Asia, Singapore

What To Do In Singapore: Top 9 To Dos For Your First Visit

In 2015, I lived in Singapore for half a year for my university exchange. I lived on the campus of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in the North of Singapore. In fact, this campus is closer to the Malaysian border than it is to the centre of Singapore. While I lived in the jungle on a campus where you sometimes come across snakes and monkeys, I explored every corner of this small city-state. So if you want to know what to do in Singapore, you have come to the right place.

Hereby my top 9 tips for what to do in Singapore!

1. What To Do In Singapore: Marina Bay

To begin with, if you Google a picture of Singapore, there is a high chance you will find a picture of the stunning Marina Bay. With the Singapore flyer (the Ferris wheel), the lion/mermaid fountain statue, the wave-shaped domes at Gardens by the Bay, the ArtScience Museum building that looks like a lotus flower and of course the three roaring towers of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, the picture seems out of this world. Nonetheless, Singapore really exists and really looks like the future. 

Marina Bay cannot be skipped during your visit to Singapore, and take your time to enjoy it from every angle.

#Explorers Tip: Get to the top of Marina Bay Sands hotel for free. How? Take the hotel guest elevator to the rooftop, instead of waiting in line and paying the SG$23 entrance fee. Simply wait for a hotel guest to swipe their card and enjoy your ride to the top for free.

Marina Bay in Singapore is one of the most stunning, futuristic bays in the whole world

2. Helix Bridge

Right next to Marina Bay Sands is the Helix Bridge. This futuristic bridge, that looks like a string of DNA, is a sight for sore eyes. On top of that, it offers another great view of Marina Bay from a different angle. 

This is where you can find the bridge on Google Maps.

The Helix Bridge is Singapore is ideally located next to Marina Bay Sands hotel
The Helix (on the left) is located right next to Marina Bay Sands hotel

3. Gardens by the Bay

If you went to the observation deck of Marina Bay Sands first, you have already seen the garden of the future from above: Gardens by the Bay. This incredible park is beautiful both by day and by night, because of the incredible lighting in the artificial trees (that are covered by real plants). 

Gardens by the Bay is much more than just the huge artificial trees and the walkway in between them (as shown in the picture below). You can pay a visit to an indoor waterfall in the Cloud Forest, organise an event surrounded by flowers at the Flower Field Hall, spot thousands of flowers at the Flower Dome, enjoy the art sculptures, lakes, heritage gardens and sun pavilion, or enjoy floral artistry the Floral Fantasy that only opened on April 14 of 2019. All in all, a place not to be missed.

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore shows the future of gardening

4. Go shopping at Orchard Road

In the heart of Singapore’s centre, you can find Orchard Road. This retail paradise started out in 1830 as a road with fruit orchards, nutmeg plantations and pepper farms. Only in 1958, the first department store was build -called TANGS, which is still there. From that point, the area exploded into shopping heaven with enormous shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, bars, apartments, hotels, and more shopping malls all over Orchard.

If you are a fan of fancy cars, this is also the right place to spot them. Many careless Singaporean drivers like to show off their latest toys at this road that never sleeps.

Orchard Road in Singapore is a retail paradise

5. Clarke Quay

Need a shot of European vibes during your stay in Singapore? Visit Clarke Quay!

During the day, this historic riverside landmark offers a shopping centre and plenty of restaurants.

At night, Clarke Quay is booming with bars and clubs like Zouk and F. Club Singapore. Also don’t miss the shot bar Chupitos for a good predrink party.

6. Chinatown

One area of town you cannot miss is Chinatown. With at the heart of it, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Right next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, you will find the Chinatown Street Market, where you can buy souvenirs for your friends and family at home. Another temple you need to see is the Hindi temple Sri Mariamman Temple.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore

During my stay in Singapore, for the first week I stayed at The Pinnacle in Chinatown. I didn’t realise before I booked this Airbnb that this was such an impressive building and that the view from the top is AMAZING. You can check it out for a mere SG$5

The Pinnacle, Singapore

If you get hungry, go to one of the two large hawker centres in Chinatown, Maxwell Food Centre or Amoy Street Food Centre for a cheap, local meal.

7. Little India & Arab street

Not only China is represented in this small city-state. Also a little bit of India can be found right in the heart of the city. Don’t leave without eating some roti prata (some sort of banana pancake) at one of the many Indian restaurants around. Fancy some shopping at 3am? Visit the 24/7 shopping mall Mustafa Centre.

Little India during Deepavali

Right next to Little India you will find Arab Street. At the heart of Arab Street lies the impressive Sultan Mosque with its white exterior and golden domes. The best spot to take pictures of this mosque is Muscat Street. Use this place in Google Maps to find it.

8. What To Do In Singapore: Eat at a hawker centre

Singapore is known for being one of the most expensive cities on earth. Not only housing is expensive, so are entrance fees, taxis, drinks and food. A good way to go around the crazy amounts of money you can spend on food and beverages in Singapore at restaurants, are by eating at hawker centres.

A hawker centre is a large hall with several food stands where the locals get their food. During my 6 months in Singapore I never cooked once and only went to a “real” restaurant in Singapore about 5 times. All of the other meals I got in hawker centres. For as little as 3 Singapore dollars you can already get something to eat.

#Explorers Tip: My favourite hawker centre in the heart of the city is the Telok Ayer Market. For two other hawker centre tips, read more in the Chinatown section above.

Telok Ayer Hawker Centre Singapore is a hawker centre that cannot be missed when you are in Singapore.

9. Sentosa Island

Last but not least on this list is Sentosa Island. This island resort just off the coast of Singapore is connected to the city by road, pedestrian boardwalk, cable car and monorail. And did you know Sentosa is the southern most point of continental Asia?

First of all, the easiest way to get to Sentosa is by taking the MRT (metro) to Harbourfront station and transferring to the Sentosa Express for SG$4 (Vivocity, Lobby L, Level 3). Once on Sentosa, you get off at Beach Station.

Sentosa Express

You can also walk or cycle, which is for free (except for the bike rental fee, of course).

On Sentosa there are a lot of things you can do. If you don’t want to break the bank at Universal Studios or Adventure Cove Waterpark, it is actually very nice to go to the beach here. On the southwest side of the island there are several nice beaches to choose from, such as Tanjong Beach and Palawan Beach. You can walk here, take the bus, or rent a golf cart. And for the Pokémon Go fans, Sentosa is also a Pokémon Go Safari Zone!

What to do in Singapore: Sentosa beach

These are my tips for your first time visit to Singapore. Soon, I’ll write a blog about the off the beaten track places you need to see while you are in Singapore for a longer amount of time!

Are you travelling through Asia? Then you will also like my blog with tips for a trip to Tokyo, Japan!

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations, kickboxing, singing or horse back riding. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a civil servant, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.