Having grown up in Singapore all my life, I am proud to be a Singaporean. Singapore might be tiny compared to many countries in Asia but it is by no means boring and uninteresting.
Ever wondered what a trip to Singapore would be like? Ever gone online for information on what Singapore is like, but come up slightly empty and a bit unsatisfied? Well, you are in luck: here is an insider’s guide to what you can (and should) see and do in Singapore.
What Singapore is famous for
Business & transportation
We are a top ranking financial and business hub, with a strong global standing in commerce and in transportation. This means you can take public transportation like the trains (MRT) and buses to all parts of Singapore. Of course, you can splurge on taxis getting from point A to B but in my humble opinion, one of the best ways to experience Singapore’s scenery is through a bus ride.
Cleanliness & the environment
Sanitation in Singapore is heavily enforced and maintained, with the government and various bodies encouraging public awareness of the importance of clean environments and recycling waste and water, and imposing sanctions on people who do not observe the guidelines on sanitation and general environment cleanliness. No risk of stepping on chewing gum during your trip here as chewing gum is banned in Singapore and there is a strict enforcement on littering. Yes, law enforcement is something that Singapore is famous for as well. On the positive side, you are traveling in a very safe country which appeals to many, including solo female travelers.
We are very big on food as well. You will be hard pressed to find another country with so many multi-cultural cuisines within the same area, if not under the same roof. A typical Singaporean’s hobby is to eat so it is no wonder we are well known for being a food paradise. I will mention about our famous eateries and food later in this article so if you are a foodie, you are in for a treat!
Another thing worth mentioning is Singapore’s high quality education. With primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education, both public and private-owned, Singapore has a thriving educational sector. Singaporean students constantly excel in most of the world’s educational benchmarks in different examinations, including the International Baccalaureate.
Things To Do In Singapore
Singapore isn’t just about finance, education and health. This city is also about sights and sounds, food and culture, nature and history, and probably most importantly, fun!
Try Singapore’s food
Lau Pa Sat market
Lau Pa Sat means ‘old market’, which is very appropriate given that the market is over 120 years old. It is a food market, and you wouldn’t want to miss experiencing the tastes and smells of this place when you come to Singapore. Lau Pa Sat Market, also known as Telok Ayer Market, is open 24 hours a day, and you are sure to get great tasting food at very affordable prices.
For more information: Laupasat.biz
Four dishes and one very unique fruit
This is the Singaporean food you have to try at least once
A dish of Peranakan origin, the Singaporean version is traditionally curry laksa. It is spicy and creamy. Be sure to eat the noodle with a spoonful of the gravy that comes with it. Great with a cold drink like our local Milk Tea called Teh Peng.
2. Chicken Rice
This is one of my favorites. The full name is Hainanese Chicken rice, and no coffee shop in Singapore is complete without it. The fragrant rice coupled with the smooth pieces of chicken and accompanied with the chili will make your taste buds sing.
This is the national fruit of Singapore. There is even a building, the Esplanade that has been built after it. You cannot leave Singapore without trying it at least once. An acquired taste not for everyone and a smell you will never forget, but if ever you wanted to try it, do it in Singapore!
4. Bak Kut Teh
Also called Pork Bone Tea, it is said that it was invented when a poor stall owner cooked up some pork bones with star anise, pepper, and other cheap spices to give to a beggar. Bak Kut Teh is noted to be as old as Singapore when it was a developing country.
5 Chili Crab
This dish is to die for and for most tourists this is the first thing they will go for. It is not really that spicy but the taste is deliciously unique and will make you want to wipe up all the extra gravy with fried buns, called mantous.
Singapore is a proud home to a surprising number of Michelin-starred restaurants. Some worth mentioning:
- Alma by Juan Amador: Try out their signature dish of charcoal-grilled wagyu beef.
- Beni: Japanese cuisine. Try their roasted Ozaki baked with hojicha pastry.
- Braci: For anyone who loves Italian cuisine. You can’t go wrong with their Amuse Bouche.
- Chef Kang’s: Visiting this restaurant is a must!
- Cut by Wolfgang Puck: Famous for their high quality steaks and grilled meats.
Explore Singapore’s Nature
Gardens by the Bay
Covering a total of 101 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is located in the heart of Marina Bay, and is a vision of wonderful green landscapes, towering trees, waterfalls, and beautiful, varying species of flowers. Gardens by the Bay is a must-see in the evening: the towers change colors then, and the lights are out of this world!
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
This place gives you a glimpse of what Singapore looked like when it was still mostly a rainforest. With mangrove trees and streams, Sungei Buloh is a haven for all kinds of wildlife native to Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens are just a step away from the bustling shopping centers of Singapore, and going into the gardens gives you a sense of peace and quiet. This national park is open daily, and has a variety of flowers and plants – including one of the first rubber tree orchards – a lake, and trails you can walk on while viewing the park to your heart’s content. There are also gazebos where you can sit and relax, and restaurants for you to get a refreshing drink or a bite to eat if you feel like it.
The Southern Ridges
If you are a hiking enthusiast, the Southern Ridges are the perfect trail for you. It is the best place to take a walk while looking out on the city, the harbor, and the Southern islands; and it is also home to different types of flora and fauna. The Southern Ridges is also the place for you if you are a history buff, a bird watcher, or you just want a different picnic setting with your family.
Discover Singapore’s History
NUS Baba House
Singapore’s first ever heritage house, NUS Baba House is a standing reminder of what a Peranakan family home looked like in the 1920s. You have to book in advance, and tours last about an hour. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the house but it is an unforgettable experience of history and culture, and gives you some knowledge of what Singapore was like many years ago.
The Changi Museum
Dedicated to those who were prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation in WWII, the Changi Museum holds various personal artifacts and items of the news coverage at that time.
Additionally there are some interesting murals painted on the prison walls by a British prisoner. And, although this may not be a happy experience, it will teach you a lot about this time in history and will help you empathize with the long-dead soldiers and the hope that sustained them.
Note: before you visit Changi Museum do check if they are open as they have been doing major renovation work.
The Battlebox was formerly an underground command center during WWII, and was part of the Malaya Command Headquarters. This is where Lt-Gen Percival made the hard decision to surrender Singapore to the Japanese. The re-imagined scenes here will take you back to 1942, giving you an idea of how an underground command center worked, and what engineered the Fall of Singapore.
Visit some of Singapore’s Religious Sites
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
Founded in 2002, the Temple is dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha (the Compassionate One). Tours are given in English, but you have to register ahead of time, and slots are limited. You should note that hats, shorts, and revealing clothes are not allowed in the Temple.
Masjid Sultan, or Sultan Mosque, located on Arab street, is a classic example of Islamic and Malayan architecture. The mosque makes a beautiful background for a picture, and you can learn the history of the beginnings of Islam in Singapore, as well as attend Friday prayers, which are done in Malay.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Built by Tamil laborers in 1855, this temple is one of the oldest Hindu temples in Singapore, and is built in a traditional South Indian style. Situated in Little India on Serangoon Road, you must be well dressed, and remove your shoes, before you can enter. Also, to take pictures inside, you will have to pay a fee.
Immerse yourself in Singapore’s culture
Kampong Glam Neighborhood
Walking through this neighborhood takes you down one of the narrowest roads in Singapore. It is where you can find out more about ancient Indonesian medicine, the Tombs of the Malayan Princes, and see the old royal palace, Istana Kampong Glam.
This is the street that has one of Singapore’s most famous attractions; the Sultan Mosque. There are plenty of laid back cafes offering Arabian cuisine and quaint shops lined up along Arab Street that are worth checking out.
Haw Par Villa
Also known as the Tiger Balm Gardens, Haw Par Villa is a journey into Chinese folklore and mythology, and probably one of the weirdest tourist spots in Singapore and Southeast Asia as a whole. The park holds over 1,000 statues ranging from weird to wonderful, including statues of armed monkeys and giant crabs with human faces…
The traditional Chinese headquarters in Singapore. Chinatown is a mix of old and new Chinese traditions. It offers cool stores and cafes as well as traditional shops and night markets where you can find different types of Chinese delicacies.
Check out some of Singapore’s Parks & Attractions
Our award winning Singapore Zoological Gardens are going to amaze you, whether you are young or old. With top notch animal shows and vast greenery this is a great place for the whole family to enjoy. You can even have breakfast with the orangutans if you want!
This park is devoted to animals that come alive at night. Get into the tram or use the walking trails to see the nocturnal creatures in their element. There are nightly shows that aim to educate the audience about animal behaviors at night. Being the world’s first nocturnal zoo, Night Safari is definitely an original place to visit!
Universal Studios, located on Sentosa island, will awaken your inner child. It’s a world-class theme park and especially great for when you are visiting Singapore with kids.
This 165-meter high observation wheel (actually, it is a Ferris wheel), gives you views of the entire city. If you are a die-hard photographer, don’t forget your camera because the views from the Singapore Flyer are beautiful!
Where to Stay in Singapore
Four Hotels in Singapore I would recommend:
1. Marina Bay Sands: With their infinity pool on the roof of the hotel and the spectacular views of Gardens by the Bay, a stay here is truly memorable.
2. Naumi Hotel: This luxurious boutique hotel also has an infinity pool, as well as 73 rooms filled with original design pieces.
3. Hotel Nostalgia: Located in Tiong Bahru, one of Singapore’s most historic places, this boutique hotel offers you quiet history and beauty.
4. Kam Leng Hotel: For those of you who want to stay in a nostalgic place, Kam Leng Boutique Hotel is perfect for you.
Alternatively, both HotelsCombined and HomeAway offer a good selection of places to stay in Singapore. And if you are looking for a luxury stay the check out this guide to the best luxury hotels in Singapore.
Singapore is a futuristic state that at the same time maintains its culture and history with style. Visiting Singapore should definitely be on your bucket list. From visiting museums and learning more about Singapore’s humble beginnings, to checking out the food market and sampling exotic dishes, or taking walks on scenic trails and taking pictures of magnificent facades and beautiful wildlife… Singapore is a small country with a lot to offer, and I am proud to call it home!
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