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Singapore: Not only is it one of the world’s last remaining city-states, but it is also the second-most densely populated sovereign nation in the world – housing around 7,600 people per square kilometre across its landmass.
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Though you might think things could get bloated and crowded here, Singapore is often ranked among the cleanest and best-looking destinations in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. Of course, many of the state’s visitors are just passing through; Singapore is one of Asia’s – and the world’s – most important aviation and transhipment hubs with thousands upon thousands of people travelling through the city-state every day.
A vast tapestry of cultures, Singapore’s multicultural melting pot is replete with unbelievable food, storied history, and plenty of cultural sights to see. Fast becoming a must-see city, we’ll dive into its history, attractions to check out, culinary highlights, and the best-secret spots.
What to see in Singapore
To see the best of what Singapore has to offer, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with how to get around. Thankfully, it’s a breeze to navigate. Singapore’s bus system reaches all corners of the island, providing an efficient, regular service that makes exploring the city-state as straightforward as possible. They require exact change to ride (unless you have an EZ-Link card), but they’re cheap and get you about anywhere – they even run into the small hours on Friday, Saturdays, and on the eve of public holidays.
The Mass Rapid Transit system is the easiest way to get around. Operating frequently, even at peak times, and running until midnight, make sure you get a Singapore Tourist Pass, they offer unlimited train and bus travel for a day and are an absolute must for visitors.
For a more novel way of getting around Singapore, pay for a trishaw ride and see the city in a different light, with cars whizzing by and the wind in your hair. Be sure to barter the fare with the driver beforehand. Typically, a journey costs around $40 for half an hour.
Showcasing Singapore’s pre-technology past, Baba House is one of the best-preserved examples of Peranakan architecture in the city. Oozing charm and heritage from its vibrant antique façade, this beautiful 1920s shack will leave you longing to learn more about the nation’s complex history, influenced by hands of various cultures. Managed by the National University of Singapore, a touch-and-interact policy is encouraged, making it a suitable attraction for youngsters.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Escape the busy Singaporean streets with a quiet stroll around the city-state’s world-famous Botanic Gardens. Established more than 156 years ago, this 180-acre tropical garden is the only site of its kind to receive UNESCO World Heritage status – thanks in part to its abundance of rare flora and charming, oriental-inspired architecture and design. Complete with a rainforest, waterfall and dedicated Orchid Enclosure, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is unlike any park you will ever visit. Don’t miss it.
At the other end of the spectrum, Little India makes up a large portion of Singapore’s Chulia Kampong district and takes its name from the thousands of Tamil immigrants who were relocated to the region under British colonial rule. With its evocative architecture, fragrant street food, and abundance of independent fashion retailers, Little India evokes the spirit of the country from which it takes its name.
It should come as no surprise a city the size of Singapore has more than its fair share of things to do and places to see that are off the beaten track. If you’ve been to Singapore before and are well-versed with its most famous attractions or just love discovering hidden gems, then the city has a plethora of local eateries, rustic markets, clandestine bars, and quirky boutiques to check out while you’re here.
Don’t forget to ask the locals for tips and recommendations if you’re looking to go beyond the usual Singapore hotspots. Roam around its streets and strike up a conversation with street vendors and shop owners and see what off-the-beaten-track treats they recommend.
The vibrant clash of cultures means there’s plenty of interesting pieces to take back home for loved ones.
There are plenty of edible souvenirs to bring back with you, and this delicious coconut jam makes an excellent little gift. Enjoyed across the nation on toast, Kaya is a wonderfully flavourful spread made from eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan leaves. It’s available across the city from supermarkets and Ya Kun Kaya Toast shops.
Singapore Sling Mix
The ever-popular Singapore Sling has been knocked back across the city’s bars since the 1930s. Bring back a bottled version for your loved ones bought from Raffles Hotel, the place it was originally created all those decades ago.
For that special someone, a replica of Singapore’s national flower gilded in 24-karat gold is a superb souvenir to bring home. Full of the spirit of Singapore, you can find all manner of earrings, pendants, necklaces, and brooches from any RISIS store across Singapore.
Another icon of Singapore, the Merlion is a lion-fish hybrid that symbolises the city’s origins as a fishing village, as well as its original ‘lion city’ namesake. The man-made creature adorns all manner of souvenirs, including key chains, fridge magnets, snow globes, picture frames, and just about anything you can think of.
Tips from the experts
There are plenty of decadent dishes to enjoy during your stay in Singapore, here are a few of our favourites.
The ultimate Singaporean dish, this fragrant, aromatic soup is about as hearty as they come. Made with a base of coconut milk and stock; shrimp, fish, chicken, and egg add to the robustness, strengthening the dish’s depth of flavour markedly. Impossible for rumbling stomachs to resist, head to 328 Katong Laksa for arguably the best version: fiery, creamy, and very, very filling. As the locals say “die, die, must try”.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Incredibly popular across the city, this simple, subtle dish is a comforting, delicious meal that’s considered something of a national treasure here. It’s essentially steamed chicken with rice, but what it lacks in flair, it more than makes up for in flavour. There’s a premium placed on the quality of ingredients, sit down at Yishun 925 for an exceptionally good version of the dish.
If you’re after some Singaporean seafood, consider ordering chilli crab. However, don’t worry: Despite the name, the dish is not very spicy. To create the dish, mud crabs are stir-fried in a thick tomato-chilli sauce. Prepare your tastebuds for both sweet and savoury flavours. Take a seat at Long Beach UDMC Seafood Restaurant to try the chilli crab for yourself.
So, there you have it – the perfect way to spend a twelve-hour stopover in Singapore. If you’re interested in booking a cruise through Southeast Asia and feel Singapore could be the perfect port destination, check out Singapore cruise holiday deals with Cruise1st or use our search tool to browse a complete range of cruise holidays visiting Singapore.
The footage used in these videos is licensed via Creative Commons and has been modified from the original. Credits: Singapore Flyer – View from inside the capsule, Singapore Merlion Park Time Lapse, A table for two, Singapore has balanced the need for density with providing public space, Unreasonable At Sea: Timelapse – Singapore, Inspiration