Many travellers pass through Singapore as a transit stop on their way to another destination. Singapore is well known for it’s phenomenal airport which has almost become like a destination all of it’s own. In fact, Singapore Changi Airport has been rated the World’s Best Airport by Skytrax for the last 5 years. But Singapore is so much more than just a good place for a long lay-over.
But if you venture out of the airport and into the city of Singapore, you will find that there is so much to explore. Singapore is full of beautiful gardens, multi-cultural suburbs, luxury high end shopping streets and off the beaten track island getaways for the weekend. To get you started with your Singapore planning, here are eight great places for you to spend your day.
1. Gardens By The Bay
Feeling like a mythical garden straight out of the movie Avatar, Gardens by the Bay offers a completely unique experience. The supertrees found within the gardens are almost like an icon of Singapore, recognized around the world for their futuristic look and shimmering light show.
Within the gardens you can find many different attractions including the Supertree Grove, The Cloud Forest and Flower Dome Cooled Conservatories, the OCBC Skyway and Satay by the Bay. The cooled conservatories are actually very air conditioned and are a great place to visit on a particularly hot day when you’re trying to escape the heat and humidity.
Getting Here: Gardens by the Bay is located right next to Marina Bay Sands and is within easy walking distance of the hotel and the Bayfront MRT Station. Take the Circle Line or Downtown Line to Bayfront MRT Station, leave via Exit B from the station and follow the footpath that crosses either the Dragonfly Bridge or Meadow Bridge into the gardens.
Admission & Opening Hours: The Outdoor Gardens, including the Supertree Grove, Sun Pavillion, Heritage Gardens, World of Plants and Dragonfly & Kingfisher Lakes, are open from 5am to 2pm each day and are free to explore.
The Cooled Conservatories, including the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome, are open from 9am – 9pm and cost S$28 per adult to visit both conservatories.
The OCBC Skyway is also open from 9am to 9pm each day, and costs S$8 per adult. You can purchase tickets for the skywalk from the base of one of the trees in the middle of the Supertree Grove.
2. The National Orchid Garden in the Royal Botanical Gardens
As Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the first and only tropical botanical gardens on the list, it’s easy to see why people flock to the Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens stretch out from the edge of Orchard Road, reaching 2.5km between the North and South end and are home to more than 10,000 species of flora. So many parts of Singapore are man-made and obviously artificial, but the Botanical Gardens definitely offers a more natural experience.
Within the larger gardens, the National Orchid Garden is really a top highlight. As the name suggests, the gardens are overflowing with different coloured orchids, sculptures that are being taken over by greenery, beautiful archways and even some waterfalls. They are definitely a highlight of the gardens, and if you’re visiting on limited time I would definitely suggest you start in the Orchid Garden for some of the most stunning displays. There are over 1,000 species of rare, beautiful and brightly coloured orchids to spend the day wandering around.
Getting Here: Found in the centre of Singapore, the gardens are only 5 minutes away from Orchard Road. There are four different entrances to the gardens, which will place you near different attractions around the gardens. Enter at either the Central Core Gate or the Tyersall-Gallop Core Gate if you’re going straight to the National Orchid Garden.
If you’re arriving by train, The Botanic Gardens MRT Station (which you can find on the Circle and Downtown lines) is near the Bukit Timah Gate or the Orchard MRT Station (along the North-South Line) is only a 5 minute bus ride from the Tanglin Gate.
Admission: Entry to the Botanic Gardens is free, but entry to the National Orchid Garden is S$5 per adult.
Opening Hours: The Botanic Gardens are open from 5am to 12pm midnight every day. The National Orchid Garden is open from 8:30am to 7pm daily, with the last entry at 6pm.
The historic Chinatown in Singapore is a beautiful mixture of old and new, with narrow streets full of traditional shops running into wide hawker food streets and market places. The Chinatown Food Street is a great place to try some of the local dishes, where you can find a row of hawker stalls and small authentic restaurants offering all sorts of Asian dishes.
Chinatown is also where you will find Chinese temples sitting right alongside Hindu temples and mosques. You can find a huge selection and the best priced souvenirs on Pagoda Street and all sorts of traditional Chinese medicine on South Bridge Road. And best of all, there is free wifi all throughout Chinatown, so you can stay connected throughout the day if you need to.
4. Merlion Park
The Merlion Park in Singapore is major tourist attraction first and foremost for the huge Merlion sculpture, spitting water into Marina Bay. The Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish that is almost thought of as a mascot of Singapore. There is one Merlion located on Marina Bay and a second located on Sentosa Island.
While the unique Merlion statue is enough reason to visit this park on its own, there are also so many other sights and attractions in the area to fill your whole day. If you take a walk around Marina Bay you can also find:
- The Singapore Flyer
- The ArtSciencce Museum
- The Shoppes at Marina Bay
- Marina Bay Sands Skypark
- The Spectra Light and Water Show
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5. Singapore Zoo
For a day (and maybe even a night) out of the big city, Singapore Zoo is unlike any other zoo you might have visited before. It’s actually made up of four different wildlife parks: Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park.
Apart from visiting the exhibitions of the countless animals that call the four wildlife parks their home, there are also many unique wildlife experiences on offer. You can eat breakfast with the orangutans, feed the elephants, giraffes or white rhinoceros, take a boat ride through the Amazon, prepare breakfast for the pandas on a behind-the-scenes tour, or take a nighttime dinner or cocktail safari.
Getting Here: To get to Singapore Zoo by public transport you can take the North-South MRT line, followed by a connecting bus. You can hop off at either Khatib Station, NS14 – followed by the Mandai Khatib Shuttle; Choa Chu Kang Station, NS4 – followed by the 927 bus; or Ang Mo Kio, Station NS16 – followed by the 138 bus.
Admission: A 4-Park Pass, which gives you entry into all four of the wildlife parks, offers the best value for money and costs S$78 per adult , or you can upgrade to the ParkHopper Plus Pass – which also includes all the tram rides, boat rides and carousel rides within the wildlife parks – is S$88 per adult.
If you’re only interested in visiting one of the parks, the prices range between S$29 – S$45 per adult. You can find the complete breakdown of the parks and their individual prices here.
Opening Hours: Singapore Zoo and Juong Bird Park are open every day of the year from 8:30am to 6:00pm; River Safari is open from 10:00am to 7:00pm; and Night Safari is open from 7:15pm to 12 midnight.
6. Orchard Road
Boasting the tagline “Orchard Road, A Great Street” Orchard Road remains the cenral hub of Singapore. This epic shopping street runs right through the centre of the city, and is the home to high end fashion boutiques, international designer brands, underground shopping malls, beautiful hotels and all sorts of restaurants. It’s a great place to base yourself in Singapore, as you’re within walking distance of everything you could need and only a short MRT or taxi ride away from many major attractions.
Orchard Road is big enough to rival some of the most popular and prestigious shopping streets from around the world so definitely bring some money for a bit of a splurge here. If you’re planning on shopping up big, you should definitely look into the electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS), which allows tourists to claim a refund on the GST for purchases made in Singapore. Learn more about the scheme here and find out if you can get a refund on your shopping spree!
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7. Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island is almost like one giant playground for visitors to Singapore and the perfect quick getaway destination for locals. Sentosa Island is where you can find many of the big chain, luxury resorts, and is also a place to stay for families. Sentosa is also the home to Universal Studios Singapore, Resort World, Madame Tussauds, Tiger Sky Tower, Underwater World, and the Sentosa Merlion, as well as Singapore’s first casino and several shopping malls.
If you’re interested in getting off the beaten track, there are also several small islands that lie off Sentosa, including Kusu Island, St. John’s Island, the Sisters Island and Pulau Hantu. They are accessible either via ferry or a boat charter from Sentosa.
Getting Here: The eastiest way to reach Sentosa Island is to take the North-East MRT Line to HarbourFront Station, where you can then catch the Sentosa Express monorail to the island. A round trip on the monorail costs S$4, which includes island admission, with trains departing every 5-8 minutes between 7am and 11:45pm each day.
For a more scenic arrival to the island you can take the Cable Car between Mount Faber on the mainland and Sentosa Island across the Keppel Harbour. A return trip via Cable Car costs S$29 per adult, which also includes entry into the island.
Admission: Admission to the island will cost you at least S$2 per person, however the admission fee to the island itself can often be waived or discounted with attraction tickets around the island.
8. Kampong Glam & Little India
For a deeper look into Malay culture and traditions, Kampong Glam is the perfect place to start. This vibrant neighbourhood really does have a glamorous feel, with an inviting blend of history, culture, on trend shops and delicious eateries. The Sultan Mosque is the epicentre of the area, with many side streets and local markets sprawling out from it., and is a great place to start. You can also find out more about the history of Singapore and it’s people at the Malay Heritage Centre, located in the ground of the old palace.
After a morning exploring Kampong Glam, why not wander over to the neighbouring Little India, and spend the afternoon exploring an entirely different culture. Little India is a very colourful, vibrant town buzzing with the local Indian community. There’s plenty to explore in Little India, with intricately decorated temples and mosques lining Serangoon Road, the 24-hour shopping mall Mustafa Centre offering literally everything from groceries to electronics, or the open-air Tekka Centre for your more traditional shopping options.