Best things to do in Singapore, 3-day Itinerary
Singapore, the small island city-state off the southern tip of Malaysia, is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Because of its cultural diversity, the city is called the melting pot of Asia and English is one of the countries official languages. The unique blend of history, culture and rapid development that made it the hyper-modern city it is today, turned Singapore into one of the most interesting cities in Asia, if not in the whole world. By following this 3-day itinerary you can make sure that you see the best that Singapore has to offer!
What is Singapore known for?
Singapore is known as the country that banned gum and spitting on the ground. While chewing gum itself isn’t illegal, it is illegal to import and/or sell gum. Subsequently, Singapore is very strict on littering, with hefty fines as punishment. We saw a man getting caught by the police after throwing a piece of paper on the street, resulting in an immediate 400 Singaporean dollars (SGD) fine. Singapore is also known for being the greenest and most eco-friendly city in Asia with regulations in place to reduce emissions even further. Singapore is a massive financial hub, and when thinking of Singapore the first image that comes to mind is probably one of its impressive architecture. With its architecture, Singapore holds many world records like the world’s highest indoor waterfall, the world’s largest glass greenhouse, the world’s largest vertical garden and many many more. Just the Marina Bay Sands Resort alone already holds four world records.
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What to expect in Singapore
Even though Singapore lies in Asia, the experience you’ll have here will most likely be completely different from the one you’d expect in other Asian countries. For starters, Singapore is expensive. While you can get food for relatively cheap (more on that later), accommodation prices are through the roof because space is limited, and getting drunk will empty your wallet as having a beer in a bar will set you back on average 11 Singaporean dollars (8 USD). Then there is the language, almost everyone in Singapore is bilingual, and English is definitely among one of the languages people speak. You can also expect to get from A to B in Singapore extremely easily, as the city’s infrastructure is great. Traffic jams are basically non-existent and the subway system is amazing.
Then there are the things in which Singapore is very similar to other South-East Asian countries, like the temperature and humidity. A year-round temperature of around 30 °C combined with around 165 days of rain per year make that the average humidity in Singapore is 80%, spiking to 95% during the afternoon almost every day. This makes walking around outside a very sweaty activity, so bring changes of clothes (like 15 per day) and always take a bottle of water with you. The tap water in Singapore is safe to drink, but can still be quite high in chlorine so if you want to make sure your water is as healthy as can be either bring your own water purifier or refill your bottle at purified water refilling stations throughout the city. Like in many other Asian cities, Grab is the app that is most commonly used to book a taxi, while Uber is hardly getting used at all.
Day 1 in Singapore
Let’s start the day easy and go to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Access to the gardens is free, but they are located a bit out of the city center so you’re best off grabbing a taxi to get there. The gardens are 74 hectares big and have everything from orchid gardens to swan lakes, and from open grassy areas to a shaded canopy walk where you can escape the heat. These gardens are the perfect spot to leisurely spend your first morning in Singapore so you can get used to the humidity.
From the Botanical Gardens, take another cab towards the CBD and stop at Orchard Road. This road and the area around it is Singapore’s upscale retail heart with big department stores, shopping malls, stores from all the major brands and boutique designer shops. But if you’re like us and you’re not really into shopping, then we suggest having lunch at one of the food courts here, and to visit the library, but not just for the books. The library @Orchard looks more like a designer store made by a contemporary architect than a library and walking around in it feels like walking around in a museum.
Fort Canning Park
From Orchard Road it is a short walk to the historical Fort Canning Park. On top of the hill in this park, the British built a fort in the 19th century to guard the government buildings in the area. Nowadays it is a beautiful park full of historical and heritage sites, and recently a particular spot in the park acquired some fame on social media. You might have seen pictures of a spiralling staircase surrounded by brick walls, and an open roof with greenery hanging over the edges. While it looks like this staircase leads down into some mysterious underground bunker, it is actually nothing more than the access to a crossing tunnel that comes up again on the other side of the road.
Old Hill Street Police station
On the southern tip of Fort Canning Park stands the Old Hill Street Police Station which is one of the famous Instagram spots in Singapore. Nowadays it is no longer a police station, but a national monument and government building that houses several ministries. What makes this building so special are the 927 windows with rainbow coloured shutters that brighten the otherwise very boring looking Hill Street, one of Singapore’s main CBD streets.
Now it isn’t entirely true that without the Old Hill Street Police Station the whole street would look boring because a little bit further up the street stands the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery. This building houses a museum displaying historic fire trucks and firefighting equipment, but the real eye-catcher is the building itself. The building is a more than 100-year-old Central Fire Station, and it is how you would picture a fire station as a kid. With a watchtower, round-arched garage door openings and painted in red & white stripes. At night, the whole facade of the building lights up, making it look even more beautiful.
There is always something happening in Chinatown, and every time you walk around in the maze of narrow little streets you find something new here. Like a new place to eat, a funky souvenir shop or a trendy bar. In the center of Chinatown stands the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, a sacred place of worship where one of the two remaining teeth of Buddha is held. The other one is held in Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka. Read about that and other top things to do in Sri Lanka here. Next to the temple are the street markets and the food street, both decorated with lanterns that light up as soon as the sun goes down.
Nightlife in CLARKE QUAY
The Quays are the areas that lie along the river, starting from the marina bay and then swirling its way through downtown Singapore. In the center of it all lies the Clarke Quay neighborhood which is famous for its countless restaurants and bars. While eating and drinking here is definitely not cheap, most places do provide a scenic setting looking out over the river, and this area is the place to be if you’re looking to party a bit.
Day 2 IN SINGAPORE
Marina Bay area
The Marina Bay area is by far the most famous and iconic part of the city and filled with some of Singapore’s best photo opportunities. You can easily spend a full day just sightseeing and walking along the waterfront, so that’s exactly what we think you should do! Below we’ve listed the spots you shouldn’t miss.
Fullerton Road: Along this road stand both the massive skyscrapers that determine the bay’s skyline, and impressive old colonial buildings. This is where the rich people that want to be seen go. Which will become even more obvious when you walk in front of The Clifford Pier, where cars like Ferraris, McLarens, Porches, Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces are parked next to the sidewalk. The Fullerton Bay Hotel has a really nice rooftop bar & restaurant that also gives you the best view of the Marina Bay Sands Resort.
The Merlion: The Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore and it stands by the water right at the end of Fullerton Road. This massive water spewing statue with the head of a lion and the body of a fish usually draws quite the crowd of people wanting to take a picture with the statue and the Marina Bay Sands Resort visible in the background.
The Esplanade: This unique building complex is also known as ‘The Durian’ because, well, it looks like a durian. It houses a concert hall, theater, a shopping mall, and several restaurants. Not only does it look incredibly spectacular setting by the waterfront, you also have an amazing view of the CBD skyline over the bay from in front of The Esplanade.
Singapore Flyer: Up until 2014 this was the biggest observation wheel in the world. While it doesn’t hold this record any longer, with its 165-meter height it is still seriously big. It can carry almost 800 people and going full circle on it takes almost half an hour. If you want to see the Marina Bay from above, there is no better spot to do it from than here.
Helix Bridge: This walking bridge connects the north side of the marina with the part that the Marina Bay Sands Resort is on, but the bridge itself is an attraction in itself too. The remarkable design was inspired by the curved shape of DNA molecules and it makes for a very cool photo spot.
ArtScience Museum: Everything in the Marina Bay area evolves around extravagant architectural design, and the ArtScience Museum is another prime example of this. The building’s design resembles that of a lotus flower, and all sorts of technological highlights are incorporated in the build, like all the rainwater that falls on the roof being collected, filtered and used in the restrooms. The museum shows all sorts of exhibitions that combine art and science and has a permanent exhibition that is called ‘Future World’ showing mind-boggling artworks.
Marina Bay Sands Resort: This resort is one of the most famous, if not THE most famous resort in the world and even if you’re not spending a small fortune to stay in the resort, it still has a lot to offer. On the lower floors, you’ll find a massive publicly accessible shopping mall full of futuristic features, a huge casino and Singapore’s biggest nightclub where world-class DJs play frequently. For 15 SGD you can buy a pass to go up the elevator in the third tower to the SkyPark on the 57th floor where you have access to the observation deck and several bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, you can only dip in the famous infinity pool if you are a hotel guest.
Gardens by the Bay
The massive Gardens by the Bay are the botanical gardens of the future and a must-visit if you’re in Singapore, and best of all; access to the gardens is free! From the Marina Bay Sands hotel, you can cross the road straight into the Gardens by the Bay via an overpass on the 6th floor, and as you walk into the gardens it almost feels like you’re walking into the movie Avatar, the only thing that is missing is some big blue aliens. The gardens have multiple big attractions. The first attraction, and the only one that is free, are the eighteen Supertrees, ranging from 25 to 50 meters high, of which twelve are clustered together into the Supertree Grove. In the top of the tallest Supertree there is even a restaurant! The Supertrees don’t just look awesome, they are also full of technological and environmentally beneficial features, like the collection of rainwater to help irrigate the rest of the park or cells that harness solar energy and produce enough energy to light up the Supertrees and the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest Dome.
That brings us directly to the next attractions; the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest Dome. These two domes are massive glass greenhouses. The Cloud Forest Dome always has the same interior, a “mountain” covered in jungle with a massive waterfall dropping over it and walkways that take you through the whole thing. The Flower Dome shows different flowers depending on the time of the year, like a tulip exhibition complete with a Dutch windmill in April, or a winter exhibition with holiday decorations around Christmas. A ticket for both domes is 28 SGD.
Then there is the OCBC Skywalk, a 22-meter high canopy walk that connects to six of the Supertrees in the Supertree Grove, letting you get up close with the trees and its plants. We didn’t do the Skywalk ourselves but we’ve been told that the views over the garden from up there are stunning. A ticket for the OCBC Skywalk is 8 SGD.
When you’re done admiring the gardens, get back to the Supertree Grove around 7:30 pm, because at 7:45 the Supertree light show, called ‘Garden Rhapsody’ starts. The whole grove lights up with thousands of little lights for a mesmerising 15 minute light show. Then, if you still have any energy left, get back to the Marina Bay for the Marina Bay Sands Resort light & water show called ‘Spectra’ which starts at 9 pm and also lasts 15 minutes. The best spot to watch this show from is from the rooftop of The Fullerton Bay Hotel we mentioned earlier.
Day 3 IN SINGAPORE
After yesterday’s busy day we’ll take it a bit easier. Today we’ll take you to the more colourful and cultural part of Singapore, starting at Haji Lane. This buzzing little street is filled to the brim with boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants, and often street performers too. You’ll be hard-pressed to find such a happy and relaxing vibe anywhere else in the city. Even if you’re not looking to eat, drink or buy anything, you should still take a stroll through Haji Lane just to admire all the street art. There hardly isn’t a wall in this street that hasn’t been decorated with either a funny mural or a quirky art installation, and they are all equally beautiful.
If you take a right turn at the end of Haji Lane, you’re looking straight at Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque). With its huge golden domes, this remarkable building is one of Singapore’s most impressive religious sites. On weekdays, you can access the mosque and take a self-guided tour between 10 am - 12 pm and 2 pm - 4 pm.
Eat at a hawker centre
In the beginning of this blog we mentioned that while Singapore is expensive, it is possible to get food in Singapore relatively cheap. This is where hawker centres come in. Hawker centres are open air complexes full of little food stalls that sell all sorts of food, generally for only a few dollars per dish. During lunch and dinnertime, these places are filled with locals sitting at little tables, eating food from their favourite food stall from a serving tray. We’ve been to a few hawker centres during our time in Singapore, and not only is the food really good and cheap, they are all quite an experience. One of the Hawker Centres we’ve been to is the Albert Hawker Centre near the Bugis Junction, which is another prominent shopping & business area.
Just like Haji Lane, Little India is overflowing with colour. Here you’ll find colour coming from the many fruit & vegetable vendors, fabric stores, jewellery stores, tailor shops, and most iconically; the house of Tan Teng Niah. This old Chinese villa has been deemed ‘the most colourful house in Singapore’, with its almost Mondriaan-like painted walls, doors, and shutters. The amount of different bright colours clashing is almost dizzying and might even start hurting your eyes after a while, but it is without a doubt one of the most unique buildings in the city and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Jewel Changi Airport
This will most likely be both your starting point and the end of your Singapore trip, but this gateway in and out of Singapore is also a worthwhile destination in itself. Get to the airport a few hours before your outbound flight and go The Jewel, the massive dome-shaped building in between the three main airport terminals. As you walk past some elaborate art installation from the terminals to the dome’s inner circle, you’re suddenly standing in a multi-tiered rainforest, with the biggest indoor waterfall in the world falling 40 meters straight down in the middle. Walk around a little bit to find other attractions like a canopy walk and canopy bridge looking out over the rainforest and the waterfall, a hedge maze, a mirror maze and all sorts of gardens. And when you’re done with the humidity, go to the outer circles of the dome to find a massive shopping mall for your last minute shopping.
Optional Day 4 IN SINGAPORE
We know that most travellers only spend a few days in Singapore as a stopover since the airport is one of the biggest hubs for flights within Asia. That’s why we’ve chosen to stick to a 3-day itinerary, but if you have an extra day, you should definitely check out Sentosa Island. There are four ways to get to Sentosa from the mainland; by car via a landbridge, by pedestrian boardwalk, cable car, or monorail. The name Sentosa translates to ‘peace and tranquility’, and that’s exactly what they want you to feel here, plus a shitload of adrenaline. This whole island is basically one big resort full of fun things to do.
On the island you’ll find an array of theme parks - the Universal Studios, a waterpark, one of the world’s biggest oceaniums, a zip-line adventure park and a luge track. If that isn’t exciting enough for you yet, you can also go bungy jumping, wave surfing on an FlowRider wave machine, or indoor skydiving on Sentosa. And once you’re tired from all the action, chill out on one of the paradisiacal beaches on the south coast of the island. These are just some of the many things you can do and see here. Sentosa has everything you could possibly want for an exciting day trip, and we’re convinced that you could even spend a whole holiday here without getting bored. So if you have an extra day to spend in Singapore, this is the place to spend it!
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Wether you’re visiting Singapore as a stopover destination for a few days in between flights, or as a two week holiday, there is plenty to discover. Despite its small size you can easily spend weeks roaming around in the city, and still be left with things to see. We loved almost everything about Singapore (just couldn’t get used to the humidity) and have even called it our favourite city in Asia, and with the insane rate the city is developing at, there will be new things to see every time you visit.
Where to stay in Singapore
The Fullerton Hotel - This hotel is known as the most luxurious hotel in Singapore. If you’re looking to indulge in old-fashioned colonial style 5 star luxury, then this is the place for you. This place just breathes grandeur, but doesn’t come cheap at a prices of at least 420 SGD for a night.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel - For more modern luxury you should check out the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. And let’s be honest, having access to the world largest rooftop infinity pool does sound appealing, doesn’t it? Prices for a room on the lower floors start at about 500 SGD a night. Want a room on the higher floor? Then be prepared to spend at least 620 SGD for a night.
Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore by Shangri-La - For something midrange, but without having to give in on comfort, this is your best bet. With its central location on top of the Orchard Mall you can easily reach most of the city’s sightseeing spots from here. Oh, and it also has a gorgeous rooftop infinity pool, for less than half the price of the Marina Bay Sands one.
The Pod - You’ve probably heard of, or maybe already even slept in a pod hotel. Since space is the most expensive commodity in Singapore, a lot of hotels have turned to pods to accomodate more people in the same space, but still offer privacy. Sleeping in a pod is a fun experience, and the most budget-friendly way of spending the night in Singapore. We’ve spend the night in several pod hotels in the city and liked this one the best for it’s modern design, great facilities and the friendliest staff. For a price of 65 SGD for a double pod or 36 SGD for a single, you won’t find anything better in town.
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