To truly appreciate this list of the top 10 things to do in Singapore, one must first delve into this small Asian nation’s short but interesting history, which officially began in 1819 when it was founded as a British East India Company trading post. A colony at the time, Singapore swapped hands from the Company to the British Raj in 1858, was later occupied by the Japanese during World War II, briefly became a part of Malaysia in 1963, and finally became a sovereign nation two years later.
After becoming a sovereign nation, Singapore transitioned rapidly from a developing nation to a fully-developed one in a single generation and is now considered a global hub for entertainment, education, manufacturing, innovation, finance, and tourism. It has also, in recent years, been named the world’s most technology-ready nation, the world’s smartest city, and the world’s safest country.
These stunning advancements have helped secure Singapore’s place as a fascinating and exciting travel destination that continuously piques the interest of tourists from all over the world who are looking to explore a country that is every bit as hyper-modern as it is exotic.
This 279-square-mile nation, located just one degree north of the equator at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula, is packed with hundreds of thrilling, enlightening, and unique experiences that are sure to excite even the most well-versed travelers. For a varied and in-depth look at the ten things you must see and do while you’re there, be sure to continue reading. These are the top 10 things to do in Singapore.
Visit a Hawker Center
If you’re looking to truly eat like a local, a stop at one of the island nation’s hawker centers is a must. These culinary hotspots are large, multi-level food courts with dozens of stalls that offer hundreds of sensational food options, including Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian fare.
In addition to the incredible diversity of cuisines available at hawker centers, another selling point of these establishments is that food prices are a fraction of those of local, fine dining restaurants. For less than ten Singaporean dollars, you and a friend can share a filling and flavorful two-course meal that will satiate you both for hours.
Because hawker centers are extremely popular among locals and tourists, it’s also a great place to people watch while you enjoy your meal!
Visit the Marina Bay Sands Pool Deck
The three-towered Marina Bay Sands Hotel is easily the most iconic building in Singapore and one of the most recognizable buildings in Asia. Resting atop the three towers, fifty-seven stories above the bustling streets of Singapore, is the world’s largest and most famous infinity pool.
This modern architectural marvel offers Marina Bay Sands guests the opportunity to enjoy fantastic views of the city while they take a dip in the water or sunbathe on luxury loungers in the shade of palm trees.
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However, you don’t need to be a hotel guest to enjoy other rooftop attractions, which include the public Skypark Observation Deck, a popular location among photographers that gives visitors a birds-eye view of Singapore’s cityscape and shipping lanes and is a viewing spot for Singapore’s annual Chinese New Year fireworks show.
Also open to the public are world-class nightclubs and lounges, a gift shop, and several fine dining restaurants that offer modern Asian, Italian, American, and Western dishes. With so much to see and do, there is no doubt the Marina Bay Sands Pool Deck is one of the top 10 things to do in Singapore.
The Merlion is a mythical creature that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. This fictional creature is quite significant in Singapore, as it is the city-state’s official mascot and weaves its past and present together with its future. The lion-headed fish creature is widely used to represent both Singapore and its people for everything from branding, advertising, sports teams, and tourism.
The most prominent use of the Merlion can be found at Merlion Park along the waterfront, just across the way from the Marina Bay Sands. There, you’ll find the iconic Merlion fountain, an 8.6 meter high, 70-ton landmark that spits a steady stream of water from its mouth. The fountain faces east because it is thought that the direction brings prosperity.
This popular attraction is one of only seven approved Merlion statues in the city and is one of the best locations for photos in the city. The park is also home to a second, smaller approved Merlion statue known as the Merlion Cub.
Gardens by the Bay
Next to the Marina Reservoir in the Central Region of Singapore is Gardens by the Bay, one of the most unique botanical gardens in the world. This incredible 250-acre nature park, which was completed in 2012 and stays open until 2 a.m., contains several jaw-dropping attractions that will leave nature lovers speechless.
The Supertree Grove is a collection of massive, living sculptures that rise high above the gardens. For amazing views of the complex and Marina Bay, take a stroll along the 22-meter-high Skyway, an aerial walkway that links the Supertrees that offers a unique way to experience an even more unique garden.
Other attractions at Garden by the Bay include a massive flower dome, the cloud forest, and three waterfront gardens: the Bay South, Bay East, and Bay Central.
If you’d like to get an incredible bird’s-eye view of the entire city from a different vantage point than the one the Marina Bay Sands Pool Deck offers, you’re in luck! Singapore is home to the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest giant observation wheel, which offers arguably the best views in the entire city.
Essentially a massive Ferris wheel, the Singapore Flyer contains 28 capsules, each of which can fit 28 passengers. The Flyer takes 28 minutes to make a full rotation so that the passengers in each capsule get an equal amount of time to view the city from all angles. The emphasis put on the number 28 is due to the number being considered lucky in Chinese numerology.
From the Singapore Flyer, you’ll have spectacular views of other local landmarks, including Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Bay Sands, the Singaporean skyline, and the port.
Founded in 1973, the award-winning Singapore Zoo is a 28-hectare, open-concept wildlife park that has been delighting locals and visitors for over forty years. Here, the animals are allowed to freely roam in their natural habitats in a lush and inviting rainforest environment.
The zoo was the first in the world to have free-roaming orangutans, and the zoo also features many animals from all over the world, including elephants, tigers, giant pandas, giraffes, rhinos, otters, red pandas, and more. The nearby River Safari attraction gives visitors a fascinating look at some of the largest river systems in the world, including the Nile and the Mississippi.
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Park visitors can also explore the zoo’s conservation, educational, and sustainability efforts, including their efforts to rescue orangutans from conflict areas in northern Sumatra. The mix of animals and education cements the zoo as one of the top 10 things to do in Singapore and a can’t-miss for all animal lovers.
If you’re in the mood to eat amazing food, go souvenir shopping, and do some sightseeing all in the same place, look no further than Singapore’s Chinatown, a neighborhood in the Outram District that once served as an enclave for the local Chinese community.
Pride in tradition and heritage are key here, and it shows in the rich aromas of Chinese cuisine, the bright red and gold accents splashed throughout the area, the local museums, traditional medicine halls, and the gorgeous Chinese, Hindu, and Buddhist temples that dot the neighborhood.
In addition to countless examples of tradition, you’ll also find modern bars, gourmet fusion and experimentation restaurants, combination mini-cinemas and bars, and an immersive Virtual Room that allows visitors to dive into the mind-blowing world of virtual reality. There’s something in Chinatown for everyone, and you can’t really go wrong with any choice you make!
Thian Hock Keng Temple
No visit to Singapore is complete without a visit to the Thian Hock Keng Temple, an iconic monument and southern Chinese architectural masterpiece that is not just the oldest and most important temple to the Hokkien people, but also the country’s oldest Chinese temple.
Thian Hock Keng, which built between 1839 and 1840 to honor the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, was built using stone, tiles, and wood, and was constructed using no nails whatsoever. Inside are ornate carvings of creatures from Chinese mythology like dragons and phoenixes, intricate sculptures, and gorgeous and imposing columns.
The temple, whose history is recorded on steles inside the temple’s entrance halls, was named a national monument by Singapore’s National Heritage Board in 1973 and is the perfect attraction for history, culture, and architecture enthusiasts.
Stay at OUE
While you’re in Singapore, you’ll need a place to stay, and in my opinion, there is no better place to lay your head than the Oakwood Premier OUE Service Apartments, which offers 268 service apartment units, a restaurant, a resident lounge, an outdoor infinity pool, a 24-hour gym, and an executive lounge.
These clean, spacious, and modern luxury apartments (which come in three types: studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom) are located in the heart of the downtown area and offer everything you could possibly want in an apartment or hotel room, including a large bed, flat-screen TV, a nice workstation, a roomy living area, ample closet space, a kitchen, and a washer/dryer.
My one-bedroom suite was so nice I could have lived there! The hotel also offers a delicious breakfast buffet that is the perfect way to get energized before a day of sightseeing!
If high-end shopping is what you’re after, never fear, because Singapore has that covered, too. The best place in the city to shop is Orchard Road, along which you can find a whopping ten shopping malls and over a hundred stores, including those for world-famous clothing and accessory brands like Prada, Gucci, Tory Burch, Chanel, Dior, Rolex, and Louis Vuitton, so there’s never a shortage of options.
Orchard Road’s malls and stores make it an extremely popular destination in the city that is always packed with people. Of the ten shopping centers, perhaps the most famous is the twenty-story Paragon, which boasts over 200 stores! If you have the money to spare, set aside some time for some retail therapy at Orchard Road, easily one of the top 10 things to do in Singapore.
Bonus: Explore Changi Airport
Singapore’s Changi Airport, which is likely the way you’ll enter and leave the country, is unlike any other airport in the world. There is so much to do here that it’s every bit as much of a tourist attraction as it is an airport, so don’t just rush through on your way into and out of the country. You’ll want to set aside some time to explore.
If you’re lucky enough to have a layover here or arrive early enough to stroll through the airport before you fly out, be sure to check out the butterfly garden, great shopping, fantastic dining options, relaxation areas, movie theatre, art installations, swimming pool, and much more. It should come as no surprise that Changi is my favorite airport in the world, and after you come through here, I’m sure it will be yours as well!
Those are the top 10 things to do in Singapore! It’s hard to believe that, just forty-five years ago, this hyper-modern, technologically advanced, world-class location was considered a developing nation. In that time, it has blossomed into a cosmopolitan city that truly offers something for every kind of traveler, whether you’re into history, culture, modern attractions, shopping, animals, or something else!
Once you set foot in Singapore, you’ll never want to leave, and it’s a place every traveler should visit at least once.