Exotic yet easy to navigate, Singapore is the long-standing star of stopovers to Australia and New Zealand. Home to a glut of glamorous shopping malls, rooftop cocktail bars and gourmet restaurants, it’s sophisticated, super-clean and blessed with plenty of sunshine. Even the airport is a well-signposted and straightforward joy, so it’s no wonder that Singapore continues to hold the top spot.
However, Singapore isn’t all about spending money. Go beyond the designer outlets of Orchard Road and you can find all manner of quirky sights and alternative tours that will give you a different spin on Singapore. If you’re after a twist on the traditional stopover, take a look at these unusual things to do in Singapore.
Looking for a city tour with a bit of extra oomph? Try whisking around the sights in a vintage Vespa sidecar. Sitting in your classic sidecar, you’ll speed through backstreets and suburbs to discover the secret parts of Singapore that many tourists fail to reach. On the way, you’ll stop to watch local craftsman in action and learn about the ground-level history of Singapore from your guide. It’s a great way to experience the city.
Fancy sipping a cappuccino with your face on the froth? You’ve come to the right place. Trendy and totally bizarre, Singapore’s Selfie Coffee Café is quite something to behold. Order a coffee, take a selfie at the bar using the silly props provided and collect your face-topped frappe. Located in the hipster area of Haji Lane, this is where cutting-edge technology mixes with kooky Asian culture.
If gulping down a macchiato printed with your own mug isn’t whimsical enough, head for one of Singapore’s Cat Cafés. There are several cafes across Singapore devoted to our feline friends, so if you’re a crazy cat person, take a break from sightseeing and grab yourself a cuppa with a kitty curled up in your lap. It’s a purr-fect respite from pounding the pavements.
There’s more to the Gardens by the Bay than glitzy bars and laser shows. If you’re a green-fingered traveller that loves to grow things, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest will knock your socks off. Set foot inside the Flower Dome and you’ll find a blooming wonderland of flowers from all corners of the world. It’s somewhere to easily potter away a few hours – if not days.
The cool and misty Cloud Forest is home to the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, as well as a cascading jumble of vines, ferns, orchids and bromeliads. Here, you can descend from the Cloud Walk to the Treetop Walk, surrounded by a sensational tangle of tropical plants. Even if you’re a notorious houseplant assassin, these greenhouses will get you excited.
For evening nibbles with added novelty, book a sunset trip on a floating donut. These ring-shaped boats are perfect for drinking prosecco and waffling down canapes as the sunset illuminates the Singapore skyline. You won’t float far, but bobbing around between the quays as evening falls is an experience in its own right. If you prefer a daytime donut, book for brunch instead. There are all kinds of options available.
It’s no secret that Singapore boasts a surplus of luxury hotels that house a series of top-notch restaurants. However, if you’re looking for soul food in Singapore, you need to head to a hawker centre, flanked with dozens of street food stalls. This is where the real magic happens. A riot of sights, sounds and smells, it’s impossible to replicate the atmosphere of a hawker centre in a restaurant. Go and see for yourselves.
Nervous about street food? There’s absolutely no need to worry in Singapore. Nowadays, the government regulates the standards of every street stall in every hawker centre and each individual trader is awarded a hygiene rating. Here, you can try all kinds of authentic and interesting dishes with wild abandon, safe in the knowledge that your stomach will be just fine.
Intrigued about Singapore before the skyscrapers? Try taking a half-day trip to Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s last real kampong, or village. Just 10 minutes by bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, it’s the gateway to a Singapore of bygone years, with rustic stilted houses and a deliciously slow pace of life. Much of Pulau Ubin remains untouched by progress, making it a natural sanctuary for birds and endemic wildlife.
Can’t get enough of Singaporean cuisine? Try joining a local cooking class so that you can recreate the classics when you get home. There are all kinds of cooking classes available, where you can learn to whip up everything from heirloom Peranakan dishes to local street food favourites and modern vegetarian variations. After a few hours in the kitchen, you can tuck into Hainanese chicken rice and hot chilli crab, all made by your own fair hand.
Take a stroll through the history of Singapore and South East Asia at large in the Asian Civilisation Museum. It’s a must-see for lovers of world culture. Spanning 3 floors with over 1,300 artefacts, the museum is jam-packed with fascinating exhibits and free guided tours are held twice daily. On top of that, the museum is located a stone’s throw from the legendary Raffles Hotel, so go for the culture and stay for the mandatory Singapore Sling. Culture AND cocktails? It’s the ultimate combo.
Need a retreat from the pace of the city? Escape into the Great Outdoors and follow the scenic Southern Ridges Trail through 10km of leafy green space. It’s a brilliant place to get your breath back after being squeezed between skyscrapers for several days. Here, you can wander along the elevated bridges between the hills of Singapore, looking down upon gardens and parks as you walk. On the way, you’ll cross Henderson Bridge, a space-age wave structure that forms Singapore’s highest pedestrian bridge.
Besides having a brilliant name, Kampong Glam is an eclectic enclave with bags of character. Endowed with a more urban, edgy glamour than the Gardens by the Bay, this young and artsy area is a great place to people-watch and pick up souvenirs. Home to Arab Street and Haji Lane, both flanked with boutique shops and plush textiles, it’s packed with colour and life.
Anything goes in Kampong Glam and the area comes alive after dark, so stick around for the evening if you can. In terms of eating, you’ll find everything from sushi restaurants and taco joints to traditional Singaporean restaurants, as well as dozens of quirky cocktail bars. Given the demographic, it stands to reason that Kampong Glam is home to the Selfie Coffee Café, so stop and sip a self-portrait if you need a pick-me-up.
A gorgeous oasis within a non-stop city, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a stunner. Home to a bonsai garden, a succulent garden, a foliage garden and an ethnobotany garden, to name but a few, this is a fantastic patchwork of flowers and tropical plants. You can even explore a six-hectare rainforest and take a walk through the canopy.
The crowning glory of the Botanic Gardens is the National Orchid Garden, where over 1,000 species of orchids bloom beside the scenic walkways. Whether you’re a gardening enthusiast or not, it’s worth a half-day visit, with plenty of cafes to keep you refreshed as you ramble between floral displays.
Shaped like a half-open lotus flower or an outstretched hand, the ArtScience Museum fuses together arts, science, culture and technology. Fresh-thinking and futuristic, the museum hosts playful and interactive exhibitions for all ages, from virtual reality rainforests to a fantasy trip down Alice’s Rabbit Hole. Located at the Marina Bay Sands, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon before setting off to see Garden Rhapsody, the light show at nearby Supertree Grove.
Wonderful for families and lovers of marine life, the S.E.A Aquarium over on Sentosa is well worth a standard day visit. However, for something truly special, try booking an ‘Ocean Dreams’ package and joining a huge sleepover under the sea. You’ll sleep in tents in the Open Ocean Gallery, surrounded by over 100,000 marine animals, some of which come alive at night. You’ll need to plan ahead for this one, but there’s nothing quite like it.
We are experts in putting together complex multi-stop flights, round the world holidays and multi-destination trips. We can help you plan your Singapore stopover and organise your onwards arrangements, covering everything from flights to hotels, transfers and sightseeing tours. Simply get in touch by email or give us a call on +44 1273320580.