15+ Things to See and Do in Singapore

  1. Admire Thian Hock Keng Temple
    Thian Hock Keng (Palace of Heavenly Happiness) is one of the most photogenic buildings in Singapore. The temple originated as a small building that served the local Chinese population. It was expanded in 1840 and made from the finest materials available at the time, paid for by years of donations from the local community. It’s the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore, dedicated to Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea (Chinese immigrants came here to ask for safe passage before leaving to cross the South China Sea). The temple was designated as a national monument in 1973. Admission is free.
  2. Explore Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
    Bukit Timah, located within Singapore’s only remaining stretch of rainforest, is the country’s premier eco-tourism attraction. On the hiking and biking trails, you’ll be able to get up close to the macaques, squirrels, flying lemurs, and various species of birds. The reserve covers over 400 acres and is 30 minutes from the city center. It’s open daily from 7am-7pm. The weekends get really busy, so come during the week if you want to avoid the crowds.
  3. Wander around Chinatown
    Chinatown encompasses two square kilometers of traditional Chinese life, nestled beside the modern Central Business District. This remains the place to get a real sense of Chinese culture within Singapore. The streets are filled with temples, craft shops, stalls, and restaurants and are a great place to pick up a bargain. Head down Chinatown Food Street to find some char kway teow (stir-fried noodles) or grilled meats. If you can, eat at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle (aka Hawker Chan), the world’s most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant. Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is another Michelin-starred hawker stall worth a visit. Like Hawker Chan’s, it’s located in the Maxwell Hawker Center.
  4. Eat hawker food
    Singapore’s hawker food scene is one of the best in the world. It has been recognized by Michelin in 2016 with the world’s first street food Michelin star and by UNESCO in 2020 with Cultural Heritage status. Whether you go to Newton Food Center (of Crazy Rich Asian fame), to the Old Airport Hawker (many locals’ favorite), or to one of the other 103 centers across the island, you won’t be disappointed and you can grab a cheap meal surrounded by locals. Don’t miss the chili crab, satay, dim sum (dumplings), or nasi lemak (fried chicken with coconut rice).
  5. Take a trip to Pulau Ubin
    This island lies off the northeastern coast. It’s incredibly different from the modern city; locals still use a diesel generator for electricity and fetch water from wells. Rent a bike and explore the sights, villages, and beaches of this island. To get there, hop on a bumboat from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, which costs about 3 SGD and takes 10-15 minutes. There are no fixed departure times — just line up and wait. Very few tourists make it out this way; it’s one of the most off-the-beaten-path things you can do here.
  6. Relax in the Singapore Botanic Gardens
    The Botanic Gardens lie close to the city and consist of 128 acres of gardens and forest. Founded in 1859, the main attraction is the National Orchid Garden, home to over 1,000 species of orchids. There is also a ginger garden, a rainforest, and various streams and waterfalls to explore. The Botanic Gardens are Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage site (and the only tropical botanic garden on UNESCO’s World Heritage List). It’s open daily from 5am-12am, and admission is free to everything except the National Orchid Garden, which is 15 SGD.
  7. Eat in Little India
    No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to Little India, where you can get amazing, cheap, and delicious food, fresh vegetables, snacks, and souvenirs. Seek out local favorites like roti prata (pancakes) and teh tarik (“pulled” tea). Make sure you stop off at the Tekka Center, a hawker center with Indian clothing, groceries, and food. The food here is cheap and delicious and makes for an authentic Little India experience.
  8. Learn about Singapore’s History
    For a more cultural experience, visit the former British naval base of Fort Siloso located on Sentosa. It’s a decommissioned coastal artillery battery the only preserved fort on the coast of Singapore, providing a fantastic look into the city-state’s complicated history. You’ll get to see the coastal guns and the remains of tunnels under the fort. It’s a well-constructed, interactive attraction. Entrance is free.
  9. Visit Sri Mariamman Temple
    This extremely colorful, ornate temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, built in 1827 in Chinatown. It was constructed in what is known as the Dravidian style and is devoted to the goddess Mariamman, known for curing illnesses and diseases. During the post-war colonial period, it was a hub for community activities and was even the Registry of Marriages for Hindus. Admission is free.
  10. Watch a free concert
    The Singapore Symphony Orchestra hosts various free concerts at different venues around the country. You might just be lucky enough to catch one of their shows — just check their website for details during your visit.
  11. Visit the MacRitchie Reservoir Park
    MacRitchie Reservoir is Singapore’s oldest reservoir, dating back to 1868. Today, this beautiful and lush city park is a relaxing place to spend an afternoon. Walk the 8-kilometer (5-mile) treetop hike, with bridges suspended high above the forest floor, where you might see long-tailed macaque monkeys, squirrels, monitor lizards, owls, and even flying lemurs. In addition to the TreeTop Walk, there’s also a network of walking trails. Admission is free.
  12. Visit the National Museum of Singapore
    First opened in 1849, this is the oldest museum in Singapore. Learn about the country’s history, culture, and people through the various permanent and temporary exhibitions. There are gold ornaments, 18th-century drawings and artwork, the mace used by King George VI when he declared Singapore a city in 1951, and the Singapore Stone (an indecipherable stone with inscriptions from the 10th century). Admission is 15 SGD.
  13. Admire the street art
    Singapore has some really incredible street art to admire. While none of it is spontaneous (unauthorized graffiti is illegal), it can be found all over the island. Yip Yew Chong is probably the best-known artist as he has murals everywhere from Chinatown to the East Coast. His images depict scenes from days gone by and range from small pictures to entire walls. Kampong Glam, Chinatown, and Little India all have masses of art to look at, as does the east coast, but you can find it on random buildings in most areas. Take a walking tour if you want more detail, or Art Walk Singapore has three self-guided walks outlined on their website.
  14. Marvel at the rain vortex in Jewel
    Located adjacent to Changi International Airport, Jewel Mall is home to the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Cascading from the roof, the water falls seven stories (around 130 feet) to the basement through a huge tiered garden. At night it is lit up for a light and music show. There’s more to do at Jewel if you have time including two mazes, a canopy bridge, sky nets, slides, and a topiary walk. It’s free to see the rain vortex and prices range from 5-22 SGD each for the other activities. You can get bundles that work out cheaper.
  15. Explore Kampong Glam
    Also known by its most popular street, Haji Lane, and as the Arab Quarter, Kampong Glam is one of Singapore’s oldest neighborhoods. The shophouses here are now stores selling textiles, rugs, and Turkish homewares such as dishes and glass lamps. There are some great Arabic restaurants around here all under the shadow of the enormous golden-domed Sultan Mosque. There’s some street art around here and Haji Lane has some cool eclectic shops by day and a buzzing nightlife with outdoor live music by night. If you have time, check out the Malay Heritage Center (admission is 8 SGD).
  16. Get spooked at Haw Par Villa
    Hands down the quirkiest thing you can do or see in Singapore, Haw Par Villa is a huge outdoor art gallery. It was built in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw, a millionaire philanthropist one of the men behind Tiger Balm, for his younger brother. Once a theme park for locals, Haw Par Villa was also used as an observation point by the Japanese army during World War II. It’s filled with dioramas depicting Chinese mythology and has recently reopened after a 9-month refurbishment and renovation project. Entry to the grounds is free but the museum — called Hell’s Museum as it includes an exhibit depicting the 10 Courts of Hell — is 18 SGD.

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