Planning the ultimate Southeast Asia travel adventure? Checking out the best things to do in Singapore is a game-changer.
All you need is one day in Singapore to see why it’s a favourite Asian city destination for travellers. Despite its sober reputation, Singapore is far from boring. Many of the top tourist attractions in Singapore even number among the most interesting in Asia!
The best places to visit Singapore will keep you on the edge of your seat. Gawk at the futuristic jungle of Gardens by the Bay. Chow down on the world’s tastiest street food in Chinatown or Little India. Relax to riverside views with a signature Singapore Sling at Clarke Quay. Or spend a night in the glitzy Marina Bay Sands, one of the world’s most famous luxury hotels. On their own, each experience is enough to inspire a return to the Lion City. Again and again!
Get started planning your Singapore trip with this guide to the top points of interest in Singapore…
What to see & do in Singapore
Marvel at the Gardens by the Bay
It’s not a cliché: There’s no place on earth like Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.
Gardens by the Bay is one of the world’s most ambitious and unique urban development plans. The park opened in 2012 to much fanfare. After only two years, it saw over 6.4 million annual visitors. And once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why that number only continues to grow!
Spread out over 101 hectares, Gardens by the Bay is one of the most spectacular public spaces in the world. The park is ringed with biodomes and botanical gardens. Most famous, though, is its Supertree Grove.
Of the three main sections at Gardens by the Bay, the Bay South Garden captivates travellers most.
The Bay South Garden is home to two conservatories, Cloud Forest Dome and Flower Dome. They collect flora from around the world, separated into several climate-controlled biomes.
Also in the Bay South Garden is the park’s famous Supertree Grove. In the grove, you’ll catch a glimpse of the gardens’ 18 supertrees. They look far more like something you’d see in a high-budget sci-fi flick than in a Southeast Asian city! (Check out this guide for what to do at Gardens by the Bay for more info.)
While you’re wandering around the Gardens by the Bay, don’t miss a chance to spring along the OCBC Skyway (S$8). The walkway, suspended some 22 metres above the ground, slides between six Supertrees.
Getting there: The closest MRT station is Bayfront. Take Exit B and follow the underground linkway to the exit. Cross either the Dragonfly Bridge or Meadow Bridge to find your way into the park.
Relax in Singapore Botanic Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of the city’s premier greenspaces. Like Gardens by the Bay, travellers will love wandering through the relaxing greenery here.
Singapore Botanic Gardens sits about two kilometres west of the shopping mecca of Orchard Road. It features hundreds of plant species set into a world of manicured lawns and ponds. It’s also home to a rare primordial rainforest that managed to escape Singapore’s early development.
While visiting Singapore Botanic Gardens, don’t miss out on the National Orchid Garden. It’s the largest of its kind in the world. Over 60,000 plants call the garden home. Over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids make a mesmerizing appearance here.
Getting there: The closest MRT is Botanic Gardens Station. It’s on both the Downtown and Circle Lines. The station exits towards the northern edge of the park.
Empty your wallet along Orchard Road
Think of Southeast Asia as a bargain-basement destination? That myth will get debunked while shopping along Orchard Road, Singapore’s high street.
Orchard Road is among the best places to shop in Singapore. It’s stippled with air-conditioned malls and trendy high-end fashion boutiques. Orchard Road offers a perfect consumerist escape from Singapore’s cultural attractions.
Not keen on dispensing with your entire travel budget in one glorious day of splurging? The area’s malls also feature some of the best food in Singapore.
Here are some of the best places to visit along Orchard Road:
- ION Orchard: This Orchard Road mall is a modern architectural masterpiece. It’s also a Singapore hotspot for high-end fashion. Besides its boutiques, the mall’s massive food hall features some of the best restaurants in Singapore. One of the most popular is the Salt Grill & Sky Bar. It’s famous for its decadent dishes, crafted by the city’s top celebrity chefs.
- Ngee Ann City: This landmark shopping centre is home to the famous Japanese department store, Takashimaya. Over 130 other top fashion boutiques like Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, and Gucci also grace its floors. The food court at Ngee Ann City delivers everything from quick snacks to fine dining.
- 313@Somerset: This mall is one of the most popular picks among younger Singaporeans. 313@Somerset features top fashion brands like Uniqlo, Levi’s, Zara, and Singapore’s own, Century 21.
Getting there: To experience the best shopping in the area, start your journey up Orchard Road from either Orchard MRT or Somerset MRT.
Find the city’s soul in Chinatown
Over three quarters of Singapore’s population celebrates a Chinese heritage. So, it’s no surprise that the heart of Singapore lies in its eclectic Chinatown.
In contrast to the glitzy malls in Orchard and the high-rises of Marina Bay, Chinatown couldn’t be more different. It’s no wonder it’s among the best places to go in Singapore for visitors.
The streets of Chinatown burst with colourful low-rise historic merchant houses. The heritage buildings house everything from cheap souvenir shops to museums to restaurants. (With the latter serving up some of the tastiest dishes in Singapore, of course.)
Among the historical architecture, you’ll also dazzle at several elaborate temples. Even Singapore’s oldest mosque resides in Chinatown!
Need ideas for things to do in Chinatown? Keep on the lookout for:
- Buddha Tooth Relic Temple: This lovely 4-storey temple is one of the top tourist attractions in Singapore. It’s famous for its two-metre-high gold stupa, housing its sacred namesake relic. At Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, you’ll also enjoy spectacular views over the city from the top floor.
- Sri Mariamman Temple: This 19th-century Hindu temple is one of Singapore’s main centres of worship for its Tamil community. Sri Mariamman Temple was built to honour Mariamman, the Hindu goddess of protection. The temple is one of the most colourful stops (and top photo spots) in Chinatown.
- Thian Hock Keng Temple: This eye-catching Taoist-Buddhist temple was built in the first half of the 19th-century. It honours Ma Zu Po, the Mother of Heavenly Sages. The delicately-painted doors and intricate rooftop dragons are a sight to behold. It’s located a few blocks from Chinatown proper in Telok Ayer.
- Chinatown Food Street: Officially known as Smith Street, this street hosts some of the best street food in Singapore. Chinatown Food Street is known for several Singaporean delights. On your visit, try out char kway teow (stir-fried noodles), satay (skewered meat sticks), and hokkien mee (egg and rice noodles in a flavourful prawn broth).
- Chinatown Heritage Centre: This centre is one of the coolest museums in Singapore. The Chinatown Heritage Centre occupies three restored merchant houses on Pagoda Street. The museum details the entire history of Singapore’s Chinese culture & community. In it, you’ll find several interesting interactive exhibits and galleries.
Getting there: Hop onto the MRT. Take the Downtown Line or the North-East Line to Chinatown MRT Station.
Get a taste of Malay culture in Kampong Glam
Cultural diversity is one of the most interesting features of the Malay Peninsula. In Singapore, nothing gives this more credence than a walk through Kampong Glam. It’s the city’s Malay enclave and a bastion of Arabo-Islamic culture in the city-state.
Kampong Glam was once little more than a small fishing village and port. Now, the colourful district sheds Singapore’s upscale reputation, flashing, instead, its Malay heritage.
Walking among the old merchant houses in Kampong Glam is easily one of the best things to do in Singapore. On any Singapore itinerary, you’ll love slipping into its boutique shops, cultural centres, and mosques. (And, of course, its restaurants!)
Need some ideas for your visit to Kampong Glam? Don’t miss these worthy Kampong Glam attractions…
- Haji Lane: This narrow two-block-long walking street pierces through the centre of Kampong Glam. It’s among Singapore’s most colourful corners. For its boutiques, cafés, and restaurants, Haji Lane has garnered a reputation among the city’s hipsters as one of the places to go in Singapore.
- Sultan Mosque (Masjid Sultan): This early-19th-century mosque is the biggest mosque in Singapore. With its characteristic golden domes, it’s also one of the city-state’s most eye-catching buildings. You can’t miss it.
- Arab Street: This lively street is the focal point of Singapore’s Muslim community. It offers up some of the city’s most Instagrammable moments. Along Arab Street, vivid shophouses hide the city’s best Middle Eastern restaurants. There’s also plenty of cool boutique shops strewn about.
Getting there: The quickest way to start exploring Singapore’s Malay quarter is via Bugis MRT Station. From the station, it’s about a 5-minute walk to Sultan Mosque via Victoria Street, Ophir Road and North Bridge Road.
Chow down at a hawker centre (or several!)
Visiting Singapore without spending oodles of time scoping out the city’s best hawker centres would be heresy. Singaporeans are obsessed with their city’s culinary scene. (A quick glimpse at any one of these overgrown food courts will quickly confirm that).)
The best part? No matter where you find yourself in Singapore, you’re never far away from one. Grabbing a delicious, cheap—and maybe life-altering—meal at one of these cultural hotspots is always within grasp.
You’ll find great local dishes at any food court in Singapore. In any case, here are few of the top hawker centres in Singapore to look out for:
- Chinatown Complex Food Centre: The biggest hawker centre in Singapore—and one of the best! As expected with its location, Chinatown Complex Food Centre leans towards Chinese-inspired dishes. A few favourites to search for include char kway teow, wonton noodles, and laksa.
- Maxwell Food Centre: Sitting on the edge of Chinatown, this food court has got a little of everything to please every palate. The most famous dish here is the chicken rice at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice.
- Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre: After a recent renovation, this is one of the newest & cleanest hawker centres in the city. This food court makes for an excellent introduction to the scene. Besides the second-floor food stalls, there’s a first-floor wet market selling fresh produce.
- Old Airport Road Food Centre: Popular among locals, this classic hawker centre is further afoot than the others. If you find yourself in the area, check out the famous soya beancurd from Lao Ban Soya Beancurd or 51 Soya Beancurd.
Dazzle at the evening skyline at the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade
Before dazzling at the spectacular light show at Gardens by the Bay, check out Singapore’s skyline at its best in Marina Bay. As the evening suns starts to set, the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade is the place to be. The cross-bay view to the central business district is simply breathtaking!
Once you’ve finished at the boardwalk, there are plenty of other things to do in Marina Bay. Drop some dough on luxury brands at The Shoppes at Marina Bay. Explore the boardwalk’s Red Dot Design Museum. Head over to Merlion Park to take a selfie with the famous half-fish/half-lion Merlion statue. Or for relaxation, enjoy a pint at LeVeL33, the world’s highest craft brewery.
Getting there: The closest MRT stop to the Marina Bay Promenade is Downtown on the Downtown Line. Walk out Exit A to get to the bayfront.
See the city from above on the Singapore Flyer
Spending too much time at ground level? Tackle your fear of heights at the iconic Singapore Flyer.
This giant Ferris wheel soars at 165-metres-high. It’s the largest in Asia and second-tallest in the world. The wheel offers the finest bird’s-eye vistas you’ll find anywhere in Singapore. (Yes, topping even the nearby Sands Skypark Observation Deck!)
Besides delivering superb views, the Flyer’s 28 observation capsules are air-conditioned. They’ll give you a much-needed break from the humidity & heat of Singapore.
Getting there: By public transportation, the quickest way to visit the Singapore Flyer is MRT. You can travel to the wheel via Promenade Station (Downtown Line & Circle Line). From the station, it’s about a 5- to 10-minute walk from Exit A.
Find after-dark adventure at the Singapore Night Safari
Looking for family-friendly activities in Singapore? If there’s one attraction the kids won’t want to miss out on it’s the Singapore Night Safari. Founded in 1994, the Night Safari was the world’s after-dark zoo. It’s become a hit with tourists and locals alike with over a 1.1 million visitors per year.
The park is divided into six geographical zones. The zones spreading out the over 2,500 animals spanning 130 different species. Among the stars of the show are Malayan tapirs, Asian elephants, Malayan tigers, and leopards. You’ll also see Indian rhinoceroses and Malayan flying foxes.
The Singapore Night Safari only opens at night, between 7:30pm and midnight, 7 days a week.
Getting there: The wildlife park is north of Singapore’s city centre. It’s located seven kilometres south of the Malaysian border, next to the Singapore Zoo. To get there, take the MRT to Choa Chu Kang Station (North-South Line) and board Bus 927 to the safari. Otherwise, alight at Ang Mo Kio Station (North-South Line) and take Bus 138.
Watch the silver screen come alive at Universal Studios Singapore
Fancy a visit to Hollywood? No need to backtrack over the Pacific. Opt instead for a day at Universal Studios Singapore. Located on Sentosa Island, Universal Studios is one of the best family-friendly activities in Singapore. It’s as fun for kids & adults alike!
The theme park is carved out into seven distinct areas: Hollywood, New York, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, Lost World, Far Far Away, and Madagascar. Each zone features action-packed rides and attractions inspired by Hollywood hits. Themes include Jurassic Park, Transformers, The Mummy, Battlestar Galactica, and Sesame Street.
Are a retro-gaming geek? (Guilty.) The upcoming addition of Super Nintendo Land might be the push you need to plan a trip to Universal Studios Singapore!
Getting there: The theme park is located on Sentosa Island south of the city’s downtown core. The quickest way is to take the MRT to Harbourfront Station (North East Line). From here, transfer to the Sentosa Express Monorail. Take the monorail south. Alight at Waterfront Station, located at the park’s entrance.
Sip on a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel Long Bar
Want to (literally) taste Singaporean history? Pull up a chair at the legendary Raffles Hotel Long Bar. Cool off with a chilly Singapore Sling, the city’s equally-legendary namesake cocktail.
The hotel’s seemingly never-ending renovation is over. The good ol’ historical Long Bar at Raffles Hotel is now back up serving its signature drink.
In 1915, it was at this very bar where bartender Ngiam Tong Boon first mixed up his concoction. The Singapore Sling mixes together pineapple juice, lime juice, curaçao, and cherry liqueur. Over a hundred years later, it’s still one of the world’s most famous cocktails!
The bad news for budget travellers? Sipping on this slice of Singaporean history is gonna cost you. A pretty penny.
Even in a city as pricey as Singapore, S$30 for a cocktail is steep. But indulging in this classic cocktail in its birthplace among the rich wood-grain decor is priceless. (Let’s not forget the free-flowing peanuts, too.)
Getting there: Find your way to the Circle Line, taking the MRT to Esplanade Station. The hotel is across the street from the station exit.
Hit the beach at Sentosa Island
Let’s throw Singapore’s reputation as a sprawling concrete jungle gets to the wayside. Pad your travel plans with a visit to Sentosa Island.
Located south of the city centre, this island is where Singapore’s city-dwellers go to unwind on their sunny days off. Sentosa Island is one of the most popular day trips from Singapore. It’s also full of family-friendly attractions that number among Singapore’s best.
There’s a whole ton of things to see & do in Sentosa Island.
On Sentosa, you can hang out on the best beaches in Singapore, visit a theme park with the kids, or enjoy a round of golf. Sentosa is a fantastic place to catch the city’s lesser-known lazier side.
Getting there: Take the MRT to Harbourfront Station on the North East Line. Walk into the VivoCity Mall, heading up to the 3rd floor. From here, follow the signs to catch the Sentosa Express Monorail (S$4 for a day pass), which will take you to the island.
Make new friends at the Singapore Zoo
Of all the things to see & do in Singapore for kids, none will get the little ones more excited than Singapore Zoo.
This world-class zoo sprawls over 26 hectares. It’s home to 300 animal species. The species span everything from primates to reptiles to birds.
On your Singapore Zoo adventure, you’ll stroll through 11 distinct habitats. Within them, you’ll spot some of the world’s most spellbinding animals.
What’s truly unique about the park is its use of natural barriers to contain the animals. Unlike traditional cages, the barriers blend into the environment. It creates both a more comfortable & natural home for the animals and a better viewing experience for visitors.
Travellers will younger children will love spending a day at the Singapore Zoo. The park offers a barrage of kid-friendly attractions.
Start with the Keeper Encounter. This interactive exhibit teaches children about all the duties of a zookeeper. Kids will also love the Rainforest Kidzworld, an animal-inspired amusement area.
Getting there: The park is located to the north of the city centre. You’ll need to use public transportation to get there. By MRT, navigate to Ang Mo Kio MRT Station (North South Line) and take Bus 138, exiting at the zoo’s bus stop.
Shop & eat at Bugis Street Market
If your shopping preferences inch more towards trinkets & souvenirs, head over to Bugis Street Market. The bustling street market is located north of the downtown core. It’s one of the coolest places to visit in Bugis.
(You may have heard that Bugis was once one of Singapore’s red-light districts. Don’t worry: It’s cleaned up its act. It’s as safe as anywhere else in Singapore now.)
Spend time browsing the stalls at Bugis Street Market. You’ll get your hands on everything from Singapore t-shirts to cheap brand-name knock-off fashion goods.
The market also features a handful of tasty food vendors spread throughout. (You’ll want to exit the market itself for a reprieve from the crowds and get a little elbow room to eat though.)
Getting there: Bugis Street Market is located steps away from Bugis MRT on the Downtown and East-West Line.
Immerse yourself in Chinese folklore at Haw Par Villa
Thanks to its offbeat location, the quirky Haw Par Villa is one of Singapore’s lesser-known cultural attractions.
This cultural park paints a colourful picture of Chinese folklore and mythology. Its attractions meander through a series of over a thousand statues and 130 dioramas.
The most famous attraction at Haw Par Villa is its depiction of the mythical Ten Courts of Hell. It’s set inside a sixty-metre-long corridor.
A word of caution: The scenes in this exhibit are, at times, quite gruesome. If you’re visiting with younger children, you may want to give this part of the park a pass.
Getting there: The park lies north of Haw Par Villa MRT Station on the Circle Line.
Listen to birds chirp at Jurong Bird Park
Located on the slopes of Jurong Hill, Jurong Bird Park sprawls out over 20 hectares. The aviary features over 5,000 birds spanning 400 species. It’s the largest aviary of its kind in the entire world!
While exploring Jurong Bird Park, don’t miss out on the Waterfall Aviary. It features an impressive 30-metre-high waterfall and troop of almost 400 birds. Kids will also dig the Penguin Coast, Flamingo Lake, and Pelican Cove exhibits.
Getting there: Take the East West Line to Boon Lay MRT. Walk to the Boon Lay bus terminal. You’ll find several buses heading south towards the park from here. Buses include 194, 249, and 251.
Get attuned with nature at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Need an escape from the city? Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one of Singapore’s most surprising destinations. This biodiverse destination straddles some of the only remaining primary rainforest in Singapore.
The 163-hectare nature reserve sprawls across Bukit Timah. The 163-metre-high hill is the highest point in the city-state. There are several well-marked hiking trails meandering to the top. Many of the treks are difficult, but well worth the effort. You’ll see a diverse array of flora & fauna along the way.
Other popular outdoor activities at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve include mountain biking.
Getting there: Take the Downtown Line to Beauty World MRT. From Exit B, walk north along Cheong Chin Nam Road. The reserve will be about an 8-minute walk.
Browse Southeast Asian art at National Gallery Singapore
Art lovers shouldn’t miss visiting the National Gallery Singapore. Opened in 2015, this art museum features 64,000 square meters of exhibition space. It’s housed within two historic buildings—City Hall and the former Supreme Court—in Civic District.
National Gallery Singapore curates the world’s largest collection of Singaporean & Southeast Asian art. There are over 8,000 pieces in the collection, spanning from the 19th century to the modern day.
National Gallery Singapore is open 7 days a week from 10am to 7pm. (It’s open until 9pm on Fridays.)
Getting there: The gallery is located within a 10-minute walk from several MRT stations. The closest is City Hall MRT. Exit to St. Andrews Road and walk 300 metres south.
Cool down at Adventure Cove Waterpark
Can’t hack Singapore’s heat & humidity? Cool off with a visit to Adventure Cove Waterpark. This popular aquatic amusement park sits on the northern shores of Sentosa Island. It occupies one of the corners of Resorts World Sentosa.
Adventure Cove Waterpark thrills kids & parents alike with seven action-packed water rides. Get your adrenaline pumping on the Pipeline Plunge waterslide. Or float your cares away on Adventure River.
Besides water rides, Adventure Cove Waterpark features several unique exhibits. Snorkel amid 20,000 fish in the Rainbow Reef. Or swim with dozens of friendly stingrays at Ray Bay. For toddlers, the relaxed wading pool at the Seahorse Hideaway is a great choice.
Getting there: Follow the directions to Sentosa Island. From the Resorts World Station on the Sentosa Express, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the park.
Take a peek at Singapore’s WWII history at Fort Canning Park
Located north of Clarke Quay, Fort Canning Park is more than your typical Singapore park. Although it’s one of the city’s most relaxing greenspaces, it’s also an important part of Singaporean history.
History buffs will love visiting Fort Canning Park. In its history, the park has been everything from a royal site to the last stand for defending armies.
During WWII, Fort Canning Park was the site of the British surrender to the Japanese. You can still see some of its WWII-era attractions including the Battle Box. This old military bunker served as a British command centre during the Battle of Singapore.
Even if its history doesn’t interest you, Fort Canning Park is a great place to relax. Walk along its hilltop trails to unwind. Keep your eyes peeled for its Spice Garden and the ASEAN Sculpture Garden.
Getting there: Hop onto the Downtown Line and travel to Fort Canning MRT. From here, it’s a two-minute walk across River Valley Road to the park entrance.
Where to stay in Singapore for sightseeing
For a city its size, choosing where to stay in Singapore is surprisingly simple. Many of the top places to visit are in & around the downtown core. My own personal recommendation for sightseeing would be to narrow your accommodations search to the city centre. Chinatown, Clarke Quay, Robertson Quay, Boat Quay, and Marina Bay are all solid choices.
Here are a few of top Singapore hotels to start you off:
- Champion Hotel City: This no-frills hotel is among the best budget choices in the city. It occupies a fantastic location betwixt Chinatown and the central business district. Many of the top Singapore attractions are within walking distance.
- Park Regis: This 4-star property is one of the best mid-range hotels in the city. It offers excellent value in a city known for its sky-high accommodations prices. Besides the stylish & comfortable rooms, the Park Regis shines in its outdoor area. It features a classy pool and comfortable loungers.
- Marina Bay Sands: This incredible 5-star hotel is not just one of the most luxurious places to stay in Singapore, but one of the skyline’s most iconic buildings. In fact, visiting the 57th-floor observatory is one of the top things to see in Singapore! If you can hack the premium price point, you’ll get a room fit for royalty. You’ll also get access to 20 on-site bars & restaurants and the world’s largest infinity pool.