Singapore Highlights: 14 Reasons to Love Singapore

Last updated on January 11, 2024

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I didn’t expect to like Singapore. My mind had filed it somewhere alongside Dubai as nothing more than a business metropolis with strict laws and uncomfortable segregation. When I won a flight there, if I’m honest, my mind was more focused on where else to visit in the region rather than exploring the city itself. But I wanted to give it a chance and arranged to stay for four days en route back from Thailand.

Those four days became the favourites of my trip. I fell for Singapore and its surprising mix of old-world charm and glitzy, futuristic cityscape. In between the skyscrapers lie colourful buildings and cultural enclaves, and the high-rises themselves are punctuated by gorgeous gardens and waterways. It all comes together into a remarkably well-crafted city with an exciting and invigorating buzz. Here are some of the highlights that had me charmed…

Singapore Highlights

Haji Lane

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Haji Lane is the hipster central of Singapore with colourful store fronts and a string of independent boutiques, cafes and design shops. I loved its juxtaposition with the skyscrapers beyond.

Kampong Glam

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Haji Lane is part of the Kampong Glam area of Singapore, which has been the Malay-Muslim area of the city since the early 1800s. It’s home to the Sultan Mosque and alleyways filled with traditional shops selling everything from Persian carpets to original oil perfumes. There’s also a lot of excellent food. I can recommend Derwish Restaurant for some excellent Turkish food. Also see this guide to the best ice creams in Singapore.

Shophouse architecture

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Kampong Glam is also home to some of the most colourful of Singapore’s shophouse colonial architecture, much of which has been restored. You can also see a lot of these charming buildings in Little India and Chinatown.

Hindu Temple, Chinatown

Hindu temple in Chinatown Singapore

Another great juxtaposition with Singapore’s skyscrapers is the gorgeous Hindu Temple in Chinatown. It looks especially wonderful at night when the temple tower is illuminated in the sky.

City gardens

Singapore city gardens

Although Singapore is first and foremost a city, there is also plenty to remind you of its jungle surroundings.

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There are gorgeous trees everywhere…

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…and many buildings have started to integrate gardens into their design. I particularly liked the architecture of the Park Royal Hotel, which looks like it’s made of cardboard.

Marina Bay Sands

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Marina Bay Sands, or MBS as the locals call it, is the iconic resort that was built in 2010 on Singapore’s bayfront. It’s made up of a hotel, exhibition centre, theaters, shops and restuarants, and its unusual design dominates the skyline.

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There is a viewing platform (The Skypark) on top which you can pay $20 to go up to. I and some friends (the lovely Simon and Erin at Never Ending Voyage) instead chose to go to the rooftop bar for a cocktail at sunset. It’s free entry so we used the money we’d have spent on the Skypark to get cocktails instead. The only disappointment was not being able to see the famous infinity pool. I believe the only way to see it is to either be a guest at the hotel, or to go to the resort’s cheese and chocolate buffet, which costs $56 and has a view of the pool.

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Waterways

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Singapore is surrounded by water and it’s possible to get around much of the city by taxi boat – a particularly peaceful way to explore.

Polite notices

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Signs in London tend to mostly look like warnings or orders, while in Singapore they have taken on a much more twee, cutesy vibe. “Be Sweet”, “Be Good”, “Be Cool” they say. Or, like the one above, they’ve become affirmations – “I am an encouraging driver”. Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world but I suspect that is more due to their strict law enforcement rather than the polite little signs.

China Town

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I stayed in China Town during my stay in Singapore and enjoyed wandering its streets at night. Around 75 per cent of Singapore’s population is Chinese, which makes for a very authentic Chinatown with some excellent food.

Hawker Centres

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Speaking of food, one of the best places to find a cheap meal is at one of the many hawker centres around the city. This can be quite challenging for vegetarians as the signs are mostly in Chinese. However, English is the official language of Singapore so just ask and you should be able to find something. If in doubt, stick to the Indian stalls, which always have a veggie option.

Little India

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Another cultural enclave in Singapore is Little India, home to some of the city’s best and cheapest restaurants (especially for vegetarians).

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Like Kampong Glam, it has many beautifully restored, colourful buildings. I couldn’t stop taking photos (photo essay coming soon!).

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Little India also has a lot of fresh food stalls, which would be particularly useful for longer stays in the city.

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And there’s a great market for gifts. I even did some Christmas shopping!

Pod hostels

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Singapore is home to a few different pod-style hostels. They’re not as a extreme as traditional coffin-like pods but simply offer an entrance from the foot of the bed rather than the side. I really liked this as it creates a sort of room and provides more privacy than a usual dorm bed.

I stayed at the impeccably clean and modern Wink Hostel, which I highly recommend. My only tip would be to make sure your bed is not in front of the air conditioning unit. Mine was originally and it felt unbearably cold. I moved beds and it was much better.

Here are some more ideas for where to stay in Singapore.

Gardens by the Bay and Supertree Grove

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Gardens by the Bay is part of the Singaporean Government’s mission to transform the city from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”. The 101 hectares of reclaimed land has been transformed into a maze of beautiful gardens. Central to it all are two Eden-Project-style domes – the Flower Dome and The Cloud Forest. Both have a spectacular array of plant life from around the world including baobabs and an impressive manmade cloud forest.

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My favourite part of the gardens were the supertrees, which not only look incredible (especially when they light up at night) but also harvest solar energy and provide cooling systems for the domes. Try to see them at 7:45pm and 8:45pm for the nightly Garden Rhapsody light show. Note that this is different to Wonder Full, the Marina Bay Sands light show which happens 15 minutes later at 8pm and 9pm. Wonder Full is a pretty cheesy affair but also pretty impressive. Both are free and certainly worth a look, but if you can only do one, I’d choose the trees.

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Butterfly Garden at Changi

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The final surprise of Singapore was the airport itself, which is widely considered one of the best in the world. It even has a butterfly garden! For the ultimate Singapore experience, fly with Singapore Airlines who often win awards for being the best in the world. Look at their first-class suite (I can but dream!)

Want to extend your trip?

If you’re in Singapore and want to extend your trip, this journey from Singapore to Vietnam by train looks amazing.

Have you been to Singapore? Do you have any tips to share?

18 thoughts on “Singapore Highlights: 14 Reasons to Love Singapore”

  1. I agree with you that sometimes we presume we wouldn’t like certain places and when we actually go there, our opinion changes in a minute. The way you have captured Singapore with your pictures, I can understand that you found a lot of character and charm there. Waiting for the photo essay!

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  2. Never been, but I’m impressed how much green it is!! A City in a Garden concept sounds great 🙂 What about an average daily budget including accommodation? Can a person manage to stay with 30 euros or below there?

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    • You can get a hostel bed and breakfast for around 30 euro, but you’d need more for spending etc. Hawker Centres are a good place for cheap eats.

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  3. Looks gorgeous. I had no desire to go to Singapore either… but this post has changed my mind and perhaps we might go there during our Asia tour next year. Was it expensive?

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    • It’s not cheap but there are ways to make it manageable (for example staying in a pod and eating at hawker centres). I didn’t keep track of what I spent but I know Simon and Erin at Never Ending Voyage spent an average of $109 a day between the two of them and they had free accommodation.

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  4. Hi, I already have been to Singapore a few times. Before I went I had mixed feelings but so far I loved every stay. I really liked the Botanic Gardens and the many awesome restaurants.

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  5. I really enjoyed my time in Singapore as well, though it was definitely not my favorite place in Asia. That said, I did get to spend 2 weeks there due to a friend now living & working there, so I certainly wasn’t complaining! Singapore actually reminded me a lot of London, which is one of my favorite cities…

    One of the things I really liked about Singapore, and which I enjoyed about neighboring Malaysia as well, was how multicultural it is. After spending so many months traveling through countries where the populations are so homogenous, it was nice to see such a diversity of faces again in Singapore.

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  6. Looks gorgeous. I’ve heard Singapore is pretty good for ESL teaching as well. I teach in Korea currently but it’s quite rural; I love it but it would be nice to live in a city down the road! The only downside is I’ve heard Singapore can be a bit pricey. I love the photos though! I like seeing photos that aren’t just of sleek buildings.

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    • Thanks Claire. I’m not sure how much it costs to live long-term in Singapore, but I imagine it’d be pretty fun!

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  7. Oh this has me so excited for Singapore! I’m making a quick stop there next month and I have been wondering what the heck to do. Those super trees look so cool, like something out of Avatar. I definitely want to see them. Gorgeous photos! 🙂

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  8. Ahh Singapore! Such a great town, I’m glad you were able to see past the ‘city’! I stayed in that same hostel on a recent visit – love the pod idea. The crazy coloured lights did my head in a bit though! And I feel your pain about the air conditioner. One of the guys in my room insisted on setting it to 15 degrees…but it was right in front of my bed!!! I waited til he fell asleep then turned it up.

    I just did a couple of blog posts on my favourite areas in Singapore: Haji Lane and Tiong Baru. You should definitely check out Tiong Baru next time you’re in town!

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  9. A lovely portrait of Singapore you painted here with words and photographs Victoria! As I mentioned in your related photo essay, those “villages in the city” are quite intriguing and enjoyable. And you captured quite some layers of this place indeed!
    I found the hawker stall experiences quite a challenge in terms of veggie fare, but I have to say that I’m not too adventurous when it comes to food. But as you said, Indian is always a great option! How where the dress code requirements for the rooftop bar in the MBS by the way? I remember we gave it a miss because we didn’t feel well equipped enough for a cocktail bar and also were keen to stick to our budget since Singapore was more or less the gangplank for our SE Asia trip and it the city can be a bit heavy on the budget… Still can’t get my eyes off the Flower Dome and The Cloud Forest, a sight we unfortunately missed completely. What I remember quite well is probably the biggest iPhone density in a subway wagon ever! 🙂

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    • Ah ha! Funny that you ask that as we were pretty sure we wouldn’t get in. As it is, they let us in wearing flip flops / hiking sandals / scruffy little plimsols (me), and very casual dress. I draped a scarf round my shoulders in an attempt to look smart, but I doubt that was important. However, I do think the restaurant has a dress code. Also, most people up there are kinda smart so you probably wouldn’t want to be too scruffy. Hope that helps! It’s definitely worth it for the view!

      Reply

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