Due to its tropical climate and unique culture, Singapore is an amazing destination to visit. Those who visit this island city-state will find plenty of things to see and do during their visit, regardless of their age or interests. To avoid wasting time during your vacation, it is best to decide what you would like to see and do during your visit before embarking on your travels. To help you make a plan for your time in Singapore so that you get the most out of staying in this location, here are the 20 best things to do in Singapore for first-timers.
20. Singapore Zoo
Singapore Zoo is one of the best zoos in the world, says Santorini Dave. It is located on a peninsula in the Upper Seletar Reservoir, and it covers 28 hectares. The zoo has been beautifully designed so that the animals are living in large enclosures that are as close to their natural habitats as possible. One interesting section is the Denizens of the Frozen Tundra, which is home to polar bears, raccoons, and wolverines. Other sections include the Fragile Forest, Forest Lodge, Wild Africa, Cat Country, and the Primate Kingdom. The most popular part of the zoo for children is the Rainforest Kidzone, which features a wet play area.
19. East Coast Road
If you want to get a true taste of the culture of Singapore and how its residents live their daily life, then spend some time on East Coast Road. The pretty shops are housed in colorful heritage buildings. This road is also one of the best places to head for something to eat as it is packed with fantastic restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines, not just traditional Singaporean dishes. There are also a couple of museums along this stretch where you can learn more about the history and culture of Singapore. When you have explored the museums and grabbed a bite to eat, head to East Coast Park, where you can relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings.
18. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Nature-lovers should visit Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which is a sanctuary for flora and fauna. This ASEAN Heritage Park covers 202 hectares of forests, ponds, mudflats, and mangroves. The biodiverse ecosystem at the reserve is home to a wide array of wildlife, including crocodiles, monitor lizards, mudskippers, otters, water snakes, and crabs. As a site for migratory birds, it is internationally recognized for its importance. Despite the diversity of the terrain, the walkways through the reserve are relatively flat, so they do not pose many challenges.
17. The Southern Ridges
To appreciate the natural beauty of Singapore, one of the best activities to enjoy is completing the hike around The Southern Ridges. This 5.6-mile recreational trail goes along the southern ridge of Singapore and connects five parks; Hort Park, Kent Ridge Park Labrador Nature Reserve, Mount Faber Park, and Telok Blangah Hill. The hike consists of architecturally stunning walkways through canopied tropical forests with interesting wildlife. The elevated position of many parts of the trail means that you will also enjoy breathtaking views.
16. Sri Mariamman Temple
The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, the Sri Mariamman Temple is located in Chinatown. While most people go to the temple to pray, others are seeking a cure as the Hindus believe that the deity goddess Mariamman can cure illnesses. It is an ornate and colorful building with many sculptures relating to Hindu mythology. It is important to check whether the temple is open to visitors before going to see this religious and cultural landmark, as it has unusual opening hours and is sometimes closed for events.
15. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
Founded in 2002 by Venerable Shi Fa Zhao, a monk, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is a cultural complex. It was inspired by the Tang Dynasty style of classic architecture. *The highlight of the complex is the four-story Buddhist Temple, which is surrounded by a courtyard with lush foliage. On the temple’s rooftop, there is the Ten Thousand Buddhas Pagoda. Other features to look for include the open-air orchid garden, the pavilion, and the Vairocana Buddha Prayer Wheel.
14. Tiger Sky Tower Observatory
For the best views in Singapore, you should head for the Tiger Sky Tower Observatory. Also known as the Carlsberg Sky Tower, it is the highest observation tower in Singapore. You will find the tower in the Imbiah Lookout Zone on Sentosa Island. Take along your camera to capture some of the impressive views you will see from the observation deck.
13. Singapore Botanical Gardens
One of the largest green spaces in Singapore, the Singapore Botanical Gardens boasts the world’s most extensive orchid garden, the National Orchid Garden. This is not the only highlight of a visit to this attraction as there is a lot to admire in the gardens. There are three lakes, an ancient rainforest, themed gardens, a boardwalk, and tended lawns. In the main gardens, there are more than 314 species of plants, and approximately half of these are rare. In the National Orchid Garden, there are over one thousand species and two thousand hybrids. Another part of the gardens worth seeing is the Ginger Garden, which boasts more than 250 varieties of ginger. It is in this section of the gardens where you will find two great restaurants. At various points throughout the year, the park hosts opera performances by Symphony Lake.
If you are visiting Singapore as a family, then it is likely that you will spend a significant amount of your time in Sentosa. US News says that this is an island resort that is home to some of Singapore’s top attractions. These include Universal Studios Singapore, S.E.A. Aquarium, and Adventure Cove Waterpark. If possible, you should set aside a full day for each of these attractions. You will also find Mega Adventure, iFly Singapore, and The Flying Trapeze. For those who do not like theme parks, there are some relaxing beaches on the island.
11. St. Andrew’s Cathedral
St. Andrew’s Cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in Singapore and it stands out on the skyline. Located in the Civic District of Singapore, this imposing cathedral boasts Neo-Gothic architecture, although the spire has a minimalist design. It is the oldest Anglican house of worship in Singapore, and also the largest cathedral. Although it is in a busy urban area, it is surrounded by park grounds that give the cathedral a sense of being a sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of its surroundings.
10. Thian Hock Keng
Also known as Tianfu Temple, Thian Hock Keng is the oldest Buddhist temple in Singapore. It is noted for its traditional southern Chinese style and its elaborate architecture. When the temple was first built, it was constructed without using nails. Since then, the temple has been fully restored. Some interesting features to appreciate on your visit include the porcelain ridges and the sculptures of dragons and phoenixes. It is important to note that you are not allowed to take photographs in many parts of the temple. This is a free activity, so it is a good option for those with a limited budget.
9. Marina Bay Sands
If you have a decent budget, then the best place to stay is at Marina Bay Sands as this is one of the most luxurious hotels in Singapore. However, you do not need to stay at the hotel to enjoy many of its facilities as these are open to the public. It has a mall that was designed by Moshe Safdie, a convention center, the ArtScience Museum, a lively casino, and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
8. Haw Par Villa
Conde Nast Traveler describes Haw Par Villa as a bizarre outdoor art park. The park was founded by Tiger Balm and Aw Boon Haw in the 1930s. Within the park, there are more than one thousand sculptures and dioramas that teach the traditional moral values of the Chinese culture. This attraction claims that it is one of the last Asian cultural parks in the world. The park is free to visit, and it is rarely crowded.
7. Gillman Barracks: Contemporary Arts Cluster
A former military Barracks Gillman Barracks Contemporary Arts Cluster is now an art haven with more than a dozen art galleries. Some of these house permanent exhibitions, while others change regularly. On the grounds between the galleries, there are interesting sculptures and tropical foliage. Alongside the art galleries, there are several dining options. This means that you can spend a whole day moving between the galleries and grab a bite to eat when you feel hungry.
6. Merlion Park
Located on Marina Bay, Merlion Park is free to visit at any time of the day. This urban park offers panoramic views of the Bay. The highlight of a visit to the park is The Merlion Statue, which is one of the most recognizable monuments in Singapore, says US News. Standing at 28 feet tall, the statue is the head of a lion with the body and tail of a fish to Singapura, which was Singapore’s original name. There are also some interesting water features in this urban park.
5. Pulau Ubin
Formerly an island used for its granite quarry, it is now an island with fewer than 50 residents who have chosen to live on the island as they prefer the old way of life. To reach the island, you will take a ride on a bumboat that takes approximately ten minutes from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. It is a wonderful day trip for people who want to experience traditional Singaporean life. The island has a peaceful and relaxed vibe, and the beaches are stunning.
4. Kampong Glam
There is a very diverse community in Singapore as a large proportion of the population are immigrants. This means that there are several enclaves that are home to communities from particular cultures. One of the most interesting to visit is Kampong Glam, which is the Muslim Quarter. You will see modern art alongside Arab crafts, and there is an interesting historic district. There are also plenty of places to eat in this enclave. It is possible to take guided tours around Kampong Glam to learn more about the area.
3. The Intan
Home to one of Singapore’s most impressive private collections of Peranakan artifacts, The Intan is a private house that is owned by Alvin Yapp. It has taken Yapp more than three decades to accumulate his collection of around 1,500 objects relating to the Perakanan culture. It is important to note that you must book an appointment to see the interior of this property as it remains a private residence.
2. National Gallery Singapore
Art lovers should head for the National Gallery Singapore, which has the largest public collection of modern art in Southeast Asia with more than eight thousand works. These are housed in two neighboring buildings; the former Supreme Court and the City Hall. Within these buildings, the exhibits are divided into various galleries. It is possible to spend anything from a couple of hours to a full day at this attraction.
1. Gardens By the Bay
According to Conde Nast Traveler, the best thing to do in Singapore for first-timers is Gardens By the Bay. Make sure you take along your camera to this attraction to capture some of the impressive sights. All the gardens are beautifully designed with the plants laid out in creative ways. Some of the most magnificent sections include the Cloud Forest, the Supertree Grove, and the spectacular 114-foot indoor waterfall.
Written by Liz Flynn
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