Singapore, not unlike its namesake cocktail, the Singapore Sling, is rich, colourful, and well-blended. It is simultaneously a collection of islands, a city and a self-governed nation. It is a tropical rainforest, and at the same time, a densely-populated modern metropolis known as the “gateway to Asia”. And while English is the tongue used in schools, the country has no less than four official languages with dozens more including unique pidgin dialects represented across its multi-ethnic population.
With a long history of prosperity thanks to the main island being an ideal location for international maritime trade, Singapore’s wealth and subsequent re-investment into infrastructure, planning and beautification is evident at every turn. Furthermore, the country’s comparatively strict anti-vandalism regulations help keep these well-planned edifices looking spick and span.
But perhaps one of Singapore’s most noticeable traits is its abundance of parks and gardens. While so many cities appear built atop nature, the skyscrapers of Singapore appear to have risen alongside the living landscape, with green spaces interspersed between high-rises at a remarkable frequency. The buildings themselves feature opulent terrace gardens high in the sky, and it’s not unusual to find an apartment tower with a garden on each and every floor.
Begin your trip to Singapore by surveying the scene. Step aboard the Singapore Flyer, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, for breathtaking views of the city centre and see as far as the neighbouring islands belonging to Indonesia and Malaysia. Another way to take in the city’s architecture is from a bumboat ride along the Singapore River. Bumboats were originally used to ferry goods to the mainland from large ships moored offshore.
Make your way to the Colonial District, north of the Singapore River and explore Singapore’s past. Here you’ll find both the old and new Parliament buildings, art and history museums, and the famous Raffles Hotel, home to the original Singapore Sling.
Singapore is also one of Asia’s top shopping destinations. Orchard Road is home to numerous luxury malls and brand-name designer boutiques. For more one-of-a-kind keepsakes head to Little India or Chinatown.
Singapore offers a plethora of tourist activities centred on exploring the diversity of flora and fauna unique to the rainforest environment and the greater tropics of southeast Asia. The city offers guests an impressive line-up of bird sanctuaries, insect parks, botanical gardens, jungle adventures and, of course, several large and unique zoos.
By day, a visit to the Singapore Zoo introduces visitors to a large variety of wildlife in an “open concept” viewing platform, giving both the animals and the spectators a closer sense of the natural habitat.
By night, a second zoo experience known as The Night Safari takes guests to the first-ever animal park designed for visiting at night where visitors can explore nocturnal wildlife at their most active hours.
Sentosa is a resort island located a short distance from the city centre. Here you can ride a cable car, explore beaches, hike nature trails, and visit a well-appointed aquarium called Underwater World.
Singapore is famous for its hawker centres. These are collections of open-air stalls selling a wide variety of inexpensive dishes. The types of cuisine available tend to be representative of Singapore’s cultural mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian peoples – so be prepared for lots of spice, rice and seafood.
For more formal dining, try the Clarke Quay and Boat Quay neighbourhoods, where former shop houses along the Singapore River have been converted into trendy restaurants and bars. Also, Singapore’s hotels should not be overlooked, as several of the city’s five-star establishments offer some of the choicest tables in town.
When it comes to nightlife, Singapore boasts a growing network of bars and discotheques located predominately around the Riverside area, Chinatown and also dotted along Orchard Road. If you seek an evening with a little more Asian flair, try crooning the night away at one of the city’s many karaoke lounges – and never fear, most offer private rooms for shy singers.
With so many Asian destinations in Singapore’s backyard, visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to day trips and onward voyages.
One popular day trip from Singapore into Malaysia is to the historic city of Malacca. Here one can piece together the region’s diverse history through the well-preserved architecture featuring Portuguese, Malay, Dutch and British influences.
Those seeking a more distant journey may enjoy a trip aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express. This luxury rail service departs Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and takes passengers on a scenic, three-day journey through the jungles and cities of Malaysia before arriving in Bangkok, Thailand.