Singapore is one of the world’s largest economic centres, and is a cosmopolitan city state in the heart of South East Asia. However, this wasn’t always the case. Dating back to the early 1800s Singapore was just a fishing community along the Singapore River. During this time it fell under British rule as a trade route between British India and China for the opium trade.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that urban and economic growth began to occur. In 1965 – after being merged with Malaysia in the previous decade – the Republic of Singapore was born, and decade after decade the city state has continued to boom and grow into the bustling, multicultural centre it is today.
Singapore is a very safe country for all kinds of travellers. It is particularly strict when it comes to drugs and minor offences like littering, smoking, spitting and chewing gum – which come with hefty fines. Remain polite, say no to drugs (which you should always do) and show respect and you’ll be perfectly fine.
A great place to start is downtown. This is where you’ll find the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
This iconic hotel looks like a surfboard atop three pillars and is renowned for its infinity pool.
It has become a symbol of Singapore around the world and attracts tourists who stay there or just go up to the observation deck to get the perfect shot for Instagram.
Many people only stay one night in the Marina Bay Sands in order to use the infinity pool, meaning it’s really busy in the afternoon when everyone checks in.
This is the only way you’ll be able to use the pool, but if you’re not a guest you can go up to the observation deck.
This will cost you 23 SGD (£13), and it soars 57 stories above the city, giving you great views of the bay, Gardens by the Bay, and the city itself.
Just behind the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is Gardens by the Bay. These large gardens contain plants from across the globe in various environments. The Outdoor Gardens is free for all visitors, allowing you to see the Supertree Grove, Sun Pavillion, Heritage Gardens, World of Plants, the Dragonfly and KingFisher Lakes.
While walking through these outdoor gardens you’ll see beautiful large sculptures representing flowers, with a walkway between them all. The OCBC Skyway will cost you 8 SGD (£4.50), and give great views of the gardens from above.
The Cloud Forest is a cooled conservatory that has a unique and amazing glass structure. It is the largest conservatory in the world.
Costing 28 SGD (£16) you’ll have access to all the plants and different types of gardens, along with a large waterfall formation that you can walk within.
Back at the front of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel you will find the ArtScience Museum. The museum is in the shape of a lotus flower, which is really quite amazing. The Museum contains different exhibitions all year round that vary in cost, depending on the exhibition, and general entry is free.
To get back to the downtown area you can walk over the Helix Bridge, which has a matchstick criss-cross design and four viewing platforms along it to get a view of the river/bay.
Right at the end of the bridge is the Singapore Flyer, which is a Ferris wheel that gives you panoramic views of the city.
This one’s a bit pricey at 33 SGD (£18.75), however taking the wheel around at sunset can give you some great views.
Just around the bay you’ll pass some other key landmarks and iconic symbols of Singapore. First is The Float @ Marina Bay, which is a floating venue for sporting events or large scale celebrations.
The Esplanade Theatre on the Bay is waterfront arts venue with a spiny, jagged exterior, continuing the futurist and edgy vibe Singapore’s architecture goes for.
Another sight around the bay is the Merlion. This is the official mascot of Singapore which is a mythical creature with a lion’s head on a fish body.
The fish body is to represent what Singapore once was, an old fishing town, and the lion’s head represents its former name “Singapura”, meaning Lion City. It also acts as a water fountain and is crowded by tourists.
Across Anderson Bridge, near the Merlion, you’ll see the National Gallery of Singapore which contains art from across the globe and is free, a much needed change in a sometimes costly city.
Beside it is the Supreme Court. Normally a building like this doesn’t make many travellers’ to-do list, however this building looks like a UFO!
Along the Singapore River you’ll come to Clarke Quay, where you can find plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars to relax and enjoy by the water.
You can also go on a river cruise. Costing 25 SGD (£14), the tour will take you through the Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Marina Bay (You can hop on the tour at any of the three locations as well).
The tour will take you through the history of Singapore, some details about the buildings you’ll pass, and the meaning behind the sculptural artwork scattered along the bay.
It is quite a pleasant ride, but don’t forget to pack some sunscreen and a hat because it will be very hot, and you’ll be out in the sun the entire time.
If you’re looking for a true beach experience in Singapore, the place to go is Sentosa island. You can get public transport there or do what I did and ride the cable car!
Costing 35 SGD (£20) for a round trip (yes, I know, pricey) this enables you to ride over a small section of the Singapore Strait, giving you views of Sentosa Island.
The main beach is Siloso Beach, which is located on the far side of Sentosa island (it won’t take you too long to walk to, it’s a tiny island).
It is right by Fort Siloso, which is a restored WWII coastal fort.
Sentosa Island isn’t just known for its ‘beaches’. It is also home to Universal Studios Singapore. This is a great spot to take the kids, or just for an exciting day out.
The island is also home to waterparks, golf courses, an Aquarium, an indoor skydiving centre, and many resorts for those who love to just have all the activities they want on their doorstep.
Back on the main island of Singapore, I’ll next take you to Orchard Road. This bustling shopping district had a humble beginning in the 1830s, when it was home to fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations and pepper farms.
This led to the inspiration of the name of the current retail paradise.
For those that love shopping this is a great place to do so, however, I spent all my money on the tourist attractions so I just walked down the road and admired the sculptures scattered around it.
Singapore’s local population is mainly a mixture of Chinese, Malaysian and Indian. Singapore has four official languages, and their influences are seen throughout the city state.
There is a Chinatown that is a must-see, where you can go and try some traditional food, get lost in the narrow streets and most importantly, visit the Sri Mariamman Temple.
Built in 1827, this is the oldest Hindu temple in the city and is heavily ornamented in the Dravidian style.
It really is a beautiful sight and you could spend hours just trying to take in each of the ornaments.
Little India is at the opposite end of the city to Chinatown, and it is a vibrant colourful area. Walking through the markets and stores that sell silk for sarees and spices for locals (and of course tourists if they want to), with the loud bustling noise of locals negotiating prices, is an amazing experience.
A key sight to see (which I unfortunately wasn’t able to get a good snap of) is Tan Teng Niah, which was a colourful Chinese villa built in the early 1900s.
One last spot I visited was the Night Safari. This was the first nocturnal zoo and it costs a very steep 55 SGD (£31). During your visit you’ll take a mini train through the enclosures and see animals interacting with one another.
The zoo will also put on some fire dancing shows during the night, which are amazing to watch.
Now all this barely covered all the exciting things one can do on their holiday here.
The Botanical Gardens, though smaller than the Gardens by the Bay, give people a great opportunity to walk and enjoy the sculptures and plant life.
The Jurong Bird Park is a wildlife sanctuary for birds, containing over 400 species in different enclosures for their different environments they originally are from. This will cost you 25 SGD (£14).
The Chinese Gardens are another expansive garden for people to enjoy, this time containing temples and walkways in a more Chinese style of architecture.
Finally, the TreeTop Walk is a free-standing suspension bridge that gives you scenic views of nature above the treetops, which is also free!
To finish off, I’d like to briefly cover the public transport in Singapore. The buses and the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) are both highly efficient, clean, comfortable and air conditioned. They also have Wi-Fi and everything is announced in all four official languages, with English being one. Taxis are also relatively cheap.
Singapore is a great city to spend a week and see slowly, or for a day or two as your transit from Asia/Oceania to Africa/Europe and vice versa.
There are so many choices of what to see and do, you can easily mix and match the perfect itinerary. Just remember that if you do plan to stay for a longer visit, costs will add up, but there are ways to do things on a budget if you plan ahead of time.