The best things to do in Singapore
You've seen the photos on Instagram – the gorgeous sunset glow against a bird's-eye view of Singapore. Only hotel guests get access to the rooftop pool so book yourself a room ASAP.
There’s nothing quite like getting elbow-deep into a plate of chilli crab. It’s sweet, savoury, tangy and spicy all in one bite and is best mopped up with a deep-fried mantou. Have it at a neighbourhood zi char joint or at Jumbo Seafood, of course.
Zouk’s no stranger to all you party animals. Whether you jam to trance, techno or hip-hop, this nightlife institution’s got your back. Making its shiny new digs at Clarke Quay, the world-class club spans across two floors featuring a main dance room and Phuture, which pumps out smooth R&B tunes. For a mix of deep house and nu-disco beats, make your way up to its luxe lounge Capital.
Ah, the king of fruits. Geylang, the city’s infamous red light district, is home to plenty of roadside stalls hawking durians– but with plenty of crooks looking to swindle you out of a quick buck, it’s best to stick to places that have built up a solid reputation like Fruits Top 1 Department Store.
On a list of Asia's 50 Best Bars, Manhattan at Regent Singapore comes out at number one. And on according to the World's 50 Best Bars, it's number seven. It's a portal to New York City where ladies are decorated in pearls and gentlemen dressed to the nines. The menu takes you through the ages of NYC, from the 1520s to the 1970s.
Marvel at National Gallery Singapore’s extensive collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art. Housed in the former Supreme Court building, the museum displays over 400 masterpieces including works by pioneer Nanyang artists Chen Chon Swee, Liu Kang and Georgette Chen.
Navigating the maze that is Chinatown Food Complex is a bit of a task. But a tell-tale sign that you’ve found Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle is the long queue that weaves its way through the entire hawker centre – after all, it's the cheapest Michelin-starred meal you'll get in the world. It'll take you 2 to 3 hours to get to the front of the queue. But it'll be worth it when you tuck into a plate of the famed soya sauce chicken ($7-$14).
Yes, the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park are all excellent attractions in their own right but we love the lesser known River Safari. The river-themed wildlife park walks you through the greatest rivers in the world including the Amazon and the Nile. Plus, say hi to giant pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia.
Nothing offers sweet respite from the heat quite like ice cream served between rainbow bread or wafers. Ice cream uncles line Orchard Road selling blocks from $1.20, a small price to pay for the joy something so simple brings.
An airport doesn’t sound like much of an attraction – more a series of interminable queues filled with tetchy flyers and shrieking babies. But Singapore’s Changi Airport has been voted the world’s best airport for the fifth consecutive year – and there’s much to marvel at here. Butterfly habitats, Balinese-style rooftop pools, 24-hour cinemas, spa centres – trust us, this ain’t your average airport. There are far worse stopovers during a long-haul flight.
Whether you’re having a sleepless night or looking for a very specific item at 2am in the morning, you can count on Mustafa Centre to supply the goods. A Singapore institution, this seven-storey mall is open round the clock and it’s extensive – like, really extensive – offerings will delight all intrepid bargain hunters looking for a deal.
Art and science blend seamlessly in the form of high-tech pieces at the Future World exhibition. Observe how the two seemingly contrasting entities come together in the world’s first Artscience Museum at MBS. Open your mind to the futuristic sphere of cutting-edge interactive installations and explore how art and science shape the world that we live in.
A two-kilometre boulevard that winds a route through the centre of Singapore, Orchard Road is famous across the world as a major shopping destination. It got its name from the fruit trees that grew here in the nineteenth century – but these days, you’re more likely to find coffee shops, chainstores, boutiques, upscale restaurants, nightclubs, plazas and malls. Whip out the credit card and prepare to give it a poundin
Kaya toast – you simply can't miss out on this classic. This widely available breakfast item of toast, butter and coconut jam, is available at every kopitiam and local coffee shop. Old-school bakery Chin Mee Chin Confectionery does a beautiful rustic job – just be sure to call them kaya buns, rather than toast – although you'll need to arrive relatively earlier if you want to score any of these babies, as they often sell out by lunchtime.
Fall head over heels for the seasonal floral display at the Flower Dome, one of the world’s largest glass greenhouses, which showcases exotic plant species, including tulips, dahlias and cherry blossoms. And make your way to the Supertree Grove – where towering tree-like sculptures come alive at night.
You’re in for a full day of fun and heart-racing adventure at Universal Studios Singapore. Let your feet dangle off the world’s tallest duelling roller coasters, protect the Allspark from the Decepticons and get soaked on a white water rafting experience that ends in a hair-raising drop.
Home to many hole-in-the-wall boutiques, charming cafés and watering holes, Haji Lane is, without a doubt, the original hipster enclave and our favourite shopping stretch in the city. Skip the mall and head down to this quaint neighbourhood in the Kampong Glam district – the narrow lane is lined with shophouses packed with independent small shops hawking too-cool-for-school wares. On weekends, the area is a car-free zone.
Round off a trip to Kampong Glam with a visit to Sultan Mosque. The heart of the Arab Quarter, it is the largest unofficial centre of worship for Muslims locally, but visitors are welcome to enter (except during prayer services, so do avoid Fridays). Look for the curious features at the base of the dome, which is composed of many glass bottles.
The iconic durian-looking arts centre opens its doors to visitors who are eager to have a closer look at the world-class space. Uncover how the concert hall is engineered to keep out even the slightest external noise and vibration. Be amazed at how the hall, which has hosted renowned musicians from all around the globe, can be adjusted to mimic the acoustics of a tiny room or a large cathedral.
Far beyond being a gimmick to attract curious drinkers, the cocktails at Native are the real deal. While the previous menu had a drink made with ants, the new one highlights grasshoppers paired with Chalong Bay rum, wheatgrass, lemongrass and Thai basil – all crowned with a scoop of glorious coconut ice cream.
Set in lush secondary rainforest, the Night Safari (and the world’s first night zoo) allows you to see what over 900 nocturnal animals – including these striped hyenas and other scarier beasts like lions and leopards – get up to after dusk, in naturalistic habitats and without barriers, via the use of special lighting techniques.
While the grown-ups will appreciate the history of this modest-sized mound in the heart of the business district, the kids… well, they don’t need any excuse to tumble around in a park as verdant as this, do they? As they explore the many nooks and crannies of Fort Canning Park and its many colonial-era relics, history buffs can learn more about the vital roles it played in Singapore’s story over the centuries.
Local coffee roasters Papa Palheta helped pioneer the third-wave coffee scene in Singapore, particularly with the opening of their uber-popular café-retail complex, Chye Seng Huat Hardware (becoming one of the first joints to plant a flag in the hipster 'hood of Jalan Besar). Its house blends are roasted directly in the complex from single origin beans; there's also a retail wall with grinders and brew contraptions to release flavour from the beans.
This homegrown lifestyle store champions Singapore-designed products and, boy, are there lots to choose from. Naiise stocks over 1,000 brands selling cute stationery, household items, local books, unique touristy souvenirs and more across its six outlets.
Marina Bay’s giant, 42-storey, 165m observation wheel continues to pull a mix of tourists and locals who come for the breathtaking, 360-degree views of the city available from one of its capsules. Each flight lasts 30 mintues and on a clear day the panorama from the top of the wheel stretches into neighbouring Malysia and Indonesia. If you fancy pimping your experience a bit, take a look at the dining and cocktail packages that are available.
Situated on an islet in the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Symphony Lake, the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage is an idyllic venue for open-air concerts, with the audience sitting at the water’s edge. Of the monthly concerts held – from jazz, Latin and classical to pop and R&B – the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s free, biannual SSO in the Park is the most popular.
Just a stone's throw away from Bugis station lies a bargain shopper's heaven. Bugis Street is the closest you'll get to a street market in Singapore – the first floor is non-airconditioned but we suggest heading straight up to the second air-conditioned floor to shop. The most popular thing to do there, however, is to get your nails done in one of the many nail salons in the 'beauty aisle' – trust us, you'll know when you get there.
Whisk yourself to the wilder (and greener) side of Singapore. Pulau Ubin’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Just a 15-minute bumboat ride away, the offshore island’s home to plenty of land and sea critters including wild boars and mousedeer.
Housed in the historic Golden Theatre, The Projector screens a selection of flicks such as cult favourites, arthouse, documentary, foreign and local. Look out for its special themed nights that are presented alongside homegrown drag collective The Glory Hoes, bringing together a series of queer films with glamourous disco after-parties to boot.
Journey to Singapore’s past with the National Museum of Singapore’s History Gallery and Modern Colony Gallery. The former traces the progress of the little red dot – from our years as an underdeveloped island to becoming a modern city. The latter offers a peek into the bygone days of Singapore as a British crown colony in the 1920s and 1930s.
Witness pianist Aya Sekine’s intense key-smashing or treat your ears to Singaporean jazz stalwart Alemay Fernandez soulful croonings at Blujaz Café. Decked out in vibrant bohemian-inspired décor, the popular live music spot sits at the corner of Bali Lane in the Kampong Glam district and draws a crowd of young and old.
The weird and wonderful Haw Par Villa is a park filled with multicoloured statues depicting scenes from Chinese history and mythology. The highlight is the Ten Courts of Hell (responsible for childhood nightmares for generations of Singaporeans) where small-scale tableaux show human sinners being punished in a variety of hideous and bloodthirsty ways – in extremely gory and graphic detail. It’s a safe bet that you will never see anything like it anywhere else.
The wetland reserve of mangrove swamps, ponds and secondary forest is home to 140 species of birds. Thousands of egrets, sandpipers and plovers pass through in winter, but plenty of local species (kingfishers, herons, bitterns) are visible all year round. Early morning is the best time for birdwatching; there are observation hides, and you can rent binoculars. There are three nature trails (3-7km/2-4 miles long), and you can also spot mudskippers, monkeys and climbing crabs on the mangrove boardwalks.
One of the most outstanding buildings in the iconic glitzy shopping belt Orchard Road is Tang Plaza. As Singapore’s oldest homegrown department store, Tangs is often credited with sparking the transformation of Orchard Road into the vibrant shopping haven it’s known as today.
Singapore Zoo’s Ah Meng Restaurant serves up a buffet spread of Western and local delights, but trust us – the highlight has to be the orang utans, which make their daily appearance between 9.30 to 10am – they’re friendly, well-trained and always up for a photo op! Walk off the food after at the ‘open concept’ zoo, where over 4,000 animals, including the exotic white tiger and Hamadryas baboons, live in landscaped enclosures instead of traditional cages.
Shoes on? Shoes off – because at this nightlife playground footwear is totally optional. Sink your toes into Sentosa beach’s soft sand and transport yourself to the cool shores of Ibiza as you rave the night away to a blaring mix of Balearic house, beach boogie and sunshine soul. Oh, and we definitely recommend modelling your cutest swimwear.
Singapore’s oldest nature park is continuously filled with joggers, families and weekend strollers – plus those flocking to see the occasional free concert. You can get into the reservoir’s rainforest via the MacRitchie Trail, which offers straightforward boardwalk treks and more ambitious, longer hikes. There’s plenty of wildlife here, from flying lemurs to tree frogs and pangolins – but they do tend to hide out of sight. The one exception are the long-tailed macaque monkeys that hang about. Be warned, though: having been fed by less responsible visitors, they can be aggressive little terrors.
Hypebeasts and baes worth their salt ought to pay a visit to Dover Street Market – it’s the fourth in the world after London, Tokyo and New York. It stocks a wide array of designer brands, ranging from Comme des Garçons and The Row to Anti Social Social Club and Paccbet.
Hawker centres are an integral part of Singapore’s food landscape so treat yourself to an education of the finest degree at Tiong Bahru Market. The recently revamped centre houses more than 80 hawker stalls including legends such as Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow and Jian Bo Shui Kueh.
Hear Records is where you go to get lost in crates of vinyl – there are over 10,000 used ones and 5,000 new ones with weekly additions to keep things fresh. Needless to say, a vast, curated selection of records, all handpicked by owner Nick Tan, line the walls too.
We love that Singapore never stops reinventing herself – and that applies to our food too. Labyrinth is a modern Singaporean restaurant housed in the beautiful Esplanade and it whips up dishes like chilli crab with Japanese soft shell crab and bak chor mee with Hokkaido scallops.
It’s dark. Most of the stalls in the city have shuttered for the night. Where do the hungry night owls go? Why, Springleaf Prata Place, of course. Open ‘til midnight, this late night joint is a favourite among supper seekers looking to get their hands on greasy, sinful plates of prata slathered in curry.
Arrive at Sentosa in style when you at the Singapore Cable Car from Faber Peak Singapore down to Sentosa Station. This unique mode of transportation can also be transformed into a private dining space where you're served a four-course meal with dishes like wagyu beef cheek and smoked duck breast during the 90-minute ride.
Up your table setting game and pick up some beautiful and functional handmade wares at Mud Rock Ceramics – these are lovingly made out of just mud and clay by the ceramic studio owners, Michelle Lim and Ng Seok Har.
Revisit your good ol’ childhood memories at the Mint Museum of Toys, home to a world-class collection of vintage toys and collectable items. Ignite your child-like wonder with the thousands of toys and items on display throughout its four levels.
Sing ‘unda tha sea’ as you ogle at over 800 species of marine wildlife in the world's largest aquarium, which also has the title of the largest collection of manta rays in captivity. Amongst the other underwater beasties tenured here are nurse sharks, hammerhead sharks, eels, clownfish, giant octopuses, bottlenose dolphins and seahorses.
There’s no preventing the pong of oil and fried dough clinging to your clothes the moment you step into this grungy shophouse unit. But it’s well worth the smell. Zam Zam has been serving up its briyani (from $6) and murtabak (from $5) for well over a century, so you can be pretty much assured of getting the legit stuff.
Once you step into The Intan, chances are you won’t ever want to leave. The private Peranakan home-museum in Joo Chiat gives visitors a taste of old-world Peranakan charm during its Tea Tour, which touches on Peranakan history, culture and even embroidery craft.
Taking its name from the majestic emergent tree of the rainforest, Kapok is a quirky retail addition to the National Design Centre. Explore over 100 up-and-coming and cult international brands.
This organic countryside farm way out in Kranji is the brainchild of Ivy Singh, the straight-talking former president of Netball Singapore. Take a tour of the farm, tuck into organic vegetables grown on-site at Poison Ivy Bistro, learn about the history of food at the Bollywood Food Museum and do much more when you make the trek to this ulu destination.
A little off the coast of Singapore, Pulau Hantu boasts sheltered beaches and clear waters (for local standards) and are popular with diving and snorkelling enthusiasts who come for the rich marine and coral life. Get in touch with groups like Marlin Divers or The Hantu Bloggers to charter a boat to the islet.
It’s cheesy, we know, but can you really visit Singapore without the obligatory tourist shot at Merlion Park? Come early to beat the crowds that throng this 2,500 sqm park, which is thankfully an easy walk from Raffles MRT station. At night, it makes a good vantage point from which to catch the laser light show at Marina Bay Sands.