Although not as coveted as neighboring countries in South East Asia, Singapore is a hidden gem that provides a unique perspective on various Asian cultures. Combine this with year-round great weather and it’s clear that there really isn’t a bad time to visit the city in a garden. After a few months in Australia, I was looking for a flight back to Canada and found one with a layover in Singapore. At first, I was unsure about spending two days there but after a bit of research, I was very excited about my layover. Singapore really did not disappoint!
A major benefit to exploring Singapore is that cars are optional, and actually not suggested. Their buses and MRT systems are clean, on time and affordable (please take note North America), and depending on how the weather is, a lot of the city is very walkable. If you’re short on time, you can buy a bus pass and easily Google the best routes to take to get to these spots but if you really want to experience Singapore, I highly suggest walking. There are a lot of companies that offer free walking tours but if you feel like doing it at your own pace, follow my walking tour guide and see the city in a garden in less than 24 hours!
Gardens By The Bay
I suggest starting (and ending) your day at the Gardens by the Bay. This is THE tourist spot in Singapore and truly a sight to see. Getting to the Gardens by the Bay is confusing and easy to get lost. I tried to follow the directions on their website but quickly got lost and ended up at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. If you’re like me and can’t follow simple directions, find the information booth at the mall and ask for a map. They gave me a very detailed map and helped me get there. Essentially, take the long escalator from the mall and walk to the path that brings you to the trees where you can explore for free; however, I suggest paying the admission for the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. I thought the Supertree Grove was cool but the Cloud Forest blew me away. You can find a full list of Gardens by the Bay attractions here.
Marina Bay Sands
When searching images for Singapore, you are likely to see pictures of people hanging out in a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the city. This seems to be THE Instagram hotspot in Singapore. You can find that pool in the Marina Bay Sands hotel. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but only hotel guests have access to the pool. There is a slight hack, however, book a dinner reservation at the restaurant and you’ll be treated to similar views. Unfortunately, this hotel wasn’t in my budget, but if it’s in yours I would suggest staying there while you’re in Singapore (for the pool alone).
Olympic Park & Merlion Park
After leaving the Gardens by the Bay walk over the Helix Bridge to Youth Olympic Park. Here you can check out the Singapore flyer and walk over to the National Gallery. While touring the area, make sure to spend time at Merlion park and check out the statue. A Merlion is the unofficial mascot of Singapore and is mythical creature that is half lion, half fish. I had never seen one before Singapore and was intrigued by all of the statues. If you’re hungry after exploring the park, i highly suggest visiting the Lau Pa Sat Market (open 24 hours). Singapore has so many amazing Hawker Centres but I’m told this is one of the best.
From here head over to Chinatown. There is a lot to see in Chinatown so plan to spend an hour or two. Some points of interest in Chinatown are the Heritage Centre, Jamae Mosque, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and the Sri Mariamman Temple. DISCLAIMER: If you’re going to visit temples in Singapore make sure you are dressed appropriately. A lot of temples require your shoulders and legs to be covered. After temple hopping, be sure to visit Smith street. It has some great shopping and if you’re hungry stop to eat at the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. You can find the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall here and it is one of the most popular in all of Singapore.
Next on the adventure is Clarke Quay, which is five blocks of restored warehouses. If you have the time, take a boat tour from here and explore the city from the river. The scenery is beautiful and it gives a completely different perspective of the city. Around the quay is where you will find the Old Street Hill Police Station, my favourite building. The building is painted to look like a rainbow and is another Instagram hotspot in Singapore.
Fort Canning Park
Also in Singapore’s central business district is Fort Canning Park, which is small in size but offers a lot of history. You can find many points of interest in the park like the Fort Canning Green, the Battle Box, the sally port, and a 9-pound cannon. The park is located next to the National Museum of Singapore and overlooks Orchard road which has been called Asia’s most famous shopping street.
Now it’s time for the most colourful district of Singapore, Little India. Eat, shop, and explore the most vibrant district in all of Singapore. Some must-see spots in Little India are Shree Lakshminaryan Temple, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, the Little India Arcade, and the most colourful house in Singapore, Tan Tent Niah. Bring your camera, you’re going to want some photos of these unique buildings. While in little India, make sure to check out The Mustafa Centre, a 24-hour shopping mall to check out everything from designers to souvenirs.
You’re going to want to spend some time exploring Haji Lane. Known as the most hipster spot in Singapore, Haji lane is filled with quirky shops, delicious restaurants, and some really impressive street art. Make a stop at I Am Cafe for a quick meal and a few photos. One of my favourite spots in Haji Lane was Selfie Coffee. Go there to get your face on your cup of coffee! From Haji Lane walk over to Masjid Sultan, one of the most important mosques in Singapore.
At this point of the tour, the day will be nearing its end so you’ll want to head back towards the Gardens by the Bay, where an amazing light show bedazzles the sky nightly Garden Rhapsody is a signature light show that takes place at 7:45 pm and 8:45 pm daily and it is really a must-see. If you have time before the light show, make a stop at the ArtScience Museum where art and science combine to push the boundaries of creativity.
There is still so much to see in Singapore but by now you’ve checked off all of Singapore’s hotspots and seen most of this beautiful city. If you’re lucky enough to have an extra day in Singapore, head to Sentosa and spend the day at the beach—you deserve it.