Singapore – the tiny island that could. It’s hard to fathom that this little country used to be a little backwater swampy island. This year, as it celebrates its 52nd year of independence, that is but a distant memory, as Singapura has become a shining beacon of economic progress and prosperity across the world. Read on if you want to know the TOP tourist spots (and a few off-the-beaten track ones) that you should definitely check out when you’re in SG!

If it’s your first time to go around Singapore on your own, check out my blog on all the Singapore basics – including when’s the best time to go, what’s the best way to get around the city, and how should you prepare for your trip beforehand!

Food stops are detailed in a separate blog – because how am I supposed to fit everything in one blog alone???

 

MY CURATED LIST OF WHAT TO DO IN SINGAPORE

Botanic Gardens (specifically the National Orchid Garden)

  • Operating hours [National Orchid Garden]: 8:30 – 19:00 (Last entry at 18:00)
  • How to get there: Bus or Taxi – see website for more details
  • Seniors / Child friendly? YES [but best if you take a cab straight to the entrance nearest to the National Orchid Garden]

These gardens are located a bit far from the center, so we decided to do this on the first day and get it over with. To get there, we took a bus for ~30mins and got dropped off right in front of the Botanic Gardens. Don’t forget to buy an EZ Link from the nearest 7-11 / MRT station and top it up with money before boarding the bus!

Botanic Gardens is itself free, but what you really come here for is the National Orchid Garden (which cost SGD 5 for adults, and SGD 1 for students and senior citizens – so don’t forget to bring your school ID if you’re still in school)

 

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FINALLY REACHED THE ORCHID GARDEN ENTRANCE

Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that from the Botanic Garden entrance, it would still be a ~1.2km walk to reach the Orchid Garden – so we slowly huffed and puffed our way to the orchids (took us ~1hr to get there as my grandparents need a lot of breaks!). If you’re pressed for time, and don’t want to walk far, cabs can drop you off at the tourist center that’s ~300m from the National Orchid Garden entrance (we used this going home)

My favorite part of the Garden was the Celebrity Orchid Garden! I found it super fun to look for famous celebrities / politicians and compare the orchids that were named after them

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LOVING THE POPPING COLORS OF THE ORCHIDS

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Gardens by the Bay – Marina Bay Sands – Esplanade – Merlion (in that order)

  • How to get there: MRT (Esplanade Station) or Bus to get to Gardens by the Bay – then you can walk (or cab) the rest of the way
  • Seniors / Child friendly? YES [if you’re willing to pay for the shuttles / cabs]
  • Where to eat while here: Satay by the Bay (inside Gardens by the Bay) and Makansutra Gluttons by the Bay (beside Esplanade Terrace)

Why start at Gardens by the Bay and end at the Merlion? That way, you get to take nice nighttime skyline photos at the Merlion (where you get a nice view of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer all lit up)

Gardens by the Bay

  • Operating hours: 9:00 – 21:00 (Last entry to the Flower/Dome at 20:30)

Two main attractions:

  1. The Flower and the Dome (packaged deal costs SGD 28 if you buy at the site, but I recommend you buy online instead! I used Qoo10, then looked for the best deal there – through this, I paid only SGD 21 per person. Just make sure to read the reviews carefully, so that you know it’s a reputable seller. Also, check if it’s an e-ticket, and by when they’ll email you the tickets)
  2. OCBC Skyway (costs SGD 5 at the site) – personally don’t think this is worth it…
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FAMILY @ GARDENS BY THE BAY

From the entrance, my grandparents would need to walk ~20mins to get to the Flower. So an alternative would be to use the shuttle (costs SGD 3 per person). Just follow the signs for the shuttle queue, it’s to the right of the entrance. Honestly though, I thought the shuttle was a HUGE waste of money, because it literally just brings you from the entrance to the Flower, and from the Flower back to the entrance. So in the end, we bought tickets for my grandparents and mom, and the rest of us walked instead (took us ~10mins to reach the Flower – roughly the same time as my grandparents, since they still had to queue)

I’d recommend you do the Flower first – it’s much prettier, with its flower fields! Since it was Christmas time, they also decked out the entire place with Christmas decorations, which were extremely pretty.

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FEELING FESTIVE – IT’S A FLOWER WONDERLAND

The Dome for me was so-so. Again, I’m not a huge nature person; so it was just all trees and leaves to me. Still, it’s quite awe-inspiring to see how they’ve recreated an entire rainforest in hot, sunny Singapore!

Also, once it gets dark outside (7pm onwards), it also gets pretty dark inside, so not exactly ideal for photo taking (unless you have a beautiful camera with excellent flash). But as I only had an iPhone, it just was not up to the job

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NIGHTTIME VIEW

Marina Bay Sands

From Gardens by the Bay, walk on over to Marina Bay Sands – it’s connected by a bridge – took us ~45mins to walk

Casino time!

Note that you can only enter the casino if you’re 21 y.o. and above, and they’re extremely strict about this. For foreigners, you need to bring your passports as they conduct a passport check before you enter. Because of this, we had to leave our brother outside (he’s only 17!)

Observation deck

For other tourists, go check out the observation deck, and enjoy a panoramic view of the Singapore skyline – price is steep though (SGD 23 for adults, SGD 20 for senior citizens). Operating hours are from 9:30 – 22:00 (M to Th) / 23:00 (F to S)

To purchase, you can buy through this link one month in advance, note that on-the-day tickets would be available for purchase only at Marina Bay Sands Box Offices

If you aren’t willing to pay such a steep price, you can also enjoy a nice panoramic view by going one floor up to the bar, and enjoying the beautiful view (for the price of a drink, or for free!). Another alternative would be to go to the Esplanade Terrace, where your panoramic view will even include Marina Bay Sands!

Esplanade Terrace / Theaters by the Bay

From Marina Bay Sands, cross the Helix Bridge and walk your way to Esplanade Terrace / Theaters by the Bay (the durian-like structure in the distance)

If it’s already night time, there’s usually a free performance at the theater, so enjoy the soothing sounds of the latest Singapore singers/bands. If you want to check out what’s available, head on over to the Esplanade website – if there’s a “Free” sign beside the performance, then you’re in luck!

Otherwise, go to Level 4 of the Esplanade mall, and you’ll be able to enjoy a nice panoramic view here. At night, the view becomes even more stunning as the buildings light up!

Once you’re done enjoying the view – head on over to Makansutra Gluttons by the Bay. To be honest, I thought it was heavily commercialized – BUT at least it serves local food. None of the Esplanade restaurants do…

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VIEW FROM ESPLANADE

Merlion Park

From Esplanade, walk across the Jubilee Bridge (constructed for Singapore’s 50th anniversary in 2015) to reach the Merlion

At Merlion, you can now do all the customary shots – the “thirsty” shot, the “showering” shot, etc etc. There’s also a nice deck where you can take nice shots of Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer

Wonderful Light Show

Stay at the Merlion deck and watch the beautiful light show

Show times: Sunday to Thursday: 20:00, 21:30 || Friday and Saturday: 20:00, 21:30, 23:00

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Universal Studios

Where to buy tickets: You can buy on site and it’ll cost you SGD 74. On the other hand, you can choose to buy online via this link and it’ll only cost you SGD 61 (that’s an 18% savings!). I’ve used Klook twice now, and it’s worked wonderfully each time – so would highly highly recommend to folks!

When to go (month): Honestly, you should go during off-peak season. When I went in July, queues per ride were at 15-45mins each. When my family went during Christmas, queues ranged from 30-90 mins each

When to go (hour): Go early! The park opens at 10am. Be there before that as there will be a queue to enter. Once in, rush to the Battlestar Gallactica – which is THE RIDE TO TRY. From 10:00 – 11:00, the queues will still be manageable as the late risers / parents with kids haven’t arrived yet. From 11:00 – 16:00, queues will be crazy long – you should use the single rider lanes where available during this time. From 16:00 onwards, queues should be fine again, as families will young kids will have gone home by then

Must-try rides:

  • Battlestar Gallactica: Don’t go to Universal Studios if this ride is closed. You have two options here: Cylon and Human. Cylon rocks, Human sucks
  • Transformers: The Ride
  • Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride
  • Rides to try only if you have time:
    • Puss in Boots’ Giant Journey
    • Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure
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MADAGASCAR FRIENDS & US

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Sultan Mosque – Haji Lane (in that order)

  • How to get there: MRT (Bugis) or Bus to Sultan Mosque – see website for details
  • Seniors / Child friendly? YES [~5-10 mins walk from MRT / bus station]
  • Where to eat while here: Singapore Zam-zam [murtabak!!] / Ramadan bazaar [during Ramadan time]

From the bus station (which is what we did), cross the road and check out the biggest mosque in Singapore. Note that you can enter the mosque and take photos as long as you don’t use flash

Once you exit the mosque, you can then walk along the streets to check out the cutesy stores selling a mishmash of stuff + take IG photos along Haji lane

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BEAUTIFUL SULTAN MOSQUE
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FIRST TIME TO ENTER A MOSQUE (WOULDN’T BE MY LAST)

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Orchard Road – enjoy the Christmas season lights

  • How to get there: MRT (Dhoby Gaut) or Bus to Plaza Singapura – see website for details
  • Seniors / Child friendly? YES [there’s a fair bit of walking, but it’s nice and chill / would recommend you do this at night]
  • Where to eat while here: Plaza Singapura Food Court

From Plaza Singapura, walk towards Orchard Road and enjoy the nice lights! In total, this took us ~1 hour – we only walked until 313 Somerset, which the hotel concierge told me was pretty much the end of the pretty lights anyway

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HAPPY GRANDPARENTS
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TWINKLING LIGHTS ALONG ORCHARD ROAD

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Haw Par Villa

  • Operating hours: 9:00 – 19:00 [Last entry: 18:00]
  • How to get there: MRT (Haw Par Villa) or Bus
  • Seniors / Child friendly? NO [lots of stairs… it’s undergoing refurbishment though, so this might change]
  • Admission fee: Free

(Re)discover Chinese mythology and folklore – e.g. stories about Monkey God, the Eight Immortals, etc etc… My grandparents LOVED this place – the one time during the trip they could teach things to the grandkids, as my grandparents regaled us with stories of Chinese gods and goddesses and the mischief they got themselves into

To be honest though, if you’re not Chinese, you might not appreciate this place as much, and would therefore advise you to skip (especially since it’s pretty far from the city center – ~1 hr bus ride)

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GRANDPARENTS IMPARTING THEIR CHINESE WISDOM & FOLKLORE TO US

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Chinatown

  • How to get there: MRT (Chinatown) or Bus
  • Seniors / Child friendly? MAYBE [lots of walking, not enough seats – but good shopping]
  • Where to eat: Maxwell Food Center (Michelin star chicken rice!!) / Chinatown Seafood Restaurant [chili crab!!]

Music History Section

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

From Maxwell Food Center, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is ~10mins walk away. Again, you’re allowed to enter the temple and take photos as long as there’s no flash and you’re respectful. I’m heading to Sri Lanka in the coming months – and am super excited to see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple at Kandy too – I’ll let you guys know how this one compares to the real thing 😉

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BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC – WHERE’S THE TOOTH?

Chinatown street market

Exit the temple at the back and you’ll end up in the Chinatown street market! I’d advise you to conduct your souvenir shopping here because it’s the cheapest you’ll find within the whole city of Singapore (even cheaper than Bugis!!) Of course, do scout a bit before buying because other stalls will probably sell the same thing, but perhaps at a cheaper price or with more variety

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    CRAZY SHOPPING BARGAINS

Sri Marianman Temple

  • The Hindu equivalent of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple – it’s just a ~5 mins walk away. Unfortunately, we didn’t reach here as we spent too much time shopping – hope you do though!

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Bugis

  • Seniors / Child friendly? MAYBE [lots of walking, not enough seats – but good shopping]
  • Where to eat: Wing Seong Fatty’s [black pepper prawns!!]

Head on over to Bugis Street Shops to check out their wares! Hope you’ve already done your souvenir shopping at Chinatown the day before, because it’s more expensive here… Having said that, clothes are sold here as well, at quite cheap prices if I may say so myself – so girls, you might be very very happy

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Japanese Chinese Garden

  • How to get there: MRT (Chinese Garden) or cab (really expensive!!)
  • Seniors / Child friendly? MAYBE [lots of walking, not enough seats]]

If you’ve got extra time and you feel like chilling – head over to the Japanese Chinese Garden – it’s nice and super instagramable with the beautiful pagodas

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THREE LITTLE PIGGIES @ ZODIAC GARDEN
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PAGOD-NA

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Tiong Bahru

The latest hipster place to go to (move aside Haji Lane)!! There are loads of quirky stores (bookstores, clothing shops), but also FABULOUS and expensive food places (see my food blog for more details!)

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And that, my friends, pretty much wraps up our Singapore journey! If you’re heading to Singapore with your grandparents, hope they enjoy the trip as much as my grandparents did! Also, if you have any other restaurant recommendations, I’d love to hear from you – just comment away below!

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