Beautiful gardens, incredible architecture, delicious food. Singapore has earned every one of its superlatives. Enjoy the best the island nation has to offer with our pick of the best things to do in Singapore.

By: Paul Healy | Published: 20 Nov 2023

In recent decades, few cities have seen as much change as Singapore. Transformed from a colonial outpost to a garden city at the heart of Asia, Singapore’s journey has been remarkable.

Today, famously clean streets, framed by leafy gardens, are overlooked by colonial-era shophouses, all set under a futuristic skyline.

Tucked amongst the diverse neighborhoods are a host of excellent activities unique to Garden City.

Enjoy the best of this culture-rich, food-obsessed city-state with our curated guide to the very best things to do in Singapore. 

guide to singapore

1 – SKYPARK OBSERVATION DECK

The boat-shaped roof of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel has made it the iconic feature of Singapore. It’s one of the unmissable experiences in the city.

The SkyPark Observation Deck on the top of the hotel provides amazing panoramic views of Singapore.

There is a small bar selling drinks and basic snacks, however, it’s standing room only on the observation deck. There are no seats on the deck and the bars on the roof are not accessible with a SkyPark ticket.

If you want to have a drink (and a seat) while watching the sun go down you can try one of the bars on the rooftop bars in the Marina Bay Sands.

BookSkyPark skip-the-line tickets.

2 – SPECTRA SOUND & LIGHT FOUNTAIN SHOW

Spectra, a futuristic sound and light show on the Marina Bay Promenade, is one of the most entertaining, free things to do in Singapore.

The 15-minute outdoor production features dancing water fountains, light projections, and lasers. The whole thing is choreographed to a spirited orchestral soundtrack. It’s an awesome spectacle that easily rivals the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.

The best location to see Spectra is from the promenade just in front of the Marina Bay Sands Shopping Mall. Showtimes are 8 pm and 9 pm (Sunday to Thursday) and 8 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm (Friday to Saturday).

3 – HAWKER CENTRES & STREET FOOD

Hawker Centres are an essential part of Singapore life. These open-air food courts with a variety of cuisines, serve some of the best and cheapest food in the city. They are great for a quick good lunch, but are most fun in the evening, when they are abuzz with an energetic vibe.

Here are a few of the best.

  • Boon Tat Street is rearranged with plastic tables and chairs beside rows of satay stalls.
  • Gluttons Bay is a pedestrianized street in the Marina Bay area lined with an appetizing selection of food stalls.
  • The Chinatown Complex has over 260 stalls serving a huge selection of food from around the globe.

4 – SINGAPORE BOTANICAL GARDENS

Located at the end of Orchard Road, the Singapore Botanical Gardens is one of the most impressive gardens we’ve been to. It’s the only tropical garden in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The gardens were established on the current site in 1859 and played an important role in transforming Singapore into a Garden City.

Spread across 82 hectares, the sweeping gardens are a wonderful mix of stunning flowers, landscaped lawns, jungle walks and pretty ponds.

The highlight is the National Orchid Garden which contains thousands of species of orchids.

BookNational Orchid Garden tickets

The National Gallery of Singapore opened in 2015 after a 10-year renovation. The project converted the old City Hall and Supreme Court into the world’s largest collection of modern Southeast Asian Art.

The primary focus is the influence of European culture as told through Asian art techniques. There is also a special focus on life in Singapore throughout the years.

One of the highlights is Xu Beihong’s portrait of Lim Loh. He was one of the pioneers of Singapore who fought with the Chinese against the Japanese.

After strolling through the galleries, visit the old government buildings. The former Supreme Court foyer has a history of Singapore. Don’t miss the Rotunda Library and Archive – one of the many great photo opportunities in the building.

6 – GARDENS BY THE BAY SUPERTREE GROVE

Gardens by the Bay is a massive horticultural extravaganza on a large area of reclaimed land. It includes greenhouse domes and huge tree-shaped structures lined with solar cells. It is one of the most popular things to do in Singapore.

The site incldues a grove of 12 supertrees. Acting as giant vertical gardens, they contain thousands of plants from over 200 species. It’s free to stroll around the Supertree Grove from 5 am to 2 am.

Here are the main attractions at Gardens by the Bay, which you can book here.

supertree gove singapore
SUPERTREE GROVE

7 – FLOWER DOME & CLOUD FOREST

Flower Dome is the world’s largest glass greenhouse. Cooled to a comfortable 23°C – 25°C (73°F – 77°F), it showcases a diverse collection of exotic plants and flowers from various climates around the world.

You’ll find rare and colorful blooms from Australia, South Africa, California, and the Mediterranean.

The Cloud Forest is a breathtaking indoor tropic forest with a 35-meter waterfall. It replicates a misty highland environment, housing rare plant species that are only found above 2,000 meters.

There is an elevated walkway that provides an immersive way to experience the lush vegetation in the forest.

BookFlower Dome & Cloud Forest skip-the-line tickets

8 – SUPERTREE OBSERVATORY

The Supertree Observatory is located on the highest tree at Supertree Grove. From the top, you can see the whole of the Gardens by the Bay complex including the Kingfisher Wetlands.

Looking down over the OCBC Skyway, this is the best view of the overall complex and it’s a great vantage point to take in the Marina Bay area.

BookSupertree Observatory Tickets.

9 – OCBC SKYWAY

The OCBC Skyway is a 128-metre curved walkway, 22 metres above the ground. It connects 2 of the supertrees, giving you a closer look at the structures and their plants.

It’s lower than the Supertree Observatory so the view is not quite as good, but it’s still worth doing if you don’t mind the extra cost.

BookBook your OCBC Skyway tickets.

supertree grove singapore
OCBC SKYWAY

10 – GARDEN RHAPSODY

Garden Rhapsody is a 15-minute sound and light show that turns Gardens by the Bay into a night-time spectacular.

The Supertrees come alive with a vibrant light display, choreographed to a melodic soundtrack.

The best viewing position is on the circular platform between the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the gardens. Follow the signs to Gardens by the Bay from the hotel which will take you to the viewpoint platform.

There are two performances each day, at 7:45 pm and 8:45 pm.

garden rhapsody at gardens by the bay singapore
GARDEN RHAPSODY

11 – BOAT QUAY

Boat Quay is a historic section of riverside entertainment set beneath Singapore’s modern skyscrapers. A charming row of colonial-style buildings are bursting with every conceivable cuisine.

You’re not going to find the best quality food Singapore has to offer, and the touts encouraging you into the venue can get annoying. But, it’s great for a boozy night out.

boat quay singapore
BOAT QUAY, SINGAPORE

12 – CLARKE QUAY

Clarke Quay is a riverside entertainment venue, reclaimed from old warehouses. It’s particularly buzzy on Friday and Saturday nights with pubs lining the water and a host of restaurants located around the area. It’s one of the top nightlife destinations for locals and tourists.

It’s currently undergoing restoration work so much of the area is covered up with construction boardings. But, most of the restaurants are still operational and the riverside section is still walkable.

clarke quay singapore
CLARKE QUAY, SINGAPORE

13 – COLONIAL DISTRICT (CIVIC CENTRE)

The area north of the river is Singapore’s Colonial District. Wonderful old buildings serve as a reminder of British rule from the 19th to the mid-20th century. With modern skyscrapers and old colonial buildings, it feels like the centerpiece of downtown Singapore.

In addition to the famous Raffles Hotel, here are some other points of interest in the Colonial District:

  • Asian Civilizations Museum – Trace the origins of Asian cultures, from Islamic West Asia through Southeast Asia to China.
  • The Fullerton Hotel – Pop into the lobby for a photo opportunity in one of Singapore’s prime addresses.
  • St Andrew’s Cathedral – Singapore’s largest cathedral.
colonial district singapore
COLONIAL DISTRICT, SINGAPORE

14 – CHINATOWN

Chinatown is the epicurean epicenter of Singapore. The maze of narrow roads includes souvenir shops, boutiques, and trendy wine bars. It’s a diverse part of the city that’s more about the vibe than the must-visit attractions.

The highlight for us in Chinatown is eating and drinking. Here are the main points of interest:

  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple – An eye-catching 5-story Buddhist temple said to hold Buddha’s tooth.
  • Chinatown Complex – A hawker center with an amazing array of street food on Smith Street.
  • Thian Hock Keng Temple: One of Singapore’s oldest and most important Hokkien temples.

A great way to see both Chinatown and the Civic Centre is via this well-rated City Highlights Bike Tour.

15 – KAMPONG GLAM

Kampong Glam is Singapore’s Muslim Quarter and one of the city’s oldest residential areas. It has a vibrant blend of Malay and Arab cultures mixed with heritage sites, colorful streets, and trendy boutiques.

The best streets to explore are Haji Lane and Arab Street, where 19th-century shophouses have been converted into boutiques and restaurants.

The main points of interest are:

  • Sultan Mosque – An iconic landmark known for its impressive golden domes and intricate Islamic architecture.
  • Malay Heritage Centre – Learn about the contribution of the Malay community in a beautifully restored palace.

16 – LONG BAR RAFFLES

Raffles is a luxury colonial-style hotel in the heart of Singapore. Having a drink in the Long Bar at Raffles is one of the most famous things to do in the city.

Although it’s had many homes within the hotel, the current Long Bar retains the earthy décor inspired by Malay life in the 1920s. In keeping with the bar’s relaxed roots, it’s still acceptable to throw your discarded peanut shells on the floor. It’s about the only place in Singapore where littering is tolerated.

The Singapore Sling was invented in the Long Bar. Unfortunately, it’s a whopping $37. Other cocktails are a slightly more reasonable $28. Beer is generally better value.

17 – SOUTHERN RIDGES WALK

The Southern Ridges is a 10-kilometer hiking trail connecting 5 of Singapore’s most popular open spaces. These are Kent Ridge Park, Hort Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Mount Faber Park, and Labrador Nature Reserve.

Hiking in these green spaces as skyscrapers flit in and out of view is one of our favorite things to do in Singapore. It’s especially good on a hot day when the shady path provides a cool escape.

The best section of the walk is about 6 kilometers long and takes about 2 to 3 hours. It begins at Car Park B at the top of Vigilante Road in the Kent Ridge Park and winds its way eastwards along the top of the ridge taking in several sights.

18 – NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE

The National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in Singapore and a fascinating exploration of life in Singapore. Witness the different stages of the city’s evolution in various evocative exhibitions.

The Singapore History Gallery is an immersive walk through the history of early Singapura through to modern Singapore.

Modern Colony showcases the cosmopolitan life of Singapore as a British Colony in the 1920s

Growing Up explores life in Singapore in the 1960s. Understand the emerging cultural style and uncertainty that new independence brought to Singapore.

TicketsBook skip-the-line tickets for the National Museum of Singapore.

19 – SHOPPING IN SINGAPORE

With designer brand names, unique products, and a culture of embracing crafts, Singapore is a great destination for shopping. Here are some places for retail therapy.

Orchard Road is the premier shopping destination in Singapore. It’s a series of huge shopping malls, rather than a strip of shops. So it’s not like strolling from shop to shop, but it’s a great place to pick up designer brands.

Raffles City is a huge shopping mall in the Civic District (Colonial District) of Singapore. You’ll find designer brands; big department stores and a very popular food court.  

The shopping mall at Marina Bay Sands has the largest collection of luxury brands in Southeast Asia. It’s spread across 800,000 square feet of retail indulgence. If you’re looking for serious shopping, we’d probably pick Marina Bay over Orchard Road. It’s more conveniently located and it has all the big names.

20 – HAVE A NIGHT OUT ON AMOY STREET

Located within Chinatown, Amoy Street has a rich history of being the meeting place for a night out in Singapore. Originally the home to Malay, Chinese, and Arab immigrants, Amoy Street later became the opium-smoking center of colonial Singapore.

The street’s iconic shophouses were added in the 1830s. Today they are filled with cool bars and cafes catering to food-obsessed Singaporeans.

Here are a few places to try on Amoy Street.

  • Dumpling Darlings – Delicious creative dumplings and a winning cocktail list.
  • Hashida – Top-end dining and a refined experience by master chef Kenjiro Hashida.
  • Birds of a Feather – Sichuan flavors in a restored shophouse blending Western cuisine with Asian flair.
  • Employees Only – A hidden cocktail bar with a dark and moody speakeasy vibe.
employees only bar singapore
EMPLOYEES ONLY, SINGAPORE

21 – MERLION PARK

Merlion Park is an iconic waterfront park situated in the heart of Singapore’s Marina Bay area. It’s famous for being home to the Merlion, a national symbol of Singapore.

The Merlion Statue is a popular photo spot in the city. The mythical creature has the body of a fish and the head of a lion, representing Singapore’s humble beginnings.

The waterfront area is a great place to stroll around and get your bearings in the city. Most of the main landmarks are visible from here.

22 – TAKE IN THE VIEWS FROM A ROOFTOP BAR

Singapore has a skyline worth savoring from above. Enjoy a cocktail with a view from one of our favorite rooftop bars in Singapore.

Level 33 is a microbrewery with one of the best views in Singapore. Located in the Marina Bay Financial District, the bar has sweeping views of Marina Bay Sands and the city skyline. To score a good seat on the outdoor deck, it’s a good idea to book in advance.

Cé La Vi is the rooftop bar and restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. They have a restaurant and a club, but for the best views, it’s hard to go past the Skybar. Booking ahead is advisable.

SKAI Bar at Swissôtel The Stamford offers awesome views in a Scandi-inspired setting. It’s great for contemporary dining and crafty cocktails.

23 – JEWEL CHANGI AIRPORT

More than just a transport hub, Jewel at Changi Airport is one of Singapore’s top attractions. This 10-story dome houses a host of entertainment options, restaurants, and retail outlets.

The highlight is the 40-metre rain vortex, surrounded by a rainforest containing over 2,000 trees. On the rooftop, stroll among 14,000 square meters of gardens, walking trails, and play areas.

There are also some attractions you need to pay for including a Hedge Maze, the Walking Nets, and the Canopy Bridge. None of which we thought were particularly worth the cost.

24 – SINGAPORE FLYER

The Singapore Flyer is a 165-metre observation wheel in the central district of Singapore. Get stunning 360° views of the city including Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay, and the Singapore River. On a clear day you can even see Malaysia.

There are 28 air-conditioned capsules and the full journey takes 30 minutes.

Book skip-the-line Singapore Flyer tickets.

singapore flyer
SINGAPORE FLYER

25 – SINGAPORE WITH KIDS

Singapore has a passion for food and a reputation for quality bars. But there are plenty of things for kids to do in Singapore as well.

SINGAPORE ZOO

The Singapore Zoo occupies 26 hectares on a forested catchment area on the northwest side of the island. It’s regarded as one of the best rainforest zoos in the world. Open 8 am to 6:30 pm daily.

Book skip-the-line Singapore Zoo tickets.

NIGHT SAFARI

Take a tram ride through the jungle to see a myriad of nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. Hotel pick-up and guide is included.

Book – Night Safari tickets which includes an option of having dinner.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS SINGAPORE

Get a dose of adrenaline at Universal Studios Singapore with rides, shows and attractions across various themed sections based on blockbuster movies and TV shows. The park is open from 11 am to 6 pm.

Bookskip-the-line Universal Studios tickets

S.E.A. AQUARIUM

The S.E.A Aquarium on Sentosa is one of the largest aquariums in the world. There are over 100,000 marine animals from over 1,000 species. The experience is designed to be immersive with interactive programmes and close encounters with the animals.

Book skip-the-line S.E.A. Aquarium tickets.

WHERE TO STAY IN SINGAPORE

To make the most of the compact centre of Singapore we’d suggest staying as central as possible. Chinatown, the Colonial District, and the Marina Bay Sands area are all great choices.

Here are a few places we recommend.

CHINATOWN

THE SCARLET

The Scarlet is a boutique hotel in Chinatown with a rooftop restaurant, outdoor hot tub, and bold designs. The location is perfect for exploring the city on foot.


OUR PICK

COLONIAL DISTRICT

NAUMI HOTEL

This stylish Small Luxury Hotel property has all the boutique hotel trimmings with earthy tones and high-tech bathrooms. The stand-out feature, however, is the rooftop infinity pool.


MARINA BAY

MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL

The premier address in Singapore doesn’t disappoint with floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, top-notch service, and plenty of facilities. Guest-only access to the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool is the other big selling point.


promenade marina bay singapore
MARINA BAY PROMENADE

SINGAPORE ITINERARY – HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED?

From our first visit to Singapore over 20 years ago, there seems to now be much more to do. It’s no longer just a quick stopover between Europe and Asia, Singapore is worth exploring.

To see a good selection of the main attractions, we’d recommend 3 days.

DAY 1

  • Morning: Walk or cycle around Colonial District & Chinatown
  • Lunch: China Town Complex Hawkers Centre
  • Afternoon: Explore Gardens By the Bay
  • Evening: Sunset at Skypark Observation Deck & Spectra Sounds & Light Show
  • Dinner: Grab a meal on Amoy Street & a drink in Boat Quay

DAY 2

  • Morning: Singapore Botanical Gardens
  • Afternoon: Shop at Orchard Road and visit the National Museum of Singapore
  • Evening: Grab sunset Drinks at Level 33
  • Dinner: Eat at Boon Tat Satay Market

DAY 3

  • Morning: Explore the area of Kampong Glam
  • Lunch: Pick a pavement cafe in Kampong Glam
  • Afternoon: Peruse the National Gallery of Singapore
  • Evening: Sip Singapore Slings in the Long Bar at Raffles

SINGAPORE TOURS

Taking a tour can be a great way to see the best of Singapore, especially if you’re using the city as a layover and are a bit pressed for time. Here are a few we recommend.

MAP | THINGS TO DO IN SINGAPORE

Singapore’s public transport system the MRT is quick and efficient. However, this is a compact city and most places in this guide are easy to get to on foot. Download our map to visit the best of Singapore’s tourist attractions.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


GETTING AROUND SINGAPORE

Singapore has a very efficient public train system called the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). To save some cash, check out the Singapore Tourist Pass. It gives you unlimited travel for 1, 2, or 3 days on all buses and trains.

Taxis are generally easy to get in Singapore. In some places, you’ll find a taxi rank where you need to press a button to call a cab. Uber does not operate in Singapore, but Grab is the most popular ride-sharing app.

TIPS FOR VISITING SINGAPORE

  • The tap water in Singapore is drinkable so there’s no need to buy bottled water.
  • Happy Hour takes place from around 5 pm to 9 pm in bars across the city. It’s a great time to go out.
  • Tipping is not expected in restaurants in Singapore, but a service charge may be added to your bill.
  • Spitting and littering are illegal in Singapore.
  • Be prepared for a tropical climate, it’s both warm and wet in Singapore.
Kampong Singapore things to do in singapore
KAMPONG GLAM, SINGAPORE

MORE GUIDES

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