By Farishia Osman, Singapore native and cycle lover takes us on an imaginary tour of the best of her island city.
Edited by Holly Stark
Travelling Asia and seeking the top 10 things to do in Singapore? Adventuring in my dynamic, urban city, you’ll discover a wide selection of Singapore attractions; from the thriving fusion food scene to hippy neighbourhoods to the iconic Chinatown and urban gardens. Whether you’re a nature lover, culture buff, thrill-seeker or cocktail enthusiast, Singapore has a wide selection of offerings to dive into within easy reach. The island city has plenty of rural, green space and is one of smallest countries in the world, but don’t let its size put you off. Singapore is one those cities that can appeal to everyone. Home to a quirky cafe scene, a pulsing nightlife, kind-hearted locals and a great multi-cultural mix of people, Singapore is one of Asia’s most-loved destinations and a year-round city to be admired. Here are the best tips for the top 10 things to do in Singapore for your Singapore travel guide.
Visit the Sultan Mosque and Eat at Zam Zam
Visit the iconic Sultan Mosque; an impressive sacred structure in the historic Kampong Glam and the focal point for Singapore’s Muslim community. With majestic golden domes and steeped in architectural and cultural history, the mosque is a Singapore must see attraction. Once explored, head over the road for great food. Having been around since 1908, Singapore Zam Zam serve food that has been perfected over the years. On the corner of Arab Street and Bridge Road, Zam Zam is a Singapore hidden gem, home to delicious nasi kandar style curries, and a well-loved signature murtabak. Made in an open air kitchen room which tempts you from the street, the murtabak (or martabak) is a thin dough pocket that’s often stuffed with a combination of minced meat and eggs, and fried in oil to a crispy golden colour. Originally an Arab food, versions are commonly found throughout Southeast Asia, and it’s a firm favourite among locals and visitors in Singapore. The Singapore version of the dish is a combination of Arab and Indian flavors, spices, and cooking techniques. Undoubtedly one of the best spots for foodies seeking the best places to visit in Singapore.
Wander Singapore’s Urban Gardens
Singapore is well-known for its love of nature, with Gardens by the Bay being one of the best things to do in Singapore when in the downtown area. Whether you decide to wander the area during the day or opt for a nighttime experience, the impressive gardens combining urban and rural will be sure to impress. Wondering what to do in Singapore after exploring the gardens, check out the Supertree Grove, too; a collection of 50-metre tall man-made trees that mimic nature. Each tree acts as an irrigation tool and functions as a cooling system for some of the domes present in the gardens. It’ll take a short 30-minutes to walk around the suspended walkway. Head onto to visit Cloud Mountain; a temperature-controlled dome that is one of the best things to do in Singapore if you are a lover of nature. Head up 40 metres of the mountain, and uncover some of the very best collections of flowers and plants. Wander the external walkways and return down the mountain, while being cooled by the tropical climate and waterfalls.
Explore the Civic District
If museums and history are your thing; be sure to check out the interesting Civic District. The Civic District is known as Singapore’s historical, architectural and cultural heritage, home to some of the best museums, galleries and Singapore attractions. The area is situated along the twinkling Singapore river. Great for any museum or history buff seeking what to do in Singapore, the National Gallery Singapore is relatively new and is a really interesting place to check out. As well as being jam-packed with history, the district is considered the birthplace of modern Singapore; a thriving arts, cultural and lifestyle precinct. Head on a historical, urban and cultural trail around the district, be eye-opened to the fascinating sights, and discover Singapore’s historically dominant landmarks such as the former Supreme Court and City Hall, Old Parliament House, and the Padang. With many shady spots, leafy trees and wide, open lawns, you can enjoy the balance of the area. The small but lively district also boasts an impressive range of nightlife choices; with a whole host of chic bars, elegant lounges, cool clubs and fancy restaurants offering quality as well as good value for money.
Check out the Jalan Besar
Meaning “big road” in Malay, Jalan Besar is a stretch of road and an accessible area with lots of cafes, restaurants, old houses, heritage sites, hostels and a round-the-clock mall for shopping. The road which runs through Singapore’s area of Kallang is a lively area with a variety of interesting sights. Once home to native wildlife; including ducks, snakes, fish, birds, and mud lobsters, it was a popular place for hunters to try and catch prey. The area is now a great place to enjoy a diverse selection of Singapore’s tasty local cuisine. It is also a conservation area. Beyond the neon lights of bars, lounges and restaurants, Jalan Besar is rife with cafés and great places to eat in Singapore. You can easily spend an entire afternoon hopping from one spot to another, all while enjoying hearty brunch plates, classic French baked goods or modern fusion takes on local cuisine.
Get Arty at Tiong Bahru
Creatives won’t want to miss Singapore’s old neighbourhood, Tiong Bahru, which has been revamped with a hippy vibe; home to quirky cafes, iconic street art, small quaint boutiques, old buildings of Singapore houses and an interesting mix of old and new. Wander through the various record stores, galleries, studios, book shops and tea gardens. If you’re interested in culture, local artists, or anything creative, this is a great stop to add to your Singapore travel guide. Home to one of Singapore’s oldest housing estates, the district has been transformed over the years into a neighbourhood where the contemporary and the traditional merge into a seamless blend. Whether you’re looking to express your individuality with a keepsake, or are seeking inspiration for your next work of art, Tiong Bahru has you covered. Enjoy Singapore’s bohemian vibe and explore the area.
Weave the Chinatown Streets
Zig-zag through Chinatown's maze of narrow roads, like Chinatown Food Street, with restaurants serving traditional food like Hainanese chicken rice, noodles and satay. Seeking things to do in Singapore at night? Add Chinatown to your Singapore travel guide. Souvenir shops and indie boutiques line the streets, offering clothes, crafts and antiques. Club Street is home to wine bars and a great nightlife. For history and culture, explore the 1827 Sri Mariamman Temple and the ornate Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. Head to South Bridge Road and along the same road, you can find different places of worship; Muslim, Hindu and Buddhism. A microcosm of Singapore’s larger multicultural scene, the street represents the exististance of people from all backgrounds coexisting harmoniously with no problems.
Eat Like a Local at a Hawker Centre
Eat like a local with a true Singaporean dining experience; by eating at an open-air cooked food complex where you can get a variety of different foods; Chinese, Indian, Malay, “Western”, and Southeast Asian. If you’re seeking what to do in Singapore for food, these down-to-earth culinary destinations are the island’s culinary heart; where you can find a wide variety of local dishes, from Chicken Rice, Fried Kway Teow, Hokkien Mee, Bak Kut Teh, Satay, Laksa, and Chilli Crab to vegetarian Yong Tau Fu at really reasonable prices. Don’t be put off by the cheap price, the food is absolutely delicious. Hawker centres are really interesting places; home to different foods of different ethnic groups. They’re a mixture of worlds. Some centres are outside with no air con. Here you can find some of the best hawker food in Singapore; they’re a really local and authentic experience. Hawker centres are scattered all over the island and are best in the small neighbourhoods. Check out the Ayer Rajah Food Centre. Located in the western part of Singapore and home to great food, the spot is not to be missed for food lovers. These places are not fancy, nor are they squeaky clean, but they are where the good food is.
Dine at Lau Pa Sat
A must-visit for anyone into their food is the Lau Pa Sat. The open space has a rich history and more recently has been renovated. With a charming traditional vibe and great local food from different places, the space was built in the 19th century and has a striking presences and tantalising aromas. Lau Pa Sat or Telok Ayer Market is a truly authentic Singaporean landmark and main attraction. An architectural gem, the hawker centre offers the best of local cuisine. So sip an smooth beer and dive into a plate of delicious food as you discover the elegant old-world vibe of one of Singapore’s best food courts.
Enjoy the View at Esplanade
Esplanade Roof Terrace offer incredible views of the city and Marina Bay, landscaped with manicured lawns, shrub planting and small shade trees. Providing a panoramic view of the bay, you can find a green haven with lots of seating areas to relax, and gathering spaces for hanging out. To head up, it’s free. The garden’s naturalistic style provides a chilled ambience in interesting contrast to the the domes that house Esplanade’s Concert Hall and Theatre. Visit at night for an amazing views of the city. Home to arts and concerts and located in Downtown Core near the mouth of the Singapore River, Esplanade is a hidden gem landmark not to be missed from your Singapore travel guide.
Relax at the Singapore Botanic Gardens
Nature lovers in Singapore should head to the Botanic Gardens. Wondering what to do in Singapore away from towering skyscrapers and urban man-made gardens? Head to the Botanic Gardens. Founded in 1859, the spot has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. Be sure not to miss out on the orchid garden; home to a beautiful array of species from around the world. Exploring the gardens takes around two to three hours, making it the perfect afternoon activity. Early morning or late afternoon when sun rays are a little less intense are also great times to explore the greenery and colours of the gardens. Check out the best time to visit Singapore as the city can be especially humid.
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