The Best Experiences Made In Singapore

Taking a trip to one of the colourful neighbourhoods of Singapore
Taking a trip to one of the colourful neighbourhoods of Singapore

Editorial Manager

Singapore has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, evolving from its status as a travel hub for stopovers. Known as one of the safest countries in the world, travellers might think they know what to expect when they arrive at the award-winning Changi Airport, but a series of new experiences are highlighting unique things to do that are Made in Singapore.

Everything I had heard about Singapore before travelling there for the first time suggested I was in for a great time, even if it was likely to be a little “predictable” for a seasoned jet setter like me. Sure, I knew about the majestic installations at the airport, Marina Bay Sands’ iconic hotel rooftop and the stunning Gardens by the Bay elevated walkways, but Singapore is tiny, right?

Well, that’s probably the first myth to put right. It’s not big, but its not exactly small either. If you decide to stay in downtown and not venture out of the city itself, then you might get the impression you’ve seen everything on offer in a few days, but a new campaign from the tourism board is definitely going to change your mind about that. I was here to discover the unexpected, diverse and unique experiences on offer and managed to sample everything from well-known, iconic experiences to hidden gems that showcase varied facets of Singapore.

Getting there

Airports don’t usually form a large part of ones travel itinerary but Singapore Changi Airport is no ordinary hub where planes merely land and take off. There’s been a great effort to make it a destination in its own right and that is reflected in the size of the place. If you want to see everything on offer then leave plenty of time to explore.

On that note, Transit and transfer passengers flying through Singapore Changi Airport can once again experience the Free Singapore Tour programme, this time with refreshed itineraries and a new Changi Precinct tour. This was a popular service before Covid-19 restricted the service, but now the 2.5 hour tours are back.

“For travellers who choose to transit or transfer at Changi Airport, the Free Singapore Tour is designed to give them a glimpse of what Singapore has to offer, including the unique attractions and offerings at Jewel Changi Airport and the neighbouring Changi Precinct which has a rich cultural and historical heritage,” explains Mr Lim Ching Kiat, Executive Vice President of Air Hub & Cargo Development at CAG. “Together with our partners, SIA and STB, we hope to welcome more passengers who fly through Changi Airport to enjoy a slice of Singapore through our new tours and world-class attractions and facilities.”

Singapore Airlines is the best way to visit the country if you want a relaxed arrival and comfortable departure. There’s a real synergy between the national carrier, international airport and tourism board, so if you want to plan a trip here all the hassle is taken care of by the airline.

Its no surprise Singapore Airlines is regarded as one of the best operators in the world. The service is impeccable and as well as a full selection of meals, which can be pre-ordered and even refined on request, there is an excellent free wifi option for all passengers as part of the KF membership. On a long flight this makes a real difference, and in some cases it can even be a deal breaker. I was online for my entire flight with the only breaks in service being caused by local aviation restrictions. There are 4 daily flights from London to Singapore, with Premium Economy rates starting at £1,994.

You’ll need to fill in an SG Arrival Card digitally before landing in Singapore, but this significantly speeds up the arrivals process. I was through customs in less than 15 minutes and on to explore Singapore for the first time.

Experiences Made in Singapore

Mr Kenneth Lim, Assistant Chief Executive (Marketing Group), STB, said of the new initiative: “The Made in Singapore campaign is anchored on our Passion Made Possible destination brand, which embodies the Singapore spirit of fulfilling individual passions and creating new possibilities. Through this latest campaign, we would like to reinforce Singapore as a destination that turns imagination into reality. Our goal is to showcase how everyday ordinary moments are made extraordinary and unforgettable, experienced only in Singapore – to inspire travel here.”

Let’s dig a little deeper to find out what inspiration you can draw from a visit to Singapore.

Where to stay in Singapore

I was staying at the Clan Hotel within the Far East Square heritage precinct and Telok Ayer district. The Clan Hotel was built to reflect the success stories of humble immigrants and their strong bond that lasted through the generations, from past to present. From the rooftop I could see many of the iconic buildings that have sprung up in recent years across the Singapore skyline. What was surprising was how many older buildings and temples were still standing too. You get as sense of local culture when staying here that is often overlooked by visitors if they are on a short trip.

The intricate neighbourhood architecture of Singapore

I had specific time planned for Little India and Chinatown but there were many other diverse neighbourhoods to discover too. A short walk from the hotel I had my first taste of Hawker culture. This integral part of everyday life in Singapore has been recognised and included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Indulge in a variety of culinary delights, from breakfast to even supper, as each hawker meal becomes a celebration of Singapore’s diverse heritage.

There are many such covered markets where you’ll find hawker stalls, and our excellent local guide Ton Hee made sure we were going to sample the best in town.

Things to do in Singapore

I had already experienced one of the unique highlights here that is truly Made in Singapore. The world’s tallest indoor waterfall at Jewel Changi Airport puts an epic twist to the meaning of “airport showers”. The Rain Vortex is located at the heart of Jewel Changi Airport which redefines the airport experience, seamlessly blending nature with modern architecture in an integrated lifestyle enclave, with extensive shopping options, world-class dining venues, gardens and a plethora of other offerings.

This juxtaposed with the Hawker culture I had also experienced on my first day in Singapore gave me a real sense of a place that was diverse and eclectic. Cultures and passions meet here, offering a unique mix of quintessentially Singaporean experiences from food to architecture. Walking around, talking to locals and merely observing them you realise this is a multicultural destination where modern cosmopolitan sensibilities sit well with tradition. If you’ve dismissed Singapore as a convenient travel hub which has lost its own identity, you’ll soon change you mind when you take a look at some of the things you can add to even a brief itinerary.

Food in general is a big part of the local culture. You can take a foodie walking tour to discover more about where many of the ingredients used in popular dishes here come from and then sample them all at the iconic Lau Pa Sat. Be sure to get there early if you want to sample Satay Street, a great outdoor part of the food market where fresh satay is served up with cold beverages under the stars. End the night with a cheeky drink at Raffles where the tradition of throwing spend peanut shells on the floor is still observed and everyone seems to be having their first ever ‘real’ Singapore sling.

I also loved dining at Keng Eng Kee, which was recently featured on Netflix’s Street Food series and was also one of Anthony Bourdain’s favourite dining spots in the world. If you want authentic chilli crab served straight from the shell, this is the spot to book.

One aspect of Singapore that fascinated me was the affinity with nature. Heading out of the centre of town you will find Mandai Wildlife Reserve which has a series of unique experiences that have to be seen first-hand. There is the night safari and river wonders tours you can do, but I was here for the newly opened Bird Paradise, one of Asia’s largest bird parks, is home to 3,500 birds from 400 species. The bird park at Mandai Wildlife Reserve welcomes visitors into ten themed zones including eight large walk-through aviaries where visitors can immerse in naturalistic mixed-species habitats reflecting the different biomes of the world.

Dressing like a canary is entirely optional

Sentosa is another destination I had to see for myself. The island resort is popular with younger Singaporeans and is easy to access via public transport. I also saw a bit more of the island whilst on a sunset cruise on the Royal Albatross. You can choose from a variety of packages and yes, this includes the cat and dog cruises which have been in the news recently.

Back on land I was popped into a sidecar attached to a vintage Vespa and taken on an exhilarating night tour of Singapore. This is an immersive way to see some of the areas you might otherwise miss, and it also gives you a chance to see some of the most iconic buildings here in a completely different light. As a fan of Formula One it was also a thrill to be hurtling on the same roads as professional drivers as the Singapore Grand Prix is a night race that runs on this tarmac.

Haw Par Villa is an eclectic park and museum filled with folklore and storied myths. It is famous for its vivid depictions of Hell from Chinese folklore, and offers dance music parties and acoustic live performances at night. The park was created by the Aw family who was also behind the Tiger Balm medical ointment. For a look at the diverse history of Singapore, this is an excellent place to start.

No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to Gardens in the Sky. One of Asia’s premier horticultural destinations, you will be astounded by the stunning floral paradise that is the Flower Dome which is home to plants and flowers from five continents. Work your way over to the Cloud Forest, a mist-filled landscape of rare vegetation and dramatic vistas, home to one of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls, sure to take your breath away. Scale the heights of the 35-metre structure that’s spectacularly veiled in mist and discover the abundance of lush vegetation that surrounds you. As you exit the conservatory, the Supertree Grove awaits – these vertical gardens span 25 to 50 metres in height, with two of the towering structures connected by the dramatic arch of the OCBC Skyway.

This might be the more familiar part of Singapore thanks to its status as one of the best tourist attractions in the world, but with a series of experiences that are Made in Singapore, you’ll find the country as a whole to be one of the best places to visit on your next big trip abroad.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

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