The best free things to do in Singapore

How to spend nothing in the world's most expensive city
marina barrage
By Cam Khalid, Delfina Utomo and Nicole-Marie Ng |
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It's that time of the year where all of us are scrimping and saving to afford to go on a year-end vacation. But that doesn't mean you can't have any fun. From enjoying ticketless performances, art exhibitions and offbeat attractions to exploring Singapore's great outdoors and dining for free, here's how to live it up the city gratuitously.

RECOMMENDED: 101 best things to do in Singapore and the top 10 things to do this month

 

Art

Escape to an art paradise at Gillman Barracks

icon-location-pin Bukit Merah

For a fresh rotation of modern visuals and art events, stop by Gillman Barracks, the former colonial army base – originally built for the British Army – where 11 art galleries set up camp. Go through the ticket-less doors of Chan + Hori Contemporary, Fost Gallery, Mizuma Gallery, among others, and contemplate over captivating displays. Need a break? Cool down at The Naked Finn or catch a live band at Timbre.

Music

Sit in for a staged show at the Esplanade

icon-location-pin City Hall

When it comes to catching a live performance – whether it’s dance, music or theatre – The Esplanade is a no-brainer. Make a beeline for its series of free events including music performances by local artists at its various venues. Soak up the stunning view of the bay at the spacious outdoor theatre or chill at the air-conditioned indoor concourse, either way, you’re in for a riveting evening.

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Science Centre Observatory
Science Centre Observatory
Things to do

Peer into the sky at the Science Centre Observatory

icon-location-pin Jurong East

Look past the artificial illumination of the city and be catapulted light years away thanks to the mega-telescope at the Singapore Science Centre. Because this observatory is one of the few in the world located so close to the equator, it offers stargazers views of both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Things to do

Learn all about Buddhism at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum

icon-location-pin Chinatown

Get your culture fix on the third storey of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. It exhibits rare artifacts that detail the history of Buddhism and various Asian traditions. What’s regarded as the brain, blood, muscle and flesh relics of Buddha can be observed at the museum. Another must-see is the 15 foot Maitreya Buddha at the main hall.

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Shopping, Shopping centres

Discover your new favourite band at *Scape

icon-location-pin Somerset

More than just a skatepark, this adolescent hotspot also has a rep for honing the chops of rising local musicians and bands under its *Scapemusic programme. Race to the bandstand and discover a fresh batch of talent via its *Scape Confessions music series held every other Saturday – no ticket needed.

Art

Celebrate the intricacy of literary art at The Arts House

icon-location-pin City Hall

Featuring a multitude of arts from performing to visual, The Arts House is where you can catch multidisciplinary programmes featuring envelope-pushing creatives. Mainly championing literary arts, the heritage building invites logophiles to celebrate the works of written and spoken word by local and international artists.

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Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage
Photo: National Parks Board, Singapore
Things to do

Park yourself at Singapore Botanic Gardens

icon-location-pin Tanglin

Grab a picnic basket and head to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage hosts a myriad of free musical performances, including the NParks Concert Series in the Park, Garden Sounds and Music Day Out. The Symphony Lake makes an ace spot for an evening of classical music, acapella shows, intimate acoustics and throwback tunes. Remember to BYOB (bring your own blanket) – because grass stains are a no-no.

Things to do

Watch a movie by the beach at Palawan Green

icon-location-pin Central

Balmy Tuesday evenings are perfect for alfresco film screenings, and nothing beats a relaxing cinematic experience by the beachfront at Sentosa under a blanket of stars. Forget ticket stubs – grab your popcorn and pick a spot for a mix of both local and international cinema.

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Art

Appreciate stunning works of art at ION

icon-location-pin Orchard

Not only is it a shopping haven, ION Orchard also houses an art gallery sans entry fees. Peep at some of the city’s most compelling art by international and local artists and designers – their contemporary masterpieces are on showcase for art aficionados to savour. Feast your eyes on a wide range of visual stunners from sculptures and multimedia installations to digital art.

Moviemob

Catch a screening by local landmarks with MovieMob

Prefer drive-ins? Say no more. MovieMob kicks it old school by holding roving cinema pop-ups where you can rock up and watch a film in the comfort of your car – depending on the location. Alternatively, screenings are held by landmarks such as the Marina Bay, the Botanic Gardens or the Singapore Art Museum where you can get comfy on a beanbag or a deck chair. Check its Facebook page for the next screening.

 

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Urban Ventures

Take the party to the streets with Urban Ventures

Thanks to these guys, traffic at Keong Saik Road stops for an outdoor party with a plethora of food options, rad art, live performances, fashion shows, energetic music and drag queens. Heads up: the next one is at Temple St on October 6. If it’s anything like its past shenanigans, expect an electric rager – family-friendly, of course.

Restaurants, Barbecue

Hit up a BBQ at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club

icon-location-pin Kallang

More than just a barbecue joint, Camp Kilo also hosts weekend parties hot off the grill. Check out party series like After Dawn BBQ Block Party and Soul Vibes Sundays complete with mouthwatering bites, DJs spinning feel-good music and a wide range of pop-ups for some eyeballing (shopping is optional).

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OverEasy Fullerton, Buns ’N’ Roses
SYA
Restaurants, American

Get down for themed shindigs at OverEasy

icon-location-pin Orchard

Who says diners can’t party? Overeasy’s Fullerton and Orchard branches are known to organise throwback party series like Buns ‘N’ Roses and Guilty Pleasure respectively. The former takes place every Fridays, catering to fans of alternative rock while the latter opens its dancefloor on selected nights with pure 90s bangers.

ice cream sundays

Save a cone at Ice Cream Sundays

This homegrown party collective gets plenty of brownie points from us for throwing outdoor shindigs with soft serves. And in Singapore’s heat, we can’t complain. Entries are based on a ‘pay-what-you-want’ basis via its online platform or at the door. Sweat alongside the giddy crowd to an eclectic mix of funky, groovy dance tracks.

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Kick butt on Sundays

Just because it’s Sunday it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave the couch. Get active and kick out all your pent-up stress at this weekly Health Promotion Board (HPB) initiative before you get back to the grind on Monday. While you’re at it, bring the whole fam out to the nearest park for some bonding time over fun and free instructor-led group workouts.

Jumpstart your AM

Start the day right with a session of free yoga or HIIT (thanks to the Health Promotion Board), some of them happening in the best yoga studios and gyms in the city. If you’re disciplined enough to wake up early every day, the free Sunrise In The City programme basically removes the need to purchase a gym membership. Just remember to register early to claim the good spots and enjoy the view.

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girls in tech

Girl power time with Girls in Tech

If you’re a woman in tech trying to find her footing when it comes to opportunities, networking and levelling up skills, be sure to join the Girls in Tech community. Working in partnership with #SheMeansBusiness, a Facebook initiative designed to inspire and empower women entrepreneurs, it holds regular free events and programmes from workshops and classes to bootcamps and pop-up markets to help elevate creativity in the industry.

Things to do

Explore the healing powers of plants at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

icon-location-pin Tanglin

Every first Saturday of the month, the elusive Healing Garden opens to the public so you can check out over 400 varieties of plants traditionally used in Southeast Asia as medicine. The garden is laid out thematically relating to the parts of the body the herbs help treat and is designed as a tranquil retreat for body and mind.

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Yoga Nikam

Join a 12-week yoga programme at Yoga Nikam

Inspired by master yogi Nikam Guruji, who propagated yoga selflessly throughout his life, this bunch of volunteers aim to continue the tradition of making yoga accessible to the masses. Don’t expect a bootcamp-style workout here. It focuses on equipping participants with the skills needed to practise yoga on their own and a lot emphasis is placed on proper form.

Sport and fitness

Sweat it out at the Singapore Sports Hub

icon-location-pin Kallang

Mass exercises are fun. There's no awkwardness, no pressure to look perfect and there’s probably someone making the same mistake as you. Supported by the hub’s Experience Sports initiative, free workouts are held daily – there are Zumba classes, bootcamps, yoga sessions and community runs to choose from.

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Swapaholic at Marina Barrage

Snag free clothes for a good cause at Swapaholic

Swapaholic gives environmentally-minded fashion enthusiasts the opportunity to trade their used clothes for credits that can be used when acquiring new stuff. It’s a great way to declutter and at the same time contribute to a bigger cause. Still, better make sure there’s extra space in the closet.

Shopping, Electronics

Get creative with Apple

icon-location-pin Orchard

Check your listing for Today at Apple and you might find an interesting workshop or class to sit in. From illustrating while walking down the street to learning how to string some beats, these creative class are ideal for the crafty, artsy and innovative sorts. Find out what’s in store for you today.

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International Coastal Cleanup

Beach, please

Everyone loves pretty beaches but not everyone understands that it takes hard work to keep them pristine and clean. The team and volunteers at International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), head out regularly to our beaches and mangroves around the island to help combat the problem of marine litter.

Aware Centre
Photo: Neo
Things to do

Volunteer at the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE)

icon-location-pin Buona Vista

Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group AWARE is always on the lookout for more volunteers to do anything from helming crisis hotlines to dishing out legal aid. For those who need flexibility on volunteering hours, you can choose to work from home or do it on a part-time basis.

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Things to do

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES)

icon-location-pin Western Water CA

From birds and monkeys, to sugar gliders and snakes, ACRES leaves no animal behind. The animal protection organisation tackles the illegal wildlife trade, conducts rescues and rehabilitation, community outreach and also educates and raises awareness about animal welfare. Find out how you can help contribute at acres.org.sg.

Things to do

Food from the Heart

icon-location-pin Toa Payoh

A good amount of food wastage is constantly being generated but the Food from the Heart programme aims to reduce this. You can join Food from the Heart’s Bread Programme by collecting bread from various bakeries islandwide and distributing the baked goods to the beneficiaries.

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Things to do

Action for Singapore Dogs

icon-location-pin Yishun

Always wanted a dog but can't have one? At Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), Saturdays are the best days to take some of its shelter dogs on a walk. It's also a good reason for you to go out into the great outdoors to destress. We can’t guarantee that you won’t fall in love with one of these cute puppers and eventually bring them home. ASD also welcomes volunteers on other days of the week.

Things to do

Hop from farm to farm at Kranji

icon-location-pin Lim Chu Kang

Located all the way up north, Kranji is home to over plenty of farms that welcome visitors throughout the day. Pat friendly goats over at Hay Dairies, learn more about fish at Nippon Koi Farm and discover all sorts of delicious greens at Bollywood Veggies.

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Things to do

Show off your beach bod at Palawan Beach

icon-location-pin Sentosa

While we aren’t the Maldives or Bali, Singapore has plenty of beaches where you can soak in the sun. Sentosa’s your best bet for variety as well as cleanliness. While Siloso and Tanjong Beach are where the majority of the action happens, check out Palawan for a quieter family-friendly respite.

Things to do, Walks and tours

Take a hike at MacRitchie Reservoir

icon-location-pin Central Water Catchment

MacRitchie Reservoir is one of the city’s oldest and most popular nature parks because it offers both easy trails for weekend strollers and ambitious hikes ranging from 3 to 11 kilometres for the intrepid explorers. Head up to the TreeTop Walk for a breathtaking – and not just because you’re winded after the climb – view 25 metres above the forest floor.

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Seah Im Bunker
Photo: Mia Chenyze
Things to do

Take the path less travelled at Mount Faber

icon-location-pin Bukit Merah

Two roads diverge in the woods – the clearly marked out tracks of Singapore’s pristine parks and the gritty, unpolished trails for the fearless scouts. Check out the Seah Im Bunker, a hidden WWII bunker at the foot of Mount Faber located behind the Seah Im carpark. Just remember to pack your torchlight.

Little India
Photo: Ahmad Iskandar Photography

Appreciate public art at Little India

Little India is not just rich in heritage and things to do at every turn, it’s also splashed with colour thanks to the eye catching murals that decorate its buildings. See how many you spot the next time you’re down at this district. The fact that the pieces are totally Instagrammable is an added plus.

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Things to do

Walk among the tombstones at Bukit Brown Cemetery

More than 100,000 traditional Chinese graves, including the 600sqm tomb of 19th-century business supremo Ong Sam Leong, are dotted among the trees in a beautiful 233ha rainforest. Bukit Brown Cemetery is the city’s largest and also one of its oldest, with the first grave dating back to 1833. Buried here are many Singaporeans whose names are a distinctive part of the city today – names like Chew Boon Lay, Tan Kheam Hock and Chew Joo Chiat.

hot springs

Soak in Singapore's only hot springs at Sembawang

Tucked away on the grounds of the Sembawang Air Base along Gambas Avenue is Singapore’s only natural hot springs, where three stations pump out jets of hot sulphurous water that is said to have healing properties. Don’t go expecting a luxe jacuzzi – you can either fill two buckets and pop a foot in each, fill a larger tub and immerse your whole body, or lie on the concrete as the water shoots at you.

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Things to do, Beaches

Cycle through East Coast Park

icon-location-pin Marine Parade

If you have a bike then cycling through the city is a weekend activity that won’t cost an additional dime – and with services like Mobike, renting a bicycle for a couple of hours is pretty cheap, too. Start at East Coast Lagoon Food Centre and ride straight down to Marina Bay for captivating views of the southeastern coast of Singapore and the reflection of the city skyline glistening in the water.

kampong lorong buangkok

Travel back in time at Lorong Buangkok kampong

Hidden away up in the northeastern suburbs, off a major road, is the Lorong Buangkok kampong, the last village of its kind away from Pulau Ubin. Built in 1956, the collection of pastel coloured wooden huts is more living history than anything else, as rumours are constantly circulating that it’s due for demolition. If you go, be respectful – residents often complain of people taking photos without their permission.

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Things to do

Play at West Coast Park

icon-location-pin Kent Ridge

West Coast Park sits on 50 hectares of land and is equipped with a camping site, barbecue pits, a dog run, a lawn for kite flying and a massive playground with eight sets of play areas and obstacle courses – need we say more?

Things to do

Fly a kite at Marina Barrage

icon-location-pin Marina Bay

Back in the good old kampong days, children entertained themselves with homemade kites fashioned from scraps they found littered around the compound. Relive those days by taking your own FOC DIY kite up to Marina Barrage and watch it take flight.

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Tian Tian Chicken Rice
Photo: Ahmad Iskandar Photography
Restaurants, Hawker

Feast on chicken rice at Xiang Ji's Roasted Delights

icon-location-pin Buona Vista

Xiang Ji's Roasted Delights over at Ghim Moh Road Hawker Centre challenges you to consume three kilograms of chicken rice in under 40 minutes – do so and you won't have to cough up the usual price of $28. Plus, you’ll be so full from the carbs you won’t need dinner.

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Bars and pubs, Wine bars

Snack attack at RVLT

icon-location-pin Clarke Quay

You might have heard of RVLT, the natural wine bar up on Carpenter Street. But did you know that if you come on Mondays through to Wednesdays from 5.30pm to 7pm, the kitchen pushes out complimentary pintxos? Order any drink and kick back with bites like salmon rillette.

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Singapore Really Really Free Market

Shop sans your wallet at the Really Really Free Market

The Singapore Really Really Free Market does exactly what it says on the tin. Held bi-monthly, all goods – and even things like haircuts – are free. Nada. Zilch. You’re welcome.

Things to do

Swim with the fishes at the Sisters' Island Marine Park

icon-location-pin Southern Islands

The Sisters’ Island Marine Park is the first of its kind here, with 40 hectares of maritime flora and fauna – and over 250 species of hard corals – that prove the biodiversity found in Singapore is, honestly, pretty staggering. The best way to take in the sights is to hop on the bi-monthly guided tours, organised by the National Parks Board. Register early, too, as only 45 nature lovers tops are allowed on each walk. 

You’ll need to travel quite a bit for this one. But if you go on the guided tour, boats from the mainland will be chartered for you at no cost.

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 House of Tan Teng Niah

Explore the city with these trails

What better way to get to know the city than on-foot? Strap on some sturdy walking shoes and uncover Singapore's rich heritage and stories via these heritage trails. Go on an art trail and peep at some colourful murals, street art and sculptures that are spotted around the city. Explore the great outdoors with these nature trails – don't forget to slap on some sunscreen and grab a bottle of water!

Discover more of Singapore

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