50 Things To Check Out In Singapore Before You Die

What we absolutely love to do in the city.

The crème de la crème of what Singapore has to offer – we present our top 50 things to do in the Lion City.

1. Walk on the wild side

Location: At River Safari

Yes, the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park are all excellent attractions in their own right but we love the lesser known River Safari. The river-themed wildlife park walks you through the greatest rivers in the world including the Amazon and the Nile. Plus, say hi to giant pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia.
2. Feast on chilli crab
Location: At Jumbo Seafood
There’s nothing quite like getting elbow-deep into a plate of chilli crab. It’s sweet, savoury, tangy and spicy all in one bite and is best mopped up with a deep-fried mantou. Have it at a neighbourhood zi char joint or at Jumbo Seafood, of course.

3. Scream your heart out
Location: At Universal Studios Singapore

You’re in for a full day of fun and heart-racing adventure at Universal Studios Singapore. Let your feet dangle off the world’s tallest dueling roller coasters, protect the Allspark from the Deceptions and get soaked on a white water rafting experience that ends in a hair-raising drop.

4. Appreciate local art

Location: At National Gallery Singapore

Marvel at National Gallery Singapore’s extensive collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art. Housed in the former Supreme Court building, the museum displays over 400 masterpieces including works by pioneer Nanyang artists Chen Chon Swee, Liu Kang and Georgette Chen.

5. Smell the roses

Location: At Gardens by the Bay

Fall head over heels for the seasonal floral display at the Flower Dome, one of the world’s largest glass greenhouses, which showcases exotic plant species, including tulips, dahlias and cherry blossoms. And make your way to the Supertree Grove – where towering tree-like sculptures come alive at night.

6. Take a hike

Location: At MacRitchie Reservoir

The Treetop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir has a 250m free-standing suspension bridge connecting the two highest points of the nature reserve. We love this breathtaking experience.

7. Go snorkelling

Location: At Pulau Hantu

A little off the coast of Singapore, Pulau Hantu boasts sheltered beaches and clear waters (for local standards) and are popular with diving and snorkelling enthusiasts who come for the rich marine and coral life. Get in touch with groups like Marlin Divers or The Hantu Bloggers to charter a boat to the islet.

8. Get a glimpse of old island life

Location: Pulau Ubin

Whisk yourself to the wilder (and greener) side of Singapore. Pulau Ubin’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Just a 15-minute bumboat ride away, the offshore island’s home to plenty of land and sea critters including wild boars and mousedeer.

9. Experience the mythological Ten Courts of Hell

Location: Haw Par Villa

The weird and wonderful Haw Par Villa is a park filled with multi coloured statues depicting scenes from Chinese history and mythology. The highlight is the Ten Courts of Hell (responsible for childhood nightmares for generations of Singaporeans) where small-scale tableaux show human sinners being punished in a variety of hideous and bloodthirsty ways – in extremely gory and graphic detail. It’s a safe bet that you will never see anything like it anywhere else.

10. Visit Singapore’s grandest mosque

Location: Sultan Mosque

Round off a trip to Kampong Glam with a visit to Sultan Mosque. The heart of the Arab Quarter, it is the largest unofficial centre of worship for Muslims locally, but visitors are welcome to enter (except during prayer services, so do avoid Fridays). Look for the curious features at the base of the dome, which is composed of many glass bottles.

11. Breakfast with the orang utans

Location: Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo’s Ah Meng Restaurant serves up a buffet spread of Western and local delights, but trust us – the highlight has to be the orang utans, which make their daily appearance between 9.30 to 10am – they’re friendly, well-trained and always up for a photo op! Walk off the food after at the ‘open concept’ zoo, where over 4,000 animals, including the exotic white tiger and Hamadryas baboons, live in landscaped enclosures instead of traditional cages.

12. Meet with the Merlion

Location: Merlion Park

It’s cheesy, we know, but can you really visit Singapore without the obligatory tourist shot at Merlion Park? Come early to beat the crowds that throng this 2,500 sqm park, which is thankfully an easy walk from Raffles MRT station. At night, it makes a good vantage point from which to catch the laser light show at Marina Bay Sands.

13. Dig into plates of chicken rice

Location: Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Navigating the maze that is Chinatown Food Complex is a bit of a task. But a tell-tale sign that you’ve found Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle is the long queue that weaves its way through the entire hawker centre. It’ll take you 2 to 3 hours to get to the front of the queue. Once you do, though, the process is swift. The star of the show is the soya sauce chicken.

14. Frolick in a farm

Location: Bollywood Veggies

This organic countryside farm way out in Kranji is the brainchild of Ivy Singh, the straight-talking former president of Netball Singapore. Take a tour of the farm, tuck into organic vegetables grown on-site at Poison Ivy Bistro, learn about the history of food at the Bollywood Food Museum and do much more when you make the trek to this ulu destination.

15. Dabble in heritage

Location: Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant

For those unfamiliar with Peranakan culture, throw yourself into the deep end by making a trip to Katong. From the colourful shophouses rich in heritage that line the street to the array of Peranakan restaurants that call the area home, Katong provides a feast for all your senses. We adore Chilli Padi Nonya Restaurant for classic dishes like ayam buah keluak and itek tim. It had to make our list.

16. Start the day right

Location: Tong Ah Eating House

The old-school Singaporean breakfast has three essential components: a robust cup of kopi, crisp and fluffy kaya butter toast and perfectly cooked soft-boiled eggs. Tong Ah Eating House hits all the right notes.

17. Chowing down on late-night dim sum

Location: VLV

Housed in a historic building erected in the 1880s, VLV is the place to wine and dine just as a tai tai from that era would: in style. Executive chef Martin Foo, who has spent more than 25 years in restaurants like Lei Garden and Tung Lok Signatures, whips up a medley of dim sum, from crab roe Kurobuta siew mai to a Singapore chilli crab bun that’s just as good as having the real deal.

18. Enjoy the little things

Nothing offers sweet respite from the heat quite like ice cream served between rainbow bread or wafers. Ice cream uncles line Orchard Road selling blocks from $1.20, a small price to pay for the joy something so simple brings.

19. Try a cup of locally roasted brew

Location: Chye Seng Huat Hardware

Local coffee roasters Papa Palheta helped pioneer the third-wave coffee scene in Singapore, particularly with the opening of their uber-popular café-retail complex, Chye Seng Huat Hardware (becoming one of the first joints to plant a flag in the hipster ‘hood of Jalan Besar). Its house blends are roasted directly in the complex from single origin beans; there’s also a retail wall with grinders and brew contraptions to release flavour from the beans.

20. Dine at the oldest restaurant

Location: Zam Zam

There’s no preventing the pong of oil and fried dough clinging to your clothes the moment you step into this grungy shophouse unit. But it’s well worth the smell. Zam Zam has been serving up its briyani (from $6) and murtabak (from $5) for well over a century, so you can be pretty much assured of getting the legit stuff. Zam Zam – its name refers to ‘holy water’ in Arabic – has been an institution in the Kampong Glam neighbourhood since the Kerala-born Abdul Kadir opened the restaurant there in 1908. The recipes have largely remained unchanged.

21. Drink at the best bar in Asia

Location: Manhattan Bar

On a list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, Manhattan at Regent Singapore comes out at number one. And on according to the World’s 50 Best Bars, it’s number seven. It’s a portal to New York City where ladies are decorated in pearls and gentlemen dressed to the nines. The menu takes you through the ages of NYC, from the 1520s to the 1970s.

22. Beautify your table

Location: Mud Rock Ceramics

Up your table setting game and pick up some beautiful and functional handmade wares at Mud Rock Ceramics – these are lovingly made out of just mud and clay by the ceramic studio owners, Michelle Lim and Ng Seok Har.

23. Support an independent bookshop

Location: Littered with Books

In this day and age when brick and mortar booksellers are steadily making way for online shipping, independent bookshops like the charming Littered With Books deserves special mention. Browsing promises to be a fun affair in this spacious two-storey shophouse-turned-bookshop. Additionally, the curated selection of books on sale, ranging from bestsellers and literary classics to children’s titles, is actually quite affordable, or at least cheaper than you’d expect from other bookstores.

24. Appreciate art and history

Location: Asian Civilizations Museum

One of Singapore‘s largest and most impressive museums, the Asian Civilizations Museum has seven galleries showcasing more than 2,000 artifacts from the civilizations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia. The first floor of galleries charts the story of trade across the region, while the second floor presents systems of faith and belief and the third features materials and design used in Chinese ceramics from the Han to the Qing dynasty.

25. Take a secret tour

Location: Esplanade – Theaters on the Bay

The iconic durian-looking arts centre opens its doors to visitors who are eager to have a closer look at the world-class space. Uncover how the concert hall is engineered to keep out even the slightest external noise and vibration. Be amazed at how the hall, which has hosted renowned musicians from all around the globe, can be adjusted to mimic the acoustics of a tiny room or a large cathedral.

26. Zoom into the future

Location: Art science Museum

Art and science blend seamlessly in the form of high-tech pieces at the Future World exhibition. Observe how the two seemingly contrasting entities come together in the world’s first Art science Museum at MBS. Open your mind to the futuristic sphere of cutting-edge interactive installations and explore how art and science shape the world that we live in.

27. Get familiar with local art

Location: Singapore Art Museum

Formerly a Catholic boys’ school, the intimate building that now houses the Singapore Art Museum features a number of small, unusual and hidden gallery spaces scattered throughout the building – many of which house long running exhibitions showcasing their impressive collection of South-East Asian contemporary art, including a number of notable ‘pioneer’ works.

28. Learn more about Indian culture

Location: Indian Heritage Centre

With a glowing glass facade inspired by step wells that are commonly found in South Asia, the Indian Heritage Centre has a wealth of artifacts dotted around its five galleries. It documents and explores the history and culture of Indians, especially in relation to Singapore, all the way from the 1st century to the present day.

29. Become a homebody

Location: The Intan

Once you step into The Intan, chances are you won’t ever want to leave. The private Peranakan home-museum in Joo Chiat gives visitors a taste of old-world Peranakan charm during its Tea Tour, which touches on Peranakan history, culture and even embroidery craft.

30. Live like royalty

Location: Malay Heritage Centre

Walk in the footsteps of the Malay royals of yore by visiting the Malay Heritage Centre. The 160-year-old building used to be the royal seat and palace of the last Sultan of Singapore. Get a glimpse of the rich heritage of Singapore’s Malay community with six permanent galleries spanning two levels of the centre. Learn all about Kampong Glam’s glory days as a booming port town before Raffles landed in 1819.

31. Be a bookworm

Location: National Library

With a central borrowing library, reference library and a digital library in tow, National Library aims to be more than just a place for book-reading. Showered with architectural awards before it even opened, the building is designed as two towers, linked by walkways and walled almost entirely with glass. The spacious reference section on the upper floors offers great views of the city. There are some small exhibition spaces, and it also houses the Drama Centre, which regularly showcases local productions.

32. Sip on tea

Location: Tea Chapter

From the heart of Chinatown, take a leisurely stroll to Tea Chapter, the oldest and biggest cultural tea house in Singapore. Soak in the rich history of Chinese tea by chatting with grand tea master, Patrick Kang.

33. Have cocktails on cloud nine

Location: Lavo

Perch yourself on this Italian restaurant-cum-rooftop bar for a killer view of our city skyline. Set 57 storeys above the ground, Lavo’s where you can sip on cocktails and tuck into heavenly plates of pasta and brick oven pizza up in the clouds. Then shimmy over to the outdoor bar and terrace where DJs dish out anthems ‘till 2am.

34. Knead your stress away

Location: Gspa

At this 24-hour spa, it’s all about treating yourself. Start off by sweating it out at the sauna. Then pencil in a therapeutic deep-tissue massage session to keep the stress at bay. Also make sure to take a dip in the hot and cold pools. There’s even all-day buffet dining so you never have to leave.

35. Take the leap

Location: AJ Hackett Sentosa

You don’t have to hop on a plane to a bungee jump anymore. Take the plunge at AJ Hackett Sentosa, Singapore‘s first and only bungee jump that’s right over Siloso Beach. Dive head first or backflip your way over the edge – whatever you like. Besides the bungee, there are also other high-element activities for the thrill-seekers among you, including a giant swing that requires partners to link arms as you ‘fly’, a vertical skywalk where you ‘walk’ (facedown, mind you) down the side of the tower down to ground level.

36. Get a late-night garden massage

Location: Aramsa Garden Spa

Aramsa’s unusual location in the middle of suburban Bishan Park means that it is surrounded by nature and feels a million miles from the concrete jungle of the city centre. Individual spa suites are linked via resort-style covered walkways; some also boast sunken bathtubs in private gardens. The best part is that on Friday and Saturday nights, they extend service hours until midnight.

37. Scale new heights

Location: Boulder Movement

My arms are sore and my thighs are quivering. Yet I can’t let go. Not unless I want to free fall three metres or so on to the, admittedly, cushy crash pad below – but I’m too chicken to do that. I’m two-thirds through a bouldering problem in Boulder Movement ($30/single entry, $148/month) and, despite the aches, I can already see the appeal of this sport. Bouldering is very much like indoor rock climbing, except the former is stripped down to its raw essentials – there are no ropes and harnesses involved.

38. Flow with the waves

Location: Wave House Sentosa

Singapore’s waters are undeniably calm, but surfers can still get in some action at Wave House Sentosa. The beachfront space specialises in flowboarding – a hybrid of surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding. Carve up and down the surface of the Double FlowRider or show off your skills in the perfect barrel wave at the FlowBarrel.

39. Touch the sky

Location: Bounce Singapore

There isn’t a moment of stillness at Bounce Singapore, where you can jump off walls and fly through the air. This addition to the trampoline scene has three areas designed for different interests and various levels of difficulty, so young tots, older teens, adults and even fitness enthusiasts are catered for. After you get your muscles warmed up at the free jumping arena, be sure to show off your basketball moves, Spiderman climbing skills and ability to dodge balls at the Slam Dunk, The Wall and Trampoline Dodgeball arena respectively.

40. Let art surprise you

Location: Parkview Museum

Housed in Parkview Square, affectionately known as the Gotham building to locals because of its imposing nature, the Parkview Museum regular hosts rotational exhibitions that showcase everything from Italian Renaissance art to ocean conservation. Pop by to see what’s on this month and enjoy a cocktail at Atlas, a gin-focused bar with over 1000 bottles of the spirit, while you’re at it.

41. Watch a concert in the park

Location: Singapore Botanic Gardens

Situated on an islet in the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Symphony Lake, the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage is an idyllic venue for open-air concerts, with the audience sitting at the water’s edge. Of the monthly concerts held – from jazz, Latin and classical to pop and R&B – the Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s free, biannual SSO in the Park is the most popular.

42. Experience movie magic

Location: The Cathay Gallery

Calling all cinephiles – this one’s for you. If you’re at The Cathay Cineplex, your moviegoing experience doesn’t have to end at the credits. Head to the second floor and you’ll find more movie magic at The Cathay Gallery. This hidden gem is a time capsule of movie memorabilia: think antique cinema chairs, cameras and film projectors. Film buffs can geek out over the gallery’s permanent exhibition, which includes a wallpapered with vintage film posters of the most iconic flicks in cinematic history, such as the animated classic The Jungle Book.

43. Relive your salad days

Location: Mint Museum of Toys

Revisit your good ol’ childhood memories at the Mint Museum of Toys, home to a world-class collection of vintage toys and collectable items. Ignite your child-like wonder with the thousands of toys and items on display throughout its four levels.

44. Get eco-friendly yoga gear

Location: Touch the Toes

Do sun salutations in gear that’s kind to the planet. The first of its kind in Singapore, this eco-friendly yoga store carries labels that use only organic cotton, bamboo blends, recycled or upcycled materials – and all are sustainably produced. Owners Kelly Hotta-Moung and Wuen Lin Tan met at Absolute Yoga’s 40-day Challenge event and, after surveying the session’s range of attire, realised there was a gap in the market for fashionable yet eco-friendly clothing for ‘yogies’. Brands on offer include Teeki, Manduka, Liforme and Yogitoes.

45. Revamp your wardrobe with vintage pieces

Location: Dustbunny Vintage

Yes, the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park are all excellent attractions in their own right but we love the lesser known River Safari. The river-themed wildlife park walks you through the greatest rivers in the world including the Amazon and the Nile. Plus, say hi to giant pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia.

46. Back in time

Location: Tangs

One of the most outstanding buildings in the iconic glitzy shopping belt Orchard Road is Tang Plaza. As Singapore’s oldest homegrown department store, Tangs is often credited with sparking the transformation of Orchard Road into the vibrant shopping haven it’s known as today.

47. Crate digging

Location: Hear Records

Hear Records is where you go to get lost in crates of vinyl – there are over 10,000 used ones and 5,000 new ones with weekly additions to keep things fresh. Needless to say, a vast, curated selection of records, all handpicked by owner Nick Tan, line the walls too.

48. Get your day started with an iconic Singaporean breakfast

Location: Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

Kaya toast – you simply can’t miss out on this classic. This widely available breakfast item of toast, butter and coconut jam, is available at every kopitiam and local coffee shop. Old-school bakery Chin Mee Chin Confectionery does a beautiful rustic job – just be sure to call them kaya buns, rather than toast – although you’ll need to arrive relatively earlier if you want to score any of these babies, as they often sell out by lunchtime.

49. Fry your own snacks

Location: Hum Jin Pang

DIY is part of the fun at Hum Jin Pang in Maxwell Food Centre. Customers at this hawker stall are required to fry their own hum jin pang (fried sweet-savoury pancakes). Join the queue, take note what the person in front of you does, and be sure to turn the pancake over quickly – the oil is hot and everything cooks really quickly.

50. Queue for the best hawker food

Location: Tiong Bahru Market

Hawker centres are an integral part of Singapore’s food landscape so treat yourself to an education of the finest degree at Tiong Bahru Market. The recently revamped centre houses more than 80 hawker stalls including legends such as Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow and Jian Bo Shui Kueh.
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