Singapore is a small country but when it comes to attractions there’s plenty to see. It was hard choosing them but this is my top 10 list of must see Singapore attractions.
1 Marina Bay Sands
The Marina Bay Sands resort forms part of the spectacular Marina Bay development and in my opinion is something that no visitor to Singapore should miss. The three enormous hotel towers topped with a curving boat like structure dominate the skyline of this part of the city. So what should you see? Well apart from an array of celebrity restaurants there’s a huge shopping mall – The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands – filled with high end brand names, it even has a canal running through the middle of it offering boat trips up and down. The hotel also has a Las Vegas style casino if gambling takes your fancy.
One of the biggest draws to this hotel is the Sky Park, a viewing deck located at the top of the hotel. Now it’s not cheap to get in at S$23 for an adult ticket but I have to tell you that the view is quite spectacular. For an almost identical view and with only the cost of drinks involved you could also try one of the bars up there but be aware there is a dress code to get in.
Every evening from 20:00 Marina Bay is lit up with the Wonder Full light and laser show, it’s an amazing display and completely free. My suggestion would be to find a spot somewhere around the Marina Bay area, it can be seen from a variety of places, but if you want to hear the music too you need to be near the Marina Bay Sands hotel.
Also worth noting in this area are the ArtScience Museum and the Esplanade, Theatres by the Bay. The hotel itself is also a stunning piece of architecture and worth a walk through.
2 Gardens by the Bay
Right next to the Marina Bay Sands is the beautiful and futuristic Gardens by the Bay. The gardens cover 250 acres of reclaimed land along the waterfront and are free to visit, there is a fee for some of the attractions inside. It’s probably most famous for the Supertree Grove, a collection of 12 steel framed “trees” covered with over 200 different plants and species.
There are another half a dozen elsewhere in the gardens. For a fee you can do the tree walk 25 metres above the ground connecting three of the trees together. The 50 metre tree at the centre offers food and a 360 degree view from the lounge and tree top roofless bar. Twice nightly the garden has a light and music show – 19:45 & 20:45 – casting a glow over the park and making you feel you’re in a modern fairytale.
To cool off head into the greenhouses, the Cloud Forest is the smaller building with a 35 metre high mountain covered in plants that thrive in tropical highlands. The Flower Dome recreates the drier climes of places like California and the Mediterranean. There is fee to enter both the greenhouses.
The gardens are vast but are a joy to walk around and a lovely place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
3 The Merlion
The Merlion is the mythical symbol of Singapore and is one of the most popular attractions on the island. The 70 ton concrete figure of half fish, half lion is a must do photo call for every visitor. It is said that the fishes body of the Merlion represents Singapore’s humble beginnings as a fishing village, while the lions head is derived from the countries original name Singapura, which means lion city in Malay.
The Merlion statue sits on the waterfront at Merlion Park, you can get up close to the statue or walk along the purpose built jetty that sticks out into the bay. It’s here where you’ll get that shot of the Merlion spurting water out its mouth and you catching it in yours. The best times to visit if you want to avoid the crowds are early morning and late at night.
4 Little India
Little India is home to Singapore’s thriving Indian community, and a visit to this busy and buzzing neighbourhood will awaken all your senses. Your eyes will be taken in with the streets lined with the multi coloured shop houses, you’ll hear spiritual chants from the various temples and mosques and you’ll smell the pungent aromas that fill the air from the food that seems to be cooked all day.
The area of Little India is small and compact but don’t miss these attractions that are hidden in its streets. Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of the prettiest and busiest temples with a totally unpronounceable name! It lies on Sarangoon Road and dates back to the 19th century. Entrance to the temple is free when it’s open. One of the most colourful houses in Singapore is the House of Tan Teng Niah and it sits proudly at the centre of Little India. The buildings roots come from the Chinese colonisation of Singapore and it’s the only survivor of its type in this neighbourhood but it’s the Indian community that can take credit for its colourful appearance and upkeep. The nearby courtyard is great for alfresco dining having bought your food from one of the many restaurants around. The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple is often called the Temple of 1000 Lights due to an adjacent room containing all those lights. The main feature of this Buddhist Temple is the 15 metre tall Buddha statue that draws in worshippers and tourists with both its religious significance and beauty.
5 Singapore Flyer
The Singapore Flyer is one of the world’s largest observation wheels. It’s built over a three story terminal building and stands at 165 metres high, has a diameter of 150 metres and travels at 0.21 miles per second. Offering breathtaking panoramic views it’s hard to decide whether to visit during the day or at night.
There are 28 city bus sized air conditioned capsules that can carry up to 28 passengers with a complete rotation taking about 30 minutes. Down in the terminal building there are various shops, restaurants and entertainment venues for you to enjoy either before or after your ride.
6 Raffles Hotel
With a history dating back to 1887 this luxurious colonial style hotel has become one of the most important Singapore landmarks. The Raffles Hotel features 103 suites and has played host to some of the world’s most prominent people including Queen Elizabeth II, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. There are 18 distinctive restaurants and bars as well as an arcade with over 40 boutique stores.
The hotel is probably most famous for inventing the Singapore Sling cocktail and no visit is complete without drinking one of these in the Long Bar. If that’s not for you they do a wonderful afternoon tea or I can personally recommend their Curry Buffet, it was delicious.
Raffles is a lovely place just to wander around taking in all the old world colonial charm of years gone by.
Singapore’s Chinatown is a sharp contrast to the rest of the city, with low rise buildings and culture bursting out everywhere. From the fragrant smells of traditional cuisine to the bold red and gold tones that run throughout the neighbourhood, it’s an area that’s proud of its heritage. There are ornate Chinese, Buddhist and Hindu temples, museums and plenty of shopping to be done.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a remarkable four story temple. Upon entering the gate you immediately see the main hall with its high ceiling. The bell and drum tower are on the same floor but most visitors come to see the solid gold two metre stupa on the fourth floor which is where the sacred relic is kept.
One of the biggest draws for visitors is the street market with hundreds of stalls selling everything from silk robes to lucky cats. There’s also a great range of street food carts dotted amongst the shopping serving excellent dim sum and crispy duck. To get the best price for any goods always haggle here.
Other notable attractions in this area are Sri Mariamman Temple, the Pinnacle @Duxton Skybridge, a cheaper alternative to the Sky Park at Marina Bay Sands, the Red Dot Design Museum and the Thian Hock Keng Temple.
8 Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a national landmark that features a small tropical rainforest, a ginger garden and an orchid garden. It’s a beautiful spot and the perfect place to view exotic plants, trees and flowers, there’s also all kinds of colourful birds and insects. The tropical rainforest is one of the last remaining pieces of original jungle left on the island and is reported to have more than 300 species of flora. The tallest trees stand about 40 metres in height.
The National Orchid Garden has been part of the Singapore Botanic Gardens since 1859 and currently features 1000 species and 2000 hybrids, it is the world’s biggest display of tropical orchids. The adjacent Ginger Garden displays more than 250 species of attractive plants.
I found the best time to visit the gardens was early in the morning before the heat becomes too much, the gardens open at 5 am and entrance is free. There is a small charge for the orchid garden which I highly recommend paying as it’s a beautiful place to wander around.
9 Clarke Quay
Clarke Quay is Singapore’s party hub, dazzling lights, beautiful people and buzzing nightclubs are what this place is all about. Clarke Quay and Boat Quay offer a kaleidoscope of concept bars and pubs along the banks of the Singapore River.
Originally a centre of commerce along the Singapore River, Clarke Quay is today a mix of concept bars, restaurants, retail stores and recreation outlets that carry on into the early hours.
If dancing the night away isn’t for you then you could always pop down during the day, it’s nice to walk along the river and a lot of the bars, shops and restaurants are open from lunchtime onwards.
10 The Civic District
The Civic District comprises of only a few square miles and lies at the very heart of Singapore. It’s well known for its key government buildings, protected parks, museums and memorial spaces.
In the Civic District you’ll find the National Museum Singapore, the oldest museum in the country. St Andrews Cathedral, the countries biggest and first Anglican church designed by Colonel Robert McPherson. There’s also the Old Parliament Building now an arts centre, the City Hall which is currently being transformed into Singapore’s new National Gallery, the Asian Civilisations Museum, Fort Canning Park once home to the old Malay rulers of Singapore in the 14th century and Chijmes, once a convent school and now an area of restaurants, bars and retail stores.
I think this is a lovely part of Singapore that is often overlooked by visitors in search of the more big ticket attractions. It gives an insight into the country’s old colonial past with some beautiful buildings that have been given a new lease of life and transformed into spaces more relevant in modern Singapore.
I hope this guide gives you some inspiration if you’re planning to visit Singapore now or sometime in the future.