By Mira Mare
Singapore is an exciting melting pot of cuisines and cultures, where traditional heritage meets cutting edge modern culture and incredible food waits for you at every hawker centre and down every alley. There’s more to this vibrant city than futuristic sky parks and shopping malls, so check out our guide for the top local things to do, explore the maze of streets that await you underneath the skyscrapers and get ready to discover the locals’ Singapore.
Festive vibes all around
Singapore is well known for a wide array of festivals hosted here all year round. If you happen to be in town at the time to catch one of the festivals, don’t miss out joining with the locals - you won’t regret it!
Some of the major festival schedules in Singapore:
January - the fireworks on the New Year’s Day
January or February - Chinese New Year
May or April - Vesak Day
June - Hari Raya Puasa
August - National Day Fireworks
August or September - Hari Raya Haji
October or November - Diwali/Deepavali (aka the Festival of Lights)
Get the most out of Changi Airport
This might seem like an odd one, but did you know that Changi Airport is ranked as the most useful airport in the world? Think you can only catch the flights at the airport? Think twice! You can find whatever you want here at Changi, be it reflexology, hawker food, top-notch restaurants, movie theatres, botanic gardens, retail stores and even exhibitions. And if you really want to experience life like a local, try to work or study at the airport. The wifi is secure and fast (you’ll need to register your Singapore number to get online, or alternatively, the friendly airport staff will assist you in obtaining the wifi password).
Figure out before you head out what your budget and vibe is, since there's so many options you'll want to know where you're heading. Popular bars and nightclubs are Attica (in Clarke Quay area), Zouk (also at Clarke Quay), CÉ LA VI (between Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay), and 1-Altitude (right next to Raffles Place MRT). Do note that there are Ladies’ Nights for Singapore's greatest nightlife spots; female guests can enjoy complimentary entry and free flow of drinks (sorry gents!). Singapore is notorious for expensive alcohol, but don't worry - you can get a good deal with happy hour! Keep a lookout for such information when you pay a visit to your favourite cafes and bars, as most of them have offers that can be found at the bar entrances.
Feel free to hop on and hop off at any MRT station. Connected to Singapore’s local subway are a number of shopping complexes where locals get their daily provisions and groceries groceries, buy smart casual attire (prices are less than in the international boutiques), visit the barber or fix their broken phone. You’ll find lots of budget-friendly deals here which are hard to find in big shopping malls.
Cafe hopping islandwide
Are you looking for some quality time with your friends or a constructive work environment? Look no further! Singapore cafes have got you covered. If forced to choose only one cafe, I would recommend Potato Head on Keong Saik Road - a cool and vibrant bar located at the south of Chinatown. There are also a whole lot of other cafes and eateries in Keong Saik which are very attractive with a hipster vibe. Come and see what Keong Saik has to offer!
Work out like the locals
Ok, so you’re a budget traveler and can’t afford the luxury of a spa to rejuvenate yourself - fret not! A bunch of swimming complexes and jogging tracks are available across the island. Plan a hike at Singapore Trails to get some fresh air in your busy schedule, or try the Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir. Visiting the Southern Ridges can be combined with shopping at Vivocity so that you can chill at the mega shopping mall and grab something to eat after the intense hike. Hiking enthusiasts can also try out the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and experience the ups and downs there (but don’t hurt your knees!). If you’re up for cycling, Pulau Ubin, East Coast Park and Coney Island are some of the popular destinations to check out - all you need is a pair of proper jogging shoes and a decent swimsuit.
Eat hawker food
Needless to say, this is what Singapore is known for. In Singapore, local food culture runs deep. Every corner of the city will have a food court where everyone can find the perfect comfort food to enjoy and take a break after a busy day or week. Some of the signature dishes are curry chicken, laksa, chilli crab - the list goes on. You can also make your reservations at award-winning top-notch restaurants for an unforgettable dining experience.
Singapore is home to a thriving art culture with extensive support from the government and the locals - the National Art Council spends a fortune on the development of the Singapore arts. For example, the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay (nicknamed the Big Durian) hosts free concerts and exhibitions every week. Check the website for the schedule of shows and exhibitions. Also, make full use of well-connected downtown core and heritage trails. If you are situated in the city centre you really don’t need a transportation pass! All you need is to walk around and discover the hidden gems you never thought about. Some places to check out include Fort Canning Park, Chinatown, Telok Ayer Street (for those on the hunt for bars and restaurants), 3 Quays in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands and Marina Barrage. All these spots above are within walking distance so you won’t need to worry about missing last buses/MRT trains.
Explore the civic districts
I'd also recommend a walk around the Civic Districts. Call it cliche, but you can discover the good old Singapore heritage buildings on foot. The Asian Civilizations Museum is the central point for education visitors about the history of Singapore and beyond. and it’s also well-known for its British colonial style architecture. The National Gallery Singapore has also been recently renovated and showcases the new vista of art in Singapore.
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