Many times I have transited through Singapore on my way to Europe, but never actually stopped and spent any time here, so it’s been a real treat to have a couple of weeks to explore this beautiful city with my family. It’s a really interesting contrast between ultra-modern, colossal sky scrapers, to really old districts full of colour, character and history.
As with all my travels to new places, I research heavily prior to visiting to make sure that not only to I get the best out of my adventure, but also that I don’t miss any “must go” places. The following are the places that I had on my list to visit, as well as a few that I encountered along the way by accident. Some I absolutely loved and could go back time and again, however there are others that I will save you the time now and say, probably only consider if you have plenty of time.
As far as food in Singapore – WOW. It is incredible. From luxury 5-star restaurants at the top of sky scraper buildings where you pay as much for one plate as you would for a whole dinner for 4 in Australia, to the Hawker Street Markets and local eateries. My suggestion would be to try a bit of both. To be fair, we mostly ate in the markets and restaurants we stumbled upon by accident as we found these were the best meals we encountered. I always think that if the locals are eating somewhere, it’s a good advert for the food and the markets were certainly full of locals.
Transport – Taxi Vs MRT
First up though, getting around. We stayed at the Shangri La Hotel on Orange Grove Road, and from there, pretty much travelled mostly in about a 10km radius from the hotel. Researching prior, many suggested that taxis were really cheap and easy to get around so just use them. We didn’t even consider car hire because not only do we not know our way around, but with traffic and trying to find car parks, it just isn’t worth the time and effort. We did start using the taxi system, however most of the time we were waiting 20 minutes or more. People were ordering on their phones and effectively jumping the queues and as we didn’t want to waste precious and expensive phone data, we found this all a little frustrating.
Out of desperation one night, we wandered down to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit – underground train system). My husband has never caught public transport in Australia so this was kind of entertaining for me, but to be honest, the MRT in Singapore is so quick and efficient, we ended up using it 90% of the time. There are train stops at most major tourist attractions, it was only a couple of Aussie dollars per trip and we never waited longer than 5 minutes for a train, not matter what time of day or night. Even when you had to change trains, it was still far quicker and easier than any other system of transport we could find. One suggestion though is straight up get a pre-paid train card that you can just keep using until you run out of funds and then top up as required. We purchased individual tickets each trip and although it’s the same price, sometimes there were queues for the ticket machines.
Crazy Rich Asian Tour!
Funnily enough, after a few nights in Singapore, relaxing in the hotel one evening, “Crazy Rich Asians” came on the television. Mostly filmed in Singapore, this movie is a great advert for the city, visiting many of the main attractions
Newton Food Centre
Early on in the movie, when Nick takes Rachel to a night food market with some friends, it is the Newton Food Centre in Newton, about 4 kilometres from Marina Bay. There are so many food markets in Singapore, and it was honestly some of the tastiest (and cheapest) food we ate, but this I would rate high up as one of the best. Even if not just to get some pics on your “Crazy Rich Asian” tour.
We actually stumbled on this church out walking one day before we watched the movie, then immediately recognised it. This beautiful Gothic Style building was the setting of Nick’s best friend’s wedding in the movie. Originally a catholic convent, this architectural building is no longer a practicing church. It is now a functions venue popular due to its archways, interesting plasterwork and stained-glass windows and is surrounded by open walkways with bars and restaurants. Definitely a great spot to visit, grab a bite to eat and drink, as well as some pictures.
Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay
You don’t need to have watched Crazy Rich Asians to know this area of Singapore and to be fair, the location is so central to the city, bay and pretty much most things, who wouldn’t visit. There is a great mall below the Marina Bay Sands Hotel where you can spend hours getting lost in the maze of passages and not to forget the beautiful Gardens by the Bay with its 250 acres of horticulture and sustainable architecture.
This is where Rachel and Nick stayed in the movie and there is a scene in the beautiful foyer area. The hotel is one of the most luxurious and iconic hotels in Singapore. Even if you can’t afford the expensive price tag, it’s worth a visit to this historic building.
The scene of the “break up” between Rachel and Nick towards the end of the movie. Before I visited Singapore I had no idea what the Merlion even was. But my daughter pointed it out and as always the case, as soon as she mentioned it, everywhere I went, there was some connection to the famous Lion. Basically, it is a monument in Marina Bay of a mythical creature with a lion’s head and fish body that sprouts water out of its mouth into the Bay. It is one of the busiest tourist attractions in Singapore and one of the most iconic, often referred to as Singapore’s mascot – something like the Sydney Opera House to Australia. In Singapore, you can buy many Merlion souvenirs and as the location is so central, just opposite the Fullarton Bay Hotel and on Marina Bay, it’s definitely worth a visit and picture.
You’ll recognise the arrivals hall where Nick and Rachel first arrive in Singapore after their flight from New York. There’s a reason that this airport keeps getting voted Best Airport in The World. Believe it or not, after visiting nearly every shopping mall and district in Singapore city, I have to say that the Jewel Shopping centre at Changi airport was the best. Located outside of the customs area, many locals and tourists visit the centre as an outing, or, like we did, on our way to the airport. Other than a great shopping mall, the star feature is definitely the rain Vortex Waterfall in the centre. It has to be seen to be believed. In the centre of a huge indoor rainforest garden, there is a glass dome that water cascades through the centre 40 meters above the ground. It can be experienced from decks on each level on the shopping centre and even the train between the international terminals passes through so transiting passengers don’t miss out.
Sentosa Island –
The location of Colin’s bachelor party after they left the boat. I have to say, we did visit but probably would not recommend. It’s sold as a tropical oasis, the best beaches in Singapore and theme park heaven. As far as theme parks, for anyone who has travelled extensively and visited places like Disney and Universal in the America, this just doesn’t cut it. And the beaches were cramped and actually not really that spectacular. I guess you don’t really visit Singapore for its beaches, it has so many other incredible sites to see and things to do. If you do go though, would recommend taking the cable car. Amazing views back to the city. It was around AUD$40 for a round trip per person and we really did enjoy it.
I’m not sure if I’m a fan of Zoos or not – animals in captivity and all, however we wanted to see the orangutans so decided to visit Singapore Zoo. Again, my research told me not to bother with the “breakfast with the Orangutans” as its overcrowded and you are shuffled for a quick photo and that’s all. I did contact the Zoo prior and they were extremely helpful with suggestions and information and I ended up booking a 2 hours private buggy tour.
Up to 7 people, $250 per hour plus Zoo entry for private customised tour with private driver and guide. It may sound a little expensive but was soooooo worth it. We advised prior to arriving what specific animals we wanted to see and the guide customised our tour to our wishes. We were taken around this very large zoo by buggy, had fun, friendly and knowledgeable guides and one on one encounters inside the enclosures with the animals including hand feeding as well as getting our photos with the Orangutans. Highly recommend splashing out on this. Was one of the highlights of our visit to Singapore. After the tour, you are then free to wander the rest of the zoo as your pleasure.
If not, the zoo is huge and still so much to see and do and as far as the Orangutans, there are times where they are brought out and you can line up and have our picture taken.
Arab Quarter and Sultan Mosque and Haji Lane
This was one of my favourite districts of Singapore. Only a very small area, we travelled via MRT which again, was pretty easy. The Mosque is in the centre of the district. You can’t miss it and it’s absolutely beautiful. Definitely a popular tourist spot and plenty of people taking selfies with the mosque in the background. There is also Bussorah Street just down from the Mosque known for its great restaurants lining a pedestrian only street. It’s full of colour, great shops and of course, more great food.
Another must in the Arab Quarter is Haji Lane. This was one of the places on my to do list as I saw a cool picture on social media next to one of its graffitied walls. A very narrow street with buildings either side filled with souvenir stores, fashions shops and lots of bars and eateries. The lane is alos filled with interesting buildings and colourful walls to take pictures.
China Town, Maxwell Street and The Hawker Hall
I feel like in most cities you visit around the world, China Town is always a must on the visit list and Singapore is no exception. I originally planned to eat at the famous Hawker Hall here on Maxwell Street, which is one of the most renowned markets in Singapore, but after wandering the streets following lunch, we found so many quirky lane ways and great shops. We stopped and talked to many interesting stall holders and learned so much about local culture and history. A definite for a day trip and loads of memorable pictures.
Clarke Quay and Jumbo Seafood
When we decided to visit Singapore, top of my list was to find the best Chilli Crab in the city. It’s my husband’s favourite food and Singapore is its home. After much research, I decided on Jumbo Seafood and Clarke Quay. First let me say it was AMAZING. Easily the best chilli crab we’ve ever eaten and a great lively restaurant with excellent service. My daughter doesn’t eat seafood, but don’t worry, there were alternatives on the menu. Jumbo Seafood has several restaurants around Singapore, but one thing I loved about Clarke Quay was the location. Situated on the banks of the Singapore River, (make sure you ask for a table outside), after dinner we had a wander around the many shops and bars in the area which once again were energetic and great fun. From Clarke Quay it is less than a kilometre walk down the river side to Marina Bay which is well worth the wander.
Old Hill Police Station
This historic building is as its name says, the old Singapore Police Station. Just next to Clarke Quay its worth a stop by to see this interesting and colourful building.
A must visit for shopping, even if just to window shop. This long stretch of road holds many shopping centres and all of the high end stores such as Gucci, Lois Vitton, Chanel and more. Some really great, cheap eateries in the shopping malls as well. The best area to shop in downtown Singaopore
This was on my list as many blogs listed it as a must visit in Singapore – particularly for photographers. As a Photographer, the streets were full of amazing buildings and creative architecture everywhere I looked, I loved it, but as a tourist, we only ended up spending a short time in the area as we couldn’t really find too much to do other than take pictures. To be honest, I would put many of the places above much higher on my wish list than here unless you have plenty of time.
Peranakan Houses at Koon Seng Road
I only mention this Road as, again, much research said to visit, specifically for the one row of houses to get a photo. In two weeks in the city, we never made it here so I can’t personally comment. However, I did speak to quite a few locals who suggested that there were many other places closer to the city and much easier to get to that would offer a similar experience. It was a little tricky to get to from our hotel via MRT so we gave it a miss, but if you manage to visit (or have been), would love to know whether you thought it was worth it?