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Top 10 Things to Do in Singapore on a First Visit

Singapore has long been a favoured stop-over destination for Aussie travellers, but these days it's a destination in and of itself. Work your way through these must-dos on a first trip.
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore on a first visit
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore on a first visit

Singapore is often dismissed as a superficial shopping mecca — a good place to give the credit cards a workout and then move on.

However, modern Singapore has so much more to offer visitors. The deeper you dig, the more you will get out of your time here. With lush environs and drool-worthy cuisine, an intriguing history to explore and world-class attractions on tap, this city-state is much more than a one-dimensional destination.

Part of the planning process for any overseas holiday is to ensure that you’re covered for unforeseen circumstances. Do a travel insurance comparison in Singapore to get the best value policy for your needs.

Here’s a checklist of our top ten things to do in Singapore on a first visit.

1. Shop up a storm on Orchard Road

Let’s get this out of the way first — while Singers is not the discount haven it once was, it’s still a great place to shop. Bustling Orchard Road is the city’s retail epicentre, and is home to almost every fashion label under the sun. For a glimpse of the future, swing by Design Orchard — a self-proclaimed incubator for local talent, which features a communal workspace and the retail shopfronts of around 60 up-and-coming designers.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Shop ’til you drop on Orchard Road.

2. Go bo-ho on Arab Street and Haji Lane

If you’re after merchandise that’s a little left of centre, head to Arab Street and Haji Lane in Singapore’s bohemian quarter. Here you can create your own perfume, purchase eye-catching bling, and pick up funky fashions and accessories. The thought of freshly baked Moroccan and Lebanese delicacies may lure you into a traditional tea room, replete with the scent of mint, apple, and cinnamon from bubbling hookah pipes.

3. Sip a Singapore Sling at Raffles

Singapore’s colonial history is on display all over town, but if there’s anywhere that defines the era of British rule — it’s Raffles Hotel. Dating back to 1887 and named in honour of the founder of modern Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, this hotel has a gravitas all of its own. As you stroll through the historic lobby, relax in the manicured gardens, or sip on a signature Singapore Sling, it’s easy to envisage the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Christian Louboutin, or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge doing the very same thing. The hotel has recently undergone a multi-million-dollar revamp to bring its guest facilities into the 21st century.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Enjoy a Singapore Sling at Raffles.

4. Visit a traditional kampung village on Pulau Ubin

To experience a different chapter in the city’s history, take a traditional bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Pulau Ubin — one of Singapore’s last bastions of kampung (village) living. The island features next to no development, plenty of wildlife, and some lovely scenery. Most people choose to hire a bicycle to navigate Pulau Ubin, but it’s equally pleasant to walk the seven kilometres’ round-trip to the Chek Jawa Wetlands.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Pulau Ubin. Image: Bigstock

5. Learn more about the past at the Asian Civilisations Museum

Get more of the backstory on Singapore (and much of wider Asia for that matter) by adding the excellent Asian Civilisations Museum to your to-do-list. Spend as much or as little time as you want perusing the thousands of artefacts on display. You’ll leave with a newfound understanding of where it all began for this modern economic masterpiece.

6. Explore Chinatown and Little India

Singapore is a true melting pot of cultural influences, so head out and explore the various ethnic enclaves around the city — starting with Chinatown. The distinctive three-storey, pastel-coloured shop-houses and the atmosphere in general make this part of Singapore something really special. Just wander at will and take it all in.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Explore Chinatown.

Little India is another of Singapore’s cultural focal points that demands a closer look. Follow your nose to this colourful neighbourhood, which serves up superb fare from across the subcontinent. Again, the colourful architecture here is one of the highlights.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Little India

7. Eat cheap

As the late celebrity chef and gourmet traveller Anthony Bourdain once said: ‘What you do in Singapore is eat.’ And while there’s certainly no shortage of fancy-pants dining experiences to be had here, why fork out for expensive nosh when there’s an abundance of delicious and cheap street food available on every corner? The city is also renowned for its hawker centres (food courts), which serve up chicken rice, laksa, and roti at great speed and with a low price tag. Be sure to check out the markets at Newton Circus and Maxwell Road.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Enjoy cheap and tasty eats.

8. Lose yourself in the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Despite its image as a 24/7 world city, Singapore is surprisingly chilled. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens is a perennial favourite for anyone looking to zen out for a spell. The National Orchid Garden is one of the Botanic Gardens’ most popular precincts and holds a collection of around one thousand orchid species. An entry fee applies.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Singapore Botanic Gardens

9. Get a great view of the city

Gardens by the Bay is another of the city’s key green spaces — a somewhat odd combination of the artificial and natural. Some of the zones and attractions are ticketed, but it’s well worth a visit nonetheless. The Skywalk provides a panoramic view of the city, which is dominated by the hard-to-ignore Marina Bay Sands complex. Its Skypark Observation Deck offers yet more amazing vistas and selfie opportunities. Sadly, the infinity pool on the 57th floor is only open to hotel guests.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Get a great view from Gardens by the Bay.

10. Check out your choice of tourist attractions

Across Marina Bay stands the Singapore Flyer — one of the world’s largest observation wheels. It will carry you a giddying 165 metres into the air for yet another bird’s eye view of the CBD. The three-level terminal is packed with dining and shopping options (of course!).

Animal lovers are spoilt for choice for quality wildlife parks to patronise. There’s Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Wonders, and Mandai Bird Paradise. If you’re planning to do them all, a four-park pass is available.

Ten of the best things to do in Singapore
Ten of the best things to do in Singapore: Singapore Zoo. Image: Bigstock

Over on Sentosa — a man-made island off the southern tip of Singapore — you’ll find yet more attractions, including Universal Studios and Sea Aquarium.

For more travel inspiration, visit www.visitsingapore.com.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Singapore on a first visit? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Depositphotos, Bigstock, and Envato

Samantha Wasson

About the writer

Samantha Wasson is a Sydney-based freelance writer and former educator. She lived in Vietnam for three years and has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe, and the United States, with a brief sojourn in Africa. Travel highlights to date have included studying German in Freiburg, volunteering at an elephant rehabilitation project outside Chiang Mai, and travelling by motorbike through the Mekong Delta. A lover of literature and travel, Samantha subscribes to Augustine of Hippo’s observation that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page’.

Julietta Henderson

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel writer and author. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy, and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind, and an open-ended ticket. Her first two novels — The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman and Sincerely, Me — are now available in bookstores.

 

 

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