Need a breath of fresh air in the bustling megacity that is Singapore? Culture Trip has the ultimate list of parks, gardens and green spaces to give your lungs a boost of vitality.
Singapore is increasingly gaining recognition for its environmental programmes. In the recently released hit television series Planet Earth 2, the Cities episode ends on a segment profiling Singapore as one of the landmark locations that is trying to implement more green initiatives.
Although it is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, with nearly six million people living on just over 700 square kilometres, the city-state has earned the nickname City in a Garden thanks to its considerable areas of green space.
Perhaps Singapore’s most famous garden, Gardens by the Bay is a favourite among locals and a must-visit for any tourist. The park is dominated by its SuperTree Grove – eighteen metal structures, the tallest of which reaches 16 storeys, and all of which are covered in plants and other vegetation. A walk around the SuperTree Grove is not complete without a trip up to the Skywalk, a bridge that connects two of the tallest SuperTrees and gives a bird’s-eye view of the entire park. Other attractions of the park include the Heritage Gardens, which boast plants specific to different geographic regions, the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest Conservatories, and the Marina Barrage. Gardens by the Bay is free to enter, although the exhibitions have admission fees. The park is open from 5am to 2am, making it a great option for a memorable yet budget-friendly date.
East Coast Park takes the trophy for being Singapore’s largest park, covering nearly two square kilometres of reclaimed waterfront land. The best way to explore the fifteen-kilometre coastline perimeter of East Coast Park is on wheels, thanks to the dedicated cycle and skating lane. On weekends you’ll see people using all kinds of transportation to get around the park, from bicycles and scooters to rollerblades and even quadricycles carrying entire families. There are several bicycle rental shops along the park, usually located near car parks or eateries. East Coast Park also offers barbecue pit rentals, which you can book in advance through the National Parks website.
MacRitchie Reservoir is the best park on the island for nature-lovers. Located around Singapore’s largest reservoir, the park offers extensive hiking trails, including the Treetop Walk, a 250-metre-tall suspension bridge that brings hikers over the forest canopy. Besides hiking, there is also a beautiful boardwalk and rental facilities for canoes and kayaks. It is far enough away from the city that visitors should be able to spot the exciting wildlife that inhabits the park, including monkeys, monitor lizards and even flying lemurs. When planning your MacRitchie adventures, keep in mind that the only concessions shop is at the entrance to the park, so be sure to carry sufficient water and snacks, as well as sunscreen and insect-repellent.
The Singapore Botanic Gardens first opened in 1859, making them one of Singapore’s oldest parks and explaining how such a large complex came to exist in the middle of the busy city-state. The park is home to over 10,000 species of plants, and it is one of the premier orchid research and breeding centres in the world. With relatively quiet grounds, the park is also home to a veritable host of jungle creatures, including three-foot long monitor lizards – but don’t worry, they are quite harmless to people as long as they are not antagonised. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is open from 5am to 12am daily, and admission to the park is free.
Bishan Park is well known among the residents of the Bishan and Ang Mo Kio neighbourhoods, but is unfortunately rarely on the radar of visitors. Located in the middle of those neighbourhoods’ housing developments, one may expect Bishan Park to be nothing more than a play structure and football field; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Bishan Park covers 0.62 square kilometres and is full of amenities to be enjoyed by the community, including a cycling track, a promenade along a meandering river, bookable lawn spaces, several restaurants and even a spa.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve benefits greatly from being the oldest and largest forest reserve in Singapore. It may seem like a trek to get to this far-flung park, but with 1.64 square kilometres of land and 40 per cent of Singapore’s species of flora and fauna, it is well worth the journey. The reserve boasts many hiking trails for all skill levels, as well as rock climbing and mountain biking. The National Parks association is organising monthly discovery walks over the next few months for visitors who want to learn more about the wildlife that inhabits the park.
Fort Canning Park is much smaller than the other parks on this list – it’s really just a hill in the middle of the city. It still deserves a spot on this list, however, because along with being a beautiful location, it is also the most historically significant park on the island thanks to its location and elevation. Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern-day Singapore, built his first home on Fort Canning and during World War II, the fort was the headquarters of the British Army until it was defeated and subsequently controlled by the Japanese Army. Today, Fort Canning is popular with runners, as well as being a frequent location for festivals and concerts.
A nature photographer’s dream, Lower Seletar Reservoir Park seems a world away from Singapore with its calm, clear waters and meandering boardwalks. These boardwalks make the park popular for joggers and romantic couples alike. For visitors who would rather be on the water than next to it, there are facilities at Rower’s Bay to rent kayaks, and, for the more adventurous, dragon boats.
Another park that’s a reasonable distance from the city is the Chinese and Japanese Gardens. These neighbouring gardens are attached by the ‘Bai Hong Quiao’, a white bridge that is inspired by a similar bridge at the Summer Palace in Beijing. Besides the stunning architecture, the park features the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum, where visitors can see and feed the animals. The entire park is built on the two islands located on Jurong Lake.
Pasir Ris Park is another oft-forgotten park due to its far-flung location and lack of landmarks. Although it is far from the city, the park is a favourite among Central Business District-dwellers looking to escape the crowds of the downtown area for a few hours. With facilities for cycling, barbecuing, canoeing and even pony rides, Pasir Ris Park makes for an easy getaway from hectic city life.