Must-Have Experiences in Singapore
I'm a city girl at heart (born and raised in NYC), but over the years I've developed a deep appreciation for nature and greenery. Singapore is an interesting mix of the two. The country is committed to staying true to the feeling of being a "City in a Garden". In Singapore you'll see world class modern architecture surrounded by an abundance of plants and trees. Although small in size, 278 square miles, Singapore is one of Asia's largest economic and industrial powerhouses. I visited Singapore to attend my friend Corey's wedding.
Besides attending one of the most beautiful wedding ceremonies I've ever been to, here are some highlights and must-have experiences from my time spent in the cosmopolitan urban jungle:
Visit Singapore Botanic Gardens
This 158- year old garden is Singapore's first UNESCO Heritage Site. Orchids are my favorite flower and the Botanic Gardens is home to the National Orchid Garden, which has over 60,000 orchids and other plants. It is the the largest collection of its kind in the world.
Walk around Marina Bay
Walk around Marina Bay and marvel at the stunning urbanscape. Key places to visit include Marina Bay Sands, the Helix Bridge, Singapore Flyer (Ferris Wheel), and Esplanade: Theaters on the bay. For amazing overlooking views go to the Skypark of Marina Bay Sands and/ or take a ride on the Singapore Flyer.
Visit the Merlion in Merlion Park
No trip to Singapore is complete without visiting the iconic Merlion statue. The Merlion has a body of a fish and a head of a Lion. The body represents Singapore's early history as a fishing village. The head symbolizes Singapore's original name, Singapura, or "lion city" in Malay. Make sure you take a picture with the Merlion and catch the sunset if you have time.
One of my favorite parts of my visit to Singapore was experiencing its multi-cultural diversity and talking a walk through the different ethnic neighborhoods.
Arab Street & Haji Lanes
Arab Street and Haji Lanes are both part of the neighborhood of Kampong Glam. This multi-cultural Muslim community is home to many of the Malay, Indonesian, and Arab populations in Singapore. Arab street is filled with cozy cafes, delicious restaurants, and vibrant shops. You can easily spend hours checking out the different textile stores and outlets selling Persian carpets, leather, perfumes, jewelry, and baskets. The colorful Haji Lane is filled with trendy shops and amazing street art. The iconic Masjid Sultan Mosque is the national mosque of Singapore.
We were fortunate enough to visit Little India during Diwali, a Hindu Festival of lights which signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. We definitely felt the excitement and bustling energy of this holiday.
When in Little India you definitely want to do the following:
Visit a Bazaar
In a bazaar you will find stallholders who sell everything from festive items to yummy traditional seasonal snacks. There are so many sweets to choose from, luckily some of the vendors offer samples.
I got Henna for the very first time in Little India! I got two designs, a smaller design on my wrist for 5 SGD (3.68 USD), and a larger one that covered my entire hand for 10 SGD (7.36 USD).
Eat in a Hawker Center
Singapore hawker centers are large food courts with stalls around the perimeter. This is a great place to enjoy delicious authentic food for cheap. The moment I saw these places were packed with locals I knew it was going to be good.
Visit the famous Sri Veeramakaliamman temple
This beautiful Hindu temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali. The temple has a high tower, bell-covered doors, and ceilings filled with statues of different deities. During our visit there was live traditional music which added to the festive spirit.
The Chinese make up the largest percentage (76%) of the population in Singapore. China Town is a perfect fusion of heritage mixed with modernity.
Some key things to do include:
I got some really good souvenir shopping done in China Town. My favorite purchases were a traditional teapot and chopsticks.
Eat with the Locals
Chinatown Food Street and the hawker stalls at the Maxwell Road Food Center are all great places to try tasty local foods for cheap. Meals can costs anywhere from 3 to 15 SGD (2 TO 11 USD). I really wish I had more time in Singapore just to eat!
Visit Different Temples
I love how China Town has a variety of temples dedicated to Singapore's different religious groups. On South Bridge Road, you will find a Hindu Temple, a Mosque, and a Buddhist temple all within short distances of each other.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a stunning four-story temple. On the fourth floor, there is a solid gold two-meter stupa where the sacred relic is kept. This is also a meditation space, where visitors are welcomed to find a spot and meditate. On the roof, there is a large prayer wheel.
Visit Little India & China Town at Night
If your schedule permits, I unfortunately didn't have time to, but visit Little India and China Town at night. The streets are lit up with colorful lights and it's a completely different experience from the day time.
Explore the Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay really highlights Singapore's "City in a Garden" theme. There are 25 huge man-made Supertrees and two equally incredible biodomes.
Attend The Gardens by the Bay Light Show
The light and sound show at the Supertree Grove happens daily at 7:45 & 8:45pm and it's something you don't want to miss because 1) It's free! Which is nice because Singapore is so expensive and 2) It's a magical experience. The best view of the show is from the ground level. Arrive a little early to get a good spot.
Gardens by the Bay is definitely worth visiting during day and night.
Party in Clark Quay
Clark Quay is the hotspot for partying in Singapore. There are a variety of clubs in this area and a number of restaurants. Alcohol is really expensive in Singapore. A beer can cost you 18 SGD (13 USD). A basic cocktail can run you 25 SGD (18 USD).
Grab a Drink on a Rooftop
Singapore's beauty is heightened at night when the city landscape is lit up. We went for drinks at Ce la Vie which is in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. This hotel has the iconic infinity pool that is all over IG. While the infinity pool is only open to hotel guest (no guests passes permitted), the roof top is open to all and offers incredible panoramic views of Marina Bay.
Have you been to Singapore before? What are some highlights from your trip?
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