Singapore has got everything, its one of the first places I stayed in on my way back from New Zealand back in 2003 and is still my go to stopover in Asia to this day.
Mainly its just a great starting point for all things Asia including cruises which start and finish here regularly. It has great shopping, architecture, history, theme parks and zoos and even beaches nearby if you have the time to go looking. Its like dipping your toe in the wonders of Asia and South east Asia before taking the big leap and the perfect place to start off any Asia itinerary. Cost wise its about 2 Singapore dollars to a pound roughly and things are a little cheaper generally (the bargains are not in such abundance as they used to be). Hotels are quite expensive in Singapore especially when events like Grand Prix are on so its best to book in advance.
So below in no particular order are some of the things the city has to offer.
Things to see
Singapore used to be a British port and was developed as a trading port from early on. This means that alongside the modern skyscrapers and more asian buildings there are lots of colonial style buildings and history along with them to take in.
The first pick to see with this in mind would be Raffles hotel, if you cant afford to stay here (most cant) make sure you go for a Singapore sling in the long bar or even in the grounds. As an alternative to this if you want to have a nice drink in more contemporary surroundings you could instead go to the top of the new marina bay sands to the sky bar there.
A good thing to do is to walk from the river at Clarke Quay past the Singapore cricket club which an old colonial style cricket green and through the colonial district to Raffles, its also not far from here to get down to the Singapore Grand Prix track and all the attractions at Marina Bay like the Singapore flyer (a big ferris wheel, larger than the London eye) and F1 track plus the new Marina Bay Gardens and Marina Bay sands hotel. The Si
ngapore national museum is fantastic and tells the story of the city in a modern interactive way and is w
ell worth a visit if you are staying longer than a day and want to know more about Singapore and all its history. Also the Singapore botanical gardens are worth a wander as well, especially the National Orchid garden.
Also not a million miles from this area is the quirky and slightly strange Merlion which is the symbol of Singapore down by the Fullerton hotel. Its something that sums up Singapore quite well actually, a bit of a composite of old and new and the sea and land and ultimately a bit kooky and fun as well.
The Chinatown and Little India areas are interesting but fairly self explanatory and Orchard road is Singapore’s Oxford Street and is basically a long line of big shopping malls, lucky plaza is probably my favourite out of these but Ill get onto shopping later!
For the evenings Id recommend a trip to Clarke Quay for nightclubs and restaurants (as well as a reverse bungee if thats your thing) from here its nice to walk along the river down through Robertson quay and further where bars and restaurants all dot the river and the scenery and atmosphere is really nice and relaxed. Other than that just a trip down to see the Durian fruit shaped opera house is a good idea but if you want to see a show or the opera this is the place to go to. https://www.esplanade.com/
Failing that the Singapore night safari is a bit of a unique thing to do of an evening if you can handle night creatures like bats and so on! The zoo here is also open during the day and is all about a 15 minute drive from the city centre.
Away from the centre of Singapore as well there is also Sentosa Island, mainly full of man made tourist attractions but home to South east Asias first Universal studios, Adventure cove waterfront and a Hard Rock hotel as well as a few man-made beaches. Personally I think a lot of what is here can be done elsewhere but if theme parks and water parks are what you enjoy then Sentosa is worth a look.
If you did want to go out of Singapore and get a really different experience Id recommend a trip over the border and up to Malacca in Malaysia. For history buffs this pace is fascinating mix of Portuguese, Dutch, British and Malay culture with beautiful colourful buildings and all sorts of history. This is a full day trip though so you would need to leave early in the morning and get back late at night. Another option is to take a ferry over to one of the off lying islands like Bintan, which is actually part of Indonesia but about 45 minutes by ferry from Singapore for some beach or golf relaxation.
Singapore is a great place for shopping, maybe not as good value as other parts of Asia but there is still a massive variety of different things to buy from quality branded gear at discount prices to bespoke and artisan products like tailoring and shoes to cheap tourist tat!! You can get a suit measured and tailored in about 48 hours or as I did in the past get it posted after you back to your home country!
Lucky plaza on Orchard road is a great place for bargain hunters but it depends what you are looking for, Orchard road is generally the place for designer gear and clothes. If you want electronics Sim Lim Square is a multi story techie paradise, is open until late and its near enough to Bugis Night market to make an evening of it as well. Bugis is mainly tourist tat but there are some bargains if you are into rock band hoodies and all things colourful! Its also a great place to pick up a fruit smoothy from one of the stalls and at the same time try some of the local fruits. Chinatown night market is similar to Bugis in a lot of ways except with the addition of lots of stalls selling Chinese food.
If you want things more of a classy nature or antiques little india, arab street and the area around have everything from carpets to antiques to artworks. Around this area as well is Mustafa centre which is great for all things pharmaceutical supplies (I know as came here after getting ill in Borneo to get back to health) and toiletries and is another place for bargains.
Some of my favourite things in Singapore though is the food, especially the hawker centres where you can get great local food for much less than the price of fish and chips! My favourite meal to have in Singapore is barbecue roast duck or pork with rice bought from a hawker centre (with the strange watery soup they give you as standard), like Maxwell hawker near Chinatown or opposite Bugis night market. Also good are the traditional Singapore noodles and seafood laksa and you can get things like Satay chicken. There is a real cultural melange of foods and they all intermingle, Malay food is a possibility with things like Nasi Lemak and Rendang which are both wonderful dishes. Best local foods in Singapore
The indian food in little India is amazing as well, my pick is Ananda Bhavan which is mainly a vegetarian restaurant which does amazing thali plates https://www.anandabhavan.com/
Apart from normal meals there are some local delicacies worth trying as snacks too! Id recommend to give Durian a go which is an extremely pongy fruit. Just dont try and take it back to your hotel as most places ban it, its certainly an acquired taste! I also like Teh Tarik which is a local sugary tea concoction shaken up like a cocktail…. For breakfast if you dont have it with your hotel try Kaya toast which is toast topped with a sort of sweet coconut jam, truly yummy!
Put this alongside western and high end type options in areas like Clarke Quay and Singapore is a foodie adventure land!
Ive been to Singapore too many times to remember now and feel very much at home there, in fact I’d go as far to stay as say I felt at home there since the first time. Its certainly one of the cleanest and safest feeling places Ive ever been to.
If that has whetted your appetite maybe try stopping in Singapore for a few nights before a cruise or as part of one. There’s a selection of cruises from Singapore (at the best time of year for South East Asia) here