8 reasons Singapore’s not just for layovers anymore
Singapore is a city with multiple personalities – and we mean that in a good way. Once a tiny British colony, this (still tiny) modern metropolis is now a booming international business hub. It’s an ideal meeting point for East and West both in terms of geography and attitude. Here, skyscrapers crowd the riverfront and suited ex-pats sip Singapore Slings in posh restaurants and posher-still casinos. Visitors flock to the high-end retail boutiques along Orchard Street and it seems that you can quite literally walk anywhere without ever leaving the air-conditioned comfort of a thousand interconnected shopping malls.
But behind the super-clean urban façade (let’s not forget that in this city-state, it’s illegal to even buy chewing gum out of concerns it would dirty the pristine sidewalks), there are plenty of cultural treasures to discover. From pockets of colourful colonial buildings, the eclectic chaos of the Mustafa Center in Little India and the street food-peddling stands of the city’s famed hawker centers to the colourful lanterns and after-hours buzz of Chinatown’s Night Market, there’s plenty to see and do here – whether you want to eat chili crab with your bare hands or glam it up on the rooftop of the Marina Bay Sands.
1. Ride Singapore Flyer
This giant observation wheel, which was the highest in the world until being recently dethroned by Las Vegas’ High Roller, overlooks Marina Bay in the heart of modern, waterfront Singapore. Go for a spin to see views out over the entire city and the super trees of the park-like Gardens by the Bay, or opt for a high-flying dining experience with dinner served in one of the glass-enclosed capsules.
2. Go on a Night Safari
Singapore Zoo is worth a visit by day, but the real appeal is after the sun goes down. On the famous night safari, you can tour the zoo after dark for a peek at the evening antics of nocturnal animals including the babirusas, leopards, and flying foxes. You can make a night of it, too, sticking around the zoo after the safari for a bite to eat or to catch a live show with music and dancing.
3. Have a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel
Nowhere else conjures up the sultry elegance of colonial-era Singapore like the historic Raffles Hotel. This stately white edifice sprawls through downtown – it’s worth a visit just to roam among the columns and greenery-filled atriums. Restaurants housed within the hotel host high tea, which is an appropriate nod to the city’s British influence, or you can opt to sip the city’s namesake cocktail – the Singapore Sling – for a tropical take on cocktail hour in the historic Long Bar.
4. Marina Bay Sands
Perhaps the most iconic building in Singapore’s modern core, the Marina Bay Sands rises like a giant ship suspended above the city. A world-class casino fills the ground floor of this contemporary hotel, while the rooftop swimming pool, restaurant and bar lure visitors seeking both the spectacular view and the opportunity to see and be seen. Grab a bite to eat in one of the hotels’ in-the-clouds eateries, or roll the dice with Lady Luck at the elite casino downstairs.
5. Check out the nightlife on Clarke Quay
Stretching along the riverfront, historic Clarke Quay is packed with bars and restaurants and lined with Chinese tongkang – boats that have been converted into (you guessed it) more bars and restaurants. Spend an afternoon at the Asian Civilisation Museum; then take a leisurely stroll along the water, crossing bridges as you make your way up the quay in search of the perfect eatery, whether you want to tuck into a plate of chicken rice or throw back a pint or two at an Irish pub.
6. Get lost in Chinatown
The heartbeat of the city, Chinatown is Singapore’s cultural core. You can eat around the clock and the Night Market in particular is always abuzz. Shop for souvenirs and Asian wares in the hodge-podge of colourful shops, stand in line for a plate of Singapore-style carrot cake (no cream cheese frosting here—this hot and savory version is made with eggs, daikon, and sometimes oysters), and grab a coconut to sip on with a straw as you roam under glowing red lanterns, soaking up the pleasantly chaotic bustle of this otherwise overtly orderly metropolis.
7. Flex your credit card on Orchard Road
Die-hard shoppers could spend weeks on Orchard Road and never see the inside of every boutique. Designer names from around the globe share square footage with luxury malls and shopping centers at every price point, from the super cheap to the astronomically expensive. Shop and people-watch your way up the street and when your new shoes start to hurt, hop in a cab for a ride out to the Botanic Gardens for a quiet change of pace.
8. Be entertained on Sentosa Island
Accessible by footbridge, cable car, light rail or tram, Sentosa is Singapore’s closest holiday escape, offering pretty much any entertainment activity you can think of. There are pretty beaches here, where you can take a dip in the balmy waters or build sandcastles on the shore. Universal Studios is on the island, as well as a multitude of shops, restaurants, movie theaters and other entertainment venues. There’s a water cannon and laser light show, indoor bungee jumping, a Wave House for surfing, ziplines, museums, dolphins, and a waterpark, aquarium, a 4-D theme park, monkeys, a bird aviary – basically, everything needed for fun for the whole family. Grab a day pass and go for it.
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