The tiny island-state of Singapore has gone from third-world country to fully developed success story in just over 50 years. It’s clean, it’s safe and it has the world’s best airport… So what’s all this about it being a boring place to travel? Codswallop if you ask me. Here are 10 things to do in Singapore.
One the hunt for stuff to do outdoor in the highly urbanised city of Singapore? Look no further than my post on just that.
1 – WANDER THROUGH KAMPONG GLAM
Arab Street and the area surrounding is part of the designated Kampong Glam heritage district, home to the a mosque, it’s most colourful shophouses and its best Muslim and Middle-Eastern cuisine. If you’re in Singapore around Eid (the festival celebrating the end of Ramadan), grab a bite to eat at the market that pops up around the mosque. Avoid the persistent restauranteurs along Muscat Street and swing by Haji Lane, a narrow pedestrianised street filled with cafes, bars and independent boutiques selling many locally produced goods. It’s a perfect place to grab a local gift and in the evening you can even catch some live jazz at Blu Jaz. Screw Orchard Road, seriously.
2 – GET LOST IN LITTLE INDIA
Not far from Kampong Glam is Little India, a district where you’ll find tonnes of Indian food, several Hindhu temples, lots of shops selling everything from jewelry to saris. If you have time step into Mustafa Centre. It’s a sprawling department store and if you manage to find your way out a) within 30 minutes and b) without buying half a tonne of cheap crap, you will have achieved more than I ever have.
3 – GET A VIEW OF THE SKYLINE FROM A ROOFTOP BREWERY
Ce La Vi is probably Singapore most famous rooftop bar, with prime position on the tip of the massive “boat” plonked on top of Marina Bay Sands. However, the drinks are overpriced and the food is naff. A good second option with, in my opinion just-as-good-a-view, is Level33. Not only does it have a great view of MBS, the bay itself and the CBD, it happens to also be a microbrewery, serving up excellent beers and reasonable grub too. It also isn’t half as pretentious as Ce La Vi and you won’t get scowled at for wearing flip-flops and/or shorts either.
4 – EXPORE SINGAPORE ON A SEGWAY
Why walk around Singapore in the unbearable heat when you can whisk around, air in your hair, on an electric Segway? Yes, you’ll look like a twat. But when you buzz past the paupers using their feet to walk miles around Singapore’s streets, you simply won’t care. Singapore is probably Asia’s best city for pedestrians and one of the best for cyclists, and from the Segway rental place next to the Fullerton Bay Hotel (behind the Merlion on Marina Bay), you can hire a Segway on which you’ll be able to take all the way past Gardens By The Bay and up to Marina Barrage (and even along East Coast Park if you so wish), and the other way along the Singapore River through Clarke Quay as far as Robertson Quay.
I think it’s the best way to see the urban side of Singapore without breaking a sweat, and it’s a lot of fun too. 5 – CYCLE ALONG
5 – SUNDOWNERS AT FOC SENTOSA
When you say “Beach Club” and “Sentosa” in the same sentence, every Tom, Dick and Harry will assume you are talking about Tanjong Beach Club (TBC), a swanky beach club on the Southern side of Sentosa Island, populated with the world’s most pretentious crowd of human beings, 90% of whom claim to be an “influencer” of some sort and many sporting either a tiny dog or fake body parts of some kind. This may be slightly harsh, as are many of my descriptions of such places, but if like me you are more into quieter and less wanky establishments, check out FOC Sentosa just down the road. Good drinks, good food, reasonable prices (none of which can be said of TBC), and usually inhabited by a more down-to-earth crowd too.
6 – SEE GARDENS BY THE BAY (FOR FREE)
Obviously Gardens By The Bay had to be on this list. It’s Singapore’s most well known attraction for and it is pretty cool. But there is a (legal) way to get in for free. Simply enter Pollen Restaurant on the ground level (the entrance is on the Northern tip of the Flower Dome by the water) and ask for a table in the cafe. You’ll be ushered up the elevator to the cafe which is in the flower dome. At this point you could do a runner straight into the dome itself, but I recommend stopping and having a cup of tea and a cake. Or even the afternoon tea set, which is pretty well priced – not much more than an entry ticket to the flower dome. After which, you can simply pay up and go straight into the dome itself (you’ll still have to pay to get into the Cloud Forest). Not bad, eh?
7 – LEARN ABOUT HUMAN HISTORY AT THE ASIAN CIVILISATION’S MUSEUM
I’ll admit that I’m not big on museums. At heart I’m a 7 year old child. And an uncultured one at that. But when I played tour guide for my Father who visited Singapore a few years ago, I reluctantly agreed to go with him to ACM. A tour was starting just as we walked in (they are free and run several times a day), and it turned out to be one of the most fascinating few hours of my life. ACM is all about human history in the Asia region and it is thoroughly worth a visit – I definitely recommend taking the tour if possible.
8 – HAVE A DECADENT GIN AT ATLAS
If, like me, you love a good G&T, you’ve come to the right place. Singapore has some great bars. But only Atlas has the world’s biggest gin collection (7400 and counting) in the most OTT setting you’re ever likely to see.
9 – EAT ON THE STREET IN SINGAPORE’S RED LIGHT DISTRICT
Last but not least, one of my favourite districts in Singapore is one that rarely features in travel guides, and has been all but banned from the Singapore Tourism Board’s promotions. Why? Probably because Geylang is not the glitzy, wealthy, clean version of Singapore that the government want you to see. It’s real, it’s grimey, it’s where you might see drunken tomfoolery at all times of the day, but, it’s safe, it’s accessible, and it’s where you’ll find some fantastic food. Some of the city’s best seafood and dim sum can be found in Geylang, and that is just for starters. Come at night to get a real flavour of the area once described as the “Dark Side of Paradise”on an American TV show. Check out this hilarious scene that I guarantee will make you want to go to Geylang even more.
10 – SEE WHAT SINGAPORE USED TO LOOK LIKE ON PULAU UBIN
In the North East of Singapore, around 25 minutes in a cab from the city, jump on an old “bum boat” and travel the short distance to Pulau Ubin, the last slice of old Singapore still remaining. It’s a small island with cycle trails, forests, swampland and mangroves, and is one of the country’s most popular places for bird-watchers as well as mountain bikers. It’s a lovely escape from the city, and when you get back to Changi Village, why not pop into Little Island Brewing Company for a quick beer (and a good one at that) before heading back into the city.
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