Prepared to be delighted when you visit Singapore. As one of the world’s top economies, this stylish city is spoiled for all thing’s luxury. Officially the only city-state in the world, Singapore (or the great Merlion City) has for centuries been a place for travelers and explorers.
Your visit to Singapore will reward you with enticing bazaars filled with the spices of India, charming Buddhist temples (one said to hold the tooth relic of the Buddha), and some of the best culinary experiences found anywhere in the world. With an eclectic mix of cultures and peoples, the city has a cosmopolitan and vibrant atmosphere.
Located on an island at the very tip of the Malay peninsula, Singapore, like many cities around the world, traces its origins to a small trading port as far back as 90 A.D. Although it’s uncertain whether or not Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy was in fact referring to Singapore when describing the almost mystical town he referred to as Sabana.
This prime location could not go unnoticed and soon the town came under the influence of kingdoms from East, West, North and South. Namely the Chinese (who referred to the city as Pu Lou Chung), the Hindu kingdoms of the Indian subcontinent, the Northern Siamese and Malay (for whom the city was known as Pulau Ujong), and the Javanese kingdoms (which knew the city as Tumasik or Sea Town).
By 1299, a Malay kingdom known as Singapura had been established in the area. The kingdom came under constant attack from all sides, and finally succumbed to a siege by sea from the Portuguese in 1613. While it is uncertain whether medieval Singapura is located where Singapore is today, the legend lives on.
The city’s recent history begins as a British colony when Lieutenant-Governor Stamford Raffles, based in British Java, set his eyes on the strategic location and founded a colonial port on the 28th of January 1819. Today, Raffles is known as one of the city’s historical patriarchs, for whom many buildings bare still his name. Colony, independence, and a brief quickie arranged-marriage with neighboring Malaysia, as well as a subsequent divorce, quickly followed.
With all its historic hardships, it is hard to ignore Singapore’s success; by the 21st century Singapore has firmly earned its independence. Today, the city serves as the tropical playground for some of Asia’s most affluent individuals, as well as one of the world’s highest standards of living. Familiar yet exotic, Singapore is endlessly enticing.
Visit Singapore – How to get there?
Singapore is served by Changi International Airport, voted the world’s best airport since 2013.
Changi International offers connections to over 380 cities worldwide, and is one Asia’s busiest airports with over 62 million passengers in 2017. Singapore Airlines, part of Star Alliance, is also the country’s flag carrier, and one of six airlines based here.
The airport can sometimes feel more like a luxury shopping mall than an airport; but then again not many luxury malls have swimming pool access and cabanas. If swimming is not your thing, the free movie theater in the transit area of Terminal 3, or the over 1,000 butterflies in the Butterfly Garden may be the perfect way to pass the time. Access to the pool is available for a small fee at the Aerotel Transit Hotel in Terminal 1.
The many lounges, art installations, as well as endless shopping possibilities (unusual for even the most prestigious and well-equipped international airports of the world) proves that when it comes to airport amenities—the more the merrier. As the world’s best place to catch a flight, Changi is a worthy destination all on its own.
In recent years, budget airlines have seen an increase at the airport. Through a concerted effort to attract more international tourists, Changi is a great connection spot for further travel as the connection hub of southeast Asia. The airport is connected to the city center via a 30-minute train ride from Tanah Merah Station on the East West Line of the city’s mass rapid transit system or MRT, which is accessible underground between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.
Even if your only stop in Singapore is on your way somewhere else, you will not be disappointed. Simply put, this is the best equipped airport in the world!
For more tips about how to get around in Singapore, feel free to check out this article: Singapore Transport.
And if you are wondering when to travel to Singapore, read this blog post: Best time to visit Singapore.
Visit Singapore – Where to Stay?
When it comes to accommodations, gleaming brand new skyscrapers are part of the mix in almost every city. Nonetheless, the particular colorful colonial charm of the city’s best resorts is not lost in even the most budget friendly accommodations.
Visit Singapore – Hostel
For budget accommodations that don’t skimp on style and comfort, Fisher BnB is the top-rated hostel in the city. Set in a colonial era building with modern decorations and plush utilitarian comfort, Fisher BnB is not far from the downtown core as well as some of the city’s top sites. The style is slick and modern and references the hostel’s Japanese ownership with a style that is all the rave in the new cafés, hostels and hotels in Tokyo. You’ll likely meet up with southeast Asia’s greatest modern explorers.
For more options, feel free to check this blog post: Hostel Singapore.
Visit Singapore – Hotel
Hotel Boss is close to the city’s colorful little India, and is more reasonably priced than other hotels with the same amenities and attention to service. The hotel features superb accommodations, a rooftop pool and bar as well as a gym. While the gym’s proximity to the pool (incased in floor to ceiling glass walls) can allow for inspired exercise early in the mornings; the pool loungers and bar enthusiasts also get a front row seat to your workout later on in the day and into the evening. So be sure to get that workout in early, if you’re looking for privacy.
Hotel Boss is flexible enough to accommodate young travelers as well as retirees, so except a varied mix on the guest list. This hotel is also perfectly suited for those traveling on business as well.
Visit Singapore – Resort
If you’re not looking for the high-profile extravaganza of the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore offers an endless array of luxury travel that can suit a more private holiday. Located across the Bay from the famed casino and hotel, The Fullerton is a luxury business resort of sorts. The Fullerton Hotel offers all the privacy currently known to man and even features Rolls Royce travel service for exclusive guests direct from Changi Airport.
Lounge in the city’s most private rooftop pool and bar (yes, even better than the one across the bay). Then dine to the nines on Singapore’s best rated French restaurant, (as well as the city’s largest selection of French wine) at La Brasserie. Once full on gourmet food, enjoy a final cocktail as well as the best views of Marina Bay Sands and the downtown skyline at night. Romantic, intimate, private and above all luxurious; this is the best of the best.
If you want more recommendations of amazing hotels in Singapore, feel free to check out these articles:
Visit Singapore #1 – Marina Bay Sands
Even if you decide to room elsewhere, no visit to Singapore today is complete without a stop at Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Resort. The 10-billion-dollar project opened in 2010, and quickly became the go-to destination for Hollywood celebrities, supermodels, and even royals. The three-tower resort is a unique piece of architecture that has become the city’s unofficial landmark. Fine dining, luxury shopping, the city’s only casino, and an-out-of-this-world rooftop swimming pool and lounge, are hard to beat. Access to the world’s best rooftop is for hotel guests only if you want to stop by and check out what all the hubbub is about.
The esplanade adjourning the bay for which Marina Bay Sands gets its name, is also flanked by some of the city’s most enticing sights and sounds; this includes the Esplanade Performing Arts Centre, the Singapore Flyer, Merlion Park, as well as an aquatic Louis Vuitton outlet and arts center, curiously located on a barge in the bay.
Visit Singapore #2 – Gardens by the Bay
You can’t really visit Singapore without checking out this wonder! Right next door, Gardens by the Bay is the city’s segway into cutting edge urban planning, park design and even more futuristic architecture. The park opened in 2011 to international acclaim and admiration; nabbing top design awards the world over. The park quickly became Singapore’s top tourist attraction and its most photographed landmark.
Gardens by the Bay features 101 hectares of leisure and entertainment perfectly suited for those traveling with families. This includes the famous and picture-ready Supertree Grove, Futuristic Bay East Garden’s glass domes, as well as an array of sculptures, installation art and attractions focusing on nature and the environment. This is voted as Singapore’s top must-see experience, perhaps only second to the famed hotel next door. Make sure to book your tickets in advance to the Skyway (18% off at the moment) to make the best of this experience.
Spot #3 – National Botanical Gardens
The National Botanical Gardens is the city’s first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of only three botanical gardens in the world that share this distinction. Enticing and romantic pathways are perfectly manicured with the world’s greatest collection of tropical plants and flowers. All this and an array of friendly semi-wild tropical creatures await you.
Historically, the garden is renowned worldwide as the first place where the city’s famed white orchids (popular the world over) were first interbred. Although the plant life takes the cake, the garden is also known for its infamous wild monkeys. Though they may seem friendly and gracious, these comical trouble-makers have no problem running up a palm tree with an unsuspecting tourist’s phone or wallet—so always have your wits about you.
Make sure to stop by at one of the park’s highly rated cafés and restaurants. For the best lemonade in the city, Casa Verde offers a well-to-do yet affordable brunch. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, brunch at The Corner House is a must amongst the city’s hippest ladies and gents. Cafés in the park are often quite small and may require a reservation.
Visit Singapore #4 – Chinatown
Singapore’s Chinatown is one of the largest in Asia. The Chinese have a long and detailed history in Singapore and where responsible for building much of what the city is today.
Once home to spice warehouses and opium dens, the neighborhood’s colorful colonial houses have been transformed into some of the city’s hippest restaurants and boutique hotels.
For some inspired quiet time and reflection, make sure to plan a stop at the impressive Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. As the name suggests, the temple is said to house the tooth relic of the Buddha. The temple features an impressive interior decorated in a seductive interplay of crimson lacquer décor, jade, as well as gold, which is mostly reserved for the buddha niches and the main altar near the back. Don’t forget to pick up your good luck charm on the Pagoda Street Market as well.
Chinatown is also a must for foodies. The neighborhood features the most affordable Michelin Star restaurant experience, anywhere. Enjoy succulent chicken or pork on rice and noodle for just $2SGD or about $1.42US! Liao Fan’s Hong Kong Style Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle originally received the prestigious distinction as Singapore’s first Michelin graded restaurant as a small food stall in China-town Complex’s Market & Food Centre. Since then Liao Fan has opened a more spacious location across the street, although the line out the door is just as long.
For more info about local dishes, feel free to read this blog post: Singapore Food.
Visit Singapore #5 – Little India
For a taste of curry, a whiff of meditative incense, and a sprinkle of vibrant, colorful buildings, look no further than Singapore’s Little India. The largest singular ethnic town in the city boasts dozens of delicious eateries and a treasure trove of shops and hotels. Littered throughout the area are countless stores offering trinkets, jewelry, traditional Indian ceremonial dress and garments, neat little statuettes of Ganesh, Vishnu –you name it.
You’re sure to find every six-armed, three-faced god in the Hindu pantheon at any one of Little India’s enticing stores. Be sure to walk amidst the aisle of stalls selling fresh and fragrant Indian flower wreaths meant as offerings to Vishnu; but, refrain from smelling them directly as the flowers are reserved for the gods. In between shopping, take a quick break and check out the impressive, colorful statues of the Hindu gods and goddesses at the landmark Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple.
Once you’ve finished contemplating your future incarnations, you’re bound to be hungry. Fortunately, Little India’s myriad of restaurants specialize in every kind of curry from Kerala to Kolkata and everything in between. For a hearty dish of South Indian vegetarian food, check out eateries like Muthu’s Curry and Suriya. If North Indian dishes are more your speed, get your fill of tantalizing tandoori recipes from restaurants like Jaggi’s Northern Indian Cuisine. Don’t be shy either, traditional circular pancakes (or roti prata) are less common to people unfamiliar with Indian cuisine but just as delicious as more common dishes. If you’re craving something a little different while traversing Singapore’s Little India, be sure to check out Jalan Besar. Its trendy and unique cafés offer delicious coffee/treats as well as lively conversation amidst the locals.
Spot#6 – Kampong Glam Malay and Muslim Quarter
No visit to Singapore is complete without paying a visit to the Kampong Glam Malay and the Muslim quarter. Be inspired by the beautiful, intricately detailed Sultan’s Mosque, which is located on the main street and serves as a congregation point and landmark building for all practicing Muslims in Singapore. From there, take a walk down Bussorah Street in order to appreciate some of the architecture –refurbished structures, storefronts and homes built as far back as the colonial era.
Located a stone’s throw away from the mosque, is the Malay Heritage Centre. The centre works as a sort of living Malay immigrant museum with an informative display/exhibit of Malay history and culture detailing the arrival and settlement of Malay peoples in the area. While you’re admiring the shops and distinct eateries this district boasts, don’t miss out and indulge in a magical milk tea or as the locals call it, teh tarik which translates to ‘frothy milk tea’. Don’t just stop there, the Muslim quarter boasts several distinct areas including Arab Street and Haji Lane which have special restaurants and shops that are well worth a visit.
By the way, we just released a new article about 10 Interesting Singapore Facts. Feel free to read, you are going to be surprised! 😉
Visit Singapore #7 – Universal Studios Singapore
If you’re looking for action and thrills, rides and superheroes, then Universal Studios is just the ticket. The park itself is divided into seven separate unique zones: Hollywood, New York, Sci-Fi City, Ancient Egypt, The Lost World, Far Far Away, and Madagascar.
Perfect for a family outing or spending time with your significant other, peruse the streets of the original city plans of New York City before its boom in the mid 1900’s, all the while not leaving Asia! If you’ve got time, say ‘hi’ to your favorite characters of Sesame Street, found roaming the streets of New York. If North America’s East Coast isn’t your thing, perhaps strolling down Hollywood Boulevard may be up your alley. While you’re there, you can also pay a visit to Hollywood’s China Arcade, featuring a replica of Ming’s Chinese Theatre.
If you’re a fan of Ancient Egypt, take a glimpse at replicas of Egypt’s most prized and revered artifacts found by the British in the Golden Age of Egyptian Exploration in the early 20th century, don’t miss the rides and neat statues of the old Egyptian gods either. If you wish to pay a visit to animated dinosaurs that once roamed the earth millions of years ago, look no further than the Lost World, modelled on the destroyed park island of the Hollywood blockbuster; just be careful with the T. Rex and the huge splashy waterfall!
For kids young and old who grew up watching, or have just been introduced to everyone’s favorite big, loud, and obnoxiously green ogre, Shrek’s home, Far Far Away Land, is surprisingly close by to enjoy for the day. Finally, last but not least, the Madagascar zone features a shipwrecked cargo ship adventure ride along with everyone’s favorite cast of characters featured in the Madagascar movie universe.
It’s easy to spend more than just one day here as these are just a few of the attractions, rides, gift shops, arcades and excitement that Universal Studios Singapore has to offer! Universal Studios Singapore is located on Sentosa Island and is opened daily Sunday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7p.m., and Saturdays, 10am to 8pm. You can take the MRT to Harbor Front Station, then transfer to the Sentosa Express train located on level 3 of VIVO City Mall within the station.
Follow this link to book your ticket with a 10% off discount.
Spot #8 – Singapore River Cruise
For everyone who wants to get up close and personal; that is, to the city’s landmarks, then the Singapore River Cruise is a great way to relax, kick back, and admire Singapore’s stunning skyline. The Singapore River Cruise focuses on all the famous landmarks that Singapore boasts as a financial, cultural, and economic hub in Asia. A beautiful mix of old meets new, where heritage buildings are on display. During the ride, the vibrant Financial Center is highlighted with a guided tour and historical commentary that will help you understand the lay of the land. Make sure to follow this link to get a discount on ticket prices and book your seat.
Singapore is a meeting place at the crossroads of the word, bridging East and West, and everything in between. As the first ever meeting place between a US president and North Korea’s leader, this once sleepy trading town can suddenly surprise the world and become the setting of historic events with its charm and openness to world ideas. The rest of the time, Singapore is one of Asia’s brightest jewels awaiting for you to marvel.