The ultimate things to do in Singapore

Must-see Singapore sights

Linked by two bridges to the southern tip of Malaysia, the vibrant city-state of Singapore makes a gentle gateway for many first-time travellers to Asia, with Western standards of comfort alongside a delicious taste of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures.

  1. Wander around the National Museum
  2. Find your flavour in the Colonial District
  3. Step out in the Botanic Gardens
  4. Go on a night safari
  5. Let your hair down on Sentosa
  6. Watch the light show Marina Bay
  7. Savour street food

Its downtown areas are dense with towering skyscrapers and gleaming shopping malls, yet the island retains an abundance of nature reserves and lush, tropical greenery. It’s safe to say that holidays to Singapore offer the best of both worlds. Singapore is one of the major gateways into Southeast Asia, with flights touching down at the impressive Changi International Airport.

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1. Wander around the National Museum

You can’t miss Singapore’s National Museum, its eye-catching dome seemingly coated with hundreds of silvery fish scales. It could do with a few more artefacts, but among the most memorable items in the museum include 14th-century gold jewellery and the mysterious Singapore Stone, all that remains of an inscribed monolith that once stood near the mouth of the Singapore River.

Best for:Understanding Singapore’s history.

While you're there:You can really make a day out of it here, as the museum is open daily from 10am to 7pm.

2. Find your flavour in the Colonial District

Forming the core of downtown Singapore is the Colonial District, where British residents used to promenade. Each surrounding enclave has its own distinct flavour, from Little India with its aromatic spice stores to the tumbledown backstreets of Chinatown, where it’s still possible to find calligraphers and fortune-tellers, or Arab Street (Kampung Glam), whose cluttered shops sell fine cloths and perfumes.

Best for: A multicultural experience.

While you’re there: Chinatown Heritage Centre (daily 9am–8pm) at 48 Pagoda St is another good port of call.

3. Step out in the Botanic Gardens

A visit to the Botanic Gardens is one of the most pleasant things to do in Singapore, what with its 1930s bandstand, mini-rainforest and over 10,000 species of plants. Needless to say it’s also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and definitely counts as one of the loveliest spots in all of Singapore. The star attraction, however, is the National Orchid Garden, where some of the hybrids are named after visiting film stars.

Best for:Escaping the glitzy shopping precincts.

While you're there:There are occasional free live music shows held here.

4. Go on a night safari

In the Mandai area of northern Singapore, bordering on a reservoir, are three significant zoos: Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and River Safari (combination tickets available). What makes the Night Safari one of the best things to do in Singapore, though, are the animals you might spot, including giant fruit bats, Asian elephants and incredibly cute fishing cats. You can take a tram that trundles through two-thirds of the site, otherwise you can get up close by exploring by foot, although some of the zones are off-limits.

Best for:Going on an excursion.

While you're there:The Creatures of the Night show touches on the importance of conservation and recycling, and stars raccoons, owls and wolves.

5. Let your hair down on Sentosa

Wondering what to do in Singapore where you can really let your hair down? Just off Singapore’s southern coast is the small island of Sentosa, home to high-profile attractions like Resorts World and Universal Studios Singapore (and a Madame Tussauds). The island is covered with fun activities for all ages, ranging from water parks and beaches to luxury hotels and golf courses - there’s something for everyone.

Best for:Getting wet and wild.

While you're there:Within Sentosa, all travel is free (other than the cable-car branch line west to Fort Siloso).

6. Watch the light show Marina Bay

Just east of the Padang is the start of downtown Singapore’s newest district, Marina Bay. Make time for the Esplanade Theatres, nicknamed ‘the durians’ due to its spiky roof. Nicknames aside, it forms part of the Marina Centre, a district of shopping malls, hotels and conference venues. Marina South is home to the iconic, three-towered Marina Bay Sands hotel, and you can round your whole Marina Bay experience off with incredible views from the SkyPark. Make sure you swing by at night, when a 15 minute light show lights up the surrounding area.

Best for:An unmissable light show

While you're there:Back on ground level, the ArtScience Museum building resembles a lotus flower.

7. Savour street food

Whichever Singapore holidays you’re looking at, tasting the local cuisine of the city-state is a delicious affair - and doesn’t have to be an expensive one, either. Hawker centres and food courts are filled with stalls and vendors where you can choose from a mix and match of Asian dishes, fast-food style, at really low prices; you can eat like a king for S$8. Otherwise, there’s a whole range of restaurants to visit, ranging from no-frills, open-fronted eating-houses and coffee shops to swanky establishments serving any cuisine you can think of. One of the best old-school hawker centres on the island has to be Little India’s Tekka Market Food Centre. It’s generally steamy, hot and busy there: the Indian and Malay stalls are especially worthwhile, and look out for exceptional Indian rojak (assorted fritters with sweet dips).

Best for:Foodies.

While you're there:Most restaurants’ opening times are 11.30am and 2.30pm and 6 to 10.30pm, while cheaper places tend to stay open for longer. No rush!

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