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Sang Nila Utama Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock Sang Nila Utama Garden

The best secret and hidden gardens in Singapore for a flowery respite

Escape the hustle and bustle at some of the Garden City’s best kept secret hideaways

By Cam Khalid
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The Garden City is nothing short of beautiful. It’s teeming with flora and fauna which you can find in its many nature reserves, verdant spaces, and even hidden beaches and parks. But if you’re looking for a flower-filled spot that crowds haven't swarmed to yet, we’ve got you covered. We’re spilling the beans and growing our list of secret and hidden gardens that can be found atop malls, deep in the parks, and one in the heart of a sci-fi-esque structure. These pockets of nature make tranquil hideaways for a good book or that much-needed lunch hour stroll.

RECOMMENDED: The best gardens in Singapore and the best secret and hidden parks in Singapore

Enhanced National Orchid Garden
Photograph: NParks/Facebook

National Orchid Garden at Singapore Botanic Gardens

Things to do Tanglin

Set your sights on the largest collection of orchids found in tropical montane forests at the new Tropical Montane Orchidetum in the National Orchid Garden. Opening after four years of extensive enhancement works, this new attraction comprises three display houses and outdoor areas that showcase orchids from the valleys to the peaks of tropical mountains. 

The centrepiece is the Sembcorp Cool House, which has been expanded to four times its original size and now houses more than 1000 species of orchids and hybrids. Admire the largest collection of high elevation montane orchids in Asia while you beat the heat in the solar-powered and energy-efficient cool house. 

Other highlights include the Tan Hoon Siang Mist House, which emulates a paleotropical garden showcasing orchids that live at an elevation of 650 to 1000 metres. Catch award-winning hybrids here, such as the Papilionanda Tan Hoon Siang and the Aranda Noorah Alsagoff. The third display house, Yuen Peng McNeice Bromeliad Collection mimics the mid-elevation tropical rainforests of Central and South America, and is the place to get up close with a large array of bromeliads and neotropical orchids. 

Go beyond the display houses and explore the lowland habitat trail, which will transport you to the Neram and riverine forests of the region. To get between the display houses, take the winding Secret Ravine, where orchids twine around tree trunks in an environment that imitates the lush and biodiverse valleys of tropical mountains. 

Elsewhere in the National Orchid Garden, you can find more exotic orchids species – there are so many that there's even one called Ricky ‘Shake Your Bon-Bon’ Martin. It’s true! Pop down to the Singapore Botanic Gardens to check out the Renachilus Ricky Martin, along with the world’s largest orchid display (of course), including our national flower – the showy Vanda Miss Joaquim.

The Tropical Montane Orchidetum is free for entry until April 11, after which the $5 entry fee kicks back in.  

Hampstead Wetlands Park
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Hampstead Wetlands Park

Things to do Seletar

While The Oval is bustling with the brunch crowd, next to it is the tranquil Hampstead Wetlands Park. Though just a small pocket of green in the somewhat industrial area, the former marshland area has seen been spruced up so that it looks like a lush English garden with a pond – complete with lily pads – now. Though there are observatory decks and railings (so you don't fall over!), the area has retained its rustic element and is not as 'polished' as other parks. You can take a short trail loop that will take you through the forested area and by the waterside. You can easily explore the place in under 30 minutes but keep the peace – it's a favourite haunt for birdwatchers in Singapore. 

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Windsor Nature Park
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Windsor Nature Park

Attractions Bishan

If you don't have time to cover the entire vast Macritchie Reservoir area, take a trip to the beautifully landscaped Windsor Park, a green buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The park has a total of about 4km of trails spread over 75 hectares – which means you can complete exploring most of the park under an hour or two. The three main trails you can embark on are the Hanguana Trail (which is also wheelchair-friendly), the scenic and lush Squirrel and Drongo Trail, and the Venus Loop if you want a longer hike that leads to Macritchie itself. 

One of the most unique features of the park is its natural freshwater streams and you can explore this while walking on the boardwalks at Windsor Nature Park. Discover the different flora and fauna, including fruits such as jackfruit and bananas. On your path, look out for the dragonflies, too. NParks has recorded 56 species of the insect in the park, almost half of the 122 dragonfly species found in Singapore.

The Mill
Photograph: The Mill

The Mill

Property Bukit Merah

In a sea of grey buildings in an industrial area, The Mill stands out with its Art Deco style, complete with a gothic tower. On the inside, it’s a creative hub that counts a bespoke tailor, a cafe, and a couple of interior design firms as tenants. But if you head up to the sixth floor, you’ll find a rooftop garden complete with attention-grabbing arches and wooden benches to rest your legs or get stuck in a book. Besides offering a tranquil, green respite, it also provides a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area.

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OUE Downtown
Photograph: SHMA Designs

OUE Downtown

Property Raffles Place

Located in the heart of Tanjong Pagar, OUE Downtown is a bustling lifestyle hub. With several eateries, shops, a hotel, offices and other lifestyle concepts, this building is constantly busy. For a quiet retreat, make your way to the fifth floor. It's not exactly a rooftop garden but it’s the highest you can get when it comes to public access. A minimalist water feature flows through the outdoor garden which overlooks the other skyscrapers in the area. Managed by Edible Garden City, it also grows over 50 types of local produce like thai basil, chillies and pandan which are supplied to the restaurants in the building.

Virgin Active Singapore, Duo Galleria
Photograph: Virgin Active Singapore/Facebook

Duo Galleria

Things to do Rochor

Another architecture masterpiece in Bugis, the modern, honeycombed-pattern Duo Twin Towers stand tall, starkly juxtaposed with the historic Kampong Gelam next door. Together, the two sculptural towers are carved to form a circular space. Flanked between the towers and Parkview Square is a tranquil open-air garden that’s directly linked to the underground walkway of Bugis MRT and Duo Galleria which houses many cafés, restaurants and even gyms like Virgin Active. And if you want more options, Haji Lane is just a stone’s throw away.

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Marina One
Photograph: Hu Chen/Unsplash

Marina One Green Heart Garden at Marina One

Property Raffles Place

A stunning piece of architecture surrounded by foliage, the award-winning Marina One features two 34-storey residential towers, two 30-storey office towers, a retail podium, and an open, heart-shaped core known as Marina One Green Heart Garden. The futuristic green stunner has multiple stepped gardens, winding walkways, waterfalls and over 386 plant species. Beyond the lush greenery, the Heart also houses a myriad of shopping, lifestyle and gastronomic outlets.

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Photograph: Marc/Flickr

Ginger Garden at Singapore Botanic Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Tanglin

We're mighty proud of our very own UNESCO World Heritage site. Established in 1852, the Gardens make an ace flowery respite from the city buzz with over 10,000 species of plants calling it home. The first sight you'll see upon entering the Tyersall gate is a small cascade surrounded by thick foliage. There’s also a hidden cave behind it where you can walk through and see the other side of the waterfall. And this all located at Ginger Garden, which is filled with vibrant blooms, and highly popular among shutterbugs, as well as couples for that picturesque wedding photoshoot.

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Sang Nila Utama Garden
Photograph: Tang Yan Song/Shutterstock

Sang Nila Utama Garden at Fort Canning Park

Things to do City Hall

Bring your curious minds to the corners of Fort canning Park. There's everything from old graves and colonial-era relics to the tranquil Sang Nila Utama Garden. Named after the Palembang prince Sang Nila Utama, the garden welcomes visitors with Javanese split gates, recalling the famous Bali Gates of Heaven and other classical gateway entrances in Indonesia. To immerse yourself further, swing by Pancur Larangan (Forbidden Spring), a freshwater feature that brings to mind Bali's holy springs. If you’re a plant enthusiast, Farquhar Garden will impress you with giant ‘living paintings’ of plant species native to the Malay Peninsula.

Raintree Cove
Photograph: Liu Jianzhong/NParks

Raintree Cove at East Coast Park

Attractions Beaches Marine Parade

If you're soaking some sun, sand and sea at East Coast Park, take a break from the high-energy activities and recoup at Raintree Cove, a tranquil oasis complete with a log garden made from tree logs that have been salvaged. The massive open lawn is framed by pockets of lush green gardens with open-sided pavilions parked at the heart of it all to shelter outdoor events and exercise sessions. Not only for kids to tumble around, but grown-ups can also unleash their inner kid on the multi-swing set.

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national gallery singapore
Photograph: Shutterstock

Ng Teng Fong Roof Garden at National Gallery Singapore

Art City Hall

The largest art gallery in Singapore also features one of the prettiest rooftop gardens in the city. The concrete space is decked with green walls all around, benches for pensive thinking, a water feature and plenty of ferns lending to the lush vibes of the garden. Over the years, many art installations by local and international artists have given the garden a colourful boost, which makes it the perfect backdrop for the ‘gram and wedding photos. Plus, it’s one of the best spots in the area to admire downtown Singapore.

Edible Garden City
Photograph: Edible Garden City

Edible Garden City at Funan

Shopping Shopping centres City Hall

Take a breather from the retail jungle of Funan and step out (and up) to the urban farm operated by Edible Garden City, which has long championed the grow-your-own-food movement in Singapore. The rooftop garden houses over 50 types of fruits and vegetables including mushrooms, edible flowers, okra, basil, mint, watermelon, lemongrass, and passionfruit. It’s also open to the public (one of the few!) and is a space where visitors can learn how vegetables are produced and harvested.

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HortPark at the Southern Ridges

Things to do Kent Ridge

Brush up on your gardening skills at NParks’ 23-hectare HortPark. Besides 20 themed sections including a stunning Silver Garden made up of light-reflective plants and a Balinese garden under one big canopy in a park setting, HortPark boasts research greenhouses, sells gardening gear and showcases vertical gardening systems ideal for apartment dwellers. There's the Pitter Patter Potter Garden decked with vibrant hues and a playground for families, and the Butterfly Garden will delight nature photography enthusiasts with its gorgeous blooms, and well, colourful butterflies.

Design Orchard
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Design Orchard

Shopping Lifestyle Orchard

The two-and-a-half storey concrete building in the heart of Orchard Road is home to a fresh selection of Singaporean designers and makers like Kydra, Onlewo, The Animal Project, Pinksalt Swim and more. But climb to the second storey and you'll find a sprawling open space with seats and an open-air amphitheatre. The café-hopping crowd can enjoy a cuppa at the minimalist café Alchemist which is pretty hidden atop the amphitheatre stairs.

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