy a Food Safari
Singaporeans love their foods and you’ll love it too! After all, this is the satay capital of the world and the delicately spiced skewered meat is all part of the nightly Food Safari which includes stops in Chinatown, where “carrot cake” doesn’t look like anything you might be used to; the Malay District where the fish is fresh and the satays are delightful; and other areas of the city where noodles are the best in Asia.
6 - Take a Night Safari
Not to be confused with the “Food Safari”, Singapore’s Night Safari is a walk on the wild side where you’ll be able to watch exotic animals hunting their prey in the dark. The animals are illuminated by artificial light that replicates the moon so you can easily see them. You can see over 1,000 animals in eight geographical areas of the city and experts will even wrap a python around you. You can also eat on this tour – more traditional food, of course.
7 - Get a history lesson
A visit to the Chinatown Heritage Centre is a must during your visit. The small museum is a treasure chest of Singapore’s early history. It showcases the difficult conditions the early settlers endured to what is now the economic heart of Asia. The Museum is packed with junks and small boats and lots of pictures of the early settlers. You’ll marvel at how they were forced to live in the earliest days. Amazing stuff!
8 - Toast the morning
You can’t start your day in Singapore without “kaya toast.” The local delicacy is a morning staple and one of the most enjoyable meals of the day. Kaya is a sweet spread that is liberally applied to toast and served with eggs and tea. Kaya is made with eggs, lots of sugar and coconut milk and flavoured with pandan. Uncle Lim’s Café is one of the first places to serve kaya toast. The best thing about kaya toast is that it costs just pennies.
9 - Shop ’till you drop
Singapore boasts the best shopping in Asia – offering everything from designer to dime stores. There are over 250 shopping malls to visit and Orchard Road is where you’ll find international designers packed together in modern office towers. For great bargains, head off to Chinatown’s street markets and the Persian rugs in the city’s Arab quarter are exquisite and very affordable. Mustafa Centre in Little India is a bargain shopping temple not to be missed.
10 - Explore Sentosa Island
Singaporeans are blessed with some natural beauties, none more spectacular than Sentosa Island, which is just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of downtown. You can take a cab, bus or cable car (from Mount Faber) to the island and its wonderful collection of parks and beaches. Sentosa, previously a military installation, is home to some famous hotel resorts. The island is home to two of the city’s best attractions, the underwater aquarium and a butterfly park.
11 - Visit the ’hoods
The one thing that makes Singapore most unique is its vibrant ethnic neighbourhoods. Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street, all have their own unique history and shopping areas. The temples in Little India are more impressive than the ones in the real India, which is just a short flight away. The Arab quarter is filled with food stalls and exotic shops and its collection of mosques are among the most beautiful in the world.
12 - Take in a show
The futuristic-looking Esplanade Theatre at Marina Bay at the mouth of the Singapore River is Asia’s answer to Sydney’s iconic Opera House. This entertainment centre is a delight to look at and once inside you’ll be treated to top-notch Broadway and London theatre shows featuring world-class talent. The Esplanade’s concert hall can accommodate up to 1,600 people and its performing arts theatre seats 2,000. There’s even a mall in this spectacular venue – a treat both inside and out.
13 - Cruise the river
There are many cruise options in Singapore and a visit to Asia’s most beautiful city is not complete unless it includes a cruise down the river the city is named after. The bum boats offer one option but there’s a number of other larger boats on the river that may be more comfortable for you. The cruises lazily float past all the city’s major tourist attractions, its early government buildings, its great collection of modern architecture, and even past the mythical Merlion statue, the nation’s symbol which was invented by early fisherman to scare off others from these fish-rich waters.
14 - Post a letter
One of the most fascinating buildings in Singapore is the one that houses the fabulous Fullerton Hotel. The striking building once served as the country’s main post office and sits on the former site of Fort Fullerton. The hotel is one of the best in Singapore and its outdoor terrace pool, which affords you striking views of the city skyline, is one of the best in the world. The building was constructed in 1919 and is named after Robert Fullerton, one of the colony’s first governors. And, yes, there’s still a letterbox in the building.
15 - Cross a bridge
Because of the river, Singapore has an impressive collection of bridges and most are visually stunning. One of the most ornate is Cavenagh Bridge, the city’s only suspension bridge which spans the lower portions of the Singapore River and the downtown core. It dates back to 1869 and most of the steel used in its construction was brought to Singapore from Scotland. There are seven pedestrian bridges and 31 vehicular bridges in Singapore.
16 - Visit a garden
The city is sprinkled with lots of flora and fauna – right in the downtown core. One of the most exciting and colourful places we recommend you visit is the National Orchid Gardens. As the name suggests, this place is home to rare species of the delicate Asian flower and its compact size, about 8 acres, is easy to walk. There are over 2,000 hybrids and dozens of varieties at the site.
17 - Stop by a temple
Because of its diversity and religious traditions, Singapore has many temples, mosques and churches to visit. The delightfully decorated temples in Little India are some of the most beautiful outside India. There are 23 temples scattered about the small city state, 19 mosques and dozens of churches representing almost every denomination. But the Little India temples are the ones most visited, usually by photographers snapping pictures of their exteriors.
18 - Eat some crab
One of the great traditions of visiting Singapore is eating crabs which only hours earlier were swimming in the local sea. There are two types of crabs eaten in Singaporean restaurants – chilli crab and salt and pepper crab. The chilli crab comes swimming in a spicy sauce and requires lots of napkins. The salt and pepper crab comes in white or black pepper – we suggest you stick to the black pepper dish because it’s tastier. There’s lots of seafood restaurants in the city that serves crab but Jumbo restaurant – a chain – on Clarke Quay and Boat Quay were our favourite.
19 - Pull a pint
Being the former British colony it was, Singapore has as many pubs as churches. These temples of beer and entertainment are scattered throughout the city but the area around Clarke Quay has the greatest concentration. On one small street leading off the quay there are no less than 70 pubs – and it’s a small street. The pub food in Singapore is superb and the nightlife is fast paced and wild.
20 - Turning the quays
Speaking of nightlife, when the sun drops in Singapore, the fun begins along the riverbanks in the Clarke Quay and Boat Quay areas. That’s where the city’s best tourist restaurants are located and where people watching is a nightly sport. Recent additions to the quays are bungee jumping areas where for a few Singaporean dollars you can be flung into the night sky. Great fun in this place.
21 - Enjoy a dance
Line-dancing diehards will love this city. Every Friday and Sunday evenings members of the Country Line Dance Association gather at Far East Square and kick up their heels to the sound of country and western tunes. The sight has become a tourist delight and the troupe members often invite their foreign guests to join them in their dancing. It’s all great fun and something that should not be missed.
22 - Go spa fishing
Singapore is unique because it’s a place that's not afraid to try new things. That’s why we were not surprised to enjoy our first “fish spa manicure/pedicure” where the fish do all the work. Cute little fish known as “doctor fish” flown in from the Middle East nibble away at your hands and feet until all the dead skin that has accumulated on those areas is digested. As disgusting as these sound, the effects are rather rewarding.
23 - A walk in the park
Being the Garden of Eden of Asia, Singapore boasts some of the best urban parks on the planet. Singapore has 17 city parks, 8 coastal parks, 8 elevated parks, 4 nature reserves, 6 reservoir parks, 19 town parks and 4 national parks offshore. Each is stunning and remarkably well kept. Singapore takes great pride in its parks and the results are there for all to enjoy. No wonder Singapore is nicknamed the Garden City.
24 - Stop by a museum
The National Museum is one of the most delightful you will ever experience. There, you'll be treated to great insight into this most organized of countries, which started out as a simple fishing port. Thanks to an Englishmen named Sir Stamford Raffles, who introduced structure to Singapore, this city-state has grown into the economic tiger of Asia. The National Museum was established in 1849 and is jam-packed with lots to do and see. The interior of this handsome revitalized building is well worth a look.
25 - Have a drink
There’s only one way to finish your tour of Singapore and that’s at the Long Bar in the historic Fairmont Raffles Hotel where writers like Kipling once stayed and enjoyed the world’s most famous alcoholic drink, the Singapore Sling. This sweet treat, invented by a hotel barman at the turn of the last century, is served in souvenir glasses and carries a potent punch. The floor of the bar is covered in peanut shells – another Raffles tradition.
That’s just 25 things we recommend you do in Singapore, but there’s lots more to see and do in this most exciting and beautiful of Asian cities.