Are you going to Singapore soon? Do you have a long layover there? Or have you simply realized that you really don’t know much about the famous city-state? Don’t worry, just read on and discover Singapore’s top places and experiences. At the end of the article, I am not sure that you will be able to claim that you know it all about Singapore, but at least you will have the big picture.
Walk around Marina Bay and Raffles Place
The artificial bay has become the new heart of Singapore. You cannot say you have seen Singapore if you haven’t seen Marina Bay! Whenever I go back to Singapore, I can’t miss that walk. That’s the place that makes me feel “OK, for sure I am in Singapore”.
I think that this is the first thing you should plan for your weekend in Singapore. What’s there to see? The impressive, sometimes surprising, always audacious architecture of the buildings around.
You can take the MRT (their metro system) to the Raffles Place station. As you go out, you will find yourself immersed in a world of impressive buildings. you are in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District). From the cluster of towers of the CBD, it is easy to reach Marina Bay on foot.
Head towards the thorny durian-shaped Theaters By The Bay, to appreciate great vistas across the bay. Walk a little more to Singapore’s new icon: Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino. This is the most expensive building in the world, its construction cost $6 billion. Its architecture is particularly daring: three towers linked by a huge platform that is actually holding a terrace, a restaurant and… a giant swimming pool.
You will need to sleep at the hotel to access the swimming pool (if you are travelling on a shoestring forget about it), but you can choose to pay $20 and go up to the overhanging tip of the platform. In any case, do enter the atrium and walk across the three towers, the entrance is completely free.
If you have a bit of time, take the footbridge to the fantastic Gardens By The Bay. Here is the official site if you want more information about the park.
In case you have some spare dollars, ride the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel for some striking sights over the city.
Stroll and buy souvenirs in Chinatown
At the Chinatown MRT station, take the Pagoda Street exit and you will be ready to wander in the charming and colorful district of Chinatown.
Chinatown is made of rows of shophouses. This is the traditional buildings of Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, designed to have the shop at street level and the living quarter in the first (and sometimes second) floor. With their decorated colorful facades and orange tiles roofs, the shophouses of Chinatown offer an impressive contrast with the Business District which is immediately nearby.
You will find there a succession of souvenir shops and booths, restaurants… You will even find a Tintin Shop, really cool if like me you are a fan of the Belgian cartoon hero.
Do not fail to visit the ostentatious Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and if you are there at around 11.30-noon you will be able to watch the prayer. While you are there, take the lift to the last floor and you will discover a peaceful and secluded roof garden, the perfect place to sit down and relax for a while far from the bustling city.
Next to the Chinese temple, an Indian Temple is also present in the heart of Chinatown. Take off your shoes and go have a look inside, if you are lucky you might arrive in the middle of a ceremony. If you want more Indian Temples and culture, go for Little India!
Have dinner at Clarke Quay
After a long day walking and discovering so many things, Clarke Quay (next MRT station after Chinatown) is the ideal place to relax and find yourself a pleasant restaurant to dine in.
Fish, Thai food, Western food… Singapore is a hub for countless types of cuisines and Clarke Quay offers a good choice. Try to arrive early enough to grab a table along the Singapore River.
Go to Orchard Road for some good shopping
Singapore is a giant shopping mall. And Orchard Road is their Champs Elysées. If you want to have a glimpse of what the Singaporean shopping scene looks like, Orchard Road is where you need to go!
Spend a few hours at the beach at Sentosa
If you get tired of the city, go for the beach! Go to HarbourFront MRT station, and in the VivoCity mall you will find the shuttle to Sentosa. It is also possible to follow a boardwalk to the island.
Okay, that’s not the Caribbean, but the artificial beaches built on the island of Sentosa are still a pleasant place to spend some time. The thin white sand was imported from Indonesia, and you know how beautiful Indonesian beaches are. Siloso Beach is the most accessible one, Palawan Beach is also very popular, and Tanjong Beach maybe a bit less as it is a little far.
Sentosa is a real little tourist paradise, with beaches, restaurants and different attractions. You will even find a Universal Studios theme park.
Alternative: if you are not so much into lazing on a beach, the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens is also an excellent option to escape the city.
Go eat in a food court, at least once
In Singapore food courts are everywhere (and often at the top level of shopping malls). They are truly part of the Singaporean daily life, so I suggest you step out of McDonald’s and go find a food court!
All around the tables, you will find booths offering all the types of food you can think of: Western, Malay, Indonesian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, soups, meat, pasta, fruit juices and so on. It is the place to go to appreciate the incredible food variety that can be found in Singapore. Another great point: it’s cheap. But be prepared to face the crowd! If you happen to come at the peak hours, if can be (very) challenging to find a free seat. So I advise you to eat a little early or a little late to avoid this situation.
It is not always easy to summarize a country in a short list of places and activities, and I probably forgot many interesting things and spots. But I believe that if you only have a weekend in Singapore and still want to experience its diversity, this is a quite good program to follow.