Singapore is a melting pot where cultures from all over the world come together to enjoy life in this diverse city. I only recently returned to Singapore after living in China for a few years, and when I came back to my mother city, I realized how much of this beautiful city I took for granted as a local. It is as though I see everything for the first time now and I love sharing that with visitors who come to Singapore. If you want to explore Singapore off the beaten path, use this guide to my top picks for Singapore’s hidden gems.
Katong, a former fishing village, is a residential area with a rich Peranakan history. The architecture of the residential buildings and casual shops date back to the 1970’s, giving it a slower-paced feel than the busy urban life found in most parts of Singapore. If you’re looking for non-touristy places to go in Singapore, I definitely recommend a visit to Katong. A must eat food in this area is Katong Laksa, a special variation of the famous Singaporean soup noodle dish. To learn more about the history and cultural scene in Katong, visit the Eurasian Heritage Centre. The Kim Choo Gallery, The Artiste Residency and The Intan are a few more cultural sites lesser known among tourists.
East Coast Park
East Coast Park is one of my favourite spots in Singapore! This park is the perfect place for a relaxed picnic and there are plenty of cool outdoor activities like water sports, cycling tours and beach volleyball. There’s always something going on during the evenings, like barbeques, music performances and markets selling the famous Singaporean hawker food. If you’re visiting East Coast Park during the day, I recommend hiring a bicycle and cycling along the coastline. This is a great way to explore the area and to enjoy the beautiful coastal views! This area is normally not too crowded, so it’s the perfect outdoor activity if you want to avoid the crowds.
Holland Village is often described the place where East meets West. This neighbourhood, located in the Central Region of Singapore, has an interesting history. It was established in the early 1900’s by Singapore’s Dutch community and served as the home of the British Army. The European touches are still evident in the architecture. Nowadays, it is known for its vibrant creative energy, street side cafes and European influenced restaurants. Holland Village is especially popular among Singapore’s younger generation and is the local hub for artists, musicians and self-made entrepreneurs. A popular attraction of Holland Village is its close location to the Botanic Gardens, Singapore’s hidden gem for those who want to take a break from the busy city life.
The laid-back seaside village of Changi is a peaceful area located off the beaten path in Singapore. The magic of Changi is its slow paced living without the tourist focused entertainment you’ll find in the city centre of Singapore. There are lots of non-touristy things to do around here – the perfect destination to connect with locals and get a feel of local living in Singapore. You can spend your days relaxing on Changi Beach, walking along the more than 2 kilometre boardwalk, experiencing local cuisine at the Changi Village Hawker Centre and explore cultural sites like the Changi Museum and Chapel, the Changi Prison and the Sree Ramar Temple. You can also take a boat trip to the nearby nature reserve, Pulau Ubin. There are ferries leaving from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal at random time throughout the day, so you can show up at any time between 06:00 and 19:00 and wait for the next one to depart.
Serangoon Gardens, the oldest estate in Singapore, is home to many hidden attractions. Because it’s primarily a residential area, it’s not what you’d describe as the most touristy place to visit in Singapore. The hidden away, unusual destinations in this area are usually the best to go to! Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre is one of the best hidden food places in Singapore. Many visitors pass by this hawker centre in search of more glamorous looking restaurants and cafes, and they certainly don’t know what they’re missing out on. This is a really great place to try some local Singaporean street food dishes! Another cool thing to do in this neighbourhood is attending a free movie screening at the myVillage rooftop cinema – one of Singapore’s best kept secrets!
Ann Siang Hill
Ann Siang is a small hill located in Singapore’s Chinatown district. This neighbourhood is very popular among the younger crowds, with its quirky cafes and trendy bars. The surrounding area of the lively Chinatown will make sure you never have a dull moment here! The main attraction of Ann Siang is its exciting nightlife. This is where you’ll find some of the coolest hidden bars and restaurants in Singapore. A few suggestions are Native, a cocktail bar serving drinks with unique locally sourced ingredients like jasmine blossoms, Operation Dagger, the underground bar located underneath the British bar, Oxwell & Co, and Gem Bar, one of Chinatown’s best hidden attractions.
Dempsey Hill is a beautiful old town neighbourhood that’s often overlooked by visitors. The charm of Dempsey Hill is its mix of new shops and trendy restaurants while keeping the heritage of the old worldly architecture intact. The best way to discover Dempsey Hill is by strolling along its walking trails. Explore the heritage site of what used to be a nutmeg plantation called Mount Harriet before it was transformed into a military camp and then redeveloped again in 2007 to the serene dining, entertainment and shopping destination it is today. If you’re looking for unusual places to shop in Singapore, head to Shang Antique, a curio shop selling a unique variety of ancient artefacts that date back as far as the 7th century. Dempsey Hill is also a popular area for expats to reside in, so if you want to meet fellow travellers, this is a good place to do so.
Newton Food Center
Singapore is famous for its incredible hawker food – paradise for the budget traveller. With approximately 100 stalls, Newton Food Centre is one of the best hawker food markets in Singapore. The centre was first opened in 1971 and was renovated in the 2000’s. Hawker markets are the best place to experience Singaporean cuisine and get a feel of the local’s way of living. Although this style of street food is generally very affordable, Newton Food Centre also has a few higher end places to eat. If you want to avoid the crowds – both tourists and locals – visit the centre during off-peak times, for example during the mornings on weekdays. A few must try foods are chicken rice, laksa, wonton noodles, roti prata and chilli crab.
Trick Eye Museum
The Trick Eye Museum is the most unusual museum in all of Singapore. This might be the only museum where you’re encouraged to touch the art and take photos! Using optic illusions to create 2D and 3D imagery, you’ll be entertained for hours – perfect if you’re traveling with kids. A visit to the Trick Eye Museum is an interactive experience that will awaken all five of your senses. A definite top pick for the most unique things to do in Singapore. The museum is located in Resorts World Sentosa, close to other popular attractions like Universal Studios and the Malaysian Food Street. Opening hours are from 10:00 until 21:00. Admission is $25 for adults and $20 for children up to the age of 12. Discount is available when purchased online.
Street art walking tour
The art lovers will have the time of their lives in Singapore! Visiting all the city’s museums and art galleries can keep you busy for days. But what makes the art scene in Singapore so unique is the incredible street graffiti and public art installations that can be enjoyed at no cost at all. Downtown Singapore is the best place to go to experience the street art that make for such cool photo opportunities. Haji Lane, Victoria Street, Somerset Skate Park and the hawker market, Tekka Centre, are a few locations known for its street art. Here is the thing most people don’t know about: The Public Art Trust, an initiative of the National Arts Council, offers free guided walking tours every last Sunday of the month. The coolest thing to do in Singapore over the weekend!
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