Unfortunately, summer holidays are just a distant memory and it’s time to take stock of them! Our tour started and ended in Singapore. Its insane skyline and mix of cultures struck us from the very first moment. It is unbelievable how in few meters, you can move from the extreme luxury of the Marina Bay Sands to the simplicity of a Hawker Centre, where you usually eat for few dollars in a shared table. The city has enchanted us with its colorful and animated neighborhoods, but also with its green where you can relax. So, after having quickly covered what Singapore represents for us, here’s a list of the 10 neighborhoods/places that we believe are worth a visit.
MARINA BAY AREA
The area of Marina Bay, the bay facing the mouth of the Singapore river, is undoubtedly the pulsating heart of the city. In this area, there are many attractions to visit, but also luxury hotels, restaurants and offices. The area is so important and representative that the GP of Formula 1 chose this area for its famous race (the first one held in 2008). So, our city tour could only start here.
Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay are the most famous gardens in Singapore. The undisputed rulers of this great green area are the Supertrees, the so famous giant artificial trees that light up at night as the sun goes down. Don’t miss the evening shows, one at 7.45pm and one at 8.45pm.
For those who want to, it’s possible to enjoy the view on the gardens from the top through the OCBC Skyway, a walkway that connects the Supertrees (the ticket costs S$8).
However, on its 101 hectares there are other installations. The two that struck us the most are the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, two large greenhouses, built close to each other. The Flower Dome recreates the typical Mediterranean climate and hosts a lot of varieties of plants from all over the globe. The different species are exposed in 9 different areas, so big that in 2015, the Flower Dome won the Guinness World Record as the largest greenhouse in the world.
When you enter the Cloud Forest, you dive into another world. In the center stands a majestic and eye-catching vertical garden, characterized by an incredible 30 meters high waterfall. The impact leaves people breathless. This gigantic green mountain is structured on different levels, each inhabited by different species of plants.
The entrance to the park is free, except for the two conservatories (Flower Dome and Cloud Forest) whose ticket price is S$28 (about €18) for adults and S$15 (about €9) for children. The outdoor gardens open at 5am and close at 2am, while the greenhouses can be visited from 9am to 9pm.
What impressed us the most about the ArtScience Museum is its appearance. The museum is located inside a majestic and futuristic lotus flower that since 2011 (the year in which it has been established) has immediately become a symbol for the city. It’s located within walking distance from the world-famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel and it’s the house of art and technology.
The museum offers temporary exhibitions that change during the year and a permanent one. This one is the Future World: Where Arts Meets Science. You literally enter a futuristic world, where art, science and magic come together, bringing the visitor to dicover surprising digital installations.
The ArtScience Museum opens at 10am and closes at 5pm. The ticket price varies depending on whether you decide to visit one or more exhibitions. We advise you to check the museum website to stay up to date.
Marina Bay Sands
The Marina Bay Sands is the iconic Singapore Hotel, symbol of the city’s luxury and eccentricity. It’s not just a hotel, but inside you can find literally everything. If you want to know more, you will soon find an article about our experience there.
Other area attractions include:
• Helix Bridge: the spectacular bridge adjacent to the Marina Bay Sands, which looks like a rolled double helix. In the evening, when illuminated, it has a great scenic impact
• Merlion: symbol of the city of Singapore, statue with a lion’s head and a fish’s body. For the evening show of the fountains, we advise you to come here for greater visibility of the skyline
• Singapore Flyer: the famous Ferris wheel from which you can admire the city.
The nearest subway stops are Marina Bay and Bayfront
Chinatown has been one of the neighborhoods we liked the most. It particularly impressed us with its colors, its vivacity and its incredible mix of cultures. Within a few meters you can move from a Hindu temple to a Buddhist temple, up to a mosque.
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a very representative Buddhist temple for its community, built to house the relic of the tooth of Buddha. On the upper floors, there’s also a museum that tells the story.
Sri Mariamman Temple
The Sri Mariamman Temple was built in 1823 and is the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. In our opinion, it deserves the visit also for the colorful tower at the entrance.
The Jamae Mosque, also known as Chulia Mosque, was built in 1826 and is one of the oldest mosques in the city.
In all these places of worship the entrance is free, but it’s necessary to dress appropriately. The humidity in Singapore doesn’t allow you to get around the city too much covered, but don’t worry! At the entrance, sarongs or tunics will be provided for access.
Chinatown is not only about culture and religion, but there’s much more. We liked this neighborhood so much because there’s space for two of our great passions: murals and basketball courts. Chinatown is the most representative area of the city for street art. There are really wonderful examples in every corner. Just stroll around the main streets to find them!
The basketball court is located above the Chinatown Complex, the largest Hawker Center in the city. It’s worth visiting not only because it’s very characteristic, but especially because it hosts the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world: Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Checken Rice& Noodle. To reach the basketball court, cross the food court, go through a covered parking area and go up to the top of the building. Unlike others, this is very particular because it’s surrounded by very high buildings and has a privileged view of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
The nearest metro station is Chinatown on the Downtown line, just 3 stops from Bayfront.
One of the things that struck us most in Singapore is the strong integration and coexistence of ethnic groups and cultures so different from each other. After visiting Chinatown, it’s the turn of Little India, a concentration of colors and traditions, the center of the Indian community. Starting from Serangoon Road, the main street of the neighborhood, you cannot miss the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, one of the most famous Hindu temples in the city, and the House of Tan Teng Niah, the most colorful house in Singapore.
Little India is easily accessible by the metro. From Bayfront (at Gardens by the Bay) take the Downtown line for 4 stops.
Orchard Road is the center of commerce in Singapore, a street full of luxury hotels and shopping malls. A few steps from the frenzy of this area that comes alive in the evening, you can find the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a true oasis of peace. We recommend it because it’s both a place suitable for those who are looking for unique plants (there are so many types here) and for those who simply want to relax and escape for a while from the chaos of the city.
The entrance to the gardens is free, except for the Orchid Garden. The ticket price is only S$5 (about €3) and it’s really worth it.
If you’re in this area, don’t miss the Library@Orchard and the Emerald Hill Road, full of murals and old pastel-colored colonial houses.
The nearest metro stations are Somerset and Dhoby Ghaut (North South and North East lines). From the Marina Bay area, we recommend the bus 106 or the Downtown line (Bencoolen stop).
This strategic area, located a short distance from the Marina Bay Area, is the business center of Singapore. We spent the first few days in Singapore in this neighborhood, at Fort Canning Hotel, located in the park of the same name.
Fort Canning Park, the city’s green Victorian-style lung, is an oasis of peace in the city center.
A few steps from the park, we suggest you to stop at the Old Hill Police Station. The building, with its 927 rainbow-painted windows, is currently the headquarters of the Ministry of Communications and Information, and of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. The building, considered a national monument, has undergone several evolutions over the years. In 2012, it was renamed with this name that refers to what it was in the past, a police station.
The nearest metro station is Fort Canning on the Downtown line, just 4 stops from Bayfront.
Visiting the Colonial District, we recommend stopping at Raffles Hotel, one of the most luxurious and ancient hotels in the city. Here, you can sip a delicious Singapore Sling, an alcohol-based cocktail made with gin and triple sec. Why try it here and not in other bars? Simple! It was here that it has been created in 1915 by the Raffles barman, Ngiami Tong Boon.
It really deserves for us despite waiting to sit down and the price (S$33). The environment and atmosphere are unique. It really feels like going back to the past! Raffles Hotel can be reached by buses 106 or 133 from the Marina Bay area.
The Riverside neighborhood is located among Boat Quay, Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay. If during the day they are almost empty, in the evening they become populated, the center of the nightlife. In these streets, there are restaurants for all budgets and for all tastes. But pay attention to not fall into the classic tourist traps! All routes can be easily reached with the Downtown line from Bayfront (Telok Ayer and Fort Canning stops).
Along with Chinatown, Kampong Glam is the neighborhood that most impressed us. Walking through the main streets, Bugis Street, Haji Lane and Arab Street, you immediately notice that the district is very animated and colorful. Music and beautiful murals literally transport you to another world.
In addition, we also recommend visiting the Sultan Mosque and the Sri Krishnan Temple. The Sultan Mosque, of great visual impact with its golden dome overlooking the neighborhood, is the reference point for the Muslim community in Singapore.
Unfortunately, we could not visit it because it was closed for a celebration. The nearest metro station is Nicoll Highway on the Circle line, just 2 stops from Bayfront.
After seeing so many beautiful photos on Instagram, we reached the Joo Chiat/Katong neighborhood, on the east coast. In this area, there are still traces of the Peranakan culture, an ethnic group descended from the Chinese settlers from the Straits of Malacca, in Malaysia. One of the main streets of the district is Koon Seng Road, where there are colorful colonial-style houses.
Perhaps, it’s one of the first time that we’ve been disappointed by our expectations. The road has just few houses, very beautiful, but which don’t justify the large number of tourists screaming and walking in the middle of the street, not caring about cars. This is just our opinion! Our advice is to visit the neighborhood only if you are in Singapore more than three days, also for the distance from the center (half an hour by bus from Bugis).
Another place that we’ve been not sure whether publish or not in this guide is Sentosa Island, a small atoll about 500 meters from the coast of Singapore. Expectations regarding this island were really high. We thought we would find a more animated place and a better landscape. Unfortunately, this was not the case, the beach and the sea seemed really too artificial. Despite not having particularly impressed us, we don’t feel like advising you not to visit it. Even if we didn’t like it, could be different for you. Sentosa Island can be reached by city buses or by a monorail that leaves from the VivoCity shopping center, the largest one in Singapore. The ticket price of Sentosa Express is S$4 for a round trip. The stops correspond to the attractions offered by the island, including the Universal Studios.
We liked Singapore so much because there are attractions in every corner of the city, starting from the airport. Changi Airport is not just a simple airport, but much more. The most famous and representative area is the Jewel, a 10 floors complex that is divided into gardens, shops and installations. The rain vortex stands out among these, a 40-meter waterfall that leaves you breathless just by looking at it. Before proceeding to the check-in area, stop here!