Things to Do in Singapore
A Singapore landmark, Merlion Park is named for its centerpiece, the Merlion statue, which spouts water into Marina Bay. With the head of a lion and the body of a fish, the Merlion is the national icon of Singapore. The park is also popular with locals, who come here to play and relax along the waterfront.
All the major world cities seem to have a big wheel these days, and Singapore is no exception. Lifting you 540 feet (165 meters) into the air, the Singapore Flyer is Asia’s largest observation wheel, providing amazing panoramic views of the city, the sea, and the surrounds from one of 28 capsules.
Lining the Singapore River, the renovated riverside warehouses and “godown” shophouses of historic Clarke Quay comprise one of Singapore’s major wining and dining precincts. Now pedestrianized and home to shops, restaurants, nightclubs, river cruise bumboats, and floating cafés, Clarke Quay is a good place to look for varied cuisines—from Italian to brewhouse to fine French—and relaxed outdoor bars with riverfront views. It’s also where you’ll find Singapore’s wild Reverse Bungy adventure ride.
With a sinister past as a quarantine center, political prison, and drug rehab operation, St. John’s Island remains one of the quieter of Singapore’s outlying islands, with not so much as a café or a shop. Spend the night in bungalows, enjoy the island’s cat population, or fish from the pier or off the beach.
From New York to San Francisco, big cities are known for their beautiful bridges. But perhaps none are as impressive as Singapore’s Helix Bridge. Originally known at the Double Helix Bridge, this scenic footbridge is encased with twisting metal tubes and shimmering lights reminiscent of DNA strands. Helix was opened in April 2010, but the popular walkway was not accessible to travelers until July of that year. Today, visitors can wander the steel encased path linking Marina South and Marina Centre, while staring out over a pristine bay bathed in brilliant lights. Travelers love to walk the path in the early daylight hours, or late at night, when the area proves most picturesque.
Singapore’s premier performance venue overlooks the super-sleek Marina Bay Waterfront. Esplanade-Theatres on the Bay consists of a 1,600-seat concert hall and 2,000-seat theater. The complex has waterfront and open-air venues and hosts more than 3,000 performances annually.
Singapore Zoo isn’t your typical menagerie; inside, more than 300 species of birds, reptiles, and mammals roam in close approximations of their natural habitats. Visitors to the lush jungle park can observe an abundance of wildlife, including lions, white tigers, giraffes, flying foxes, sea lions, and Komodo dragons.
For many visitors, Singapore’s Chinatown is the sightseeing focus of the city, home to traditional shophouses, temples, and cultural heritage. Take a wander down the atmospheric streets, dropping into shophouses to see what’s for sale. Admire the rooftop dragons of Thian Hock Keng Temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, and the festively gaudy Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple, covered with colorful cows and depictions of the gods. Of course, Chinatown is also the place to go to for great food, especially along Smith Street.
An unusual museum 30 feet (nine meters) beneath Fort Canning Hill, the secretive British military fort known as Battlebox once played an important role in Singapore’s history. Used by the Malaya Command to defend Singapore during World War II, the bunker was where Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival ultimately surrendered Singapore to the Japanese, marking the decline of the British Empire. Today, the cavernous space is filled with lifelike wax mannequins and antique photos and video clips that depict what it was like to live and strategize within the gray, 29-room labyrinth during the final days of the war.
The legendary Night Safari at Singapore Zoo goes above and beyond the typical zoo experience. Enhanced by the subtle glow of moonlight, the jungle comes to life each night for visitors to see animals exploring their free-roaming environments, designed to replicate the Himalayan foothills, Southeast Asian rain forest, and Indian subcontinent.
More Things to Do in Singapore
For subcontinental color, cuisine, and atmosphere, head to Singapore’s Little India, one of the island’s most vibrant districts. Shops, restaurants, street vendors, and colorful Hindu temples line the streets of Little India, making it an excellent place to take a walk. The culture and community center of Little India, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is the neighborhood’s most important Hindu Temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali.
Once inhabited by the Malay and Muslim elite of Singapore, the Kampong Glam neighborhood is one of the city’s most attractive. Former shop houses have been restored to their former beauty and now house modern shops and restaurants. The area is also home to the Sultan Mosque and Malay Heritage Centre.
The Old Supreme Court Building housed Singapore’s highest court for more than 60 years, until the judiciary arm moved to a more modern building in 2005. Today, the architectural icon—which was the last classical building to be completed in Singapore—houses the National Gallery Singapore.
Dramatically transformed by urban redevelopment, Marina Bay is home to a plethora of entertainment options as well as some of Singapore’s most iconic attractions. Popular with locals and travelers alike, the vibrant waterfront region is an exciting place to spend the day (or night).
As Southeast Asia’s first movie-themed park, Universal Studios Singapore offers a slew of exciting attractions, including 24 movie-themed rides, a festive walk, water park, marine life park and maritime experiential museum and aquarium. Opened in 2011 with director Steven Spielberg as a creative consultant, the kid-friendly park takes inspiration from some of Hollywood’s biggest hits, including Transformers, The Lost World, and Madagascar.
Flowing through the city’s dense Central Business District, the Singapore River is closely tied to Singapore’s history and modern day-to-day life. It was on the north bank of the river where Stamford Raffles first landed to found his colony, and many government buildings still line its shores. Many of the city’s top nightlife hot spots are also situated along the river, including Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, and Robertson Quay.
Built across the mouth of Singapore’s Marina Channel, the Marina Barrage serves as both a dam that helps alleviate flooding and supplies 10 percent of the nation's water, and a popular leisure and recreation destination for locals and visitors to enjoy.
The most popular spot at the Marina Barrage is the elevated section of grass that looks out across the city and is ideal for picnics, sunset vistas, and photo opportunities. The Solar Park features one of the largest collections of solar panels in Singapore, with more than 400 panels providing the barrage’s electricity at night. Those interested in green issues will enjoy the Sustainable Singapore Gallery, which features six rooms exploring different aspects of the city’s environmental infrastructure using multimedia displays and interactive exhibits.
Those with a particular interest in Singapore’s eco-friendly culture should join a sustainable Singapore guided tour, which combines a visit to Marina Barrage with the NEWater Plant, Singapore River, and Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay. For a unique perspective of the barrage, join a kayak tour to Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay, and Marina Bay Sands.
Founded in 1887 as a 10-room bungalow on the shores of the Singapore River, the resplendent Raffles Hotel grew to attract famous faces such as Charlie Chaplin and Queen Elizabeth II. Known for its colonial architecture and luxury amenities, it’s also the birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail and a popular spot for high tea.
Located along the southern bank of the Singapore River, Boat Quay is a popular and lively waterfront dining and entertainment district. Formerly a busy commercial port area, today the historic shops and warehouses along the quay have been converted into restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs, popular with locals and tourists alike.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is perhaps the best place in Singapore for a look at Chinese Buddhism. Located in the heart of Chinatown, the temple is believed to house a sacred relic of the Buddha, housed within a gold stupa inside the temple.
While the temple exhibits Tang Dynasty architectural elements, it was actually built in 2007. In just a few short years, it has become a major landmark in Chinatown and a popular destination for both tourists and worshipers.
After visiting the main temple and viewing the various Buddha statuary, make sure to check out the museum on the third floor. Here, you’ll find a collection of Buddhist relics, artifacts and works of art. Also of interest is the History Gallery that outlines the conceptualization and construction of the temple. Admission to both the museum and temple is free, and guided tours in English are available twice per week.
Located in Singapore’s super-sleek business district, Fort Canning Park is a hilltop oasis that encompasses nine smaller historic parks. In addition to a fragrant spice garden, an art gallery, and some grandiose Gothic gates, Fort Canning Park is also home to a World War II bunker and command center.
Touted as the world’s most expensive casino complex—costing a cool $8 billion—Marina Bay Sands is Singapore’s most lavish resort, boasting a stunning waterfront location. Alongside the casino, there’s a 2,561-room hotel, luxury shopping mall, a giant rooftop infinity pool, and some of Singapore’s most exclusive bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
The Singapore Cable Car provides a 360-degree panoramic view of city’s best attractions, including the Singapore harbor, Sentosa Island, and the city skyline. More than 100 cabins carry passengers along 3 miles (5 kilometers) of cableway. Tickets grant access to a museum detailing the history of the cable car system.
Singapore’s River Safari park takes you on a water-themed wildlife safari from the banks of the Amazon to the fish-filled waters of the Mekong. More than 7,500 animals and 240 different species call this park home, including rare marine life, exotic fish, and even a pair of Giant Pandas.
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