SD › Singapore Travel Guide
Updated: December 29, 2021
The 100 best hotels, restaurants, shops, cocktail bars, cafes, craft breweries, museums, markets, tours, neighborhoods, and things to do in Singapore.
- Best Hotels in Singapore
- Best Family Hotels in Singapore
- Best Budget Hotels in Singapore
- Best Boutique Hotels in Singapore
- Where to Stay in Singapore
- Best Hotels in Sentosa
1. Marina Bay Sands • Marina Bay • $$$$
Trio of 55-story towers, now among the most iconic sights in Singapore (and Southeast Asia). Very opulent and spacious rooms with unparalleled views from floor-to-ceiling windows. Gravity-defying infinity pool, casino, 20 restaurants, and numerous other amazing attractions (see #57). • +65 6688 8868
2. Raffles • Colonial District • $$$$
Indisputably Singapore’s most famous hotel, it reopened in August 2019 after extensive renovations, and still retains its magnificent colonial-era ambience. Each of the spacious suites conveys a splendor, charm, and elegance rarely seen anywhere on the planet. • +65 6337 1886
3. Shangri-La • Orchard Road • $$$$
The first within the renowned worldwide chain, it offers substantial and elegant rooms and suites across 3 distinctive wings. Many feature balconies overlooking the pool, waterfall, and lush vegetation reminiscent of a tropical island. Ideal for families. • +65 6737 3644
4. Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa • Sentosa Island • $$$$
On a clifftop overlooking the beach, the impressive variety of rooms, suites, and pool villas feature hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows. The generously sized rooms, gorgeous pool, and numerous amenities across the island accessible by shuttlebus make this a fine choice for families. • +65 6708 8310
5. The St. Regis • Orchard Road • $$$$
The décor is sumptuous and service impeccable, e.g. guests can be chauffeur-driven to the hotel and are assigned a personal butler. With an indoor tennis court and 2 child-friendly pools, it’s fab for families and the location between the Botanic Gardens and numerous malls is excellent. • +65 6506 6888
6. The Fullerton Bay Hotel • Marina Bay • $$$$
Combining a striking design and outstanding views, this award-winning hotel is a long-term favorite among regular guests who can arrive by boat or limousine. All rooms are particularly spacious and feature exquisite furniture, while some also boast a jacuzzi. • +65 6333 8388
7. W Singapore – Sentosa Cove • Sentosa Island • $$$$
Vast, sophisticated, and on the theme-park island of Sentosa, so terrific for families. The pool is massive, and the other abundant amenities are also world-class. More secluded and serene than nearby rivals, and guests rave about the quality of service. • +65 6808 7288
8. Hotel Fort Canning • Colonial District • $$$$
So different to a Sentosa Island resort and downtown high-rise. Tranquil 5-star boutique hotel on a hilltop in Fort Canning Park (see #91) combining delightful colonial architecture with impressive modern-day amenities. • +65 6559 6769
9. The Capitol Kempinski • Colonial District • $$$$
Magnificently restored by an award-wining architect, it’s so historic, yet chic and convenient. Suites ooze an adorable colonial charm, while the Terrace Rooms are also very appealing. Space enough for an outdoor pool and other first-class amenities. • +65 6368 8888
10. The Vagabond Club • Little India • $$$
Quirky, fashionable, historic, and luxurious. Walls within the adorable Art Deco building are lined with paintings, and each room is individually decorated. The club lounge and whisky bar are among the finest in Asia. • +65 6291 6677
11. The Scarlet • Chinatown • $$$
Combines a classic 1920’s Art Deco heritage with bold, contemporary design. Some rooms are equipped with skylights for stargazing, while others feature outdoor seats providing views across Chinatown. Each suite is designed around an individual theme: e.g. Passion, Swank, and Splendour. • +65 6511 3333
12. D’Hotel • Chinatown • $$
Boutique hotel offering personalized service and trendy vibe within a particularly vibrant area. Contemporary décor, striking design, and lobby packed with commissioned paintings and sculptures. The themed rooms also feature eye-catching, nature-inspired art. • +65 6595 1388
13. Hotel G • Colonial District • $$
Colorful, fun, and welcoming throughout. Rooms – in categories self-labeled as Good, Great, and Greater – are smallish, but certainly very cozy, and feature state-of-the-art facilities. Plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop at the entrance, and convenient for transport and sightseeing. • +65 6809 7988
14. Q Loft Hotel [email protected] • Chinatown • $$
Considerably more charming, elegant, and convenient than other hotels in this lively part of the city. Admirably maintaining its 90-year-old heritage and colonial-era vibe, rooms are stylish, and guests also rave about the service, cleanliness, and breakfast. • +65 6717 1929
15. JAAN by Kirk Westaway • Colonial District • $$$$
Highly rated for its fusion of cuisines, romantic ambience, and prompt service. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Marina Bay from the 70th floor, it’s designed to wow – and does so spectacularly. The wine list is excellent and the 3-course lunches, affordable. Bookings highly recommended. • +65 6837 3322
16. Corner House • Orchard Road • $$$
Adorable setting in a 110-year-old mansion in the Botanic Gardens (see #88). Creative French-influenced fare, with seafood a specialty. Ambience is relaxed, and the 5-course lunch menu is particularly good value. Book for a table with garden views. • +65 6469 1000
17. Burnt Ends • Chinatown • $$$$
Uniquely grilled and barbequed (but not burnt) meats and vegetables with a contemporary Australian twist. With an open-plan kitchen and communal bar, it’s likeably unpretentious and intimate. The extended wine list adds greatly to the appeal. • +65 6224 3933
18. Tim Ho Wan • Orchard Road • $$$
Michelin-starred bistro specializing in Hong Kong cuisine, including heavenly dim sum, pork buns, and steamed dumplings. Perennially popular and reservations usually not possible, so come early to avoid lining up. • +65 6955 0188
19. Candlenut • Dempsey Hill (inner west) • $$$
First Michelin-rated restaurant in the world specializing in the distinctive Peranakan (Nonya) cuisine virtually unique to Singapore (see #28). Menu wonderfully combines the traditional and contemporary, while the setting is casual and inviting. Worth a short taxi trip from downtown. • 1800 304 2288 (local calls only)
20. Coriander Leaf @ Chijmes • Colonial District • $$
Trendy and popular, the creative pan-Asian fare is innovative, the vegetarian dishes are superb, and the seafood and steaks are also mouth-watering. Sharing a converted 19th-century convent with other classy bars and bistros, it also holds cooking classes (see #56). • +65 6837 0142
21. The Cliff • Sentosa Island • $$$
Within the immense Sofitel resort, the clifftop setting is romantic, beach views superb, and meals delicious – so reservations are heartily recommended. Specializes in seafood and pasta, while many also enjoy the set-priced lunches and live jazz nightly. • +65 6708 8310
22. No Signboard Seafood Restaurant at Clarke Quay • Clarke Quay (Singapore River) • $$
One of the places for chili crab, Singapore’s unofficial dish. Now part of an island-wide chain, it provides a casual but delightful riverside setting, exquisite seafood, and pleasing prices. Always busy, but worth waiting for a table. • +65 6221 9959
23. True Blue Cuisine • Colonial District • $$
Renowned by locals as the finest place for traditional and affordable Peranakan (Nonya) cuisine – see #28. Next to the excellent Peranakan Museum (see #63), the café is packed with traditional artefacts – ideal for browsing while the meal is lovingly prepared. • +65 6440 0449
24. Trapizza • Sentosa Island • $$$
The hand-crafted pizzas and huge bowls of pasta attract a lively crowd. Also popular among families – if only for the beachside setting and playground area. Part of the vast Shangri-La resort, but separately managed. • +65 6376 2662
25. Satay by the Bay • Marina Bay • $
Compact food court with an inviting selection of stalls in the remarkable Gardens by the Bay (see #89), so the setting is as alluring as the range of food. Also plenty of grills, noodles, and seafood. Undercover, so ideal when wet. • +65 6538 9956
26. Makansutra Gluttons Bay • Marina Bay • $
One of Singapore’s finest open-air food courts, very popular for its bayside position and abundant seating. Perfect for upmarket versions of street food – whether Chinese, Malay, or Indian. Snack on satays while wandering about or sit for a bowl of seafood noodles. • +65 6438 4038
27. Food Republic • Orchard Road • $
One of the classiest food courts among so many, this focuses on traditional street food. Indoors, convenient, and very busy at lunchtime, so get there early. • +65 6737 9881
Best Singaporean Food
28. Peranakan (Nonya)
Unique cuisine developed by the Peranakan people, descendants of marriages between Malays and Chinese. Most dishes are deliciously flavored by lemongrass, tamarind, coconut, and chili. Dishes to try are ayam buah keluak (spicy chicken) or babi pongteh (braised pork), while others are versions of regional cuisines, e.g. laksa (curry noodle soup).
Overwhelmingly dominating Singapore’s population, language, and culture, the Chinese take cooking and eating very seriously. Thousands of eateries – from hawker stalls to bistros with European prices and Michelin stars – serve authentic, popular dishes that hail from across China, including frog porridge, Hainan chicken rice, and char kway teow (noodles with clams).
The Indian minority is as diverse as the cuisine, which includes fiery curries from Tamil Nadu and milder biryanis from Hyderabad. Most menus are vegetarian, although many serve seafood and some offer meat for tourists. Popular among visitors are the ‘banana leaf restaurants’, where scoops of curries, rice, and lentils are dolloped onto a banana leaf and eaten by hand.
Often ignored is the cuisine of Malaysia just across the strait. Usually cheap and always tasty are traditional meals like nasi lemak (rice soaked in coconut milk and served with an egg, chili chutney, anchovies, and peanuts), roti canai (flaky pastry, often with eggs or onions, and dipped in curry sauces), and murtabak (sweet or savory sort of pancakes).
Singapore Shops & Markets
32. Orchard Road
Stretching about 3km from the edge of the Colonial District to near the Botanic Gardens, it’s wall-to-wall shopping, where tourists often spend more time than imagined. As well as over 20 malls (see below), there are several top-end hotels and endless places to eat. Conveniently paralleled by a metro line.
33. Paragon • Orchard Road
Midway along this major thoroughfare and trendy shopping district (see above), the Paragon mall is unashamedly pretentious. Among the many very fashionable and expensive boutiques are those selling children’s clothes, while live music helps soothe the nerves of ardent shopaholics. Check out the specials and offers for tourists on the website. • +65 6730 5535
34. Tanglin Shopping Centre • Orchard Road
Popular with expats, this is at the northwest end of this major shopping precinct (see above), so it’s often ignored by tourists. Renowned as the place for art, carpets, ornaments, and antiques, it’s worth a walk or short metro trip – if only for the retro-style vibe so different to rival malls. • +65 6737 0849
35. Raffles City Shopping Centre • Colonial District
Just across the road from the iconic Raffles Hotel, this cluster of name-brand outlets is in a building more compact and inviting than the mega-malls. Popular for the Robinson’s department store, food court, and tempting promotions to entice shoppers from Orchard Road. • +65 6318 0238
36. Bugis Street Market • Colonial District
Once part of a red-light district, the area was bulldozed many years ago, only to be rebuilt later. More enticing for bargain-hunters than any mall, it’s mostly undercover and crammed with about 500 stalls selling ‘designer brands’ (of dubious authenticity) and super-cheap souvenirs. Also, takeaway food and money-changers.
37. Geylang Serai (New) Market • Geylang (inner northeast)
More authentic and less touristy than Bugis Street (see above), most traders are Malaysian, so it’s particularly lively during Ramadan. Predominantly sells fruits, vegetables, and meat, but also has plenty of food stalls. Inside an airy, traditional-style building and not overly crowded.
38. Haji Lane • Kampong Glam
Most of the historic shop-houses along one of the city’s narrowest streets have been converted to quirky shops, unique boutiques, hip eateries, and trendy tailors. The bohemian vibe and abundant street art makes this a top place for taking photographs and meeting people.
39. Souvenirs and Knick-knacks
From tasteful to tasteless, everything is for sale in Singapore. Stick to the malls and renowned shops if receipts, guarantees, and authenticity are required; otherwise, bargains galore can be found at the numerous markets. Possible souvenirs include jewelry, particularly jade and gold; porcelain jugs, spoons, and other household items crafted with a Peranakan style (see #28); shirts, bags, and mats made using batik; tailor-made suits, shirts, and dresses; and a soothing ointment called Tiger Balm. Edible ideas include the kaya jam spread on toast in Chinese coffee houses, bak kwa (chewy pork strips), and green tea.
40. Long Bar • Colonial District
No finer place to sip an iconic Singapore Sling cocktail than the Long Bar within the wonderfully restored Raffles Hotel. Guests can soak up the incredible elegance, history, and charm of Singapore’s most famous hotel without staying there. • +65 6337 1886
41. Smoke & Mirrors • Colonial District
According to savvy locals, this provides the city’s most jaw-dropping views. Also renowned for its signature cocktails and exquisite food, it’s on the rooftop of the National Gallery Singapore (see #61), and is perfect for sunsets. Book ahead for meals. • +65 9380 6313
42. Lantern • Marina Bay
In The Fullerton Bay Hotel, one of Singapore’s most memorable watering holes provides unique cocktails, an infinity pool, and expansive views of the skyline. Probably the optimal place to watch the amazing Spectra sound and light show (see #44), but the loud music is more suited to younger trendsetters. • +65 6333 8388
43. Brewerkz Riverside Point • Singapore River
The city’s first microbrewery is still hugely popular for its amazing variety of locally-brewed (and imported) beers. With a chic minimalist décor and appealing riverside setting, the award-winning restaurant specializes in American-style grills. Check the website for tempting meal and drink specials. • +65 6438 7438
44. Spectra – A Light & Water Show • Marina Bay
If the casino, hotel, restaurants, and shops at the Marina Bay Sands complex (see #57) aren’t impressive enough, hang about for the brilliant light, sound, and laser show that illuminates these remarkable buildings every evening. Up to 3 shows a night for 15 minutes each, it’s free and it’s amazing. • +65 6688 8826
45. Crazy Elephant • Clarke Quay (Singapore River)
Long-time favorite, and still more popular than newer and trendier rivals. Stripped-down and grungy, it’s the perfect place to catch toe-tapping blues and hip-shaking rock. No cool DJs, cover charges, or dress code here, and it’s one of the cheapest places along the river for a beer. • +65 6337 7859
46. Blujaz Café • Kampong Glam
Popular, well-priced, and oh-so cozy, this is the place for live blues and jazz (as the name suggests). Anything is possible on the night, including jams by local musos, open mic nights for anyone, and quirky comedy shows. • +65 6292 3800
47. Zouk • Clarke Quay (Singapore River)
This continually popular club re-invents itself regularly to maintain its reputation as the trendiest spot in the city. The DJs are hip, the dance floor gigantic, and the music – which changes themes nightly – is LOUD. Come early to avoid lining up, and check out the wine bar and avant-garde art. • +656738 2988
48. F Club X Attica SG • Colonial District
Normally just known as Attica, this pulsating club is massive and popular enough for 2 dance areas. One plays hip-hop, the other techno music for those who can tell the difference. Also, fashion shows and live music on some nights. • +65 6338 3158
49. Plays, Opera, Music, Dance, and Ballet
This remarkably multicultural city provides a vast array of sophisticated events at the Chinese Theatre Circle (traditional opera), Singapore Repertory Theatre (plays from Shakespeare to experimental), Singapore Dance Theatre (modern dance and classical ballet), and the swish concert hall at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (music and plays, sometimes free).
Singapore Tours & Classes
50. Singapore River Cruise • Marina Bay and Singapore River
A must-do is a trip on a traditional-style bumboat along the river. Particularly atmospheric at night; even more so during the extraordinary light show at Marina Bay Sands (see #57). Boats run regularly between the iconic Marina Bay complex and vibrant Clarke Quay, providing an informative commentary along the way. • +65 6336 6111
To see maximum sights in minimal time, jump on a double-decker bus. One of several similar companies, Big Bus is international, reliable, and great value. It offers 4 routes where passengers can get on/off anywhere along the way. (Other city tours also available.) • +65 6338 6877
Explore the city in an amphibious truck left over from the Vietnam War. These brightly-colored and open-air vehicles can glide through the city streets and then, remarkably, slide into the river. Heaps of fun for the family, the tours are informative and certainly unique. • +65 6338 6877
Well-designed bicycle tours that avoid hills and traffic, and include places in ‘real Singapore’ not accessible by tourist buses. Mostly alongside the river and with stops at traditional coffee-houses, it also provides e-scooters for the less able or energetic. • +65 9004 4332
The slowest way to get around is often the most rewarding as guests visit places rarely seen by tourists, such as graveyards and markets. This reputable outfit runs tours on foot through Chinatown, Little India, Kampong Glam, and the colonial district with informative guides providing plenty of history, anecdotes, and tips. • +65 6325 1631
55. Trishaw Uncle
Only 40 years ago, hand-pulled rickshaws operated in parts of the city. These days, comfortable two-wheeled versions with a driver are used for tourist trips. Restricted by traffic and hills, tours by this long-established and government-recognized company take place in Bugis Street, Chinatown, and Little India, and can include dinner, a show, and river cruise in a traditional-style bumboat. • +65 6336 1188
56. Cooking Classes
Hands-on and conducted in English, lessons usually start with an early-morning visit to a produce market and finish with devouring the students’ creations at lunchtime. Well-established and reliable are Cookery Magic, Palate Sensations Culinary School, and Coriander Leaf.
Things to See in Singapore
(Also refer to ‘Family Fun’ and ‘Parks & Gardens’ later.)
57. Marina Bay Sands • Marina Bay
Dominating views from many angles, this iconic trio of skyscrapers is home to a hotel, casino, shopping mall, endless eateries, and all sorts of attractions, such as a world-class theater; the ArtScience Museum, shaped like a gigantic lotus flower; and the extraordinary Observation Deck. The complex is brilliantly illuminated during the sound and light shows each evening (see #44). • +65 6688 8826
58. National Museum of Singapore • Colonial District
The city’s oldest and finest museum features themed galleries about fashion, food, and film that bring Singapore’s rich history to life. Multimedia elements let historical characters speak for themselves, but guided tours are recommended. Check out the special programs for the young ones. • +65 6332 3659
59. Jurong Bird Park • Jurong (western Singapore)
Home to 1000s of birds representing 100s of species, this park is divided into zones that mirror the birds’ natural habitats. Heavily involved in breeding and conservation of endangered species, there are also plenty of children’s activities and shows understandably popular with families. Visitors can either walk around or take a tram. • +65 6269 3411
60. Singapore Flyer • Marina Bay
Asia’s largest observation wheel is dramatically positioned alongside Marina Bay and a part of Singapore’s skyline. Mind-blowing views of the bay, river, skyscrapers, and ships along the strait. Even possible to book a 4-course meal inside a capsule 165m above ground. • +65 6854 5200
61. National Gallery Singapore • Colonial District
Largest collection of its kind anywhere in Southeast Asia. Within the lovingly restored former Supreme Court building, exhibitions reflect Singapore’s unique heritage and location. Free tours available. Also, home to several classy bistros and the Smoke & Mirrors rooftop bar (see #41). • +65 6271 7000
62. Asian Civilisations Museum • Singapore River
Recently renovated and revamped, the collection of artefacts from across the region is truly comprehensive – and includes a thousand-year-old shipwreck. Numerous galleries provide stunning overviews of the culture, history, and people, and guided tours are available. The building itself is also popular for its neo-classical design and riverfront position. • +65 6332 7798
63. Peranakan Museum • Colonial District
Beautifully recreated and affectionately maintained, this adorable museum explains the history, culture, food, and fashion of the Peranakan people, who descend from marriages between Malays and Chinese. Displays are colorful and often interactive. (Closed for renovations in late-2019.) • +65 6332 7591
One of the most vibrant and authentic of its kind on the planet. First stop should be the Chinatown Heritage Centre to learn about the area’s early history. Then, amble the narrow streets and check out the frenetic markets, traditional cafés, and colorful temples like Thian Hock Keng (the city’s oldest). Also, home to the Sri Mariamman (Hindu) Temple and 19th-century Masjid Jamae mosque.
65. Little India
With its incense-scented streets, gaudy temples, and mouth-watering smells, Little India has a distinctive vibe and unique character. Dominating the crowded alleys are the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple and monastery, Sri Srinivasa Perumal Hindu Temple, and the 100-year-old Abdul Gafoor Mosque. The main thoroughfare, Serangoon Road, is crammed with tempting eateries.
66. Changi Village • northern Singapore
In stark contrast to the malls, high-rises, and theme parks elsewhere, this laidback residential area is perched just outside the northern tip of the airport, so getting there by train and bus is half the fun. The hawker center sells authentic food and is alongside the terminal for traditional bumboats to Pulau Ubin island (see #79).
Family Fun in Singapore
67. Singapore Zoo • northern Singapore
One of the world’s very best and home to countless species, from polar bears to baby giraffes. Unlike those in most Asian cities, the animals are well looked after and can be admired in enclosures resembling their natural habitat. Family activities include the Rainforest Kidzworld and Jungle Breakfast, while the tram helps reduce tired feet. • +65 6269 3411
68. Night Safari • northern Singapore
Unique chance to get up close and personal with over 900 animals across about 100 species, including tigers, elephants, and bats. Wonderfully eerie experience wandering the sidewalks during the evening, although most visitors rush past on a guided tour by tram. Popular add-ons are dinner in a campsite among some inhabitants and the Creatures of the Night Show. • +65 6269 3411
69. Sentosa Island • southern Singapore
This once-deserted island is now Singapore’s tropical playground. There’s enough to do to easily occupy a week, which is why luxurious family-friendly resorts line the beaches (see ‘Singapore Hotels’ earlier). Take a ride or slide at the Adventure Cover Waterpark, wander about the Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom with its rainforest, be entertained at Universal Studios (see below), and admire the aquarium (see #71). Even getting there by cable car is great fun. • +65 6736 8672
70. Universal Studios Singapore • Sentosa Island
This magnificent branch of the Hollywood theme park is divided into seven ‘worlds’. The young ones will love the adrenalin-pumping rides – all thrilling, and a few scary – and live shows featuring lovable characters from hugely popular TV shows and movies. • +65 6577 8888
71. S.E.A. Aquarium • Sentosa Island
One of the world’s largest aquariums, S.E.A. is home to over 100,000 creatures from more than 100 species. And the attractions get better every year – whether swimming among sharks in a special container, walking in a bubble suit among manta rays, or enjoying a sleepover alongside the massive tank. • +65 6577 9977
72. Wild Wild Wet @Downtown East • northeast Singapore
One of the most exhilarating waterparks anywhere on the planet – and as much fun for the parents. Heaps of rides, slides, and plunges for various ages with names like TurboTwister and TornadoWave, while a special Kidz Zone ensures that toddlers still have heaps of fun. • +65 6581 9128
73. Snow City Singapore • Jurong (western Singapore)
Novelty in a tropical country and an ideal escape from the sapping heat and humidity. Thrill-seekers can go down and along the artificial snow or ice on skates, in tubes, or on boards. Younger ones may feel safer exploring an igloo, watching an Eskimo show, or having a snowball fight. Also, educational programs. • +65 6560 2306
Festivals & Events in Singapore
74. Chinese (Lunar) New Year • changeable, January/February
The New Year is ushered in with floats and performances, including stilt-walkers and lion dancers, at Marina Bay. Over about 15 days, temples open their doors, food stalls stay open all night, and thousands of lanterns dangle along Chinatown and Singapore River. Exceptionally vibrant time to visit, but also extremely busy and potentially expensive.
75. Singapore International Festival of Arts • late May
Two weeks of high-quality performances (some free) of theater, dance, music, and visual arts from around the world. Held at about 10 old-fashioned and modern-day theaters and stages. Also, workshops and talks by experts.
76. Singapore Food Festival • July
For more than 2 weeks, various venues are taken over for a showcase of flavorsome Chinese, Indian, Malay, and local Peranakan (Nonya) cuisines. Expect pop-up food stalls, cooking demonstrations, and foodie tours.
77. National Day • August 9
Patriotic celebration of the country’s independence in 1965 from Malaysia. Plenty of flag-waving and fun-filled festivities, including fireworks, cultural dances, and parades.
78. Mid-Autumn Festival • changeable, August/September
Also called the Lantern or Mooncake festival, lion-dances are held, especially at Chinatown, where a multitude of stalls sell mooncake pastries. Most events are held after dark, including the Children’s Lantern Parade in Chinatown, while other performances are at Gardens by the Bay (see #89).
Short Trips from the City Center
79. Pulau Ubin (Singapore) – 45-60 minutes by taxi, train, and/or bus
Between Changi Airport and the Malaysian coast, Pulau Ubin (Granite Island) contrasts sharply with the forest of high-rise buildings elsewhere. Only 7km by 2km, it’s reminiscent of Singapore from the 1950s, and mostly inhabited by Malay fisher-families in wooden homes on stilts. Fabulous fun to explore by bicycle, and rentals available at the boat terminal at Changi Village (see #66).
80. Johor Bahru (Malaysia) – one hour
Easy daytrip by bus, train, or taxi across the 1km-long causeway, this regional city is immensely popular with Singaporeans for its bargain shopping and seedy nightlife. With museums, mosques, gardens, and temples in a compact downtown area, JB (as it’s known) is becoming modernized, but still retains a likeable ramshackle feel. Avoid traveling at peak hours: for workers from JB to Singapore (6-8 am and 5-7 pm weekdays) and shoppers from Singapore to JB (all weekend and public holidays).
81. Melaka/Malacca (Malaysia) – about 4 hours
Regular buses and trains via Johor Bahru link Singapore with this charismatic historical riverside city. Formerly ruled by the Portuguese and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Melaka is packed with charm, history, and elegance. Spend days checking out the (over) abundance of museums, as well as the brightly-painted colonial-era buildings and bustling Old Town.
82. Pulau Bintan (Indonesia) – one hour by ferry from the terminal
Far closer to Singapore than the Indonesian mainland, this is the largest and most developed island of the Riau Archipelago. Boasting traditional villages and idyllic beaches – some empty, others with water-sports – Bintan is slowly being overrun by resorts and golf courses. Other visitors enjoy the hiking, cycling, and seafood restaurants.
Outdoor Activities in Singapore
Locals love to escape the traffic and crowds by peddling along numerous dedicated lanes around various parks and gardens. Especially popular are the flat stretches along East Coast Park (see #90), Sentosa Island (see #69), and Pulau Ubin island (see #79). Bikes are available for rent at all 3 places. The more adventurous might try the trails through Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (see #93).
Despite limited space, Singapore boasts over 15 golf courses and driving ranges. Many are private, with public access restricted to weekdays and those with certificates of ability, while others are more welcoming to visitors and novices. The best public course for views, convenience, and design (including a par 6) is the Marina Bay Golf Course. Many things in Singapore are cheap, but playing golf is certainly not one of them.
Despite being an island, few places along the coast are actually suitable for swimming. While beaches along East Coast Park (see #90) and Sentosa Island (see #69) are postcard-perfect, the water is not inviting compared to those in Malaysia and Thailand. Otherwise, visit one of the excellent public swimming pools; the most convenient is Jalan Besar Swimming Complex.
Surrounded by sea and dotted with inland lakes and reservoirs, some water-sports are available. The widest variety – including canoeing, sailing, wind-surfing, and water-skiing – is available at East Coast Park (see #90) and Sentosa Island (see #69). Canoeing is also possible at MacRitchie Reservoir Park (see #92). Scuba-diving can be organized in Singapore, but trips will certainly be in Malaysian waters.
87. Walking and Hiking
To escape the overcrowding and humidity of downtown, locals love to walk (and jog) along the signposted paths at East Coast Park (see #90) and MacRitchie Reservoir Park (see #92). More challenging hiking trails meander through Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (see #93) and the mangroves, coconut groves, and rustic villages on Pulau Ubin island (see #79).
Singapore Parks & Gardens
88. Singapore Botanic Gardens • Orchard Road
Over 160 years old and the only tropical gardens in the world to receive a UNESCO World Heritage listing. Immaculate lawns, themed gardens, tranquil lakes, and extensive boardwalk through an ancient rainforest. Free tours on Saturdays, and frequent programs and performances all week. • 1800 471 7300 (local call only)
89. Gardens by the Bay • Marina Bay
Futuristic botanical gardens where enormous bio-domes house over 800 plant species from different climatic zones. An elevated walkway links the incredible Supertrees, which are spectacularly lit up during the evening sound and light shows (see #44). Also appealing are the waterpark for the younger ones and various whimsical sculptures. • +65 6420 6848
90. East Coast Park • southeast Singapore
Hugely popular respite from downtown traffic, noise, and pollution, this stretches 15km along the shore towards the airport. The seemingly endless tropical beach (mostly man-made on reclaimed land) is terrific for water-sports (see #86), jogging, and cycling, but less inviting for swimming. Also, several playgrounds. • 1800 471 7300 (local call only)
91. Fort Canning Park • Colonial District
Attractive expanse of greenery on a hilltop in the city center. Various paths lead to several gardens, an atmospheric war museum called the Battle Box, a reservoir, gorgeous colonial-era hotel (see#8), interesting old graveyard, and a historic whitewashed fort, home to intriguing exhibits. Check the website for various events. • 1800 471 7300 (local call only)
92. MacRitchie Reservoir Park • central Singapore
Not as convenient or packed with attractions as others, this is more pristine and tranquil. Popular for its delightful walking trails – including boardwalks and a suspended bridge – around the reservoir, monkey-infested forest, and former rubber plantations. Canoes also available. • 1800 471 7300 (local call only)
93. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve • central Singapore
Vast reserve featuring forests inhabited by lemurs, monkeys, and deer – yet within a quick taxi trip of the city center. Signposted walking trails meander through the pristine environment and up Bukit Timah, the country’s highest hill (only 163m). Also a special trail for cyclists. • 1800 471 7300 (local call only)
94. Colonial District
No part of Singapore packs as many cultural attractions into such a compact space. The most important museums and galleries are within a few blocks of each another, while the west is dominated by Fort Canning Park (see #91) and the southeast edge faces the amazing Marina Bay (see #57). Vast range of hotels – mostly top-end – and classy places to eat, drink, and shop, and the area is well-connected by public transport.
Best Stuff: Raffles • Hotel Fort Canning • The Capitol Kempinski Hotel • Hotel G • JAAN by Kirk Westaway bistro • Coriander Leaf @ Chijmes restaurant • True Blue Cuisine café • Raffles City Shopping Centre • Bugis Street Market • Long Bar • Smoke & Mirrors bar • F Club X Attica SG • Singapore Repertory Theatre • Singapore Dance Theatre • Trishaw Uncle rickshaw tours • National Museum of Singapore • National Gallery Singapore • Peranakan Museum • Fort Canning Park
95. Sentosa Island
Hanging off the southern edge of the mainland and connected by monorail, a causeway, and cable car, Sentosa is a former military base. Now Singapore’s brash and buzzing playground offers vast 5-star resorts, numerous theme parks, 2 golf courses, and endless bars and restaurants. Popular base, especially for families, and pleasingly compact, with many amenities and attractions clustered around the waterfront monorail station.
Best Stuff: Sofitel Sentosa Resort & Spa • W Singapore – Sentosa Cove • Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa (vast, opulent, and family-friendly) • The Cliff restaurant • Trapizza bistro • Quayside Isle @ Sentosa Cove shopping and dining center • Adventure Cover Waterpark Sentosa Island • Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom Sentosa Island • Universal Studios Singapore • S.E.A. Aquarium • cycling • water-sports • swimming
96. Orchard Road
One of Asia’s most renowned and popular shopping districts stretches several kilometres west from the Colonial District to the Botanic Gardens. Packed with malls and department stores, this major thoroughfare is also lined with hotels of all ranges and crammed with places to eat and drink, mostly within the malls. The road is conveniently paralleled by a monorail line that offers quick connections to many of the city’s sights.
Best Stuff: Shangri-La • The St. Regis • The Quincy (contemporary, quirky, and convenient) • Corner House café • Tim Ho Wan restaurant • Iggy’s (stylish bistro with extended wine list) • Food Republic food court • Paragon mall • Tanglin Shopping Centre • Wisma Atria mall • Singapore Botanic Gardens
97. Marina Bay
This area offers the city’s most striking architecture and sought-after views. Along the western side are numerous hotels and restaurants and the Merlion – the symbol of the city – spraying water into the bay. The eastern edge is dominated by the extraordinary Marina Bay Sands complex (see #57) and linked by Hell’s Bridge to the iconic Singapore Flyer (see #60) and Esplanade Theatre (see #49). Some hotels, bars, and bistros in this area provide a birds-eye view of the nightly sound and light show (see #44).
Best Stuff: Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino • The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore • Satay by the Bay food court • Makansutra Gluttons Bay food court • The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (classy boutiques and bayside views) • Lantern bar • Spectra – A Light & Water Show • Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay • Singapore River Cruise • ArtScience Museum • Singapore Flyer • Marina Bay Golf Course • Gardens by the Bay
98. Singapore River
Meandering west through the inner city from Marina Bay, this broad waterway is dotted with quays (jetties) used by water taxis and cruise boats. Gorgeous area of colonial-era museums and galleries, modern high-rises, and riverside bars, bistros, and nightclubs, often in converted warehouses. Distant from downtown traffic, but an easy walk to the abundant attractions in the Colonial District and Chinatown.
Best Stuff: The Warehouse Hotel • Swissôtel Merchant Court hotel • Park Regis hotel • No Signboard Seafood Restaurant at Clarke Quay • Brewerkz Riverside Point bar with live music • Crazy Elephant live music venue • Zouk nightclub • Clarke Quay shopping and dining center • Singapore River Cruise • Asian Civilisations Museum
Settled by Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, and Teochew people in the mid-19th-century, some of the original buildings have survived the subsequent commercial onslaught, and much of the area remains remarkably undisturbed by tourism. Well-connected to the inner-city attractions by public transport, Chinatown is packed with things to see and do (see #64) – but certainly not all are about the Chinese. Most hotels are budget-priced and midrange, although increasingly top-end, too. And, of course, the variety of places to eat and shop, many authentic and not touristy, is extraordinary.
Best Stuff: D’Hotel • The Scarlet hotel • Q Loft Hotel [email protected] • Burnt Ends bistro • Maxwell Food Centre • Spring Court restaurant (one of the city’s oldest, in a heritage building) • Chinese Theatre Circle • Trishaw Uncle rickshaw tours • The Original Singapore Walks tours • Chinatown Heritage Centre • Thian Hock Keng Temple • Sri Mariamman Temple • Masjid Jamae mosque
100. Little India and Kampong Glam
North of the Colonial District, Little India is vibrant, authentic, and packed with shops, restaurants, and hotels more affordable than overpriced areas in downtown. As well as some temples and markets, the maze of lanes and renowned Serangoon Road are an attraction in their own right. On the other side of Rochor Canal, Kampong Glam is home to a flourishing Malaysian community.
Best Stuff: The Vagabond Club • Pan Pacific Serviced Suites Beach Road (very comfortable apartments) • Muthu’s Curry (tasty, authentic, and popular) • Tekka Centre food court and market • Khansama Tandoori Restaurant (great-value and friendly) • Haji Lane shopping district • Blujaz Café and live music venue • Trishaw Uncle rickshaw tours • The Original Singapore Walks tours • Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple • Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple • Abdul Gafoor Mosque • Jalan Besar Swimming Complex
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