The Singapore skyline has starred in recent films such as Crazy Rich Asians (2019), which offers an insight into the lives of the city state’s elite. Most visitors, however, won’t get to sample rooftop dinners and exclusive parties, so take a tour of some of our favourite hangouts: a treat for the eyes that won’t cost the earth.
Singapore remains a tourist hotspot thanks to an incredible financial boom in recent years. Modern Singapore was founded in 1819 as a trading post of the British Empire, and has continued to thrive as a sovereign island state. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Singapore has showcased its strong economy through impressive high-rise structures that instantly catch the eye, but there are many reasons to take a stroll and absorb the many attractions at ground level instead.
One of the most popular forms of local architecture in Singapore is its shophouses – charming narrow units that hark back to their Asian heritage and culture. You will find colourful houses in the Katong/Joo Chiat district, which is traditionally associated with the Peranakan culture, particularly along Koon Seng Road. Some of the more elaborate houses have internal courtyards with open stairwells, which allow light in during the day. The style is a blend of Chinese, Malay and European influences, with art deco flourishes for the eagle-eyed to spot. The well-preserved examples are definitely worth the short drive from the centre of town to take the perfect picture.
If you’re a nature lover, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay is a stunning site in the Marina Bay area. Particularly colourful in the evening as night falls, the Supertrees here light up in a gorgeous display of light and sound from 7pm to 10pm daily. The backdrop is jaw-dropping, with the tree-like superstructures becoming a symbol of modern Singapore. You’ll want to make this one of the first places you visit when you arrive in the heart of the city.
It’s easy to be lured by the charms of hipster haven Haji Lane, Singapore’s original indie neighbourhood. Think Shoreditch with an authentic Asian soul. This buzzing, all-hours enclave in eclectic Kampong Glam is home to beautifully curated local boutiques and a diverse mix of bars, cafés and restaurants – not forgetting the colour added by the incredible murals. This is real street art and feels like a reflection of the real Singapore lurking just beneath the ultra-modern veneer you find elsewhere.
If you’re looking for something to cheer you up, make sure you visit the multicoloured villa at 37 Kerbau Road in the Little India district of Singapore. Known as the former house of local businessman Tan Teng Niah and one of our favourite spots in Singapore, this rainbow slice of history is a fine place to pose in front of the vibrant colours, or stand and bask in the sheer joy of it. Little India is worth visiting in its own right, and it’s probably a place you’ll want to spend a few days (and nights) in.
The Old Hill Street Police Station is a fine example of the colour of historic Singapore, and is a throwback to Singapore’s past. Now housing Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information, this heritage building on Hill Street is easy to spot with its distinctively coloured windows. If you want to impress your travel companions, wow them with the fact that the building has 927 windows in total. We know, we counted them all.
Awash with colour, Singapore’s Chinatown is beloved for its blend of old and new, with historic temples and traditional medicinal halls sitting alongside bold new bars and trendy lifestyle shops. There’s a lot to do here, with incredible restaurants and bars serving up some of the best local cuisine and drinks, but don’t forget to have a good wander around, too.
Found in the Raffles Hotel and the birthplace of the cocktail the singapore sling, the Long Bar’s decor is inspired by Malayan life in the 1920s. Guests are invited to brush peanut shells off the table and bar counter onto the floor. It just may be the only place in Singapore where littering is encouraged! A visit here can sometimes feel like an obligation, given how famous the bar is, but we don’t think it’s much of a chore.
A chance to escape hectic city life for a while and get closer to the nature of Singapore, the Southern Ridges is a 10km (6mi) stretch of green open space running along the Singapore hills. These picturesque ridges and pathways provide one of the best panoramic views of the city, the harbour and the Southern Islands.
Check out some of our favourite places to stay in Singapore.