Singapore has been described as a playground for the rich, and it's true that the small city-state does have a certain sheen of wealth. But Singapore offers more than just high-end shopping malls, luxury hotels, and fine dining
Singapore has been described as a playground for the rich, and it's true that the small city-state does have a certain sheen of wealth. But Singapore offers more than just high-end shopping malls, luxury hotels, and fine dining (though it's worth indulging in those a bit if you can). There is also a vibrant history and diverse ethnic quarters to discover, along with many family-friendly attractions and lovely public spaces that make exploring this slightly futuristic city worthwhile.
Singapore has an excellent public transportation system that makes sightseeing convenient and easy. Once you've gotten a sense of the metro map, you'll have no problem zipping from one part of town to the next. English is spoken everywhere, and signs are in English as well. In fact, Singapore is one of the easiest and most comfortable countries to navigate in Southeast Asia. And as long as you're not comparing prices to nearby Thailand or Vietnam, you're in for a lovely stay.
This little country on the Malay Peninsula invites you to visit its landmarks. It’s one of the three sovereign city-states still in existence in the world and the only one that’s an island. But don’t let that fool you, as the country offers plenty of activities and a staggering spectacle of a play of lighting and architecture. Below, you’ll find more about the country, plus there are travel tips waiting for you.
Singapore is the quintessential cosmopolitan, having the highest religious diversity in any country. Spread 42 km (26 miles) east to west and 23 km (14 miles) north to south, today it boasts of the world's busiest port. Singapore has climbed to be one of Asia's hit-list destinations with its efficient and widespread transport system - whizzing in this country is just a matter of minutes!The national pastime of Singaporeans is eating, followed closely by shopping.
Well-known landmarks include the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, the Jewel, the Orchard Road shopping belt, the resort island of Sentosa, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore's first UNESCO World Heritage Site
Best described as a microcosm of modern Asia, Singapore is a melting pot of culture and history, and an extravaganza of culinary delights. Officially known as the Republic of Singapore, it is both a city and a country located in Southeast Asia. One of Asia's most visited destinations, Singapore is best described as an amalgam of a fast-paced life and an off-the-back-street inheritance. This 'City in a Garden' is a blend of cultures, combining different ideas, cuisines, new architectures going well with the gleaming hint of the old school. The incredible shopping malls, classy boutiques, departmental stores on Orchard Road, the exotic elements of Chinatown and Little India and the world-class nightlife span across the spotless land of Singapore.Expensive with respect to South-eastern standards, the city offers a plethora of other options for entertainment such as Sentosa Island, Singapore Zoo, Singapore Botanic Garden, Marina Bay Sands, Tiger Balm Garden, and the Singapore Night Safari. With a picture-perfect skyline and city centre bustling with crowds of people, Singapore is one of the most popular travel destinations for a lot of reasons. Tourism is a major industry and contributor to the Singaporean economy, attracting 18.5 million international tourists in 2018, more than three times Singapore's total population. Singapore is the 5th most visited city in the world, and 2nd in the Asia-Pacific. In 2019 tourism contributed directly to about 4% of Singapore's GDP, down from 2016, when tourism contributed, directly and indirectly, to around 9.9% of Singapore's GDP. Altogether, the sector generated approximately 8.6% of Singapore's employment in 2016.
The city-state lies on the main island and encompasses additional fifty smaller neighbouring islands. The city of Singapore differs from its neighbouring Asian metropolises mostly in cleanliness and tidiness. The airport in Singapore is an international hub, which means flight connections to this part of the world are excellent. More than fifty large ships arrive in the country’s port each day. Tourism is booming and communicating doesn’t pose any difficulties because English is an official language. English traditions, however, are noticeable elsewhere, for example, lining up in queues. Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and it also intends to remain as such, including through its strict laws. One of these laws imposed a ban on chewing gum sales. Travellers are particularly advised against littering while exploring the country because it can result in fines and street cleaning punishment.
Singapore is the country’s capital and its only city. It’s a large business and shopping centre. But don’t get too excited, there’s not much sympathy for consumers who are cautious with their money. But you can have a go at haggling even in the most modern of shopping centres. There are massive sales in June and July. Public transport is perfectly organised, though you should still think twice before taking out that sandwich on a metro. Before entering the city centre, you can get into one of the numerous cars that are waiting for travellers, as they can’t drive off without them, but you should still tour the city on foot and experience the world of views, sounds and smells.
The island’s interior is almost completely built up with very few remnants of swamps and tropical forests, which used to cover the whole island up until the 19th century when there was a sharp economic upturn that lead to one of the most developed countries of the contemporary era. Despite this, the inhabitants still try to preserve their own culture, which allows travellers to experience interesting cultural mixes in a small area. Give in to the smells of Little India or explore Chinatown where you’ll meet rickshaws with loudspeakers and traditional Chinese market stalls and shops. Take a guide tour in Little India that includes a stop in traditional shops and where you’ll learn a lot of fascinating stories and entertaining anecdotes. What all parts of the city have in common is the food. Tips for cheap and good eat-outs will take you to simple restaurants, some kind of food meccas. Singapore has a rich colonial past, a piece of which can be found at the interesting Raffles Hotel, which had already become famous in former times. You can treat yourself to the delicious Singapore Sling cocktail and throw the peanut shells on the floor.
One of the greatest attractions includes Gardens by the Bay that consist of three parts – southern, eastern and central – and are home to more than half a million plants. The Flower Dome, the world’s largest greenhouse, is located in the southern part. The Cloud Forest area recreates conditions typical for altitudes between 1000 and 2000 metres in the tropical zone. There are also various tree-lined boulevards and tree structures resembling super trees in the complex.
Singapore’s noticeable icon is the Merlion statue, which is also the country’s mascot. It has a lion’s head, Singapore meaning The Lion City, and the body of a fish, representing the city’s fishing past. There are five official Merlion statues in the city, all of various sizes with the tallest reaching a height of 37 metres. Singapore is wild. The River Safari theme park just begs you to explore it. There, you’ll encounter pandas, large fish, small crocodiles and many more.
The Sentosa Island offers a spectacular night show against the open sea titled Wings of Time. Watch the 3D projection, laser show and fireworks display as they conjure up the story of Shahbaz, an ancient bird travelling through time and space. The island is known for being a place of entertainment and relaxation and it’s a nice way to end any travel holiday. There are countless beaches and themed parks to explore. You can fly to Sentosa Island with a cable car from Mount Faber on the mainland.
Singapore Getaways: If you're based in Singapore and looking for some time outside the city, or if you're thinking of adding something on to your holiday, consider one of our ideas for weekend getaways from Singapore. Flights connect the city to beautiful destinations around SE Asia in just two or three hours. There are also several interesting places you can reach by bus or ferry.
Once you've glimpsed this beautifully designed green space (from the top of the Marina Bay Sands, perhaps) you won't be able to stay away. Wander through the Bay East Garden, perfect for enjoying the vibrant plant life and escaping the city bustle for a moment.
You won't want to miss Supertree Grove, where you'll find a cluster of the iconic, futuristic structures designed to perform environmentally sustainable functions. Then, head to the Cloud Forest Dome to see the world's tallest indoor waterfall and learn a bit about biodiversity. Check the website for ticket sale prices and tour times.
Billing itself as the world's best rainforest zoo, the Singapore Zoo is a pretty impressive place. The facility is clean and inviting, and the animals appear well treated, with plenty of lush vegetation and habitat space.
The orangutans are particularly impressive, and visitors can watch as babies and adults alike swing high above their platforms and snack on fruits. There is also a large chimpanzee family, zebras, meerkats, a komodo dragon, mole rats, white tigers, kangaroos, and many other creatures.
If the zoo doesn't satisfy your need for getting close to wildlife, there's also the Night Safari, River Safari (including a giant panda forest), and the Jurong Bird Park. Park hopper passes are available if you plan to visit more than one of the wildlife parks.
For a unique and personal wildlife experience, try the Singapore Zoo Breakfast with the Orangutans. This hassle-free tour includes transportation from and to your hotel, allows you half day to explore the zoo, and has an optional upgrade to enjoy breakfast in the company of the zoo's much-loved orangutans.
Singapore isn't exactly known as a beach destination, but if you're really craving some fun in the sun, Sentosa Island is the place to find it. Siloso Beach is a good spot for getting in beach time, and visitors can play volleyball on free courts or go kayaking and skimboarding. There are several other beach attractions as well, plus an Underwater World aquarium, where you can swim with dolphins.
A must-see on Sentosa Island is the Merlion, Singapore's famous statue that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. You can take an escalator to the top of the statue and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area. Adventurous types will want to check out The Flying Trapeze and the SeaBreeze Water-Sports @ Wave House, where you can try your hand at flying strapped to a water-propelled jet pack.
One could be forgiven for coming to Singapore and doing nothing but shopping, as this is a world-class city for style and designer chic. The Orchard Road area is a great place to start a shopping spree, as there are high-end stores at every turn. You'd expect nothing less from a neighborhood that boasts 22 malls and six department stores. There are also four movie theaters, including an IMAX cinema, and a KTV karaoke establishment.
If the observation deck at the Marina Bay Sands doesn't quite do it for you, try taking in high tea while looking out over the city from the Singapore Flyer, the world's largest giant observation wheel. Choose from several different packages that allow you to be served and pampered while enjoying a view that encompasses not only the Singapore skyline but as far away as the Spice Islands of Indonesia and Malaysia's Straits of Johor.
There are several different ticket packages to choose from, and each includes access to the multimedia Journey of Dreams exhibit, which delves into Singapore's history and the creation of the Singapore Flyer.
Flights last 30 minutes and run from early morning until late at night, so you can choose which view of the city you want to enjoy: the beginning of another bustling day or when Singapore is aglow after dark.
Not to be confused with the Gardens on the Bay, the Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit. Singapore received its first UNESCO World Heritage nomination for its botanical gardens, and with good reason. The city can sometimes feel like a concrete jungle, albeit a clean and comfortable one, but the botanic gardens preserve pieces of Singapore's wilder heritage.
Here, a walking trail leads to the gardens' heritage trees, which are conserved as part of an effort to protect the city's mature tree species. Make sure to visit the impressive National Orchid Garden as well.
Built in 1887, the property has served as a city landmark for well over a century and continues to live up to its tony reputation with excellent food and service. The classical architecture and tropical gardens provide a refined setting and represent another facet of Singapore's varied and rich history.
The Raffles Hotel Singapore is located in the city's Colonial District, which is also home to several other historic sites, and a good place to base yourself in the city. Here, you'll find the Raffles Landing Site, where Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, is said to have stepped ashore in 1819. The story has it that he saw the small fishing village but recognized its potential as a port, so he purchased the land from the Sultan of Johor and invited Chinese and Indian immigrants to move here. And so the seeds of Singapore's multi-ethnic identity were sown.
The opulent Marina Bay Sands resort complex includes a high-end luxury hotel, a mall with a canal running through it, the ArtScience Museum, and the Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observation Deck–a vantage point for taking in the entire city. The Skypark's viewing deck and infinity pool are found in the ship (yes, ship) that tops the hotel. Only hotel guests are allowed to use the infinity pool, but anyone can visit the observation deck.
While up there on top of the city, guests can grab a snack or a coffee at the rooftop restaurant or pick up some keepsakes from the souvenir stand. You can purchase a photo of yourself green-screened in front of the massive hotel as it's all lit up at night, but the cost is steep at 50 Singapore dollars–better to ask a fellow tourist to snap a photo of you if possible. The elegant opulence of the Marina Bay Sands exemplifies Singapore's style and status as a major international city in Southeast Asia.
If you've ever visited China, Singapore's Chinatown neighborhood will bring you right back here. From the small mom-and-pop stores and authentic Chinese food to the bright red lanterns, there's excitement and hustle in this district. You can visit the Chinese Heritage Centre and see the impressive and beautiful Sri Mariamman Hindu temple.
Another temple worth seeing is the Buddha Tooth Relic temple. If you're up early enough (think 4am), you can hear the morning drum ceremony. Or you can just check out the closing ceremony in the evening after viewing the relic.
Heritage markers have been installed throughout the neighborhood in English, Japanese, and simplified Chinese, so visitors can better understand the significance of the area. But this neighborhood is not just a testament to the influence of the Chinese throughout Singapore's past. This is a progressive neighborhood (with free Wi-Fi for all), and it's home to the trendy Ann Siang Hill area, where the quaint bistros and upscale boutiques could be at home in any Western city.
The "center of commerce during the 19th century," Clarke Quay lives up to its legacy as a busy hub. Today, it has a more polished sheen, so after a long day of shopping on Orchard Road, visitors can happily head to Clarke Quay for an evening of waterfront dining and entertainment.
River taxis and cruises also depart from here, giving tourists the chance to admire some of the city's historic bridges and view landmarks like the Merlion from the water. The Quay's biggest hit with younger tourists is a giant bungee-jumping attraction, an adrenaline-packed thrill ride.
Nearby attractions include the Asian Civilisation Museum; the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery located in Singapore's oldest fire station; and the Hong San See Temple, a picturesque century-old Buddhist place of worship.
Night Safari Singapore puts a new twist on the traditional zoo experience by introducing visitors to the nocturnal lives of the residents. The park's habitats are divided into four sections, each with its own trail that lets you observe these elusive creatures as they go about their "day."
The Leopard Trail has, as expected, leopards, as well as lions, flying foxes, civets, and porcupines among other animals. The Fishing Cat Trail tours the habitat of animals native to Singapore, including the fish-loving felines, pangolin, binturong, and other species both common and endangered. East Lodge Trail features Malayan tigers and spotted hyenas, and the Wallaby Trail introduces visitors to the marsupials of Australia.
If the Raffles Hotel and Fort Canning Park haven't satisfied your taste for colonial architecture, pay a visit to the Empress Place Building. It was constructed in 1865 and built in the Neoclassical style, and was named in honor of Queen Victoria. It now houses the Asian Civilisations Museum, which delves into the many Asian cultures that helped form Singapore.
The museum's collections focus on the themes of trade and spirituality, both of which heavily influenced Asian cultures. Exhibits cover topics such as the Indian Ocean trade, stories of faith and belief, and a look at the important role that scholars played in Chinese culture for centuries.
Often voted as the best airport in the world, the 10-story-high Jewel Ghangi is not your ordinary transportation hub. In fact, you should put it on your list of must-see places to visit while in Singapore.
In addition to over 300 shops, the airport's most famous feature is the 40-meter-high HSBC Rain Vortex, an indoor waterfall surrounded by over 2,000 trees. Each of the airport's three terminals (all seamlessly connected) also has its own garden. There's a cactus garden in Terminal 1; a sunflower garden in T2; and a very famous butterfly garden at T3, home to more than 40 species of butterflies, a six-meter grotto waterfall, and plenty of flowering plants.
The airport is also home to two movie theaters, an entertainment corner with vintage arcade machines, an indoor canopy park with garden mazes and stunning viewing decks, and a 12-meter-tall (that's four stories high) slide both children and adults are welcome to use.
For a look at what life in Singapore was like before it was all about glamor and skyscrapers, visit the small island of Pulau Ubin, where fewer than 100 people still live in the same simple way as they did in the 1960s. The island's name is Malay for "Granite Island," a moniker given due to its past prominence as a quarry town.
Today, it is a peaceful, rustic place where tourists can enjoy unspoiled forests and diverse wildlife. The island is also home to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, which contain a coral reef teeming with sea life.
This indoor-outdoor museum is located right on the water, and it's a great way to explore Singapore's maritime history through fun, interactive exhibits. Before you even enter the building, you'll be able to see several ships anchored here.
Inside, the highlight of the museum is the Jewel of Muscat, a replica of a sailing vessel that sank in 830 CE while traveling between Africa and China. You can also see large-size models of trading ships that traveled the Silk Route, learn navigation skills and how to read nautical charts, and experience a 9th-century shipwreck at Typhoon Theater in a special-effects simulation.
As military strongholds go, Fort Canning has had a long and varied life. Built in 1859, the fort was originally meant to defend Singapore against attacks but it became a bunker during World War II and was eventually surrendered to the Japanese in 1942.
Other attractions at the park include relics from Singapore's early history, from as far back as the 14th century, and Sir Stamford Raffles' personal bungalow. Guests can also see a replica of the spice market Raffles established in 1822, as well as ASEAN sculptures that were erected in the 1980s.
Fort Siloso, the country's only preserved fort and a military museum, is located on Sentosa Island. You can reach the fort via the Fort Siloso Skywalk trail, a massive steel bridge towering 11 stories up. Surrounded by lush tropical canopy, the bridge is accessed by either a glass elevator or simple stairs–though taking the elevator means sweeping open views of the Keppel Harbor, which you can't really see if you choose to walk your way up. The 181-meter-long bridge offers great views of the nearby islands, as well as the jungle floor below.
Highlights inside the fort include the many massive cannons on display, three tunnel systems used to move ammunition around, and special exhibits showcasing daily life in the fort for the soldiers living there in the 1800s.
Universal Studios Singapore occupies 49 acres of Resorts World Sentosa. The park is arranged thematically, with each area paying tribute to a location, film, or television show. Destinations include New York City, Hollywood, Madagascar, and a trip back to Ancient Egypt. Fiction-themed areas include Shrek's Far Far Away, Lost World, and Sci-Fi City, where Battlestar Galactica-themed dueling roller coasters and an indoor dark coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, dominate the thrill rides.
Home to the largest modern art collection in Southeast Asia, the National Gallery mostly focuses on the works of local and Asian artists starting in the 19th century. The 9,000-plus works of art are divided between two buildings – City Hall and the former Supreme Court – over more than 64,000 square meters.
Singapore's Merlion is just what it sounds like–the figure of a mythical creature that has the head of a lion and the body and tail of a fish. The Merlion represents the city's humble start as a fishing village combined with its traditional Malay name Singapura, "lion city."
The "Merlion Cub" sits nearby, only two meters tall but a hefty three tonnes, and there are five additional official Merlion statues throughout the city. Merlion Park is an ideal spot for photo-ops, whether you are taking a selfie in front of the iconic creature or capturing the magnificent views from the park as it looks out over the bay.
Singapore is relatively easy to explore and has a metro system that makes getting around simple. Most of the hotels listed below are in the city center, on or near the popular Orchard Road, a great area for shopping and sightseeing. A couple of these are hotels of distinction and are noteworthy attractions in Singapore. All of the hotels listed below are popular and highly rated.
Seeing the Sights. For first time visitors, the Singapore Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour is a great way to see the sights and get familiar with the layout of the city. Tickets are valid for 24 or 48 hours and the open-top double-decker buses, with multilingual audio commentary, operate on a number of routes. This is a very easy way to see and learn about sights while exploring at your own pace.
Singapore by Night. For a truly unique perspective on the city, try the Singapore Night Sightseeing Tour. This semi-independent tour offers a chance to see the city lights, do some shopping along Bugis Street, explore the Gardens by the Bay, and dine by the Singapore Flyer. Included in the tour are hotel pickup and drop off, dinner, and entry to the Gardens.