Singapore packs endless must-see sites and must-visit destinations into its 277 square miles. The city isn’t considered one of the most exciting cities in Asia for nothing, after all. Needless to say, there’s a lot of ground to cover during your visit. But if you stay in Singapore, you’ll be able to see the best of what the city-state has to offer in no time.
Here’s your guide to the top 20 things to do near Singapore:
1. Gardens by the Bay
Way back in 2006, an international master-plan design competition was launched to seek world-class designs for the garden. The end result: a spectacular “City in a Garden” at Gardens by the Bay. Showcasing plant life from all over the world, ranging from species in cool climates to tropical forests, Gardens by the Bay is a marvel of what technology and horticulture can do when combined. Also, be sure to scope out Gardens by the Bay’s “supertrees” in the Bay South garden. They’re solar powered, and visitors can actually walk between several of the 50 meter high trees to view the gardens from dizzying heights.
2. Sentosa Island
Just 20 minutes from the central city of Singapore lies Sentosa Island, which is brimming with activities for any type of traveler. On a cable car ride to the island from Mount Faber, you can soak up some of the most breathtaking views Singapore offers. If you’re a fan of all things aquatic, catch glimpses of rays, sharks, and dolphins at the S.E.A. Aquarium. The island even offers a delve into Singapore’s history through an interactive exhibit with actors, 3D projections, and a virtual boat ride to whisk you through the story.
3. Sands Skypark
If an observation deck with sweeping views from 57 stories above the city doesn’t take your breath away, you may need to check your pulse. An infinity pool, several lounges, and a few restaurants constitute Sands SkyPark Observation Deck, which sits atop one of Singapore’s most iconic casinos. To truly enjoy, skip the always-crowded pool area and head to SkyPark’s Flight Bar & Lounge instead. (We’re told it has some of the best Cuban cigars around.)
4. Mustafa Centre
You thought malls had to close? Think again. Mustafa Centre, located in the heart of Singapore’s Little India, stays open 24 hours a day (perfect to burn some midnight fuel). As one of the largest shopping centers in the world, the Centre sells absolutely everything you could imagine. Clothing, jewelry, electronics, food – if you want to buy it, it will be sold to you. Just be prepared to battle the crowds, as everyone else wants to see this marvel of capitalism just as much as you do.
5. Beng Hiang Restaurant
For a real treat of a meal, dine at Hokkien restaurant Beng Hiang, which has been serving hungry diners since 1978 to much acclaim. Specialties include signature noodles, fish maw soup, and braised pork belly. This place is a Singapore institution, so most diners are regulars who come back again and again — especially to celebrate special occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. So we recommend making a reservation in advance to avoid wait times.
6. Visit the Plecos Along the Singapore River
This is a special, hidden treat for travelers: If you go to restaurant or take a river cruise along the man-made Singapore River, which cuts through the center of the city, you can see pleco fish on the steps of the river when it runs low. That’s right, the fish just hang out, partially submerged. It’s the perfect way to relax and enjoy the totally amazing way Singapore’s flora and fauna blends in seamlessly with its ultraurban ways.
7. MacRitchie Nature Trail
Just three miles from the center of Singapore lies the MacRitchie Reservoir Park, home to the famous MacRitchie Nature Trail, one of the best hikes in Singapore. You’re more than welcome to venture onto the trails on your own, or you can join one of the free walking tours, which almost guarantees an encounter with one or more of the macaque monkeys that call the forest home. Great for nature enthusiasts and exercisers alike, you’ll be stunned how wild Singapore can get just minutes from the city center.
8. Merlion Park
Throughout Singapore, you may notice the city-state’s official mascot, the Merlion, with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. Well, there’s an actual Merlion Park where you can see a 28-foot incarnation of the Merlion shooting water from its mouth into Singapore’s Marina Bay. In addition to taking pictures with the statue, you can admire the view of the bay (and catch the twice-nightly light, laser, and water show) and hop aboard a local bumboat to see Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, both located on the Singapore River.
9. Chinatown in Singapore
You came to Singapore — to see China? Why not? Singapore’s Chinatown is a wonderful mix of traditional Chinese shops and markets, and modern stores and cafes. There’s so much to eat, see, and do in Chinatown, you could spend days walking the narrow streets, popping into tea and medicine shops, eating barbecued meat on a stick from street food hawkers, and even visiting a Buddhist temple to say a prayer for good luck. It’s rich with history, but at the same time, as energetic and modern as the rest of Singapore.
10. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
Inside Singapore’s Chinatown is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, and though it may strike some as a bit touristy, it’s an impressive sight to behold. Styled after Tang Dynasty architecture, the temple was erected in 2007 and contains rich features and exhibits of Buddhist art and culture. On the fourth floor, in the Sacred Light Hall, is the temple centerpiece: the Buddha Tooth Relic, housed in a giant stupa. Only monks are allowed into the relic chamber, but just gazing upon it or visiting one of the prayer wheels on the roof garden may help you get closer to Nirvana.
11. Hawker Stands
There is one thing that seems to be synonymous with Asian countries: an unending love for street food. No matter where you walk, someone is selling something delicious-smelling from a tiny cart, and Singapore is no different. Instead of random street food vendors, however, it neatly organizes “Hawker Centre” into mini-malls, where you can easily peruse upwards of 100 food stalls in no time at all. For particularly authentic and inexpensive street food, we recommend Maxwell Road Hawker Centre on the outskirts of Chinatown. There’s no air conditioning, but as long as you can stand the heat, you can enjoy tasty eats that are as authentic as you’ll find.
12. Orchard Road
For the shopaholics among you (or those who enjoy great people watching), Orchard Road is a must-visit. While everything isn’t under one roof like Mustafa Centre, Orchard Road offers shopping to suit every taste and budget. From its humble beginnings as a country road lined with orchards and pepper farms in the 1830s, Orchard Road has now grown into a powerhouse of shopping, dining, and entertainment unlikely to be matched. Today, more than 5,000 shops offer a lifestyle experience that’s hard to rival.
13. Singapore Zoo
Nestled within the lush Mandai rainforest that stretches into the Upper Seletar Reservoir is an animal lover’s oasis — the Singapore Zoo. More than 2,800 animals call the zoo home, and guests can observe them at rest and play on elevated platforms, through underwater viewing areas, and even glass observatories. There are guided tram tours, interactive exhibits where you can meet critters face-to-face, and shows that educate and entertain at the same time. The zoo has been around since 1973, but it does a wonderful job of continuing to feel fresh and exciting. The Singapore Zoo is also home to the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals, where visitors can explore the rainforest at dusk, watch tribal dances, and more.
14. Geylang, the Red Light District
Want to come back with a great story from Singapore? Swing by Geylang, Singapore’s infamous Red Light District. Brothels dot Geylang Road and Sims Avenue, situated just outside Singapore’s central business district. The houses operating in the adult industry are easily identifiable by their large, bright red numbers. You may not want to partake of what they’re selling here, but it’s worth a look for a good tale to tell back home.
15. Singapore Flyer
Besides the Skypark, there’s one other place in Singapore where you can have a really unique view of the city, and that’s on the 540-foot-tall Singapore Flyer, the largest observation wheel in Asia offering a bird’s eye view of everything. A rotation takes 30 minutes, and for an extra fee, riders can drink champagne or even dine while they rotate. Whether you choose to ride during the daytime or after dark, the views are second to none.
16. Singapore Botanic Gardens
Founded in 1859, Singapore’s Botanic Gardens are the only tropical botanic gardens in the world to have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and that distinction is well earned. Just a five-minute walk from bustling Orchard Road, the Botanic Gardens offer a sanctuary in the middle of the city in the form of three separate, but connected, core areas. You can see bonsai gardens, a nationally renowned orchid hall, heritage trees, sculptures, and more.
17. Asian Civilisations Museum
Singapore may be a country on the cutting edge of modernity and technology, but it still preserves some nods to its past, including the historic Empress Place building on the north bank of the Singapore River. Originally intended as government offices during the colonial era of Singapore’s history, the Empress Place now houses part of the Asian Civilisations Museum, and is a microcosm of Asian civilizations spread over 11 galleries. You should go as much for the beauty and architecture of the building as for the wealth of history housed within.
18. F1 – Singapore Grand Prix
If you want to get your heart pumping and your adrenaline racing, look no further than the F1-Singapore Grand Prix. At certain times of the year, the Formula One race track is abuzz with racers and onlookers, all anxious to see who will be the fastest and most skilled driver of the night. In addition to world class racers, the Grand Prix also offers world class entertainment, with past headliners including Jon Bon Jovi, Pharrell Williams, and John Legend. So if you’re in town when the race is on, it’s definitely worth a watch.
19. Kranji War Memorial
History buffs will enjoy checking out the Kranji War Memorial dedicated to the men and women from around the world who defended Singapore from invading Japanese forces during World War II. It’s comprised of immaculately maintained war graves, memorial walls, a state cemetery, and military graves, and is the resting place of almost 4,500 allied servicemen. The memorial is one of the most moving attractions in Singapore.
20. Clarke Quay
In search of a vibrant nightlife scene? Then Clarke Quay is your spot. As you walk along, you’ll find a slew of live music, bars, clubs, and restaurants — with everyone around having a grand time. There’s even a popular boat ride where you can see all that Clarke Quay has to offer. The Quay really starts to hop at about 9 p.m., so don’t schedule an early morning hike or meeting the next day in order to enjoy your night to the fullest.
And there you have it — all the must-visit attractions Singapore has to offer. Honestly, this is just the tip of the Singapore iceberg, but hopefully it will serve as a good jumping off point to begin exploring this amazing destination.