Often referred to as the Little Red Dot, Singapore has certainly made up for its small size with its dazzling skyscrapers, luxurious hotels, amazing tourist attactions and expansive shopping malls. But it’s not all high prices and flashing lights, Singapore also features some of the world’s most unique outdoor spaces, many of which are free to visit.
On top of that, the Lion City is incredibly tidy despite its dense population, has great public transport, and English is widely spoken, making this one of South-East Asia’s easiest holiday destinations for English speakers. But what is it that’s made this tiny island state so famous? Let’s take a closer look.
A luscious green outdoor space might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Singapore, but no visit there is complete without a stroll through gardens by the bay.
This wonderous spot is hidden within Singapore’s bustling business sector and is the perfect haven for anyone seeking to escape city life for a few moments.
Comprised of three waterfront gardens and featuring a range of impressive plants, including the notorious towering ‘Supertrees’, it’s no surprise that the gardens have won multiple awards and is a star horticultural attraction for visitors from around the globe.
The gardens are charity funded and free to enter, and there’s a complimentary 10-minute light show every single evening. If you do want to contribute, donations are always welcomed, and if you want to visit wither of the conservatories, you’ll have to purchase a ticket.
Orchard Road is a true shoppers’ paradise. This short stretch of road is covered in luxurious shopping malls featuring tonnes of high-end stores. With so many malls so close together, it’s the ideal place to spend a full day bouncing between malls and seeing what each has to offer.
The malls may be famous for their flashy clothes stores, but there’s a lot more than clothes to check out. For instance, the Grande Whisky Collection in ION Orchard is definitely worth a visit, and the malls also host tonnes of fine dining experiences, as well as juice bars, cinemas, and even art galleries for then you need to take a break from shopping. Even as a non-shopper, you’ll be able to keep yourself entertained for a while.
Singapore is also famous (or should we say, infamous) for its strict rules, harsh fines, and punishments. One example that picked up a lot of international attention was its ban on chewing gum, introduced in 1992. Although you can chew freely if you take your own supply, it’s illegal to import or sell it (aside from for medical purposes). This may seem a little absurd but, for a small island state teeming with people, keeping things orderly is quite a daunting task, hence the strict policies.
If you do find yourself bending the rules, expect to get dealt a hefty fine – including up to $500 dollars for pigeon feeding. Make sure you brush up on the rules before you go and follow the rules presented on any signs if you want to avoid getting stung.
The Singapore Sling is perhaps one of Singapore’s widest-spread legacies among cocktail lovers around the globe. This gin-based cocktail features on almost every cocktail in the Western world and was initially invented by a bartender working at the Raffles Hotel (but more on that later).
Although nearly always comprised of gin, pineapple juice, and cherry liqueur, there are tonnes of twists on this tasty cocktail, and nowhere is this more so than its homeland. Singapore sling variations include aging the cocktail for a month in a barrel, using whiskey in place of gin, and even adding pineapple syrup to the mixture.
Although it sure is one delicious drink, it won’t be the cheapest drink on the menu. You can expect to pay around $20-30 USD for a cocktail at a bar.
…But not everything Singapore has to offer costs the earth. Its street food has earned a glowing reputation and is very easy on the wallet too. In fact, if you browse the hawker food stalls wisely, you can even find Michelin Star Meals Under $5!
Also, for anyone worried about an upset stomach, you’ll be pleased to know that compared to many countries in South-East Asia, the street food of Singapore is very hygienic.
Singaporean street food is influenced by a range of countries, but primarily the nearby countries of Malaysia, India, and China, so it’s not surprising that it’s so delicious. Signature dishes include spicy chili crab, fish head curry, and laksa (a coconut rice dish with fish and bean sprouts). Not all stalls will have change for big bucks, so make sure you have some pocket change handy – you definitely don’t want to miss out!
By day, Asia’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer, offers excellent views of the city and even of distant Malaysian and Indonesian Islands. By night, you can really soak up the illuminated skyline and, as well as admiring the views, you can wine and dine on the flyer or keep it simple and stick to champagne and cocktails.
The round trip will last you half an hour and costs around $30 USD for a basic adult ticket – all tickets include access to the Journey of Dreams exhibit, which tells you a little about the history of the flyer.
In 2015, the Botanic Gardens became Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage site as well as the only tropical botanical gardens to earn the designation.
The gardens have been used to grow various trees, flowers, and crops for more than 150 years. Historically, the gardens were used to experiment with agriculture, and it was here that Hevea brasiliensis (a rubber tree) was successfully introduced, a crop that later became economically significant across much of South East Asia.
In more recent years, the gardens have teamed up with researchers from around the world and have invested heavily in orchid breeding and reintroduction programs, as well as exploring various other scientific avenues.
There are guided tours available around the gardens host various exhibitions throughout the year – see the website for further details.
Sure, we know that there are Chinatowns all over the world, but Singapore’s Chinatown area has to be as close to the real deal as you can get, outside of China of course.
Not only is the food incredible, but you can also immerse yourself in Chinese culture thanks to the various workshops held here throughout the year, many of which focus on teaching traditional Chinese crafts or explaining Chinese history.
It’s also a great place to stock up on quirky ingredients used in Chinese cooking that can be a nightmare to find at home. Plus, for any tea-lovers out there, Wang San Yang, a teach merchant, is definitely worth a visit. You can learn all about the art of brewing and explore various tea leaves until you find the perfect one for you.
The Singapore Zoo is a must-see for anyone who’s wild about animals. With designated areas designed to mimic various global habitats, and with animals from all over the world, you really will feel like you’ve been on a world tour by the end of your visit.
The Orangutans are a firm favorite among guests, and it’s even possible to have breakfast on a terrace alongside an entire family of them – just make sure you keep an eye on your breakfast bananas! You’ll encounter both Sumatran and Bornean orangutans at the zoo, both of which are on the brink of extinction (designated as ‘critically endangered’ by the IUCN). By sustaining populations of these species in zoos, the survival of the species is ensured.
On top of that, there are Asian elephants, African penguins, Giraffes, Leopards, and even the rare white rhinos to see, plus heaps of other animals. Open every day of the year from 8:30 am until 6:00 pm, there’s no excuse not to pop in and say hello to some furry friends.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is constantly rated as the top airport in the world, and it’s easy to see why.
With cinemas, tonnes of relaxing nature spaces, a rooftop swimming pool, and a swathe of restaurants serving up delicacies from around the world, plus heaps pf spaces you can get your head down and do some work if you need to, there really is something for everyone. Whether you’re there for a long layover or just arriving, it’s certainly worth taking your time to explore the sights. In fact, the airport is so impressive we wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself checking in half a day early for your return flight…
Marina Bay Sands is an expansive resort complex that not only includes a premium hotel but also enough entertainment to keep you busy for days.
You’ll be hard-pushed to choose where to dine in the Marina Bay Sands thanks to the numerous world-class restaurants (including several ‘Celebrity Chef’ restaurants by chefs including Justin Quek, Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud, and Gordan Ramsay).
For some cultural entertainment, why not check out the ArtScience Museum that features various exhibitions on hot topics or, if you need a break, why not take a dip in the infinity pool housed in a ship that’s been placed on the top of the hotel. If you’re into gambling, then you’ll love the Marine Bay Sands casino, home to one of the biggest Swarovski crystal chandeliers in the world.
Even if you aren’t checking into the hotel itself, the entire area is particularly spectacular by night when the skyline is illuminated. We definitely recommend checking out the observation deck where you can admire the views (even as a non-guest) and going for a post-dinner stroll along the waterfront.
If you find yourself in need of a boost of vitamin sea while you’re in Singapore, you should definitely take a trip to Sentosa Island.
This sunny little island is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. With sandy beaches lined with palm trees, luscious forests, and spas galore, it’s a fantastic place to unwind.
It doesn’t have to cost the earth either thanks to free attractions such as volleyball courts on the beach and Fort Siloso, a surprisingly well-preserved fort right on the coast.
It’s fantastic for animal lover’s, and features a Dolphin Island where you can interact with and learn about these magical creatures, a Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom and an Underwater World aquarium.
The Raffles Hotel is a luxurious colonial-style hotel that opened way back in 1887. It offers spectacular service, is committed to several green initiatives, and is constantly winning awards. This, combined with the fact that a bartender working here created the Singapore Sling, is has made this Singapore’s most famous hotel.
Located in the colonial district, it’s a great place for any history buffs to stay as you’ll be close to other buildings of interest, including the Asian Civilizations Museum and the City Hall, and the grandeur of the buildings next to the winding Singapore River make this one beautiful area to explore.
It certainly isn’t a cheap place to spend the night but, if you can afford it, it’s a great way to get a feel of what it must have been like in Singapore in times gone by.
With world-famous botanical gardens, fantastic street food, and some quirky outdoor spaces, Singapore is anything but a mere ‘playground for the rich’. Having said that, if you do want to splash the cash, it’s a great place to indulge thanks to its luxurious accommodation options, high-end restaurants, and swathes of malls packed-full with designer boutiques (and so much more).
Often described as the melting pot of Asia, Singapore is a great place to learn about not only the country itself but also about various parts of South-East Asia. If you haven’t got a flight there booked already… we think it’s probably about time you did!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.