Postcard from Singapore
Top Ten Things to do in Singapore
If you’re contemplating visiting Singapore here are some suggestions for things to do and places to visit in this great little country. Singapore is very small (less than a quarter of the size of Switzerland), it’s the 4th biggest financial hub in the world and like Switzerland it is also very clean. The food, the climate and the long shopping hours are certainly very different. With direct flights from Zurich it’s just about 12 hours away and it certainly offers an interesting and exciting contrast.
The first thing you notice is the change in climate as the heat hits you when you alight the plane and see the amazing number of high-rise buildings (don’t forget Switzerland and Zurich’s highest building, Prime Tower, is a mere 126m tall). You soon acclimatise (but it’s always good to keep a bottle of water handy) and once you start exploring you realise there are so many things to do and see it’s impossible to fit them into a quick trip. However, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Shopping – Orchard Road and beyond. If you like shopping you’re in good company in Singapore. Not only are the shops open 7 days a week with long opening hours, but there are new malls springing up all over town. Orchard Road offers some of the best but wherever you are in the city there are flashy new shopping centres offering the latest fashions and tons of designer labels. The Ion Shopping Centre, the Marina Bay Shoppes and Vivocity are just a few to get you started. There are also some great street markets and night markets too – and customer service everywhere on the island is super-attentive, helpful and courteous. If you’re looking for a manicure or pedicure or a massage check out the great prices – there are lots of nail bars and massage places all over and many in the malls too. You often don’t need an appointment.
2. Food – the Singaporeans love their food and you can see that straight away by all the choice on offer. Whatever cuisine you’re after you can find it in Singapore – from Singapore, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malay, Korean, European … you’re in luck. There’s an abundance of fresh seafood which is wonderful and the local speciality Chilli Crab, can be a little messy but is a must try! There are restaurants to suit all pockets and all palates. There are Hawkers Markets (we tried Newton Food Center, near Newton MRT and were amazed at the quality and the price of the food on offer) food courts, fabulous Indian restaurants in Little India, great Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, as well as swanky restaurants in some brilliant locations – in short something for everyone. We even found a great tapas bar for drinks and fabulous live music called Sabio in Duxton Hill in Chinatown. Oh and in case you’re missing Switzerland there is a Swiss restaurant at Vivocity – complete with a few Swiss cows!
3. Botanic Gardens – a great park in the centre of the city with an abundance of beautiful flowers and shrubs and plenty of green space just a stone’s throw from Orchard Road. Like everything else in Singapore it offers generous opening hours and is open from 5am to midnight every day! Entrance is free though you can pay extra to see the spectacular National Orchid Gardens, costing $5 for adults, $1 for pensioners and students and under 12s are free. For more information see here. The nearest MRT is Botanic Gardens on the circle line and the address is 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569.
3. Singapore Flyer – the Singapore Flyer is similar to the London Eye – but usually the queues are a little smaller. It’s the world’s highest observation wheel apparently and has great views over the city and is a fun experience. They even offer a “full butler dining in the sky” event if you really want to push the boat out.
4. Clarke Quay – may be a tourist attraction but it’s a very lively place to take a stroll. It’s a hub of activity day and night with lots of restaurants, hotels, bars and cafes and shops. Whilst you’re at Clarke Quay why not take a river cruise on one of the Bumboats and admire the city from the water?
5. Marina Sands Hotel and Skypark – if you’re staying at the Marina Sands Hotel you get amazing views across the city from the 57th floor. Not only do they have a garden up there but an awesome infinity pool too which makes you feel as if you’re swimming over the top of the city. If you’re not staying at the hotel you can also pay to take the “Skypark“ lift and enjoy the views and maybe stop for a drink or two as well.
6. The Pinnacle – Insider tip: If you don’t want to go to the top of the Skypark a different view of the city is afforded by a trip to The Pinnacle@Duxton (previously known as Duxton Plain Public Housing) in 1 Cantonment Road. It’s not easy to find (and even our taxi driver had to check it out) but once you’ve arrived you need to find the entrance area at the bottom of the concrete tower block and have an MRT travel card handy (with at least $5 credit) to take the trip to the top of this block of flats with a unique perspective over the city. There’s nowhere to buy snacks or drinks so bring your own and watch the sun set over the bay. Make sure you don’t lose your ticket as you’ll need it to get out and down the lift!
7. Singapore Slinger – Another must do is to try the famous Singapore Slinger Cocktail and the best place to drink must surely be another cool hotel in the city which is steeped in history, Raffles Hotel. The Singapore Slinger is a delightful red colour and consists of dry gin, DOM Benedictine, Cointreau, Cherry Brandy, Angostura bitters, Grenadine, lime and pineapple juice. Very refreshing and delicious!
8. Little India – even if you’re not just after a great curry, there is plenty to see in this lively and colourful area. The temples, signposts, markets and atmosphere make it a great outing and a fun experience. Do try one of the restaurants while you’re there! We went to the Copper Chimney – it’s not flash, but it’s authentic and the curry was great too.
9. China Town – Singapore’s Chinatown is a vibrant and lively area and is very close to the Outram Park MRT station. It actually consist of 5 districts – Ann Siang Hill, Tanjong Pagar, Kreta Ayer, Bukit Pasoh and Telok Ayer. The Chinatown Heritage Centre is located in lovingly restored “shophouses” in Pagoda Street, with exhibition areas on three floors explaining the history of the Chinese in Singapore. It’s open daily from 9am – 8pm and is the address is 48 Pagoda St, Singapore 059207 tel.+65 6221 9556. There is also the Asian Civilisations Museum open daily from 10am – 7pm (and Friday till 9pm). The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is open daily from 7am to 7pm and is devoted to the Maitreya Buddha, ‘The Buddha of the Future’ and definitely worth a visit. The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple with amazing colourful sculptures above the doors. Admission is free with just a small fee or donation for taking photos.
10. Getting Around – getting around in Singapore is simple – the MRT underground and buses are fairly easy to use though it helps to buy a EZ-Link Card that you top up to save buying individual tickets for each trip. However, if you’re with your family or in a group the taxis are more often than not just as cheap and very efficient.
Singapore is a great city and definitely a destination in it’s own right rather than just a stopover. If you’re visiting anytime soon have fun and enjoy!
If you’re going on holiday anytime soon don’t forget to check out our Top Travelling Tips.
If you’re in the mode for travel you may also like to read this article on Egypt.
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