A few years back Justin and I headed to Singapore as part of one of our annual big trips – our main holiday of the year – and after a lot of research we decided to split our fortnight away in half; spending a week in Penang, Malaysia followed by a week in Singapore.
The city is amazing; a melting pot of cultures and a crazy mix of old and new and after my 5-night stay I was not ready to leave. I will most definitely be back to experience more of what Singapore has to offer, but as a first-timer here’s my take on the best things to see and do in Singapore.
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Fun things to do in Singapore
For many Singapore is a gateway to South East Asia, thanks to the hub that is Changi Airport – one of, if not the best airport in the world. Many people only stay within Changi’s walls as they transfer flights and some stop over here for a city break before heading on to a beach resort, but whether you’re visiting for a 3-day break or a fortnight’s holiday this city has more than enough to offer!
1/ Sip a Singapore Sling at Raffles
Forget afternoon tea at Raffles (I hear it sadly gets very average reviews) instead simply stop off to indulge in the ambience of Raffle’s Long Bar – home of the Singapore Sling.
Created here in 1915, it’s considered the national drink and it would have just been wrong not to try one during our visit!
Wandering through Raffles is a joy of its own, full of colonial beauty, but when you enter the Long Bar, well then you really feel like you’ve stepped back in time with its dark wood bar, rattan furniture and old fashioned ceiling fans.A drink here isn’t cheap, with a Sling costing you around $30*, but my non-alcoholic version was a bit cheaper (and I thought it tasted nicer too!) but you come for the experience more than anything.
One of the most fun aspects is that it’s not only condoned but actively encouraged that you throw your peanut shells onto the floor. It was something that Justin embraced wholeheartedly, but the tidy fanatic in me struggled to come to grips with. The best I could do was quietly lean down the side of my chair and gently drop them on the floor!
2/ Visit the Marina Bay
Take the time to visit the iconic Merlion at Marina Bay and also see the spectacular Marina Bay Sands hotel. At it’s top you’ll find the amazing SkyPark, which has one of the world’s most amazing infinity pool views. Shame it’s only accessible to guests…
3/ Enjoy a Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea
While in the city do things properly and go for a Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea at the Clifford Pier, Fullerton Bay Hotel.
Here coronation chicken sandwiches are replaced with mouth-watering Nonya chicken curry and roti jala wraps and sweets including pandan swiss rolls and sugee financiers.
Oozing with luxury, the decadent setting is a feast for the eyes before your belly has it’s turn. And did I mention the afternoon tea is refillable..?
Head back next week for a full review of the Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea at the Clifford Pier, Fullerton Bay Hotel.
4/ Wander through a street market
There’s a number of really great street markets throughout Singapore, many of which coming to live even more after dark. Some of my favourites included the Chinatown Street Market and the Bugis Street Market, which I’d wander through every evening as I headed back to my hotel…
5/ Have breakfast with the orang-utans at Singapore Zoo
I love animals so when I found out I could have breakfast with orang-utans at Singapore Zoo I surprisingly became much more of a morning person than usual!
For approximately $35 (we paid a little more through Viator to include travel to and from the zoo) you get full access to the zoo and get to enjoy your buffet breakfast at the Ah Meng Restaurant.
Between 9.30 and 10am the orang-utans make their way down to the side of the restaurant where they are fed their own breakfast, unperturbed by the excited humans who one-by-one come up to have their photo taken next to them.
With a focus on conservation as you – and they – eat, keepers talk about these beautiful animals, the dangers they face, mainly from us, and the work being done to protect the species. It’s a great way to support the work the zoo does whilst getting a chance to get up close and personal with these fuzzy little fellas!
6/ Check out the Botanic Gardens
A UNESCO Heritage Site, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens are over 150 years old. You could spend hours wandering around, but if you’re tight for time make sure you visit the National Orchid Garden – it’s amazing.
7/ Get overwhelmed by Little India
Bustling, colourful and intense, Little India is an attack of all your senses, but one you have to experience. With shops, restaurants, temples and markets, the best way to take in Little India is walk its streets.
We visited Singapore during Deepavali, which meant we were lucky enough to see the area adorned with even more colourful decorations.
Insider tip – be sure to eat at the Tekka Centre food court. Here I had the best ever murtabak and butter chicken curry.
8/ Tour the Tiger Brewery
I visited this as a favour to Justin (I do the Global Afternoon Tea Challenge, in return he gets to visit ‘Breweries of the world’!) But even so I really enjoyed the Tiger Brewery tour.
After a quick tour that takes you through Tiger’s history and shows you how their beer is made, you can have a go at pulling your own pint and playing an interactive game before being invited into the special Tiger Tavern.
Here you’re given free access to all the beers made by Tiger’s parent company Heineken International, so we chilled out over a Tiger and a Sprite (yep I’m that rock n roll) and had a game of pool with the others on our tour, which included a US immigration officer and two Dutch airline staff.
9/ Eat – lots
Singapore is renowned for its food- and rightly so. A melting pot of cultures means a wide variety of dishes for you to try out. The one you just must have is Singapore Chilli Crab and the best place to have it? Hua Yu Wee, without fail.
10/ Head out to Sentosa Island
I’m going to hold my hands up and tell you I didn’t think much of Sentosa Island, but if you’re after theme parks and big restaurant chains you’ll enjoy yourself here.
Basically a tourist resort island, I visited Sentosa in order to check out the S.E.A. Aquarium – one of the world’s largest. Made up of 49 different habitats it also has a great maritime museum and you can easily while away a whole afternoon here. Although I found Sentosa itself a bit of a tourist trap it’s worth popping over just to visit the aquarium if nothing else.
11/ Explore Chinatown
A real mix of old and new, Chinatown has a lot to uncover and you can easily wonder its side streets and alleys for quite some time!
The visitor centre offers a range of guided tours, but you’ll get a lot from simply wandering the streets yourself, popping into the shops, visiting the temples and stopping off for some gorgeous snacks from one of the many hawker stalls found all over Chinatown.
One thing I loved is that there is free WiFi available throughout Singapore’s Chinatown, perfect for Instagram addicts like me.
12/ Visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
An impressive, modern four-story temple, along with a jaw-dropping main hall, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple includes a Buddhist culture museum.
Ceremonies take place every day, so if you’re lucky like us, you’ll have the chance to experience something wonderful!
13/ Check out the Sri Mariamman Temple
Hindu temples and mosques sit right next to Chinese temples in Chinatown and one place you just can’t miss is the Sri Mariamman Temple.
The city’s oldest shrine, this Hindu temple has a very impressive monumental tower made up of six tiers of statues
For a small fee you can enter and explore the grounds and for a little extra you’re allowed to take in your camera.
What to see in Singapore at night
14/ Take a night safari at Singapore Zoo
I’ve heard only amazing things about Singapore Zoo’s night safari. Sadly I ran out of time and wasn’t able to return to experience this before I headed home, but next time for sure!
It’s a great way to get close to more nocturnal animals with a guided tram tour and walking tours that let you get up close to amazing creatures like flying foxes!!!
15/ Head to the Gardens By The Bay
I’m sure they’re just as beautiful to explore during the day, but I headed to the Gardens By The Bay in the evening in order to see it lit up.
It’s an amazing place to explore, with so much to see and I didn’t get to see everything during my short trip, so will definitely head back during the day when I return. I did however, wander through the amazing Cloud Forrest, which includes the world’s largest indoor waterfall, but my highlight was lying on the floor amidst the Supertrees where I took in a musical light show.
I visited during November, so mine happened to be Christmas themed. I have to say one of the surrealist moments from my trip had to be lying on the floor at 9pm listening to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ in 250 heat!
* all figures in Singapore Dollars