An island city-state off the coast of southern Malaysia, Singapore has colonial buildings and soaring skyscrapers among its eye-catching architecture, and ancient Chinese and Indian culture combine to make this one of the region’s most multicultural getaways.
So if you can take the tropical heat, here are ten things you need to see, eat and do when in Singapore…
Things to See in Singapore…
Gardens in the Bay
Set in the city’s Colonial District, Singapore’s botanical gardens cost over half a billion pounds to develop and it’s easy to see why – space-aged bio-domes rises above the forest canopy, while high-tech ‘Super trees’ sprout up through natural surroundings, connected by the OCBC Skyway, which offers some of the best views of the gardens, city and South China Sea.
The grounds are free to roam, though some attractions do charge a fee, and it’s worth hanging around the gardens until early evening, as the Super trees twinkle and glow for the spectacular Garden Rhapsody show at both 7.45pm and 8.45pm.
The city from the Singapore Flyer
It seems every city on earth has a huge Ferris wheel, but the Singapore Flyer really is something special – standing at 541 feet above the ground, it’s one of the world’s largest giant observation wheels and one of Asia’s biggest tourist attractions.
It’s obviously a tourist trap, but it genuinely offers the most breath-taking views of the city, particularly the Marina Bay skyline, as well as glimpses of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.
Dating back to 1887, this luxurious colonial-style 103-suite hotel is rich in history and has long been one of the most important landmarks in Singapore. The hotel is also home to some of the region’s most distinctive restaurants and bars, as well as a shopping arcade with over 40 boutiques and stores, featuring high-end stores such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.
And remember, no visit to the Raffles Hotel is complete without a trip to the bar, and a world-famous Singapore Sling, a cocktail so good it’s been made there for over a century.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
Situated in the Chinatown district, the Tang-styled Chinese Buddhist temple exhibits Buddhist art and gives life to stories of centuries-old culture. If you’re wondering about the name, the temple displays what is believed to be the left canine tooth of Buddha, recovered from his funeral pyre in Kushinagar. A completely free attraction that is well worth a visit.
Things to Eat in Singapore…
Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of Singapore’s national dishes, and is just as delicious from the city’s street food stalls as it is from its high-end restaurants. Adapted from a recipe used by early Chinese immigrants from Hainan Island, this dish of broiled, roasted, or soy sauce-braised chicken, is served with fragrant rice and a spicy chilli and ginger paste. Simple and delicious.
Another Hainanese recipe, this one sees grilled or toasted slices of bread spread with butter and kaya, a traditional jam made from coconut and eggs, then served with two soft boiled eggs and seasoned with dark soy sauce and white pepper. It’s the perfect snack to wash down with a cup of ‘kopi’.
Fish head curry
If you can get past the look of this dish – bulging fish eyes and puffy cheeks in red curry sauce is hardly easy on the eye – you’re in for an absolute treat. The dish is unique to Singapore and is symbolic of the city and its cultural mix – the spices are typically found in South Indian curry, while the fish head, usually from a red snapper, is considered a Chinese delicacy.
Served in Indian, Chinese, Malay and Peranakan restaurants across the city, the cheeks of the fish are the best meat, but even the eyes are eaten – not one for the faint-hearted.
Things to Do in Singapore…
Spend the day (and night) at Marina Bay
The Marina Bay area is home to some of Singapore’s most iconic skyscrapers, luxurious hotels and shops, as well as some of the city’s best attractions.
The Shops at Marina Bay Sands and Suntec City are the best the island has to offer, while the Esplanade’s Theatres on the Bay and Mall feature a multi-purpose arts centre with a concert hall, theatre and outdoor performance area, and even more shops – the ideal way to take in bay area of the city and do some shopping and dining while you’re at it.
Visit the beach at Sentosa
You might not think to pack your swimming costume for a trip to Singapore, but if relaxing on beautiful sandy beaches is your thing, then a trip to Sentosa is just what you need – it offers the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city.
Sitting just south of Singapore city centre, this beach and rainforest resort can is just a 12-minute, picturesque cable car ride away, and is also home to Universal Studios Singapore, Tiger Sky Tower, Singapore Butterfly & Insect Kingdom, and SEA Aquarium, home to one of the world’s largest collections of marine life.
Experience Little India
Singapore is a place where ancient Chinese and Indian cultures meet – hence the reason fish head curry is a signature dish – and a trip to Little India is the perfect way to get a taste of how the Indian community lives. The bright, multi-coloured shops, spiritual chants from its mosques and temples, and fragrant aromas of the delicious street food on offer make it a complete sensory experience, and an excursion not to be missed.
Have we missed anything? Have you a favourite Singapore restaurant? Or something you’re planning to do that’s not made our top 10? Let us know…