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Marina Bay, Merlion

The best places to visit in Singapore

Make the most of your visit and tick off the essential spots in your checklist

By Cam Khalid
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Don’t be fooled by the size of Singapore. We've explored every nook and cranny in search of ace spots to check out and we've found aplenty. It's safe to say that this tiny island-city has heaps of things to do and see ranging from scenic nature trails and floral fantasias to immersive art exhibitions and thrilling theme parks. But for an easy-to-digest guide, we've narrowed them down to eight of our favourite areas. Whether you’re a longtime local and a regular visitor, here are some of the best places and attractions you should at least visit once.

RECOMMENDED: Do List: 101 best things to do in Singapore and the best time to visit Singapore

Marina Bay Sands
Photograph: Supplied

Marina Bay

It should come to no surprise that the city's hottest tourist destination makes it to the list. Not only can you marvel the impressive structure of the 57-storeyed Marina Bay Sands, but you can head up to the boat-shaped SkyPark for a bird's-eye view of the city. You can also check out the infinity pool, but no dipping please, that's for hotel guests only.

While you're there, indulge in some retail therapy at designer boutiques like Chanel, Fendi, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and more occupying The Shoppes at Marina. When you're feeling peckish, stop by one of its many celebrity-chef restaurants for the A-List treatment.

Not looking to splurge? Book front-row seats to the latest musical gracing the stage of Sands Theatre or step through the doors of the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum for immersive art, science, culture and technology exhibitions.

For a change of scenery, smell the roses at Gardens by the Bay or lay out the mat for a romantic picnic at Marina Barrage. And don't forget that mandatory selfie with the Merlion by the Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore.

Universal Studios Singapore

Sentosa

An island dedicated to all things fun under the sun? Now we're talking! Work on your tan on the sand at either of its pristine beaches – Siloso or Palawan – or relax on a lounge chair with a tropical cocktail in hand at Tanjong Beach Club or Coastes

Adrenaline junkies can hop on any of the thrilling rides at Universal Studios Singapore or go down the epic slides and make a splash at Adventure Cove – remember to pack your swimwear. Take your heart-pumping fun to new heights with a bungee jump at AJ Hackett or soar at breathtaking speeds at Mega Adventure Sentosa.

For the faint-hearted, head indoors, pose and snap some pics for the 'gram at Madame Tussauds or Trick Eye Museum instead.

Check out this extensive guide for the full lowdown on where to chill, play and eat at Sentosa.

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National Gallery Singapore
Photo: Roy Tan

Civic District

Right at the very core of the city, the Civic District is home to important government buildings, stunning architectures, towering offices, memorial spaces and eye-opening art galleries and museums. And history has it that this is where modern Singapore began.

Get a culture fix at Asian Civilisations Museum, marvel at visual masterpieces at National Gallery Singapore, celebrate the intricacy of literary art at The Arts House and catch a staging at Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

After, cross over to the nearby Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay for live performances and a quick bite at its many restaurants and bars.

ION Orchard

Orchard

A shopping mecca, Orchard Road is brimming with everything you can possibly splash your cash on. Update your wardrobe with the latest designer duds from luxury brands like Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton and Prada, or fast-fashion frocks from the likes of Zara, Pull & Bear, Topshop and Topman at ION Orchard. Continue your luxury haul at Paragon and Mandarin Gallery.

Prefer shopping without breaking the bank? Check out Far East Plaza for the best bargain buys. Stop by the eateries for cheap, delicious nosh, get kitschy trinkets and even get tattooed and pierced while you're there.  

Once you're done with your retail therapy, order an innovative cocktail at Manhattan Bar (third on the World's 50 Best Bars list), soak up the views while unwinding from Salt Grill & Sky Bar or indulge in a boozy slushie at OverEasy Orchard.

Beyond cookie-cutter shopping malls, here's how you can tackle Singapore's famous shopping strip.

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Zouk, Capital

Clarke Quay

So many bars and clubs, so little time – Clarke Quay is a veritable hub of leisure from the down and dirty to the sleek and sophisticated. Everywhere you look there's something vying for your attention.

Fill your nightlife schedule with a spot of rocking at Crazy Elephant, catch a football match with a pint of Guinness in hand at McGettigan's, round the mates for flavoured shots at Chupitos or a play a game of mini-golf at Holey Moley.

Dance alongside sweaty bodies to the hottest club bangers at Zouk, Canvas, Atticaf.club and Headquarters by the Council

To help you amp up your nightlife experience here, we list out our favourite spots in the area and what they offer.

Singapore Zoo

Mandai

Round up the family and surround yourself with nature and wildlife at Mandai. Say hello to more than 4,000 animals, including the world’s largest colony of orangutans, the exotic white tiger and the Hamadryas baboons at the Singapore Zoo. Take a boat ride at the Singapore River Safari where the wildlife park houses the biggest freshwater aquarium in the world. Hop on a tram ride and catch over 900 nocturnal animals in their natural habitat at the Night Safari.

In order to cover all basis, start the morning at the Singapore Zoo, followed by the River Safari, and lastly, conclude the day at the Night Safari.

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Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Chinatown Singapore

Chinatown

Busy, noisy, filled with people, that’s the general consensus of the Chinatowns of the world, Singapore included. The Chinatown here is an absolute riot of colour – it's home to some of the hippest spots like Ann Siang Hill, Club Street, Amoy Street, Duxton Hill and Keong Saik Road with a stellar mix of hawker centres and swish eateries, history and architecture.

Sink into the juicy meats of Burnt Ends, enjoy a hot cuppa joe at Kafe Utu, unwind with a tipple or two at The Old Man, get spiritual at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, try the cheapest Michelin meal at Chinatown Complex Market Food Centre, or simply walk down memory lane at Chinatown Heritage Centre.

Plan your trip to Chinatown and Keong Saik Road with our guides.

Bugis Haji Lane Kampong Glam

Bugis-Bras Basah

Welcome to the hip 'hood of Bugis-Bras Basah. With modern developments like Andaz, the National Design Centre, the National Library and malls Bugis Junction and Bugis+ lining the streets alongside shophouses and the famous Bugis Street, this precinct is a great example showcasing the juxtaposition of Singapore's old and new.

Head for one of the city's quirkiest streets – Haji Lane. Stroll down the narrow alley for hole-in-the-wall boutiques and cafés, as well as bold street art and murals – the perfect backdrop for the ‘gram. Feeling peckish? Satiate your hunger at I Am…, The Hangar, or Zam Zam Restaurant, one of the oldest resto in the neighbourhood. Right around the corner are the grand Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Centre for some culture fix.

For more visuals, check out Aliwal Arts Centre where you can find its back wall bathed in graffiti art. Then make your way towards Queen Street for an epic mixed-media collage – think bizarre one-eyed monsters, tigers and dragons framed by gaudy fonts – that covers the bleak industrial walls. Next door is 222+51, an arts centre offering an eclectic medley of lifestyle spaces for art, music, dance and fitness. Enter the corridor for walls decked with doors painted with scenes from Singapore’s past by artists Yip Yew Chong and Yuen Kum Cheong.

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Katong

Katong and Joo Chiat

Take a trip down to this vibrant Eastern suburb. Due to its rich heritage, this charming neighbourhood makes a great excursion to discover both old and modern Singapore, as well as the Peranakan and Eurasian cultures. The East Coast enclave is also peppered with colourful shophouses, hipster cafes and indie boutiques – all worth a feature on your Instagram.

Start your day at the OG kopitiam Chin Mee Chin Confectionery with kaya bun and kopi. It's also home to the muchly-raved 328 Katong Laksa where laksa noobs can get an introductory taste of the local dish. Call it a night at the Peranakan-style Hotel Indigo.

Make the most of your visit at Katong and Joo Chiat with our handy guide.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Photo: Nparks

Bukit Timah

Make the most of verdant beauty and space of this buzzy neighbourhood. Lace up for a morning nature stroll and scale up Singapore's highest peak at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Alternatively, giddy up for a horse ride at Gallop Stables.

Take a break at one of its many hipster cafes for brunch (or a sweet treat for the much-needed sugar). Chow down a $5 burger at Hambaobao, satisfy cupcake craving at Plain Vanilla, tuck into authentic Nyonya cuisine at Violet Oon or lunch with a view at Riders Cafe (pro tip: the best seats in the house are by the balcony overlooking the horses’ paddock and training circle).

Explore Bukit Timah further with our guide.

Explore more of Singapore

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