Visiting Singapore for the first time? Read on for a variety of things to do and see in Singapore, from lush botanical gardens with indoor waterfalls, to bustling shopping districts with luxury and bargain deals, to a Tiger Balm cultural theme park.
Things To Do and See in Singapore
Whenever I travel, food is always at the top of my list. Singapore is renowned for its multicultural cuisine, and if you’re a food enthusiast, I guarantee that you’ll have a blast eating your way through Singapore. But what to do in between in between meals?
As a Singaporean who has grown up and lived mostly outside of Singapore, a trip back to visit family is an opportunity to rediscover and play tourist in Singapore. The distinctive contemporary culture blending Asian and Western influences, heritage shophouses and towering glass skyscrappers, is always striking and memorable.
This list features a variety of things to do and see in Singapore, including nostalgic spots from my childhood and newer awe inspiring destinations that are frequented by locals and tourists alike. Bookmark this list and check back for updates this has been and will continue to be updated over time.
If you found my list of things to do and see in Singapore helpful, please tag @waz.wu on Instagram. I’d love to hear from you! You may also find some of my other Singapore guides helpful.
Some of Singapore’s Top Things To Do and Places To Visit
National Gallery Singapore
On my last trip to Singapore, I visited National Gallery Singapore, the world’s biggest collection of Southeast Asian art from the 19th century to the present day. Located in the heart of the Civic District, two national monuments — City Hall and the former Supreme Court — were transformed into the National Gallery. When you need to take a break, I recommend visiting the rooftop bar Smoke & Mirror for refreshments and panoramic views of the city.
Gardens By The Bay
Gardens By The Bay is a one-of-a-kind man-made park in Singapore. The outdoor gardens are free to visit; tickets are required for the indoor attractions. As much as I loved the stunning arrangements at Floral Dome and Floral Fantasy, it was the Cloud Forest that took my breath away. When you enter the dome, you’ll be greeted by a cascading waterfall. (This isn’t the world’s largest indoor waterfall though; Jewel Changi Airport’s Rain Vortex currently holds that title.) Next, take the elevator to the summit of the mountain to begin your journey through the lush vegetation and mist. This is one tourist destination that is not to be missed.
Arab Street and Haji Lane
Near the Bugis MRT station, you’ll find Arab Street and Haji Lane. The former refers not to a specific street, but the neighborhood, which is Singapore’s Muslim center. There, you’ll find Masjid Sultan Mosque and Middle Eastern restaurants and shops. Haji Lane is a narrow pedestrian street in the area, lined with charming old shop houses, cute cafes, colorful street art, and an eclectic mix of boutiques.
Fort Canning Park
Fort Canning Park is one of Singapore’s stunning green spaces and historical landmarks. Since the National Museum of Singapore is a stone’s throw away, many of the museum’s installations extend out into the Fort Canning, so you may get to catch a glimpse when you wander through the park. I was there during Singapore’s Bicentennial exhibition.
MacRitchie Venue Drive, Tree Top Walk
MacRitchie Reservoir is the city’s oldest reservoir and the heart of one of Singapore’s most popular nature reserves. Instead of the full 11 km (6.8 mile) MacRitchie trail, we took the shorter 2.5 km (1.5 mile) route that begins from the MacRitchie TreeTop Car Park on Upper Lornie Road to the 250-meter (820 feet) Tree Top Walk, where you can walk between the tree canopies. There and back, it took us a little over 2.5 hours. The heat and humidity are no joke — expect to hike slower than your usual pace if you’re not used to this climate.
Jewel Changi Airport
Indoor park meets shopping mall meets airport. Jewel Changi Airport is home to the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and four storeys of terraced forest. Yes, you read that right: this is part of the airport. And the Rain Vortex (which snagged the tallest indoor waterfall title from Gardens By The Bay’s Cloud Forest) even has a light show after the sun goes down.
Haw Par Villa
Formerly known as the Tiger Balm Garden, Haw Par Villa is a cultural theme park depicting scenes from Chinese mythology and Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian folklore. This park, especially the gruesome Ten Courts of Hell, scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. As an adult, it both scares and fascinates me. When I last visited, they were restoring many dioramas with a fresh coat of paint. More recently, Haw Par Villa completed more extensive upgrades to return the park to its former glory as Singapore’s oldest and scariest theme park.
Singapore’s retail destination Orchard Road is a 2.5 km (1.6 mile) long stretch lined with upscale boutiques and high-end department stores. Even if you don’t intend on shopping, it’s worth a stroll down Orchard Road to see what it’s all about — shopping is a popular pasttime in Singapore, so make it part of your Singapore experience. Orchard Road is mostly focused on luxury designer brands, but you can find more budget friendly shopping at Lucky Plaza and Far East Plaza.
Henderson Waves & Mount Faber Park
Henderson Waves is a pedestrian bridge that mimics the undulating nature of a wave with its curving and twisting structure. The wave-like design creates shell-like niches where you can stop to rest and enjoy the breathtaking skyline views of Singapore. Henderson Waves connects Telok Blangah Hill Park and Mount Faber Park, and riding the cable car is a nice way to rest your feet and conclude your excursion.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Whenever I travel, I absolutely adore exploring parks and botanical gardens. The Singapore Botanic Gardens remains one of my favorites, showing a spectacular array of tropical flora across its 82-hectare historical grounds. The National Orchid Gardens is a must as the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid is Singapore’s national flower. Other highlights include the Ethnobotany Garden, Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, and Ginger Garden.
This buzzy historic district in Singapore celebrates Indian community and vibrant culture, from templates with intricately designed Hindu relics, to bargain shopping at Mustafa Center, to shophouses packed with fragrant spices and beautiful saris. On my last visit to Little India, my siblings and I ended the evening with a feast of potato curry puff, murtabak stuffed pancake, vegan mutton masala, and more at Gokul vegetarian restaurant.
I have fond memories visiting Chinatown’s maze of narrow roads and eating cheap and tasty eats like Hainanese chicken rice and char kway teow along Smith Street — better known as Chinatown Food Street — when I was younger. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon or evening when there’s a flurry of activity among the colorful Chinese shophouses. You’ll still find plenty of eateries, souvenir shops, boutiques, and tourist attractions like the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, even though the Chinatown Food Street has shut down due to the pandemic.