The little Red Dot city-state of Singapore is best known for extravagant projects suitable for grow-up Disneyland fanatics. But beyond the man-made island of Sentosa, the boat-shaped Marina Bay Sands Hotel and its famous 67th level infinity pool there is a vibrant food culture, rich heritage and melting pot of cultures sure to excite your senses. Here are some of the best things to do and places to explore while visiting Singapore.
One of the few parts of Singapore where the Kampong way of life is still present is Pulau Ubin Island. You can take a quick boat ride and be transported back in time. Rent a bike and tour around.
For a country with one of the highest population densities in the world you might be surprised at the amount of green spaces. MacRitchie Reservoir is a favorite. You can follow the entire well-marked trail for a 12km route through the real jungle with monitor lizards crossing your path and monkeys trying to steal your lunch, or simply take the shorter boardwalk trails along the water.
Little known and practically deserted, the Southern Islands are a group of islands about 20-30min by ferry from Singapore and which boast white sand beaches and quietness. The most famous of all is Lazarus Island, a beach crescent that faces away from Singapore and from the hundreds of oil cargo ships that litter the landscape. Lazarus is also the common beach for yachties to stop over so you might find a couple anchored.
The most beautiful part of Singapore is Gardena by the Bay park, at night. Designed to look like a set of the Avatar movie, the Super Trees, the Flower Dome and the suspension bridge are all well worth a visit. It is at night, when the lights are turned on, that the park is most magical. And you will have it all to yourself. Arrive for the Light Show and stay on to walk through jasmine scent, lush greenery, flowing canals and colorfully lit Super Trees.
Running for as long as one can remember is the Music and Lights show projected from the amphitheater in the middle of the Marina Bay Shoppes area. Take a sit for one of the two shows (three in the weekend) that are displayed every night and watch the laser lights, the projections on the water and the music bring some magic into your evening.
Looking like a typical touristy thing to do, the Singapore River cruise delivers a new perspective on the river life. You can board at the top of the river and come all the way down to the Marina to disembark on time for the Light show and observe all the famous Singapore landmarks from a new angle. The ArtScience Museum looks particularly interesting from the water.
Although most visitors see Singapore as a new city, the strategic enclave was a British colony and an important trading spot and so it has rich and long heritage waiting to be discovered. Join a walking heritage tour or download one of the many apps created by the Singapore Heritage Board for a self-guided tour.
Singapore is best appreciated from one of the many rooftop bars around the Marina area. Head to famous Ce La Vie, on top of the Marina Bay Sands, for sweeping views across the entire city or choose Level 33 for craft beers brewed on top of the city’s Financial Center and equal views of the city and of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. For a cozier and classier option, try the rooftop bars in the National Gallery.
Singapore is a melting pot of cultures with four recognized ethnic groups and languages: Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English. As the dominant ethnic group, Chinese congregate in Chinatown, a mesh of alleys, markets, shops and temples worth a couple of hours of chaotic (for Singapore standards) joy. Learn more about Buddhism at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, wander the streets and wet markets around Smith Street and even sample some of the street food on offer at Smith Street, Lau Pa Sat hawker center or Maxwell hawker center, some of the best in the city.
A visit to Singapore would not be complete without some time spent in Little India. Originally created by the British during colonial times to host the Indian workers brought it, Little India is a fantastic place to enjoy Indian food and culture. Sample some of the best Indian fare, marvel at the intricate Hindu Temples of Shree Lakshminarayan and Sri Veeramakaliamman and get lost, literally, at 24h shopping mecca Mustafa Center, the perfect night destination.