Top 10 Things To Do in Singapore
Having lived in Singapore for seven years in my early 20s, and having gone back almost every year since, I can honestly say that I love this amazing island. There is a vibrancy and pace of life which I find intoxicating. Singapore languidly awakens at 10 am and becomes steadily more frenetic as the day progresses, only to fall back to sleep, exhausted, at 2 am the next morning. I am going to run you through the top 10 things on my must-do list while visiting the Lion city.
1.Sunday Champagne Brunch at the Fullerton
This is my personal favourite. The Fullerton Hotel is an incredibly striking colonial building, having previously been the Post Office building, originally constructed in 1932. The Fullerton is set on the Singapore River, at the bottom of Boat Quay and right next to the Marina Bay.
On Sunday from 12 pm – 3:30 pm (last pour at 3:00 pm) the Fullerton hosts, in my opinion, what is undeniably the best Champagne all you can eat & drink buffet on the island. The venue is their Town Restaurant, with seating inside and out. The outdoor seating is on the al fresco waterfront terrace (I always choose the terrace). The terrace allows you to watch the water traffic go by and there are plenty of fans to keep you cool. it is always more peaceful on the terrace, as inside it can be quite noisy with conversation, and there is a lot of activity with people moving around the different food stations.
There is a huge assortment of food: from traditional western breakfast fare to Asian noodles and dim sum, as well as an amazing selection of desserts. To be perfectly honest though, I go for the lobster, prawns and champagne. The last time I went, they were serving as much Perrier-Jouët as my wife and I could drink, and as always, their waiter service was impeccable: at no time did our glasses ever run dry. The seafood is brilliant: very fresh and a really good size.
The lunch is S$168 per adult with free-flowing house wine and champagne, but when you consider how expensive wine is in Singapore (the flat rate tax really pushes the prices up) and the fact that you have 3 and a half hours to drink as much French champagne and eat as much as you possibly can, then this represents great value for money.
My two pieces of advice if you are planning on brunching are to not eat breakfast and to make sure that you have no active plans for the afternoon.
Address: 1 Fullerton Square, Singapore 049178
Phone: +65 6733 8388
2. The S.E.A. Aquarium
If you are looking to spend the heat of the day somewhere cool and relaxing then I cannot recommend the S.E.A. Aquarium highly enough. Opened in 2012, the Aquarium held the title of the world's largest aquarium by total water volume until taken out by the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin, China. The amazing centrepiece of the aquarium is the Open Ocean tank with more than 18,000,000 litres and 50,000 animals. The Open Ocean tank, with its 36-meter wide viewing window, is breathtaking. The room is dark and very peaceful, with multiple viewing platforms from which you can admire the sharks and rays as they glide past.
My wife and I were particularly lucky the first time we were at the Open Ocean tank, as we were invited to go topside and take part in the feeding of the rays, which was an absolutely fantastic experience. As well as this, the last time we were there my daughter had a brilliant visit, as it was Halloween and the Aquarium had put on activities in the different zones where she could stamp her activity card and receive little gifts/drinks/snacks as we went round - there was even a Sea Witch!
The S.E.A. Aquarium is located on Sentosa Island and is easily accessible by taxi. You get dropped off at an underground carpark where you go up some escalators that exit practically in front of the Aquarium. Tickets are S$39 for Adults (13 - 59), S$29 for kids (4-12), S$29 for Seniors (60+) and kids under 4 get in for Free.
3. ECP Chili & Pepper Crab at Longbeach UDMC
Singapore is famous for its seafood restaurants and in particular for its Chilli Crab: mud crab that has been stir-fried and coated with a sweet, savoury and spicy tomato-based sauce. The best way to eat is with plenty of deep fried buns (also known as mantous) perfect for scooping up the sauce.
At the East Coast Parkway Seafood Centre there are at least a dozen different Seafood outlets to choose from, but my favourite has always been Longbeach UDMC. Longbeach's Chilli Crab is spicier than other outlets and is a great combination of sweetness, spiciness and saltiness, while the crab itself is juicy and perfectly prepared. The other speciality of Longbeach is their Pepper Crab served in a rich black aromatic pepper sauce, I may even prefer it to the Chilli Crab, so it is best to order one of each.
Other dishes worth trying are the drunken prawns and the deep fried whole grouper Shanghai-style. This is a meal where you will get your hands dirty but towelettes are available for S$1, expect to pay around S$50 per person.
The restaurant overlooks the South China Sea, and there is almost always a flotilla of tankers at anchor whose lights come on as the evening progresses, illuminating the water, creating the perfect ambiance for enjoying great seafood and cold beer.
Long Beach UDMC Seafood Restaurant
Address: 1202 East Coast Parkway, #01-04 East Coast Seafood Centre
Tel: +65 6448 3636
- Mon-Thu: 14:30 – 00:15
- Fri: 13:30 – 00:15
- Sat: 11:30 – 01:15
- Sun & PH: 11:30 – 00:15
The restaurant is always packed so bookings are essential. It should take you 10 mins in a taxi from Orchard to get there, it is along the way to the airport.
4. The White Rabbit
The White Rabbit is an absolutely stunning restaurant set within a restored 1930s Chapel on Dempsey Hill, with a charming nod to Alice in Wonderland. I first came across it a few years ago when I asked one of my Singaporean friends from University if they could recommend somewhere special for my wife's birthday - it was an excellent recommendation!
From the moment you arrive in the car park, the scene is set with the striking white chapel beautifully illuminated within its lush grounds. Follow the fairy lights up the path running down the side of the church to the front door and enter into what used to be the nave of the church. The menu is European, and from memory, I started with the classic lobster bisque and had the sirloin as my main. The food was amazing and to this day it is one of the best steaks I have ever had, absolutely bursting with flavour. The atmosphere is lovely, and you can sit back and drink in the architecture of the church while you wait for your meal to arrive.
The cocktails were excellent and the service first rate, and when it was time for dessert the restaurant had piped Happy Birthday in chocolate on my wife's plate, which I thought was very thoughtful. If you are looking for a fine dining experience in a unique setting then I cannot recommend The White Rabbit enough.
Address: 39C Harding Road Singapore 249541
Tues-Fri 12:00 - 2:30pm (Set Lunch) 6:30 -10:30pm
Sat-Sun 10:30am - 3pm (Brunch) 6:30 - 10:30pm
5. Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is a relatively new addition to the Singapore landscape, opened in 2012 and is located in the Marina Bay development. The Gardens provide a wonderful way to spend a morning/afternoon. I recommend allocating 2 - 3hrs to see them properly. Previously if you wanted to go see orchids you had to go to the Orchid Gardens at the Botanic Gardens, and whilst the gardens are stunning they can get very hot.
There are two glass-enclosed domes: the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome is the lower of the two and showcases exotic plants from five continents which are displayed in nine different gardens. The layout of the gardens is horizontal with sloping paths that make walking or pushing a pram easy. The gardens themselves are stunning and are temperature-controlled so that it is an enjoyable visit no matter how hot it is outside.
The Cloud Forest is a vertical 42m garden that replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions between 1,000 metres and 3,000 metres above sea level, found in South-East Asia, Middle and South America. There is a stunning 35m waterfall that keeps the garden cool and there is an elevator to take you to the top of Cloud Mountain if you do not feel like walking up and down the ascending circular gangways.
There is also the Supertree Grove: the tree-like structures that dominate the Garden's Skyline, featuring the OCBC Skyway between two of the larger Supertrees, allowing visitors to enjoy a panoramic aerial view of the Gardens.
- Standard: Flower Dome + Cloud Forest (Adult/Senior Citizen) S$28.00
- Standard: Flower Dome + Cloud Forest (Child) S$15.00
Address: 18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore 018953
Opening hours: Daily 5 am - 2 am
6. Boat Quay
No trip to Singapore is complete without a stroll along Boat Quay. This historic quay stretches along one bank of the Singapore River, all the way from Elgin Bridge down to the UOB centre. Whether enjoying a lazy afternoon drink or at night when it is packed with punters and the glow of neon lights, this wonderful stretch of heritage listed shop houses epitomises Singapore at play.
Boat Quay is an unbroken strip of bars, restaurants and pubs that all front onto the Singapore River. There is a great sense of bustle and activity, especially on a Saturday night. I normally get dropped off at Elgin Bridge and walk down towards the Fullerton, which is just stunning to look at once night falls.
As you walk along you will be entreated to enter the bars & restaurants, but you can politely refuse and no offence will be taken. The restaurants can be quite variable and are reasonably pricey. My favourite is the Maharajah, which specialises in North Indian cuisine.
My favourite bar used to be Harry's Bar, as it used to be dark, smokey and filled with sultry jazz, however, it has now become Disneyfied and is now bright, open plan and there is a TV over the bar. Enough said. There is still the Penny Black next door though, which is a lively English-styled pub.
7. Singapore Zoo / Night Safari
I have been to many Zoos and Wildlife parks over the years, but I have yet to find a better animal park than the Singapore Zoo. Every enclosure is beautifully designed and the animals look comfortable and happy: there are no pacing lions with vacant looks.
The reason I believe that the Zoo can take a no expense spared approach to the naturalistic feel of the enclosures is due to the fact that almost every enclosure has been sponsored by a major corporation. The Zebras are sponsored by KFC, the Komodo Dragon by Starbucks, the White Tiger by Samsung, you get the idea.
The enclosures are separated from the visitors by wet and dry moats and these moats are kept well below the eye line so you have great views of the animals and they feel relatively close. The enclosures of the dangerous animal's that can climb well have been designed with glass fronts.
The Zoo is a great way to spend the day: the paths are well laid out and easily negotiable with a pram and there are plenty of food and drink outlets as you go around.
The Night Safari is the World's first nocturnal zoo and is a great way to spend an evening in Singapore. Once you get through admission (there are five admission times at 15 minutes past the hour until 11:15 pm) you climb aboard a tram and you are driven through the seven geographical zones. As the tram goes around, a guide will tell you about the different animals and zones, and you have the option to get off at different stops to explore the Zoo on walking trails.
The enclosures again are brilliantly designed to give you the sense that you are really getting close to the animals, and they have a very natural feel to them. My favourites are the Otters, as they are very active at night.
If I had to choose to do only one if time was a constraint then I would pick the Night Safari as it is such a unique experience. There are great savings to be had if you book online and if you choose to a 2 park ticket.
Address: 80 Mandai Lake Rd, Singapore 729826
Opening Hours: Daily 8:30 am - 6 pm
Address: 80 Mandai Lake Rd, Singapore 729826
Opening Hours: Daily 7:30 pm - 12 am
Admission time slots: 7.15pm, 8.15pm, 9.15pm, 10.15pm
Last entry at 11.15pm
8. China Town
China Town is a great way to pass an enjoyable morning/afternoon and is probably the most authentic experience of a Singapore from days gone by.
Strolling up and down Smith and Pagoda Streets you can take in the many colourful Peranakan shop-houses selling all manner of food, spices, ceramics, jewellery and antiques.
There are also a number of temples that are well worth a visit: the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Thian Hock Keng Temple.
And when you have finished looking around, there is a great range of restaurants, bars and food stalls to choose from. The Maxwell Hawker Centre, one of the oldest centres in Singapore, has over 100 different food stalls to choose from.
If you are on the hunt for some trendy bars then Club Street is well worth a wander. My standouts are Tippling Club and Oxwell & Co.
9. Golf at Sentosa Golf Club
There are many world class golf courses in Singapore, and playing on them is comparable to playing on someone's beloved manicured garden. However, for me, if I had to choose just one course to play, then for me it is The Serapong at the Sentosa Golf Club. Serapong hosted the Singapore Open from 2005 - 2012, is ranked 78 out of the Worlds 100 best course by Golf Digest 2018 and is known as the No. 1 Championship golf course in Asia.
I was lucky enough to be a member of Sentosa Golf Club, Tanamera Golf Club and the Singapore Island Country Club and out of all these championship courses, Serapong at Sentosa is truly unique. Serapong hugs the coastline of Sentosa Island so that you play along some beautiful oceanfront scenery. The course is also quite hilly, so there are some great elevated par-three tee boxes, giving you a fantastic view out over the course, Singapore Island and the South China Sea.
The clubhouse is a beautifully appointed white building with wood-paneled changing rooms and all the facilities you require to unwind at the end of a game. The Golfer's Terrance provides all-day dining and is a great place to sit after a game with a cold drink and some satay.
For a world-class day of golf you cannot go past Serapong, though it comes with some hefty green fees: S$350 for weekdays and S$480 for weekends, you will also have to factor in the cost of a cart which is S$30 per visitor.
To book you will need to fill out a visitor application and fax it back to the club +65 6275 0654.
10. Marina Bay Sands - Cé La Vi
The skyline of Singapore was forever changed with the construction of the Marina Bay Sands, with its three substantial towers supporting The Sky Park: a surfboard shaped structure on level 57, home to the impressive infinity pool and the Cé La Vie Restaurant and Bar.
The Cé La Vie should definitely be on your list of places to visit, as, sitting at elevation of 200 meters, the view over Singapore is simply superb. The last time my wife and I visited it just happened to be during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, and we could look down and see the cars running around on the brilliantly illuminated circuit below.
The restaurant and bar have a very chic atmosphere with the bartenders shaking, stirring and mixing, and there is often a DJ playing some chilled out remixes. Cé La Vie Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily, providing delectable creations by Executive Chef Joseph Sergentakis.
Cé La Vie is, in fact, one venue comprised of three distinct sub-venues: the Restaurant, the Sky Bar and the Club Lounge. When my wife and I visit, we like to sit in the al fresco section of the restaurant, as in that way we can better take in the view and the live entertainment (which starts at 6 pm).
If you are not staying at the hotel, be aware that there is an admission fee to access Cé La Vie unless you have made a prior reservation. This, as it turns out, is not such a big deal, as the entry price of S$20 is fully redeemable against food and beverages when you get up there, and as you will be hard-pressed to find anything for less than $20 on the drinks list, this should not prove to be too much of a problem.
I hope you have enjoyed running through my top 10 favourite things to do in Singapore. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will try to answer them. Also, if you feel there are any glaring omissions to my list, please do not hesitate to make your own suggestions!
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