Having spent over 6 months in this tiny city state, I have definitely seen quite a bit of the area. Nevertheless, this city just keeps surprising me on a daily basis- I have never seen a place where more contrasts collide. Old, tiny, colorful houses with many beautiful ornaments stand in front of a landscape of the tallest and most modern skyscrapers. Even though the city is incredibly crowded, green and quiet spaces can be found almost everywhere (it is called The Garden City for a reason), making it easy to take a break from the state’s buzzing lifestyle. The culture clash is present everywhere: I found a street where a mosque is only a few meters away from a Buddhist temple and facing a Catholic church. Everywhere, you may find a Chinese restaurant next to a Halal- certified restaurant offering Arab cuisine next to vegan hipster cafes and Western fast food restaurants.
In fact, there is nothing that cannot be found in Singapore- as long as one is willing to invest a certain amount of money, of course. But even myself, as student on a budget, could find many amazing things to do, see and eat, ensuring that my stay in Singapore never got boring. Here is a list of my most favourite places and activities:
1. McRitchie Nature Reservoir
Yes, the most atypical place for Singapore will always be my first choice. After all, Singapore is a city state. Hence, even though the government clearly invests a lot to make and keep the island green, parks are just not the same as wild nature. Being born and raised in a village with forests, fields and meadows all around, this wilderness was something I missed incredibly during my first weeks in Singapore- therefore, I searched for and tried out many hiking opportunities- most of which Europeans would consider as a short stroll. Then I found McRichtie, a water reserve with a lot of (more or less) untouched tropical forest around it. The longest path takes you in an extended circle around the water reserve, which is around 11 km. The best thing is that most of it is in the forest- hence, the hot sun doesn’t affect you at all 🙂 My favourite part is the Treetop bridge which you may (but don’t need to) take, offering a beautiful view of the forest’s canopy. If you do that part though, make sure to either come early or rather late, since there are many tourists visiting the bridge, causing long queues and rather annoying waiting time. If you are not feeling like an 11 km walk, there are many shorter paths along the water front which you can take instead. Oh, and one last tip: Don’t bring any food, or, if you do, keep it inside your bag! There are a lot of cheeky (and apparently constantly hungry) monkeys which only wait for a chance to steal it!
2. Jurong Bird Park
When reading about tourist attractions in Sinagpore, this was one of the last ones I found, only mentioned as a sort of “if you have any time left, then…”. In my opinion, this park is highly underrated! In fact, I find it a lot more exiting than the zoo, which is supposed to be among the world’s best ones (to be honest, I found it to be nothing too special, and rather small).
The bird park is quite far away from the city centre in Jurong East- but it is certainly worth the travel! There are so many beautiful birds to see, and best of all, there is a huge aviary with many exotic species and even a real waterfall! The birds are not shy at all, and if you offer them some of the food that is being sold especially for that purpose, they might even come close enough to be able to (almost) touch them, and surely making up for amazing pictures! Make sure to plan a lot of time for a visit to this park- you can literally get lost here. The shows which are scheduled during the day, are not necessary to watch though.
Oh, and when you are in the area, you might as well pay the Chinese and the Japanese garden a visit- I wouldn’t rate them as a must- see, but they are definitely worth a stroll, and will make you feel as if you were travelling to another country with only a few steps:)
3. Gardens by the Bay, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest
This park located behind the enormous Marina Bay Sands hotel makes you feel as if you jumped right into the movie Avatar. Besides a well-maintained (as always) park, there are many fancy trees which look like in the famous film. Fun fact #1: They are actually chimneys, serving as an outlet for the seam produced during the cooling down of the two giant greenhouses accommodating the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest.
During the evening, at 7:45 and 8:45 pm respectively, there are free light shows enlighting these trees in the rhythm of (always changing) music- this was usually the first thing I showed to anyone visiting the city for the first time. Lay down and get lost in this amazing scenery! Fun fact #2: I was always wondering whether Avatar had copied the trees from Singapore, or whether it was the other way around. I looked it up- Avatar was first, so the garden’s architect must be quite a fan of the movie 🙂
While waiting for the show, I highly recommend visiting the two big greenhouses! While the Flower Dome is home to an endless and ever-changing number of plants from all around the world, the Cloud Forest is basically a huge hill inside the building, entirely covered by tropical plants, and even having a huge waterfall! You can walk up onto the top, and there are even bridges so you can admire the scenery from the height. Besides than, these two buildings are constantly kept rather cool to create the perfect climate for the plants- spending time there is the perfect refreshment after a day of sightseeing in Singapore’s humid heat.
4. Arab Street (alternative: Joo Chiat Road)
Arab Street is one of the most popular tourist attractions for a reason. The colourful, ancient houses which are a pleasure to look at themselves, are home to many incredibly cute shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Moreover, the side walls of the houses are often covered in beautiful graffiti, and I am convinced that you can always discover a detail of that street that you didn’t notice before, no matter how many times you have been there already. Besides that, there is a stunning Mosque only a few meters away, which is probably the most beautiful one I have found in Singapore. However, make sure to visit this street rather early- otherwise, you won’t see much of the street itself because of all the tourists that gather there to take photos. Also, be aware of the fact that the shops are all pretty expensive- but let me assure you, the taste of the cakes and the cool atmosphere are entirely worth it!
If you don’t want to spend that much for a cup of coffee, I highly recommend going to Joo Chiat Road, which is in the East of Singapore. Even though there are no fancy graffiti, there are also many cute little shops, cafes, and beautiful ancient houses. Also, this street isn’t really visited by tourists, hence, it is a lot quieter and more original.
Also, there are many hidden little temples in that area, so make sure to check out the surroundings 🙂
5. Places to eat
All that sightseeing will surely make you hungry. Before this turns into a state of awful hangryness, I will now address one of the most essential topics for every foodie: Where to get da food! While working for a food delivery company, I think I got a fair idea of cool places, so let me share some of them. Before I start, remember that Arab Street and Joo Chiat Road also offer pretty nice small cafes and bars, so you don’t even need to go anywhere when getting hungry at one of those places 🙂
This is a rather old building in the central district- looking rather ordinary from the outside, it is actually a real gem! It has a beautiful courtyard, the surrounding walls shut out all noises from the busy streets and at night time, the trees are lit by many fairy nights. The restaurants offer a wide variety of (mostly Western) food. The evenings spent here are certainly among the most beautiful summer nights I had in Singapore.
2. Geylang Road
I might be biased because I was living here, but I am nevertheless convinced that this street (which, despite being home to one of the rare Red Light Districts of Singapore, is entirely safe and civilized) offers the most delicious, original and affordable dishes in the entire state! In fact, the street is famous for its many Hawker Centres, which are places where different open cuisines are assembled, sharing a common eating space. You can get all sorts of Asian food, at any time of the day. There is even one centre, called Food Loft, which exclusively offers vegan food! They might not look too pretty- it’s Chinese charming, pretty much- but they are truly delicious, and I bet you will not find anything cheaper. Also, this is maybe as typically Singaporean as it gets- I find this street to be the most original place on the island, it almost seems as if time is standing still.
When in this street, make sure to try out the famous Durian- this street is famous for its many fruit stands selling this tropical fruit with the weird smell (I personally don’t like it at all, but it’s worth a try). Talking about the fruit stands- make sure you try out some of the other fruits offered there as well! You will not find exotic fruits such as Dragon Fruit, Jackfruit, Papaya and Nashi any fresher than here. Plus, you feel almost like a local when shopping there 🙂
But even if you aren’t hungry, make sure to visit Geylang Road, just to get an idea of the daily Singaporean life. Also, there are many cool shops along this street where you can find souvenirs that are actually nice, and not just a cheap copy like they are to be found in the more touristic areas, such as Chinatown.
3. Singapore River Waterside
The many bars and restaurants along the shore of the Singapore River are perfect for a nice relaxing drink or dinner with some friends in the evening, either before going clubbing or just on its own. Even though this is a touristic area, the prices are still pretty good, and the food tastes yummy as well 🙂 Also, the proximity to the water makes the heat more bareable!
4. Foodcourt at Marina Bay
This place, located at the waterfront of Marina Bay with a nice view on the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Merlion, doesn’t seem special at all- however, it is always crowded, and there is a reason for that! Especially locals enjoy the many different tasty dishes offered at the numerous stands- there is a bit of everything- ice cream, lobster, curry, pasta… Naturally, the great view makes this place even more attractive, and as a tourist, you will come across this area anyway, so why not stop for a little bite?
5. Restaurant Chains
Most probably, everybody will find himself in one of the countless shopping malls which are literally everywhere in Singapore. There, you will find a lot of restaurant chains. Having worked for the Singaporean market leader in the online food delivery business, I got a fair insight into which ones are recommendable.
This chain is perfect if you crave for delicious sushi! They even let you customize your rolls and you can choose every single ingredient yourself- but if the combination turns out horrible (I have been there :D), there is no one to blame, so don’t go too crazy 🙂
2. Brotzeit, Kraftwhich and Marché
Craving European healthy food, or simply real bread (only Germans will understand this craving!)- these are the places to go! They offer delicious sandwiches, tasty mueslis, soups, salads, and all the sort of stuff you’ve been missing for so long. While this craving might only occur after a certain amount of time, these restaurants have been my life savers on many occasions, so I feel like I must name them. Also, for the Germans among you: Brotzeit offers German beer and other German dishes such as Bratwurst. By the way, if you are fancying good beer: Brewerks is also always a good idea!
Okay, I think this post has been long enough already. I will continue to talk about my favourite spots in Singapore in one of my next posts, make sure to check it out 🙂
Also, if you have been to Singapore, what are/ were your favourite places? Looking forward to discovering new options! 🙂