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Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom
Photograph: Sentosa Development CorporationButterfly Park & Insect Kingdom

15 tourist attractions Singaporeans never go to

Play tourist in your own country and check out these attractions

Cam Khalid
Written by
Time Out Singapore editors
&
Cam Khalid
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There are plenty of things to do in Singapore so we understand that you might've overlooked a couple of lesser-known attractions. Sure you've stepped foot in Marina Bay Sands, but have you been to the Sands SkyPark Observation Deck? Have you been to a museum filled with musical boxes or a park that's dedicated to over 3,000 species of creepy crawlies? Did you even know that Singapore has a natural history museum? If you haven't checked the following attractions off your list yet then it's time to play tourist and pay them a visit.

RECOMMENDED: 101 best things to do in Singapore and the best sights and attractions in Singapore

  • Things to do
  • Marina Bay

Always teeming with tourists, the iconic Marina Bay Sands makes a great vantage point for unparallelled views of the city skyline, especially from the boat-shaped Sands SkyPark Observation Deck that sits prettily atop the three hotel towers. At 200-metres above ground, you can delight in the unfettered view of landmarks such as the Singapore Flyer, the Esplanade, the colourful shophouses along the Singapore River, and the Merlion statue. Also on the 57th floor is the award-winning CÉ LA VI where you can wine and dine while basking in a bird’s eye view of Singapore. If you can’t get enough of it, live the high life with a stay at the hotel where you can access the rooftop infinity pool and snap pictures with the stunning backdrop. 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Sentosa

Featuring specimens of more than 3,000 species of butterflies and rare insects, this living organism museum is a real eye-opener. The highlight is the netted conservatory where 1,500 beautiful butterflies flutter freely around you in a tropical rainforest setting. Learn about the life cycle of butterflies at the pupa house, where the entire metamorphosis from pupa to butterfly is displayed through live specimens. Next, head to the bird and animal aviary, which is filled with colourful macaws, iguanas and more before entering into the dark cave that houses creepy-crawlies like tarantulas, beetles, millipedes and scorpions (in Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom containers, of course). After that, everything else is preserved behind glass in the indoor Insect Kingdom Museum, which exhibits rare insects and some of the world’s largest, heaviest beetles, as well as creatures of all kinds from Singapore and around the region.

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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • Kent Ridge

A dinosaur fossil, a sperm whale skeleton, the only specimen of the largest species of turtle ever recorded, and an Asian Brown Flycatcher specimen collected by the famed British naturalist Alfred Wallace himself – these are just some of the highlights you’ll see at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.  The gallery is perfect for anyone interested in wildlife – but not the legwork it involves. Sixteen zones display specimens that run the gamut of plants, fungi, mammals, dinosaurs and more.  Surrounding the museum are four gardens such as the Phylogenetic garden, which charts the evolution of plants and habitats. The other gardens – themed after mangroves, swamps and dryland forests – feature plants that are unique to these habitats. Bonus: entry to the gardens is free. 

  • Things to do
  • Tanjong Pagar

Be enchanted by tinkling musical boxes in a museum dedicated to these delightful trinkets. Hidden behind the museum's doors are centuries worth of history, with each antique musical box telling a unique story of the craftsmanship of yesteryears. Learn about the popularity of musical boxes throughout the years, how they first came to Singapore, and how the city played a pivotal role in bringing musical boxes to Southeast Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum aims to upkeep the preservation of these artefacts, and its collections hail mainly from Switzerland, Germany, and the US.

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  • Museums
  • Yishun

In this day and age, it's not politically correct to call The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum a museum. It's more of a sanctuary for more than 200 turtles and tortoises of over 60 species, including a host of rare reptiles. Previously located in Chinese Gardens for 18 years, it has moved into its new digs in at leisure park in Yishun's Orto. Be wowed by the weird and wondrous mata-mata, fearsome alligator snapping turtles, and one muscular 60-year-old Asian Turtle. Your kids will have a whale of a time at the petting corner, where they'll get up-close and personal with some of the gentler critters. Just be mindful of the tiny terrapins and soft shell tortoises roaming freely through the park.

  • Things to do
  • Raffles Place

More than 8-metre tall and spouting water into the bay 'round the clock, this central figure of many postcards and souvenirs was fashioned by a local craftsman, but relocated in 2002 to its current – and more scenic – location. A 70-tonne sculpture that draws tourists all day long, the statue at Merlion Park is one of six commissioned Merlions around Singapore, which include other statues of different sizes in Mount Faber and Ang Mo Kio.

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  • Things to do
  • Orchard

Our version of the White House, Istana is where the President of Singapore resides in and it often opens its grounds for free to the public on special occasions including National Day, Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Puasa. So come bring your picnic basket and mats and spread across its manicured lawn or participate in various arts and cultural events that usually take place. The main Istana building itself was completed in 1869 and the gardens – which make for a lovely walk – contain an old Japanese artillery gun, lily ponds, the burial grounds of the Bencoolen Muslims and even a nine-hole golf course.

  • Things to do
  • Sentosa

If you visit only one World War II-related site, make it this one. On the northwestern tip of Sentosa is the last remaining inactive coastal gun battery in Singapore. Today, it's been converted into a military museum containing a treasure trove of WWII memorabilia: including coastal guns, the remains of fortified military structures and tunnels, as well as an interactive video documentary complete with wax figures of Japanese and British soldiers at the Surrender Chambers. However, the main attraction is the sprawling structure of the fort itself, complete with coastal guns, winding tunnels, and a treetop trail.

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  • Things to do
  • City Hall

Whether you're here to get schooled on its history or geography, this verdant park is ripe for exploration. Dig into the many nooks and crannies of Fort Canning Park, and follow the trail and admire a myriad of succulents that have made a home here. Stop by its colonial-era relics to learn more about the paramount roles the park played in the defense of the island and even before the British arrived when it served as the residence of Malay royalty. More history lies beneath the park at the Battle Box where you can discover the role of the bunker during the war. For some tranquility, make your way to the Sang Nila Utama Garden which features the Javanese split gates and a reflective pool with lily pads. To help you explore Fort Canning Park, check out our guide here.

  • Hotels
  • City Hall

Housed in a beautifully restored colonial building from 1887, the world-famous Raffles Hotel provides a relaxing getaway in the heart of the city. Since the hotel has just undergone a meticulous two-year refurbishment, there's no better time to book a stay than now. The hotel boasts beautiful interiors with antique furnishings, fine oriental carpets, and teak wood flooring. In addition to the six existing suite categories, the revitalised hotel offers three new ones: Residence, Promenade, and Studio Suites. The luxurious hotel also boasts a choice of 14 dining options, including BBR by Alain Ducasse and the Raffles Courtyard, and a shopping arcade outfitted with a charming Raffles Boutique and various retail brands such as Leica, Rimowa, and The Hour Glass. And if you're looking for the famous Singapore Sling, head up to the hotel's Long Bar.

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  • Things to do
  • Marina Bay

Marina Bay's giant, 42-storey, 165-metre observation wheel continues to pull a mix of tourists who come for the breathtaking, 360-degree views of the city available from one of 28 air-conditioned, UV-protected capsules. Each flight lasts 30 minutes, and on a clear day, the panorama from the top of the wheel stretches into neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. For an unconventional experience, there are also dining and cocktail packages available.

  • Things to do
  • Sentosa

Renowned waxwork museum Madame Tussauds finally sets up camp in Singapore. Key themes at the attraction include World Leaders, History, Film, Sport, Music and TV; there's also an A-List Party section, where the figures of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and friends are placed. Aside from international superstars such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, visitors can take selfies with some of our local heroes and celebs too, including Jack Neo and Gurmit Singh. Another feature to look out for when you head on over is the indoor boat ride, called Spirit of Singapore, which is unique to its Singapore outpost. It features some of our native plants, models of attractions and glimpses of local culture, such as a re-enactment of a traditional Chinese opera. 

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Baba House
  • Art
  • Outram

Over 120 years old, this attention-grabbing, blue shophouse is thought to be one of Singapore’s most authentic remaining Peranakan residential properties. It once belonged to a wealthy Peranakan family whose head of the household is a shipping merchant. It was restored and reopened in 2007 as the home to Singapore's Peranakan Association, with heirlooms and interiors from the 1920s. Not a traditional museum, the heritage house is run by the National University of Singapore's Centre for the Arts with a mission to provide education about Straits Chinese culture.

  • Things to do
  • Kent Ridge

This venue is temporarily closed.

Opened in 1937, this weird and wonderful park was named after its owners, Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par, the brothers who made their fortune from the acclaimed cure-all ointment Tiger Balm (it’s also known as Tiger Balm Gardens). Multicoloured statues and tableaux – some looking rather neglected– depict 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.

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  • Things to do
  • City Hall

This venue is temporarily closed.

This private museum is considered to be the largest collection of its kind in Southeast Asia, showcasing a collection of over 50,000 pieces of vintage toys. With rare or one-of-a-kind pieces sourced from more than 40 countries – some of which date back to the mid-19th century – it’s easy to get caught up in the past in this five-storey temple to toys.

Explore the Lion City

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