In this article you can find my top recommendations for the best things to do and to see in Singapore, one of the most incredible cites in the world.
In my previous article I talked a bit about Singapore and why it’s such a unique city: you can find the best of the Asian continent without all the typical problems of many Asian cities, such as the chaos and the pollution. The most incredible thing is that that Singapore is one of the most densely populated places in the world.
The biggest downside of Singapore is that it’s a very expensive city. Hard to say if it is the most expensive in the world, given that the rankings are constantly changing, but it’s always at the top. If you plan to move to Singapore, keep in mind that according to the government, Singapore is the most expensive city in the world for expats. With that in mind it is possible to visit Singapore without spending a fortune, if you plan carefully.
Useful info to plan your trip to Singapore
The two things that will mostly affect the cost of your trip are flights and hotels.
As far as flights are concerned, there is not much choice: in Singapore there is only one airport. The only option that might save you something is flying to Kuala Lumpur and then getting to Singapore by bus. In this way you will have the opportunity to visit Malaysia and see two countries so close and yet so different. That’s what I did, because i live in China and the flights to Malaysia were way cheaper than the flights to Singapore. If you choose this option as well, keep in mind that it takes at least 6 hours to get to Singapore by bus.
One thing I always recommend is to get a VPN and try to check the flight prices from different IP addresses. In this way sometimes you can save quite some money (also remember to use the incognito browser mode).
Regarding the accommodation, Singapore offers some of the most luxurious options in the world, such as the famous Marina Bay Sands with an amazing infinity pools overlooking the city. Obviously spending at least 300$ for one night in a hotel is not an option for everyone. On Booking.com you can find, cheaper options.
Another option, and that’s what I opted for, is to use Airbnb. In any case you will spend more than any other country in Southeast Asia. One thing I recommend is to book your accommodation as close as possible to the subway (MRT in Singapore) because Singapore it’s really hot, and walking for 20 or so minutes every time you leave your hotel it’s not pleasant. The subway is very convenient and this means that you don’t have to find an accommodation in the city center.
When is the best time to visit Singapore? Being close to the equator there are no seasons and the temperature remains constant throughout the year. The only real difference is the amount of rain and the months from February to April are those in which it should rain less. Towards the beginning of autumn it can happen that Singapore is invaded by smoke from the countryside of Southeast Asia, when the farmers burn the fields. I was there in October but fortunately I didn’t have this problem and found good weather every day.
There are 4 official languages: English, Mandarin Chinese (with simplified characters, not like Taiwan where they use traditional characters), Tamil and Malay. If you speak English you won’t have any problem communicating with the locals.
Here’s a list of the top things to do and to see in Singapore:
Things to see in Singapore: Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in the Central Region of Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir. The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden (in Marina South), Bay East Garden (in Marina East) and Bay Central Garden (in Downtown Core and Kallang). Gardens by the Bay is part of the nation’s plans to transform its “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”, with the aim of raising the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city.
It’s a really big area where you can spend a whole day. The three main attractions are the two futuristic greenhouses, which remind me very much of Jurassic Park, and the Supertrees Grove: tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens’ landscape with heights that range between 25 metres and 50 metres.
One of the two greenhouses is called Flower Dome and is the least spectacular of the two. The second one it’s called Cloud Forest Dome and it’s really incredible. Right after the entrance you will see a huge man made waterfall that reproduces the environment of the cloud forest. Both greenhouses have air conditioning.
The incredible waterlfall inside the Cloud Forest Dome
Every evening there is a light show in the Supetrees area. It usually gets quite crowded.
For all these three attractions you’ll have to pay an entrance fee but the access to the park area is free.
Enjoying an evening in one of Singapore’s exclusive bars
Singapore is a city for rich people and as such there is no shortage of exclusive locals. Unlike other cities in Asia, access to most roof top bars is not free of charge, and you’ll have to reserve a table at least a day before.
One of the most unique places is the Atlas Bar which has the world’s largest collection of Gin types: over 1000 (you can see the bottles in the picture above). Another place I wanted to visit, not so much for the overpriced cocktails, but for the view, one of the best in Singapore, is 1 Altitude. Unfortunately I didn’t make it because there were no more tables available. Please let me know if you know any other cool bars in Singapore.
The first time I visited Singapore was in 2011 and I don’t remember much, since I only stayed in the city for a few hours. One thing I do remember are the Botanic Gardens. If you like the nature, and do not mind spending some time under the oppressive tropical sun, then you can not miss this paradise. Founded in the mid-1800s, they are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main attraction is the orchid garden: I bet you’ll never see so many different kinds of orchids again.
Orchard Road is the shopping street. A must see for those who love shopping. I went there mainly to visit the library @Orchard Library, to get a classic picture to post on Instagram.
A positive thing about this area are the numerous malls where you can take refuge when it rains or it gets too hot.
Enjoying the sunset in the down town area
The Singapore skyline is one of the most beautiful in the world and also one of the most photogenic. There’s a pedestrian area that runs through the entire Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay area and reaches as far as the Singapore Flyer. Towards evening, when the heat is a bit less oppressive, it fills up with people jogging or simply enjoying the ocean breeze.
This part of the city is the probably the one I liked the most. Unlike other cities like Hong Kong where you constantly have claustrophobic feeling, in Singapore I didn’t have this impression. In the bay area for example, the most spectacular in the city, I was often the only tourist, something rare in Asia.
A visit to the ethnic districts
Singapore is a city with three souls: Chinese, Indian and Muslim.
The Arab area is my favorite and one of the reasons is because the Middle Eastern food is one of the best in the world. One of the highlights is the Masjid Mosque (in Kampong Glam) at sunset. After walking for a bit in the area you can try one of the many Arabic restaurants.
In the same area you can find Haji lane, a small alley famous for its nice murals and characteristic bars and restaurants. It’s better if you get there in the late afternoon or in the evening. Not in the morning.
The Chinese soul of Singapore is represented by Chinatown and the famous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Again in the morning you’ll find almost everything closed so I suggest you go there in the early afternoon or even later. If you go there towards sunset you can take a picture of the Temple that contrasts with the modern skyscrapers of Singapore. The temple is relatively new though: it was only built in 2002.
Finally, in Little India, near China Town, there are many Hindu temples, including the Sri Veeramakaliamman dedicated to the goddess Kali. For lovers of Indian food there are numerous restaurants in the area.
Photographing the Merlion at sunrise
The Merlion is a statue with lion’s head and fish body and is the symbol of Singapore. The best time to photograph it is at sunrise when there are few tourists, but not necessarily few photographers, as I found out… The fountain that comes out of the mouth of the statue is turned on after 7:00. So if you arrive very early and it’s not working just wait a while.
The food in Singapore
I have often heard that Taiwan compete with Singapore for the title of country with the best food in Asia. After spending some time in different Asian countries I have to say that, at least in my opinion, Singapore is unrivaled. You can find the best Asian food and the average quality of restaurants is really high. The restaurants are often very clean and many times there are big signs point out that are not added harmful products such as MSG in the food. It is no coincidence that the best chefs in the world open their restaurants in this city. Of course you can’t expect street food prices like China or Thailand, but if you’re looking for something cheap you can find cheaper restaurants too. Finally, one thing I discovered on this trip is that coffee, called kopi, it’s cheaper than in Italy! Do you need any other reason to decide to visit Singapore?
Final thoughts about Singapore
While I was waiting at the Customs on the Malaysian-Singapore border, I had a chat with an Italian man. He was surprised that I decided to spend 5 days in Singapore, as if there was nothing interesting to do. Actually Singapore is one of the few cities, together with Rome, that I would visit again. It’s a dynamic city which has a lot to offer even to people with very different interests.
In this article I mentioned some of the many things to see in Singapore but maybe I didn’t mention the most important thing: Singapore is the future. It represents what cities will perhaps become one day when it will become increasingly evident that preserving the environment is essential for our survival and is also a good economic investment.
I am convinced that we have to do our best in preserving the environment starting from the places where we live in, just like Singapore did: it is a green city where sometimes you have the feeling that nature has taken over and is claiming back urban spaces. But it’s actually the other way around: Singapore it’s the result of projects developed by some of the best architects in the world.
Having said that, I know that Singapore is not a city for everyone: the temperatures are very high all year round, the city it’s very expensive and some people prefer to visit remote places rather than modern mega-cities. In my opinion though, it’s worth visiting Singapore at least once in your life.
Here more pictures I took in Singapore.