Singapore tips travel

Taste, discover, experience – 20 best things to do in Singapore

Even though I visited Singapore many times, it never stops to excite me and I still find interesting things to do. Best things to do in Singapore is a selection of my current favourites – it’s a mix of cultural, tasty and nature-related things to do as well as some practical tips.

1. Atlas Bar

Date night, after-work drinks or just a coffee stop – no matter the reason, this place is a must visit. Housed on the ground floor of the Parkview Square (a stunning building inspired by Art Deco skyscrapers of Europe and New York), this bar & lobby lounge will make your jaw drop. If you’re into gin their Gin Tower is said to be the biggest in the world.

We popped in for a quick gin-based cocktail and enjoyed it & the atmosphere so much, we stayed for another round and a beautiful charcuterie board. Price-wise it’s exactly what you’d expect in a place that looks like this: our 4 cocktails + charcuterie board came to $158.90 (incl GST and service charge).

2. Pulau Ubin & Changi Village

Who knew riding rusty bikes through a jungle, drinking half-frozen Tiger beers from a dilapidated shack and getting up close with wildlife can be so exciting. What’s even more mind-boggling is when you have to keep reminding yourself that this is still Singapore. Check out The Island Drum’s Day Trippin’ on Singapore’s Pulau Ubin for ideas what to do on Pulau Ubin and details on how to get there. We expected the prices to be much higher but surprisingly it wasn’t bad – fresh coconut was $4, cold Tiger was $4.

Before and after Pulau Ubin we stopped at the Changi Village Hawker Centre for breakfast and late lunch. There’s a lot of interesting food to choose from but highlights must have been a spicy wonton soup we had for breakfast ($3), nasi lemak ($2.90) and cendol melaka (at the neighbouring Makan Melaka restaurant, $1.80).

3. Southern Ridges Walk

10km stretch connecting Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark and Kent Ridge Park. While we managed to walk almost the entire route, the most interesting part was from Mount Faber Park through Henderson Waves to Telok Blangah Hill Park (with its elevated Forest Walk).

The track is relatively painless – we encountered only one really steep climb right after entering Mount Faber Park coming from Vivo City. The views make up for any tiredness – you’re surrounded by lush tropical plants all the time and get glimpses of the city framed in greenery every now and then. There are maps, signs (upright as well as painted on walkways) and the track is easy to follow. Bring a hat, water, sunscreen and a camera.

4. Level33

Level33 bar sits, as the name would suggest, 33 levels above the CBD and offers panoramic views of the Marina Bay as well as a good chunk of the CBD & Singapore Strait. It’s a bar, restaurant and microbrewery (apparently the highest microbrewery in the world).

At $33.75 for 2 beers, it makes for a nice alternative to observation decks where you pay for the view and don’t get a nice drink included in the price of admission. We went up there for drinks few hours before leaving Singapore – it’s a nice spot to have that one last look over the city, cheers to it and say “it was a great trip, I’ll see you soon”.

(if you like drinks with a view check out also Sky on 57)

5. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

A remarkable, five-storey building in Chinatown that we walked past and took photos of many times but only visited it last year for the first time. The admission is free and appropriate attire (covered arms and legs) required but if you come in shorts they will lend you a sarong to cover up. There are ceremonies on a daily basis (check the website for current schedule) and visitors are allowed to take photos everywhere except in the 4th floor ornate room where the relic is located.

6. Gardens by the Bay & Satay by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is already on everyone’s list of places to visit in Singapore but what I’d like to encourage you to do is to visit it more than once. Everything looks different by day than it does by night. The futuristic-looking Supertrees are wonderful when looked at from the ground level, the elevated walkway around them also provides a good vantage point and is worth the price ($8). I’m not a huge fan of the Flower Dome but the Cloud Forest with its 35m waterfall is spectacular and they are both included in the same ticket.

If you don’t have enough time and can make it there only once then do it in the evening for one of the two (7:45pm and 8:45pm) nightly Garden Rhapsody light and sound shows. They are my absolute favourite thing to experience in Singapore. Last year I visited in May and the show was Star Wars themed, this year in March – a wonderland theme with many Disney songs. Just magical.

After the show, visit Satay by the Bay for dinner. It is a bit touristy but serves a pretty good satay, cold Tiger and just feels nice to seat at the waterfront.

7. Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore’s oldest garden, established over 150 years ago. There’s a lot to explore, including the National Orchid Garden and some interesting sculptures throughout the Gardens. Don’t expect to see everything in one go – it’s much bigger than it looks on the map.

I visited only twice so far and both times during stormy weather. The first time, with my mom, the sky turned dark as soon as we reached the garden and there was lightning everywhere around us so we retreated back to our hotel. Then, a year later, I visited with Hubby. It was a beautiful day and as we were getting close to the garden, I told him the story about bad weather last year. We laughed and continued walking. One hour later we were stuck under a tiny roof in a tropical storm. After 40 minutes one of the park workers rescued us on a golf cart. Hopefully, when I go there next time, I’ll finally get a chance to explore more.

Admission to the Botanic Gardens is free, the Orchid Garden is $5.

8. Chinatown Heritage Centre

A glimpse into the lives of Chinatown’s early residents. A beautiful museum located in three restored shophouses where you walk around recreated rooms with a headset and listen to stories of people. It’s all fun until you reach the end and it all suddenly turns rather grim. Nevertheless, well worth a visit. $15 with a multimedia guide.

9. Hawker Centres

During our latest trip to Singapore, we ate almost every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in Hawker Centres. It was fantastic. Not only we had a huge choice of dishes and they all tasted great, but we also didn’t pay a lot for them as on average a meal was anywhere between $1 and $4.

Other than our two usual hawker centres – Maxwell Road (where you can now find a hipster coffee & craft beer stall) and Chinatown Complex – we added a few more to our repertoire:

Old Airport Road Food Centre, Tiong Bahru Food Centre, Adam Road Food Centre, Albert Centre Market and Changi Village Hawker Centre. They’re all great, but each has a bit different vibe.

Bring cash (or use one of the on-site ATMs) and don’t be afraid to taste new things.

10. Chat with locals

Hanging around hawker centres quite a lot this time around, we noticed that locals frequenting them are more than happy to chat – especially about food. One man told us everything about the dish he just brought to the table after he noticed we were looking at what he got. He even invited us to taste test his noodles before he started eating them.

And that also worked the other way – people would look at what I brought and comment, usually about the amount of chilli, expecting I can’t handle the heat.

Another conversation starter were queues and how worth it is to line up somewhere for 30 minutes – apparently, some places close early if they sell out early and that’s how we ended up with a fishball noodle soup at 10am. One lady told us “this is the best thing you can get here”, others around her agreed with the statement so Hubby joined the queue. And right after he ordered his portion the stall owners turned off the lights and to the disappointment of others said “no more, sold out”.

11. Get the EZ-Link public transport card

The card makes travelling on MRT and buses much faster and smoother. You just tap as you enter, then tap again as you exit and the fare is automatically calculated. Easy as. You can purchase a new card at TransitLink Ticket Offices located at MRT stations or 7-Eleven stores.

12. Choose bus over MRT

MRT takes you from point A to B faster but buses are excellent for sightseeing. Many of them are double deckers, they’re air-conditioned and very clean. Easy to figure out as well – we used Google Maps directions for public transport and didn’t get lost even once.

13. Joo Chiat & Katong

Take a stroll around Katong to see rows of vibrant, beautifully decorated Peranakan houses and shophouses (Joo Chiat Road & Koon Seng Road). Be careful while taking pictures and crossing the road as it is quite busy with cars passing through.

And while you’re in the area, stop for a great bowl of laksa at 328 Katong Laksa.

14. Tiong Bahru

Tiong Bahru is a quiet, lovely neighbourhood with beautiful art deco buildings, good cafes, well-known Tiong Bahru Bakery and a market in the centre. Walk around (slowly, there’s no rushing in Tiong Bahru), have a coffee at Forty Hands and finish your visit with a shopping spree or a meal at the Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre.

15. East Coast Park

If a walk (or run or a bike ride), a chilli crab or other seafood meal and a bit of airplane spotting sounds like your kind of thing, then don’t miss the East Coast Park. This 15-kilometre long park is set along a beach and is a great place to spend a day – whether with a family, friends or on a date. The aviation geek in me was very happy just sitting on some rocks and watching airplanes land.

16. National Gallery of Singapore

Opened in November 2015, I only got to visit it over a year later and was instantly in love. The gallery has world’s largest public collection of modern Southeast Asian art and is housed within two national monuments – the former Supreme Court Building and City Hall. A lot of money went into this project but the result is impressive.

I enjoyed the building itself almost as much as the art. People who work there are wonderful – during our visit, we had numerous impromptu art discussions with them and we could see they’re all really passionate about their job. Admission from $20.

17. National Museum of Singapore

From the newest museum (above) to the oldest – the National Museum of Singapore is the place when it comes to learning about the history and culture of Singapore. Immersive, multimedia experience in an elegant building. You will need a few hours to see it all. Admission $15.

18. Kaya Toast for breakfast

Have it at least once. It’s a toasted bread (bonus points if it’s charcoal-grilled) with chunks of cold butter and a spread of kaya – a traditional coconut jam. Usually, it’s accompanied by soft-boiled eggs with runny yolks that you need to dress with a dash of dark soya and pepper. The sweet and savoury – they complement each other perfectly.

19. Tekka Market

A large wet market with food court downstairs and shopping area upstairs (mostly clothes) in Little India. It hits you in the nose with an abundance of smells, it’s noisy, it’s busy, it’s vibrant and multicultural. Gives you a great opportunity to observe locals. Find yourself a quiet spot upstairs and do some people-watching. It’s fascinating to watch all the hustle and bustle in the morning.

20. Peranakan Houses just off Orchard Road

If you’re out shopping on Orchard Road don’t miss a chance to see some beautiful Peranakan houses in Emerald Hill – a conservation area just across the road from Orchard Gateway shopping mall. It takes only 15 minutes to walk the length of the road up and down but is worth the detour.

All prices quoted in the article are in Singaporean Dollars. This article includes affiliate links. There is no additional cost to you when you purchase through affiliate links but it helps creators like myself reach our goals.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Mariska de Graaf-Homan
    September 16, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Thank you! We will be visiting Singapore at the end of October and your recommendations are useful!

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