16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Singapore – The 2018 Guide
Singapore has been described as a playground for the rich, and it’s true that the small city-state does have a certain sheen of wealth. But Singapore offers more than just high-end shopping malls, luxury hotels, and fine dining (though it’s worth indulging in those a bit if you can). There is also a vibrant history and diverse ethnic quarters to discover, along with many family-friendly attractions and lovely public spaces that make visiting this slightly futuristic city worthwhile.
Singapore has an excellent public transportation system that makes getting around convenient and easy. Once you’ve gotten a sense of the metro map, you’ll have no problem zipping from one part of town to the next. English is spoken everywhere, and signs are in English as well. In fact, Singapore is one of the easiest and most comfortable countries to navigate in Southeast Asia. And as long as you’re not comparing prices to nearby Thailand or Vietnam, you’re in for a lovely stay.
See also: Where to Stay in Singapore
1 Marina Bay Sands
The opulent Marina Bay Sands resort complex includes a high-end luxury hotel, a mall with a canal running through it, the ArtScience Museum, and the Marina Bay Sands Skypark – a vantage point for taking in the entire city. The Skypark’s viewing deck and infinity pool are found in the ship (yes, ship) that tops the hotel. Only hotel guests are allowed to use the infinity pool, but anyone can visit the observation deck. From the Skypark, you can see the innovative double helix bridge, the port, the Gardens by the Bay, and the impressive skyline. While up there on top of the city, guests can grab a snack or a coffee at the rooftop restaurant or pick up some keepsakes from the souvenir stand. You can purchase a photo of yourself green-screened in front of the massive hotel as it’s all lit up at night, but the cost is steep: 50 Singapore dollars. Better to ask a fellow tourist to snap a photo of you. The elegant opulence of the Marina Bay Sands exemplifies Singapore’s style and status as a major international city in Southeast Asia.
Address: 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore
2 Gardens by the Bay
Once you’ve glimpsed this beautifully designed green space (from the top of the Marina Bay Sands, perhaps) you won’t be able to stay away. Wander through the Bay East Garden, perfect for enjoying the vibrant plant life and escaping the city bustle for a moment. You won’t want to miss Supertree Grove, where you’ll find a cluster of the iconic, futuristic structures designed to perform environmentally sustainable functions. Then, head to the Cloud Forest Dome to see the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and learn a bit about biodiversity. Check the website for final ticket sale and tour times.
3 Botanic Gardens
Not to be confused with the Gardens on the Bay, the Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit. Singapore received its first UNESCO World Heritage nomination for the botanic gardens, and with good reason. The city can sometimes feel like a concrete jungle, albeit a clean and comfortable one, but the botanic gardens preserve pieces of Singapore’s wilder heritage. Indeed, a walking trail leads to the gardens’ heritage trees, which are conserved as part of an effort to protect the city’s mature tree species. Make sure to see the impressive National Orchid Garden. Other popular things to do include visiting the eco-garden, eco-lake, bonsai garden, sculptures, and several other gardens and unique sites.
4 Singapore Zoo
Billing itself as the world’s best rainforest zoo, the Singapore Zoo is a pretty impressive place. The facility is clean and inviting, and the animals appear well treated, with plenty of lush vegetation and habitat space. The orangutans are particularly impressive, and visitors can watch as babies and adults alike swing high above their platforms and snack on bananas. There is also a large chimpanzee family, zebras, meerkats, a komodo dragon, mole rats, white tigers, kangaroos, and many other creatures.
Guests can observe feedings for some of the animals. Allow at least three hours to make your way around the zoo. If the zoo doesn’t satisfy your need for getting close to wildlife, there’s also the Night Safari, River Safari (including a giant panda forest), and the Jurong Bird Park. Park hopper passes are available if you plan to visit more than one of the wildlife parks.
For a unique and personal wildlife experience, try the Singapore Zoo Breakfast with the Orangutans. This hassle free tour includes transportation from and to your hotel, allows you a half day to explore the zoo, and has an optional upgrade to enjoy breakfast in the company of the zoo’s much-loved orangutans.
Address: 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore
5 Orchard Road
One could be forgiven for coming to Singapore and doing nothing but shopping, as this is a world-class city for style and designer chic. The Orchard Road area is a great place to start a shopping spree, as there are high-end stores at every turn. You’d expect nothing less from a neighborhood that boasts 22 malls and six department stores. There are also four movie theaters, including an IMAX, and a KTV karaoke. If you get hungry while burning through all that cash, there are plenty of eateries in the neighborhood serving international cuisines.
6 Singapore Flyer
If the observation deck at the Marina Bay Sands doesn’t quite do it for you, try taking in high tea while looking out over the city from the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest giant observation wheel. Choose from several different packages that allow you to be served and pampered while enjoying a view that encompasses not only the Singapore skyline, but reaches to the Spice Islands of Indonesia and Malaysia’s Straits of Johor. There are several different ticket packages to choose from, and each includes access to the multimedia Journey of Dreams exhibit, which delves into Singapore’s history and the creation of the Singapore Flyer. Flights last 30 minutes each and run from early morning until late at night, so you can choose which view of the city you want to enjoy: the beginning of another bustling day or when Singapore is aglow after dark.
7 Raffles Hotel Singapore
This colonial building is one of the world’s last grand 19th-century hotels, once visited by literary luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad, as well as movie star Charlie Chaplin. Built in 1887, the property has served as a city landmark for well over a century and continues to live up to its tony reputation with excellent food and service. The classical architecture and tropical gardens provide a refined setting and represent another facet of Singapore’s varied and rich history.
The Raffles Hotel Singapore is located in the city’s Colonial District, which is also home to several other historic sites, and a good place to base yourself in the city. Here, you’ll find the Raffles Landing Site, where Sir Stamford Raffles is said to have stepped ashore in 1819. The story has it that he saw the small fishing village but recognized its potential as a port, so he purchased the land from the Sultan of Johor and invited Chinese and Indian immigrants to move here. And so the seeds of Singapore’s multi-ethnic identity were sown.
Address: 1 Beach Road, Singapore
If you’ve ever visited China, Singapore’s Chinatown neighborhood will bring you right back there. From the small mom-and-pop stores and authentic Chinese food to the bright red lanterns, there’s an excitement and hustle in this district. You can visit the Chinese Heritage Centre and see the impressive and beautiful Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. Another temple worth seeing is the Buddha Tooth Relic temple. If you’re up early enough (think 4am), you can hear the morning drum ceremony. Or you can just check out the closing ceremony in the evening after viewing the relic.
Heritage markers have been installed throughout the neighborhood in English, Japanese, and simplified Chinese, so visitors can better understand the significance of the area. But this neighborhood is not just a testament to the influence of the Chinese throughout Singapore’s past. This is a progressive neighborhood (with free Wi-Fi for all), and it’s home to the trendy Ann Siang Hill area, where the quaint bistros and upscale boutiques could be at home in any Western city.
9 Sentosa Island
Singapore isn’t exactly known as a beach destination, but if you’re really craving some fun in the sun, Sentosa Island is the place to find it. Siloso Beach is a good spot for getting in beach time, and visitors can play volleyball on free courts or go kayaking and skimboarding. There are several other beach attractions as well, plus an Underwater World aquarium, where you can swim with dolphins. A must-see on Sentosa Island is the Merlion, Singapore’s famous statue that has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. You can take an escalator to the top of the statue and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area. Fort Siloso, the country’s only preserved fort, is also located on Sentosa Island. Adventurous types will want to check out The Flying Trapeze and the SeaBreeze Water-Sports @ Wave House, where you can try your hand at flying strapped to a water-propelled jet pack.
10 Clarke Quay
The “center of commerce during the 19th century,” Clarke Quay lives up to its legacy as a busy hub. Today, it has a more polished sheen, so after a long day of shopping on Orchard Road, visitors can happily head to Clarke Quay for an evening of waterfront dining and entertainment. River taxis and cruises also depart from here, giving tourists the chance to admire some of the city’s historic bridges and view landmarks like the Merlion from the water. The Quay’s biggest hit with younger tourists is a giant bungy-jumping attraction, an adrenaline-packed thrill ride. Nearby attractions include the Asian Civilisation Museum; the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery located in Singapore’s oldest fire station; and the Hong San See Temple, a picturesque century-old Buddhist place of worship.
Location: View on Map
Location: View on Map
11 Universal Studios Singapore
Universal Studios Singapore occupies 49 acres of Resorts World Sentosa. The park is arranged thematically, with each area paying tribute to a location, film, or television show. Destinations include New York City, Hollywood, Madagascar, and a trip back to Ancient Egypt. Fiction-themed areas include Shrek’s Far Far Away, the Lost World, and Sci-Fi City where a pair of Battlestar Galactica-themed roller coasters dominate. In addition to the many rides that range from kiddie-friendly to daredevil, the park has diverse dining options, shopping, and live shows throughout the day and night.
Location: View on Map
Address: 8 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore
12 Night Safari Singapore
Night Safari Singapore puts a new twist on the traditional zoo experience by introducing visitors to the nocturnal lives of the residents. The park’s habitats are divided into four sections, each with its own trail that lets you observe these elusive creatures as they go about their “day.” The Leopard Trail has, as expected, leopards, as well as lions, flying foxes, civets, and porcupines among other animals. The Fishing Cat Trail tours the habitat of animals native to Singapore, including the fish-loving felines, pangolin, binturong, and other species both common and endangered. East Lodge Trail features Malayan tigers and spotted hyenas, and the Wallaby Trail introduces visitors to the marsupials of Australia. Private tours, buggy rides, and educational sessions are available, as well as once in a lifetime experiences, like an Asian elephant feeding session.
13 Merlion Park
Singapore’s Merlion is just what it sounds like – the figure of a mythical creature that has the head of a lion and the body and tail of a fish. The Merlion represents the city’s humble start as a fishing village combined with its traditional Malay name Singapura – “lion city.” The structure, which was relocated to Merlion Park in 2002, where it can overlook Marina Bay, weighs 70 tonnes and stands at 8.6 meters tall, spouting water from its mouth in a fountain. The “Merlion Cub” sits nearby, only two meters tall but a hefty three tonnes, and there are five additional official Merlion statues throughout the city. Merlion Park is an ideal spot for photo-ops, whether you are taking a selfie in front of the iconic creature or capturing the magnificent views from the park as it looks out over the bay.
Location: View on Map
Address: One Fullerton, Singapore
14 Asian Civilisations Museum
If the Raffles Hotel and Fort Canning Park haven’t satisfied your taste for colonial architecture, pay a visit to the Empress Place Building. It was constructed in 1865 and built in the Neoclassical style, and was named in honor of Queen Victoria. It now houses the Asian Civilisations Museum, which delves into the many Asian cultures that helped form Singapore. The museum’s collections focus on the themes of trade and spirituality, both of which heavily influenced Asian cultures and served as vehicles for the cultures to spread. Exhibits include topics like Indian Ocean trade, stories of faith and belief, and a look at the important role that scholars played in Chinese culture for centuries.
15 Pulau Ubin (Granite Island)
For a look at what life in Singapore was like before it was all glamor and skyscrapers, visit the small island of Pulau Ubin, where fewer than 100 people still live in the same simple way as they did in the 1960s. The island’s name is Malay for “Granite Island,” a moniker given due to its past prominence as a quarry town. Today, it is a peaceful, rustic place where tourists can enjoy unspoiled forests and diverse wildlife. The island is also home to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, which contain a coral reef teeming with sea life. The island is easily reached by boat, a ten-minute ride that departs from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
Location: View on Map
Location: View on Map
16 Fort Canning Park
As military strongholds go, Fort Canning has had a long and varied life. Built in 1859, the fort was an essential site for Singapore’s defense. Now in peacetime, the original building is home to modern performing arts troupes, and the park regularly sees picnics, concerts, theater performances, and festivals. Other attractions at the park include relics from Singapore’s early history, from as far back as the 14th century, and Sir Stamford Raffles’ personal bungalow. Guests can also see a replica of the spice market Raffles established in 1822, as well as the ASEAN sculptures that were erected in the 1980s.
Location: View on Map
Address: 51 Canning Rise, Singapore
Where to Stay in Singapore for Sightseeing
Singapore is relatively easy to explore and has a metro system that makes getting around simple. Most of the hotels listed below are in the city center, on or near the popular Orchard Road, a great area for shopping and sightseeing. A couple of these are hotels of distinction and are noteworthy attractions in Singapore. All of the hotels listed below are popular and highly-rated.
- Luxury Hotels: Singapore’s most famous historic hotel is Raffles Hotel. First opened in 1887, this colonial landmark is an all-suite luxury hotel set on lovely grounds and well positioned in the city. Another iconic but more modern hotel is the Marina Bay Sands, with its unmistakable ship-like shape towering over the city and a famous rooftop infinity pool. For general sightseeing and shopping, the Grand Hyatt and Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza are both top-end options with good service, located near each other around Orchard Road.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre is a good choice in the mid-range category and well positioned, just off Orchard Road. In the Little India area of Singapore, the Wanderlust is a quirky but popular boutique hotel with uniquely and tastefully decorated rooms in different colors or whimsical themes. Lloyd’s Inn is another boutique hotel with small but stylish rooms and big windows looking onto the beautiful grounds.
- Budget Hotels: The Victoria Hotel is a popular budget hotel with a decent location within walking distance of a metro stop. Another good option is the clean and comfortable Champion Hotel, known for being particularly good value in Singapore.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Singapore
- Seeing the sights. For first time visitors, the Singapore Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour is a great way to see the sights and get familiar with the layout of the city. Tickets are valid for 24 or 48 hours and the open-top double decker buses, with multilingual audio commentary, operate on a number of routes. This is a very easy way to see and learn about sights, while exploring at your own pace.
- Singapore by night. For a truly unique perspective on the city, try the Singapore Night Sightseeing Tour. This semi-independent tour offers a chance to see the city lights, do some shopping along Bugis Street, explore the Gardens by the Bay, and dine by the Singapore Flyer. Included in the tour are hotel pickup and drop, dinner, and entry to the Gardens.