Singapore is a place we have been many times, but often we don’t really do that much, except shopping and eating, and eating and shopping some more (and meeting up with friends and family of course)! When we lived in Bali and Maldives we used to go a lot to the city-state – the city is very easy to access and very convenient to travel to. This is my guide for our next trip to Singapore – because I have decided this time to make the most of it!
Arriving in Singapore
Most international travellers arrive to Singapore via the air – through Changi Airport. There are now 4 terminals – transfers between the terminals can be done by foot, skytrain or shuttle bus depending on the terminals. I have not been to T4 – but the airport is fairly easy to find your way around in and there are always things to do – like nature trails, food halls, amazing shopping or fabulous instagram spots for the avid photographers out there! It is also clean and well kept.
Access to the city is as easy as it gets: taxi and limos, bus (for Singapore and Johor Bahru in Malaysia), MRT. Taxis can be on the expensive side in Singapore especially during peak hours and week-ends (6am-9:30am and after 6pm to midnight). The best thing is, that whatever option you choose it does not take long – that is one of the reasons we always chose to go to Singapore – the proximity of the city to the airport makes it the perfect short trip destination.
We are flying Air Mauritius for our trip. They are the only to provide direct flights to Asia from Mauritius.
Related article: Flying Business Class with Air Mauritius
What to do in Singapore?
Many first time travellers do not really know what to expect of Singapore – I guess many just see shopping and buildings when they think about the small peninsula – well there is a bit more to it. I have compiled a list of the things, I think that is worth doing when in Singapore: it really comes down to the amount of time you get to stay – because there is quite a lot to look at! I have done most of these things at different times over the years! The plan is to do a refresher this time! I needed to get organised and can as well share it with you.
Cultural visits in Singapore
Singapore has been influenced by many cultures over the last centuries. Most of the same colonist that started arriving in Mauritius in the 16th century, funny enough had a go in this region as well: the Portuguese, the Dutch followed by the British in 1819. Sir Stamford Raffles (the same one who gave his name to probably one of the most iconic colonial hotels in the world, The Raffles) arrived in Singapore in 1819. He saw in Singapore a new port and at that time just a few hundred people were living in Singapore: Malays and Chinese. As soon as Singapore became British, a continual flow of immigrants arrived in the city and in the 1870’s there were more than 100’000 inhabitants (mostly Chinese, but also Malay, Indian). These are the ancestors of today’s Singaporeans.
- Chinatown in Singapore is probably the largest historic district and there is much to see. Just to name a few:
- The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple – a beautiful 4 storey Buddhist temple.
- Sri Mariamman Temple – the oldest place of worhsip for Tamil Hindus in Singapore.
- Street Market – take a walk in the very typical street markets in Chinatown.
- Thian Hock Keng – or the Temple of Heavenly Happiness – is the oldest Chinese Temple in Singapore.
- Chinatown Heritage Centre
- Jamae Mosque: one of the oldest in Singapore
- Baba House – a heritage house showing Peranakan heritage. In Malay Peranakan means those locally born, but in Singapore it means the locally born Chinese (as opposed to Chinese from mainland China). You need to pre-book your visit. (I have never been and it is unfortunately closed while I will be in town).
- Lau Pa Sat – I haven’t been since they have reopened after renovations, but this is an iconic Hawker’s market, it became a national monument in 1973!
- Little India is one of Singapore’s most vibrant districts – with a mix of temples, churches and mosques.
- Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple – is one of the oldest Hindu temples in the city.
- Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple
- The Temple of a Thousand Lights – one of the largest and most visited Buddhist Temple in Singapore
- House of Tan Teng Niah – a real landmark and quite surprising building in Little India. The last remaining Chinese residence in the area.
- Walking around the small streets is an awesome and colourful experience – even more so at times of Hindu festivals.
- Great food: Indian Veg dishes or Tandooris, Fish head curries, roti prata (farata) or pulled tea (teh tarik).
- Shop til you drop: visit the indoor wet market Tekka Center or the Mustafa Center, open 24hours.
- Mordern Singapore started really in the Civic District – and a stop here is necessary to get a real feeling of how Singapore became what it is today! It is packed with great museums and historical buildings.
- I have already mentioned it, but the Civic District is where you find The Raffles! Now it has gone so popular, because of the Singapore Sling and also just because well it is The Raffles – that the access to the hotel is very controlled. You can still head to Long Bar for the famous cocktail and of course their shopping arcade. The colonial style is just beautiful.
- The Supreme Court and City Hall – the Supreme Court is open to the public if you are interested and the imposing steps of City Hall is where the Japanese officially surrendered in 1945, at the end of World War 2.
- Some of the museums you will find in the area include: The National Museum, the largest and oldest museum in Singapore. The Asian Civilisation Museum is the place to learn about the multi-ethnical society Singapore is today. The Singapore Art Museum is also in the neighbourhood – it is where you will find the largest display of Southeast Asian art. Finally don’t miss the Central Fire Station a beautiful building over 100 years old – there is also a gallery dedicated to the history of firefighting in Singapore.
- Other things to visit in the area are the beautiful St Andrews Cathedral and its lovely park; Fort Canning Park is a large park with lush vegetation and historical interest since in the 14th century it was home to Malay rulers and was a military base during WW2. The new National Library (with great programs for kids) and Chijmes (a convent turned huge restaurant and cafe area) are also worthy in the area.
- Sentosa, of course. Sentosa is one place that has changed a lot in Singapore over the years. Some time ago it was really far away, today new roads and public transport has made it much more accessible. It is a bit the play area of Singapore.
- Universal Studios is one of the big attractions there and makes a fabulous day out for children and adults a like.
- The Singapore Cable Car – Two different lines: the Mount Faber line (offers fabulous views of the city) and the Sentosa line.
- Have fun on the ziplines at the Mega Adventure Park – the super fast zipline takes you at 60km through Sentosa’s jungle, try their climbing wall or their megaclimb, a high rope adventure course.
- Singapore’s Aquarium, Adventure Cove Waterpark, Skyline Luge, Palawan beach or a visit to Madame Tussaud Museum are just some of the other ways of having fun in Sentosa.
- Other places to visit in SingaporeA visit to Singapore is not complete with a visit to Clarke Quay. Singapore river is at the middle of this area. It is known for it picturesque promenade and great restaurants and cafés. However there is a little more to it. A river cruise is the perfect way to see it all: monuments mentioned above, the Merlion, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Flyer.
- Singapore Zoo– along with the night safari, the river safari and Jurong Bird park cover all your needs if you enjoy these kind of visits! I have done them all and if I should choose a zoo to visit it would probably be in Singapore – their efforts on conservation are great – for me that is the only use of a zoo. This is located quite far away from the city.
- Singapore Botanical gardens make for a lovely stroll if you have had enough for the city! It is 150 years old and really beautifully maintained – bonus is that they are free. They also have the National Orchid Garden (this is payable) and the very interesting kids area: Jacob Ballas Children Garden. There are many many other parks to visit in Singapore you have the full list here. The great thing about the botanical gardens is that it is not far from the centre and public transport access is easy. For our next trip I hope I’ll have time to take the kids to do the TreeTop Walk, looks awesome – but it is a 4-5hour walk so we will have to see. Marina Barrage is a favourite family destination for picnics and kite flying in the afternoons.
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There are many more things that can be added, many more areas to explore – Tiong Bahru, probably the hippest neighbourhood in Singapore with its many cafes, independent bookstores, interesting architecture. Joo Chiat and Katong are the 2 areas where you can also take a trip back in time and learn more about the Peranakan culture. Dempsey Hill is a great foodie place & a lifestyle destination. Kampong Glam is where you will find the Sultan Mosque, this is the old Malay quarter.
Coming to an end with my list of some of the places you can visit in Singapore. I need to mention 2 more things though: Food and Shopping, of course.
Food in Singapore
Food in Singapore is an institution and really you can get everything you want (as long as you are ready to pay for it). I could write pages and pages about restaurants in Singapore, so I’ll just mention a few.
- Hawker centres are all over the place: there are some really known ones and some more local ones I suppose. Lau Pa Sat, Maxwell hawker centre or Newton hawker centre (more seafood oriented) are good places to go if you want to try street food. You go from stall to stall buy what you fancy, sit and eat. It’s the cheapest options for eating out in Singapore. They are very clean and you will see lots of stuff you don’t know! Go where there is a queue, talk to people and ask them what they like to eat! People will buy one dish at a particular hawker because it is well known and tasty! The Hawker centre in ION (Food Opera) is pretty good to – albeit a bit less traditional (Basement 4).
- There are 2 or 3 ‘chinese food’ restaurants we always go to – they are chain restaurants so you will find them all over the city in the big malls. Our favourite is the Taiwanese Din Tai Fung (no bookings and always queues) – their signature dumplings are Xiao Long Bao. Crystal Jade are known for their lamian (noodles) and dumplings to – they have different dinning experiences (from street food like to finer dining, so check the menu). Finally Imperial Treasure is more fine dining than the 2 others – each restaurant have their speciality – one is ‘Super Pecking Duck’, the other Cantonese or Shanghai Cuisine for exemple.
- Then there are dishes you should really try in Singapore: Chili Crab (at Clark Quay), Laksa (spicy coconut mild based noodle soup), Dim Sum of course, Curry fish head, bubble tea and pandan cake!
- And all the others – I don’t think there is a cuisine not available in Singapore, so whatever you fancy, you will find!
Shopping in Singapore
Shopping in Singapore is also a big thing. Numerous malls are scattered around the city. Orchard has, I don’t know how many: ION Orchard Mall, Paragon, Takashimaya, 313 @ Sommerset – just to name a few. Vivocity not far from Sentosa, Raffles City at City Hall and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. These are some of the larger ones in the centre of Singapore – but really the list is endless. You will find some are more posh than others but they all also offer high street brands somewhere in inside.
We usually stay close to Orchard Road – having lived over the years in many places where shopping can be a challenge, Singapore is for us, also about a little shopping! Head over to my post about The Sheraton Towers, to read my review of the hotel we choose to stay in!
Related article: Hotel review: The Sheraton Towers, Singapore
On my map beneath you can play around and see where everything is. There are different layers on the map so you can just remove and add. I usually download the map offline on my phone and use it to navigate in the city. I don’t know how the Wifi situation is in Singapore now, you can sign up in malls to get free WIFI, but restaurants and such were not particularly well connected a couple of years ago – I used to think that in Bali it was easier to get Free Wifi than in Singapore. Chinatown though apparently has free wifi all over the area.
Featured image is by Sasint (on Pixabay)