If you’ve got family, friends, overseas work colleagues or other guests coming to town and you’d love to show them the best of Singapore, here’s a potted list of things to do and see.
#1 Go shopping
Let’s start with an obvious one! From international brands and neighbourhood malls to flea markets and bazaars, Singapore is a shopper’s paradise. Start on Orchard Road, of course, but don’t miss other retail centres such as Bugis Street and IMM. Orchard offers both high-end and wallet-friendly boutiques; Bugis is great for budget shopping (some stores will allow you to negotiate for a better deal); and IMM is the island’s biggest outlet mall, with an array of brand stores, such as Nine West, Club 21 and Nike, selling products at a lower or discounted price.
#2 Eat at hawker centres
Food is crucial in Singaporean culture, and eating at a hawker centre – for the uninitiated, an area with a cluster of stalls that sells cheap food across a range of cuisines – is one good way to have your guests experience authentic local culture. Notable hawker centres include Maxwell Road, Old Airport Road, Lau Pa Sat, Tiong Bahru Market and the recently reopened Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Gardens.
#3 Try the king of fruits
No trip to Singapore is complete without sampling the notorious king of fruits, durian. Distinctive for its looks, and its strong odour and taste, it’s the kind of thing you’ll either enjoy every single bit of it, or reel away from in disgust! One caveat: durian is banned by certain hotels and on all public transportation in Singapore, so you’ll have to enjoy whatever you can at the stalls!
#4 Travel offshore
Singapore’s offshore islands are vastly different from the mainland, and each is unique. Pulau Ubin has wildlife galore, from wild boars to monkeys, and outdoor activities including cycling, hiking and kayaking – take a bum-boat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. St. John’s Island, reached from Marina South Pier, offers bungalow chalets and bunks for short, rustic getaways, and outdoor activities such as fishing and swimming. (Rumours say it’s haunted at night!) Lazarus Island is within walking distance from St. John’s, and offers a beautiful, quiet beach.
#5 Spend a day (or two!) at Resorts World Sentosa
Under the umbrella of Resorts World Sentosa is a huge range of exciting attractions, including the immensely popular Universal Studios Singapore and Adventure Cove Waterpark, plus Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the S.E.A. Aquarium, iFly, the Sentosa Merlion, the Trick Eye Museum and the Tiger Sky Tower, along with a luge and flying fox. Fun for all the family!
#6 Ride the cable car from Mount Faber to Sentosa
Sentosa should definitely be on your list of places to go, and we recommend that you ride the cable car from Mount Faber across to the island. The trip will treat you to stunning bird’s-eye views of the harbour, various neighbourhoods of Singapore, distant islands, and Sentosa itself.
#7 Rip into some reverse bungy-jumping
If your guests are the thrill-seeking type, definitely stop by G-Max Reverse Bungy and GX-5 Extreme Swing at Clarke Quay. The G-Max reaches a height of 60 metres and hits speeds of up to 100kph while the GX-5 falls from 50 metres and reaches speeds over 120kph. The rides have a perfect safety record, so you’ve got nothing to fear!
#8 Experience Singapore’s nightlife
Singapore’s nightlife scene is always changing and growing, but there are plenty of reliable areas for club and pub fun; these include Clarke Quay, Holland Village and Orchard Road. And don’t miss a tipple on one of the rooftop bars, such as CÉ LA VI at Marina Bay Sands, and 1-Altitude Rooftop Gallery & Bar; take in the stunning views of the city while you sip on your drink.
#9 Visit Singapore’s ethnic neighbourhoods
Singapore’s multicultural mix comprises a wide range of ethnic groups. Of these, the Chinese, Malay and Indian groups are the largest, and you can discover much more about each of them, and their history, culture and religion, in Chinatown, Kampong Glam and Little India respectively.
#10 Head along to Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa might be a theme park, but don’t go along expecting roller-coasters and teacup rides. Instead, you’ll find yourself looking at colourful statues depicting Chinese folklore and legends, and wandering through the 10 Courts of Hell, a famous – and gruesome – attraction that’s rumoured to be haunted at night!
#11 Explore the past at the Asian Civilisations Museum
One of the region’s pioneering museums, the ACM tells the stories of Asian civilisations throughout its collections. You’ll learn about the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans and the history behind the island’s current multi-ethnic society. Recommended.
#12 Get cultural at the Peranakan Museum
The Peranakan Museum exposes visitors to different aspects of Peranakan culture in Singapore and Southeast Asia, from the origins, fashion and food, to collections of Peranakan artefacts, such as furniture and jewellery.
#13 Gaze at art at the National Gallery Singapore
Singapore’s largest art gallery is housed in two iconic buldings that have played an important role in Singapore’s history – the former Supreme Court Building and City Hall. The gallery oversees the largest public collection of modern art in the country and Southeast Asia, comprising over 8,000 artworks.
#14 Step back in time at the National Museum of Singapore
This is the nation’s oldest museum, and it focuses on exhibits related to the history of Singapore. A must-visit if you’re in any way interested in the history of the Little Red Dot.
#15 Drop by the Merlion Park
Granted, it’s a little cheesy, but Merlion Park is still worth a look – if only for that one iconic photo with the statue of Singapore’s quirky half-fish, half-lion emblem. You’ll also get great views of the Central Business District (CBD) and the bay, with excellent restaurants and bars just nearby.
#16 Admire the Esplanade
Known for its unique architectural design – it resembles the durian, which we’ve discussed already (item #3) – the Esplanade is Singapore’s premier performing arts centre, with frequent shows held in its impressive concert hall.
#17 Ride the Singapore Flyer
This giant wheel offers stunning panoramic views of Singapore’s iconic landmarks (Marina Bay Sands, the CBD, Merlion Park and more), and even neighbouring Indonesian islands and the Straits of Johor across to Malaysia. To add a special touch to the experience, book in for a dining flight by night.
#18 Go green at Gardens by the Bay
The three towers of Marina Bay Sands are connected by a ship-like roof terrace (the Sands SkyPark), consisting of an infinity pool, a rooftop bar and an observation deck with panoramic views across the bay. The integrated resort also includes a casino, a convention centre, the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum and Gardens by the Bay. The latter consists of ten different attractions, including the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest conservatories, Supertree Grove and OCBC Skyway.
#19 Witness some wildlife
Singapore is home to four zoos: the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park. Each is unique in terms of its animals and exhibits, but if you’re an animal lover, or simply just want to see wildlife that you’ve never seen before, our tip is to check out all four.
#20 Be at one with nature
For a small island with a big population, Singapore has a generous swathe of greenery, with highlights close to the centre including the Botanic Gardens and Fort Canning Park. These places are great for exploring and unwinding in – you could bring a picnic, too, though you’ll definitely need some shade! Further afield, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Reservoir are both great for hiking, and Coney Island is an ideal cycling spot.
For more suggestions on things to do with your guests.