When you don't want to go shopping...
Reputation: shopping, shopping, shopping.
Why you should go: a huge variety of food. Surprising green spaces. A melting pot of ethnicities. And English is an official language and widely spoken.
A quick note about accessibility in Singapore: Singapore is easy to get around even if you've got a pushchair or use a mobility device. The MRT (underground train), museums, gardens and zoo all cater for people with mobility devices.
Everything’s free unless stated.
Enjoy Singapore's green spaces
Considering the number of people who live in such a small space, Singapore is remarkably green. Here are some of our favourite green spaces, although you'll find trees and parks throughout the city, and waterfront.
Singapore Botanic Gardens are an oasis of lawns, trees and ponds. We swear that it's a couple of degrees cooler than the rest of Singapore. And it's open until midnight every day. While you're there, check out the National Orchid Gardens which are beautiful and feature thousands of orchids. Plus, they are actually cooler than the rest of the Gardens. There's an entry fee for the National Orchid Gardens and limited access for people with mobility devices. If you're feeling hungry, there are a couple of reasonable places to eat.
Gardens by the Bay is a great twist on a public garden. The highlight is the man-made 'Super Trees', which collect and distribute rainwater to the rest of the gardens. There's a walkway between the trees, 22m (72 feet) above ground. The gardens also contain two climate-controlled conservatories: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. It's well worth visiting at least one. We visited the Cloud Forest, which was heaven on a hot day. An entry fee applies, and additional fees apply to the walkway and the conservatories.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one of Singapore's oldest nature reserves and is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna as well as Singapore's highest peak at 163m (535 feet). Jurong Lake Gardens are home to Chinese and Japanese themed gardens. Jurong Bird Park is Asia's largest bird park, with over 3,500 birds, and packed with green spaces. Pasir Ris Park offers glimpses of Malaysia across the strait and is great for kids. And Esplanade Park near the CBD is right on the waterfront. These are all free apart from the bird park.
Green spaces in the city. Super Trees at Garden by the Bay with the flower and cloud domes in the background. Esplanade Park on the waterfront by the CBD. And one of the gorgeous flowers at the National Orchid Garden.
Eating is THE national pastime. So skip the hotel restaurant and head to Clarke Quay or Boat Quay for international dining or Lau Pa Sat hawker market. Scattered throughout Singapore are mini indoor hawker-style food courts called Kopi Tiam. They serve quick, tasty food and are recommended for any meal of the day. Follow your nose and the crowds and you won't go wrong.
Admire the incredible range of architecture
Singapore is heaven for architecture fans. There are the gorgeous colonial buildings from the time of English rule, such as Raffles Hotel, the old Supreme Court and City Hall. And, of course, the shop houses, which used to be everywhere but are now found only in small pockets, such as Little India.
At the other end of the spectrum are amazing buildings like Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, which looks like a couple of durian turned upside down, Marina Bay Sands and the domes at Garden by the Bay. Also keep an eye out for the incredible Parkroyal on Pickering Hotel, which is literally a vertical garden.
Colonial buildings are everywhere - this is the National Museum, originally a library. Check out the shop houses in Little India. The amazing flower and forest domes, designed by WilkinsonEyre, at Garden by the Bay. Marina Bay Sands with the ArtScience Museum in the foreground, both designed by Moshe Safdie.
Visit the zoo
Singapore Zoo is outstanding. Wherever possible, it uses cage-less barriers between you and the animals, which can be a little disconcerting when admiring the big cats. It can get very hot so there are air-conditioned rooms scattered throughout the zoo if you need to cool down. If you fancy something a little different, do the Night Safari and see the animals when they are most active. Or the River Safari to see water-based animals.
The zoo is expensive but worth it. Tips: you'll save 5 percent on regular ticket prices if you buy them online. And avoid weekends as it gets busy.
Explore a culture different to your own
A world away from the shimmering glass of the CBD is Little India. Here, you'll find the shop-houses which used to dominate Singapore, temples and mosques, great food, sari and jewellery shops, and a whole different side of the city-state. This part of town has become increasingly touristy over the past few years but it's still worth a visit.
Gorgeous Sultan Mosque. The Sri Veeramakalimman Temple on Serangoon Road. Haji Lane, one of the narrow alleys in Little India. Artwork on Haji Lane.
Mooch around at Raffles
Raffles is currently being renovated and is due to open again later this year. In the meantime, visit the pop-up Long Bar at 3 Seah Street.
For many, it's not a trip to Singapore without a stop-off at Raffles Hotel. Grab a Singapore Sling and throw peanut shells on the floor in the Long Bar. Sit and relax in the calm courtyards. Or dine in the open-air Raffles Courtyard. Our favourite thing at Raffles is the curry buffet in the Tiffin Room. The food is outstanding.
The hotel buildings, including the lobby, are open only to guests but you can still see the famous turban-ed doorman at the main doors.
If you go shopping just once...
We're going to make two recommendations. Our personal favourite is the small and manageable Hilton Hotel arcade on Orchard Road. Think Comme des Garcons, Stella McCarthney and Dries Van Noten among the luxury labels available here.
You'll find almost every international brand you can imagine at any price-point at ION on Orchard Road. The ground level and basement can be very crowded but the upper levels are more sane.
Shops in Singapore are notorious for opening a little later than their advertised hours so don't bust a gut to arrive at opening time.
Where to stay
Accommodation in Singapore is expensive so Oasia Hotel Novena is a God-send. The rooms are a reasonable size for Singapore, tastefully decorated and have great showers. And yes, there's a swimming pool.
Oasia is located on the edge of the CBD and directly above Novena MRT station so you can get everywhere quickly. It's connected to a small local mall which contains various inexpensive food options, plus there's a supermarket (Cold Storage) if you'd rather self-cater.
Contributor: Ann-Marie Nansett
Updated: 4 August 2018