Singapore is a sovereign island country and city-state in Southeast Asia. It is one of the best places to enjoy a city break in the region, competing with the likes of Bangkok, in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia.
I was lucky enough to spend 5 days in Singapore in May 2022 and loved it! It is one of the cleanest places I’ve been and there’s so much to do!
Singapore is known for being expensive, and I’m going to be honest - it is definitely pricier than other places in Southeast Asia, however there so many great things to do for free in Singapore, so don’t worry, you can still enjoy most of what makes Singapore great, even on a backpacker’s budget!
Singapore is often used as a stop-over - a place to spend the night before continuing onto your final destination. With that in mind, I’ve put together 15 great things to do in Singapore, whether you have just 1 day, 3 days or 5 days!
The Gardens by the Bay are one of Singapore's most popular attractions
15 Great things to do in Singapore, whether you have 1 day, 3 days or 5 days!
Singapore 1 day itinerary
If you only have 1 day to spend in Singapore, don’t worry. Lucky for you, Singapore is not a big place and you can easily see many of the most popular and iconic sights in Singapore in 24 hours. So here’s some of the best places in Singapore that you absolutely should not miss on your flying visit!
1. Stroll along the Marina Bay Esplanade
Marina Bay is where you’ll find Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel. Next to the hotel is the lotus-shaped ArtScience museum, and the Helix pedestrian bridge, which crosses over the bay. From here you can also see the Singapore flyer, a large observation wheel looking over to the Gardens by the Bay.
On the other side of the bay, opposite Marina Bay Sands is the waterfront promenade, lined with restaurants. For the best views of Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum, head to the Merlion Statue, next to the Esplanade bridge. Here is a great place to sit on the steps and watch the Marina Bay Sands light and water show, which takes place at 8pm each evening.
You can walk around the bay in a full circle, stopping for a coffee along the way, or just resting your feet and enjoying the amazing views. Without a doubt, this is one of the best things to do in Singapore. It also happens to be completely free too! If you only have one day here, this is one activity you shouldn’t skip.
The Marina Bay Sands Promenade (L) and the Esplanade bridge (R)
2. Check out the views at Marina Bay Sands SkyPark
Perched on the 56th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the SkyPark Observation deck has some of the best views over downtown Singapore, the Singapore flyer and the Gardens by the bay. Entrance to the SkyPark is S$26 for adults. If you are a hotel guest, you can enjoy the gorgeous views from the impressive rooftop infinity pool!
There are several restaurants at the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel which offer equally impressive views, just check ahead for dress codes. You can also book tickets to join a yoga session on the SkyPark observation deck, or watch a film at one of the outdoor cinema event nights.
3. Wander around the impressive Gardens by the Bay
The Gardens by the Bay goes hand in hand with Marina Bay Sands as being one of Singapore’s most iconic attractions and is one of the best things to do.
The large gardens are the perfect place to feel as though you are out of the city without actually leaving! There are several areas and attractions within the gardens, the most well-known (or most photographed), is the Supertree Grove. Here you will find 12 vertical ‘tree’ gardens, some of which are linked together by a skybridge.
The Gardens by the Bay is also a great free activity in Singapore! You can access all the walkways within the gardens without paying a penny! However, if you want to visit the Cloud Forest or Flower Dome attractions, then there is an entrance fee of S$28 for both.
This is a great place to visit in Singapore for families and there are often pop up activities for kids in the gardens, as well as a children's playground.
The Supertree Grove is impressive by day, but at night, they are quite magical. Each tree is illuminated with changing colours, creating a spectacular light installation. Whilst the gardens can be quite busy during the day, at night the atmosphere is much more tranquil.
The Gardens by the Bay at night is a must-see in Singapore!
4. Visit the Jewel
The Jewel is an entertainment and retail complex that sits within Terminal 1 of Singapore’s Changi Airport.
The focal point of the Jewel is a large water cascade, surrounded by tired walkways and seating areas covered in foliage and water features. The Jewel is a destination in its own right and many people will visit the Jewel for a day out from the city.
Chances are if you arrived into Terminal 1 of Changi airport, you will have seen the Jewel already, but if not, try and get to the airport with time to spare before your flight out of Singapore so that you can see it.
The Jewel is the highlight of Singapore's Changi airport
Singapore itinerary for 2-3 days
Once you've ticked off Singapore's top 'must-see' attractions listed in the above 1 day itinerary, it's time to see what else Singapore has to offer. Spend the next 2 - 3 days exploring some of the other areas in downtown Singapore.
5. Stroll through Esplanade park and visit the National Gallery
Sat behind Marina Bay and the Esplanade bridge is the small, shady Esplanade park. The park is a nice spot to take a break, enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by. There’s also a children’s playground and toilets at one end of the park.
Around the edge of the park, you can also enjoy some of the architecture from the Victoria Theatre, National Galley and St Andrew’s cathedral. Admission to the Singapore National Gallery is S$20 for tourist. The gallery holds art works and exhibitions on the culture and history of Singapore.
Singapore National gallery
6. Walk around Clarke Quay and Boat quay
From the east end of Esplanade Park, you can follow the river to Clarke Quay, where you will find bars and restaurants alongside the waterfront. Cross the bridge over the river to find Clarke Central shopping mall on the other side of the Quay
From the mall, continue to follow the riverside path until you reach Boat Quay. Boat Quay is a narrow pedestrian street lined with bars, most of which have happy hour offers, so time your visit here in the late afternoon to take full advantage!
Strolling around Clarke Quay is a great way to spend an hour in Singapore
7. Walk up to Fort Canning Park
The hilltop park of Fort Canning is a historical landmark within Singapore. Its history goes back to the 14th century when the palaces of Kings sat on top of the hill. The site was later used as the headquarters for the Far East Command Centre and barracks by the British Army.
Today, the park is a tranquil place to enjoy a stroll or a picnic. There are also many events and concerts that take place here.
Fort Canning park is a lovely oasis in the centre of Singapore
8. Cool off in one of the many shopping centres!
Honestly, even if you don’t have any shopping to do, you’re going to want to visit a shopping mall just for the air con! The shopping malls in Singapore are huge and have everything you could want. They also make up most of downtown Singapore, with the various malls connecting to one another underground, as well as linking up with some of the hotels and MRT stations. It is quite common in Singapore to enter a shopping mall in one area of the city and resurface in a completely different area! If you have ever been to Las Vegas, you will know exactly what I mean!
9. Visit Chinatown
Singapore’s Chinatown is a great area to spend an hour or so strolling around the various markets and food centres. Chinatown street market and Pagoda street are the best places for souvenirs and boutique finds, whilst the Chinatown Complex is full of local market vendors. Either side of the shopping area is the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple.
If you’re feeling peckish, there are two food centres in Chinatown, full of local Hawker stalls (street food stalls). The Maxwell Centre and the Hong Lim Food Centre are two of the biggest Hawker centres in Singapore, so definitely worth checking out!
Singapore's Chinatown is a great place to shop in the market stalls
Singapore itinerary for 4-5 days
If you have 4 days or 5 days in Singapore, lucky you! You have time to really explore the many great places that Singapore has to offer and at a more leisurely pace. Once you have visited some of the top things to do in Singapore that I have already mentioned, here are some other great places to add to your Singapore itinerary.
10. Visit Little India
The Little India district centres around Serangoon Road, where you will find jewellery shops and basic canteens, full of Indian dishes. The colourful buildings and market stalls sell flower garlands, fresh fruit and silks. Make sure you stop by the Tekha Centre - an undercover market with Hawker stands and market stalls selling fresh produce.
11. Stroll around Kampong glam and the Arab district
Kampong Glam is a great area for wandering around, with several notable streets to discover. Start by walking down Arab Street. Here, you will find many shops selling carpets, rugs, textiles and colourful glass lanterns. Next, visit the Sultan Mosque. The impressive mosque is just off Arab Street, in the heart of the Kampong Glam district. The mosque is particularly special at night when lights illuminate the building.
Haji Lane is another notable street in Kampong Glam. During the day, it is a great place to shop in the small boutiques, or enjoy a drink in one of the cafes. By night, Haji Lane comes to life, with bars spilling out onto the narrow lane.
Head to Barboush Street for delicious Turkish and Lebanese food. Here you can sit outside, with a view of the Sultan Mosque. The atmosphere is brilliant, and although some places here can be on the pricey side, it is a great place for couples on a date night.
The Sultan Mosque at the end of Barboush Street (L) and Haji Lane (R)
12. Immerse yourself in the exhibitions at Singapore’s ArtScience museum
The ArtScience museum is housed in a lotus-shaped building, next to the Marina Bay Sands hotel. The museum has many great interactive exhibitions that you can immerse yourself in. The price of entry depends on which exhibition you visit, so you can check out what’s on here.
13. Have a picnic at Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Singapore Botanic Gardens are just a short ride away on the MRT from downtown Singapore and are the perfect oasis away from the buzz of the city.
Stroll around small lakes and along paved paths through various flora and fauna. The large grassed meadows are the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, just watch out for the pesky cockerels! If you are lucky you might also see a lizard or two hiding in the trees.
There is a shop and cafe at the Botanic Gardens, but no water fountains, so come prepared with water. Entrance to the Botanic Gardens is free, but there is a charge of S$15 for adults to enter the Orchid Garden (children under 12 are free).
Singapore Botanic Gardens
14. Take a trip to Sentosa Island
Sentosa Island is a resort island, just south of Singapore. It is easily reached by car or a pedestrian boardwalk and you can even ride the cable car across!
The Island is full of fun activities for all the family. Perhaps the most well known is Universal Studios Singapore. But, there are plenty of other attractions on Sentosa Island too. You can visit the S.E.A Aquarium, the Adventure Cove Waterpark or just relax on Palawan Beach. If one day is not enough, then you can also stay overnight on the island too.
15. Enjoy a drink in a 19th century convent at Chijmes
Chijmes is a unique place in the centre of Singapore and a great place for couples or friends on a night out in Singapore. Formerly a 19th century convent and schoolhouse, the buildings are now an upmarket dining complex. The church sits in the centre of the courtyard, with various bars and restaurants in the old school buildings around the edge. It does get busy here, so I would recommend reserving your table ahead of time. Prices can be high, so if dining here is out of your budget, don’t worry, you can still visit and see the courtyard and convent. It is particularly pretty at night when the church and trees are illuminated.
The 19th Century church sits in the centre of Chijmes courtyard
So, there you have it, 15 Great things to see and do in Singapore! Whether you have just 1 day in Singapore, or 3 or 5 days, there are lots of fun things to keep you entertained.
Marina Bay Sands looks spectacular at night
How to get to Singapore
By air - Changi airport is Singapore’s international airport. The airport is linked to the city by the MRT, and you can be in downtown Singapore in 30 minutes.
By Bus (from Malaysia) - If you are traveling to Singapore from Malaysia you can get a bus between the two countries. Many companies run regular buses between the two countries for as little as £15 per person. The border crossing is very easy, just make sure that you have all the relevant documentation with you before traveling. You can check what is required on the date you travel, here.
Best way to get around Singapore
By MRT - The MRT is without a doubt one of the best ways to get around Singapore. It is very fast and cost effective, with one way tickets costing as little as S$2. Tourists can purchase travel passes which will give you unlimited travel on the MRT for one day (S$10), two days (S$16) or three days (S$20).
Bear in mind that purchasing a tourist pass might not always be the cheapest way of getting tickets though. It is great if you are planning to hop on and off the MRT all day. However, if you are only going to one destination then returning, it is most likely cheaper to just pay as you go. If you decide to pay as you go instead of buying an unlimited pass, be aware that you cannot buy a one way or return ticket, you will have to use your contactless credit or debit card instead. This is really easy and you just tap your bank card on the machine as you enter. Check that your bank does not charge transaction fees beforehand to avoid getting hit with extra charges.
By Bus - there is an extensive network of buses in Singapore, all are clean and modern. To travel on the buses, either purchase a tourist pass beforehand, or simply tap on and off with your bank card (the same as the MRT)
By Taxi - Taxis in Singapore are metered but there may also be additional surcharges for certain pick up or drop off locations. Taxis are great if you want extra comfort or have a lot of luggage
On Foot - Walking is the best way to really experience Singapore. It is a very walkable city and you see most of the sights when just strolling around on foot.