First Timer’s Guide to Singapore: Best Things to Do, See & Eat

Gardens by the Bay Singapore

Whether you’re visiting Singapore for the first time or returning to rediscover the city, there is so much more to explore beyond the popular tourist spots of Marina Bay Sands and Orchard Road. This travel guide is here to inspire you to step off the beaten path and discover the hidden cultural, historical, and culinary gems that Singapore has to offer.

Singapore is a modern and bustling city that offers a diverse array of attractions and experiences. From breathtaking sights and significant landmarks to top-notch dining and mouthwatering street food, this vibrant metropolis has something to offer every traveller.

While Singapore is known for being expensive compared to other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam or Thailand, it is definitely a destination that is worth exploring. Instead of rushing through the popular attractions, take the time to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and experience everything Singapore has to offer. Even if you’ve been before, Singapore is constantly evolving and there are always new discoveries and experiences to be had.

Teeming with food, bars, shopping, wildlife, day-spas, swanky hotels and stunning architectural wonders, there’s something for everyone in Singapore. Our travel guide will help you discover the best attractions, activities, and dining options in Singapore, ensuring that you make the most of your visit.

Eat & Drink Singapore

Located at Fullerton Bay, Jypsy is the latest venture by the PS Café crew, known for pioneering expat-friendly, Western-style cafes in Singapore. With its Bali-beach-club vibe and stunning view of Marina Bay Sands, Jypsy offers a modern Japanese menu. Some popular dishes include crispy shrimp rolls, salmon tacos with wasabi mayo, and Jypsy oyster shots with picked wasabi and orange ponzu sauce. The cocktails at Jypsy also follow the Japanese theme, with options like yuzu gin fizz and honeydew melon sour. Visit Jypsy at One Fullerton Complex, 1 Fullerton Road, or Phone +65 6708 9288 to make a booking.

Jypsy Singapore

Kagayaki by Ishigaki Yoshida is an offshoot of the original Ishigaki Yoshida in Tokyo, Japan, the first chef-owned teppanyaki place to receive a Michelin star in 2015. The Singapore concept is led by head chef Nobuyasu Kamiko, who trained under chef Yoshida before coming to Singapore. One unique aspect of Kagayaki is that it is the only restaurant in Southeast Asia that cooks with Masuda Kagayaki beef, which adds a special touch to their dishes. The eight-course menu ($380) at Kagayaki focuses on showcasing this exceptional beef with dishes like the ultimate crispy yaki steak, where the beef is cooked at low temperatures on the teppan and grilled over ubame oak tosa binchotan. The menu includes seasonal items such as Japanese wild scallops and a standout dish of scrambled eggs with uni. 27 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089134

CE LA VI  restaurant singapore

Located atop the renowned Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore, CE LA VI is a highly acclaimed club lounge, skybar and restaurant that offers breathtaking views of the city skyline and marina. With its exceptional dining options, top-notch entertainment, and luxurious atmosphere, CE LA VI is the ultimate destination for an unforgettable night out in Singapore. The club’s new menu, curated by chef Maksym Chukanov, showcases a contemporary Asian-style spread that will tantalise your taste buds. From the Japanese amela tomato, known for its perfect balance of sweetness and sourness, to the innovative twist on laksa featuring kinmedai, a flaky and tender fish fillet with crispy skin, the menu offers a unique culinary experience. CE LA VI promises a night of indulgence and culinary delights that will leave you wanting more.

Craving more giddy drinks? Check out the red lantern affair at Kinki Rooftop Bar or the quirky Mr Punch Winebar decked out in vintage signs above the Mint Museum of Toys. 

Hawker Chan Singapore

Hawker Chan, originally a small hawker stall in Chinatown, has now become a must-visit spot for food lovers. In 2016, the stall gained international recognition when it was awarded a prestigious Michelin star, a rare honour for street food establishments (the Michelin star has since been lost, but they now boast a Bib Gourmand). Hawker Chan is known for its signature dish of perfectly roasted chicken marinated in soy sauce, served with flavorful rice cooked in chicken fat. The chef behind Hawker Chan, Chan Hong Meng, had a challenging journey to success. He started as an apprentice in a Hong Kong restaurant at 18 and it took him over two decades to open his own hawker stall in 2009, which he named Hawker Chan. From this small stall in Singapore’s Chinatown Food Center, he served countless customers his version of chicken rice, which has become a beloved dish in the city-state. Today, Hawker Chan has multiple locations, including Chinatown and Tai Seng.

Chinatown heaves with markets, tea houses, and dim sum. Here you’ll find everyone’s favourite, Maxwell Hawker Centre, and with around 100 stalls there is serious debate over who has the best fish head curry and laksa, but Tian Tian consistently attracts long queues for its chicken rice.

Related: The Best Four Day Singapore Itinerary for Couples

Maxwell Hawker Centre

East Coast Seafood includes several seafood restaurants with Long Beach famed for its crab doused in black pepper crab to be torn apart with abandon.

See & Do Singapore

1. Dine Up High

Singapore cable car

Nothing beats a romantic dinner for two. High above this garden city, you’ll feel like the only people left in the world on the Singapore cable car. Below, you’ll see the lush rainforest with a backdrop of the panoramic skyline. While you can take the ride up the cable car and be on your way, the Star Cabin offers a spectacular 4-course meal that is perfect for lovers.

If cable cars make you nervous though, try the Singapore Flyer. It too has a 4-course dining experience that you get to enjoy while making two full rotations of the wheel. Add the Premium Champagne Flight to make it even more wonderful. 

2. See the Gardens by the Bay

You’ve likely seen these natural wonders and man-made marvels in photos. But nothing can quite prepare you for just how spectacular a visit to Gardens by the Bay is! This expansive, innovative, and thoroughly modern take on the traditional botanical garden is in the heart of Singapore’s downtown, an easy walk from Marina Bay Sands. This wonderland of whimsy and imagination is home to the skyline’s iconic ‘Supertrees’ (soaring futuristic structures that generate solar power while collecting rainfall). The cool of the evening, when the Supertrees’ lights bloom into life, is especially magical. But it’s inside the Cloud Forest where things level up to extraordinary. Home to one of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls and a lush mountain clad with plants from around the globe, it’s a fascinating journey of discovery as you stroll along its unique, soaring aerial walkways.

3. Explore the Singapore Zoo

Singapore Zoo

Just 30 minutes from the concrete jungle, a more exotic one awaits at Singapore Zoo with Asia’s first and only river-themed wildlife park. The River Safari gives visitors the opportunity to get up close (but not too personal) with capybaras (world’s biggest rodent), jaguars and flamingos on a boat ride through a mock Amazon. The experience includes cheeky interactions in the Squirrel Monkey Forest and the Amazon Flooded Forest with frolicking manatees, giant river otters and turtles in a simulated flooding of the Amazon rainforest. The highlight for many are the pandas in the Yangtze River Zone in the Rivers of the World which also includes species from the Congo, River Nile, Ganges, Murray and Mekong Rivers. Combine the River Safari with an exploration of the zoo, night safari and the Jurong Bird Park allowing for at least a couple of days to get wild.

4. Relax on a River Cruise

Bumboat Singapore River

Get a little history along with a leisurely river cruise in a ‘bumboat’: sometimes known as a tongkang or twakow, these wooden cargo boats were employed from the 19th to 20th century, transporting goods along the Rochor, Kallang and Singapore rivers, but modern times have seen them re-deployed as tourist boats. These eye-catching vessels will cruise you past some of Singapore’s most iconic landmarks and districts, including Clarke Quay, Marina Bay, the Esplanade, Merlion Park, and the historic landing site where Sir Stamford Raffles (one of the founding fathers of modern Singapore) is thought to have first arrived in 1819. You can hop on (and hop off!) the bumboat tours at several points along the river. We suggest embarking in the dreamy golden light of late afternoon or after dusk. That way, you can catch the sunset over the river and, if you time it right, see the bright lights of the city’s urban nightscape come alive, too

5. Walk the Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they’re a splendid place for lovers to roam. This garden is 160 years old and is the only tropical botanic garden anywhere on the list. Pack a picnic lunch and you’ll love it all the more. The Palm Valley is an exceptional spot for that. If you’re there on the weekend, they have free concerts at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage.

6. Clink Glasses at the Rooftop Bars

Lantern at Fullerton Bay
Lantern at Fullerton Bay
Ce La Vi Singapore
Ce La Vi Singapore

How many rooftop bars can you squeeze into one holiday? Singapore sets down the challenge with a dizzying selection of sky-high eyries. Don’t miss the aforementioned CÉ LA VI which takes up a spectacular position, perched on the 57th floor of the iconic Marina Bay Sands. Arrive before sunset to enjoy the rooftop restaurant and SkyBar while you sample the Asian-style tapas menu and drink in those sensational views over the city and the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool (which is exclusive to guests of Marina Bay Sands). Or, go for grand with an evening soiree at Lantern, a chic rooftop bar atop the elegant Fullerton Bay Hotel, which boasts a superb waterside position at Collyer Quay in Singapore’s vibrant heritage precinct. Chill to sensual beats and savour gourmet snacks, fine Champagnes, wines and signature cocktails as you settle in to watch the city lights sparkle — Lantern boasts panoramic views of the Marina Bay waterfront and Singapore skyline.

Related: Asia’s Top 10 Rooftop Bars

7. Get a Taste of Little India

 The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India in Singapore,
 The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Little India in Singapore, 

One of the ethnic neighbourhoods that you need to visit is Little India in the city centre – the food alone is worth the trip! Pick up a bargain at the local shops, explore the laneways, and stop by the area’s temples (one to note is the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, home to a 15-metre-high Buddha statue that is said to weigh 300 tonnes). Then sit down to a traditional Thali or meal at any of the area’s excellent restaurants, like Banana Leaf Apolo, where they serve food on fresh and clean banana leaves in the traditional style of India

8. Head to Chinatown

Singapore China Town

A huge portion of Singapore’s population is Chinese. It is the heart of the community with old and new intertwined together. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a prime example of something newer, completely surrounded by shops that are almost 100 years old. 

The Sri Mariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu place of worship in Singapore, another place you should make time to see. And of course, the food in this part of town simply can’t be beat. You can take a bite of history and delicious cuisine at the aforementioned Maxwell Food Centre, featuring food stalls that have stood the test of time. Other places to taste the authentic Chinese flavours are the Amoy Street Food Centre or the Chinatown Complex Food Centre. 

9. Sentosa

Sentosa Island Singapore
Sentosa Island

For visitors that want more of a resort experience or to feel like a kid, Sentosa will be your favourite place. There are gobs of options here including Universal Studios, the S.E.A. Aquarium, and Adventure Cove Waterpark. There’s a fun pass that can bundle the prices for most of the attractions you’ll find except for Universal Studios. There’s beaches and beach clubs too. Make sure you ride the cable car to the island to get the best views. 

10. Day Trip to the Outlying Islands

Kusu Island near Singapore
Kusu Island near Singapore

From Marina South Pier, you can take a day trip to the outlying islands of Singapore. These are perfect for couples that would rather get off the beaten path away from the other tourists. St. John’s and Kusu are so seldom visited by tourists, a shame since it is filled with fascinating temples and beaches. In fact, the beaches on these islands surpass Sentosa’s beaches. We recommend coming here if you want to feel more like you have this gorgeous place to yourselves.

There are plenty of picnic spots and places to enjoy being together. You’ll find out more about the myths and folklore that people uphold as well. Another idea is to go to Pulau Ubin. Renting cycles on the dirt paths is great for active couples that like to stay on land. But if you’d rather stretch your sea legs, head around by kayak and poke through the mangroves to see the more rustic side of Singapore. 

11. Hit the shops at Orchard Road

Orchard Road Singapore

Orchard Road isn’t for the faint-hearted and with over two kilometres of high-street fashion interspersed with high-end shopping malls, stilettos mightn’t be at the top of the list. Don’t despair as there’s plenty of eateries to refuel, this is Singapore after-all.

12. Colour Crush in Kampong Glam & Katong

Singapore is made for walking, and there’s no better place for a casually cool stroll (including Insta-worthy backdrops!) than the buzzing and colourfully hip strip of Haji Lane. Within the heart of the city’s Kampong Glam area, Haji Lane is as famous for its street art as its many independent boutiques, cafes and bars.

Be sure to keep walking through the surrounding area too — just a couple of streets over reveals one of the most visited tourist attractions in Singapore, the beautiful Masjid Sultan, or Sultan Mosque, and the back alleys of Muscat Street, home to great Middle Eastern restaurants and shops selling exotic wares from textiles to trinkets and customised perfumes oils.

Related: Luxury & Romance ~ The Couple’s Guide to Singapore, Including Where to Stay

Street View Masjid Sultan Singapore
Street View Masjid Sultan Singapore

Or spend a few hours exploring one of Singapore’s most historic (and most colourful!) neighbourhoods, the Peranakan enclave of Joo Chiat and Katong, which boasts a charming convergence of tradition and modernity, blending old and new Singapore living. In Singapore, the Peranakan culture is a mix of rich traditions resulting from the marriage of early Chinese traders and indigenous women from Malay Archipelago. This unique culture is evident in the area’s distinct colourful two-storey shop and terrace houses adorned with ornate façades, intricate motifs, and ceramic tiles, which makes for a lovely walking tour. Stop off at any of the cool cafés, hip boutiques and specialty stores along the way to discover one of Singapore’s most eclectic and interesting neighbourhoods.

13. Get a spa Treatment
A few minutes away from the CBD an oasis awaits within Bishan Park 2 at Aramsa Spa. Drawing on a mix of eastern and western techniques, packages include energising, rejuvenating and relaxation therapies as well as aesthetic treatments like facials, nail treatments and shaping-up programmes. The national park includes river plains including Kallang River crawling with wildlife and several dining options from casual brunch to cuisine as healthy as nature intended to a candle-lit garden sanctuary.

14. Riverside Revelry

Singapore comes alive as the sun sets, and by the edge of the Singapore River is the place to be. Clarke Quay is the go-to place to let your hair down, with its colourful facades and boisterous bars that fill up by night with young Singaporeans. There’s a huge array of casual restaurants serving up at outdoor terraces too, so you can dine with the lights of the CBD’s skyscrapers as a
backdrop. Or for a (slightly!) quieter yet equally enticing dinner and drinks option, head to nearby Boat Quay, which offers a fantastic array of restaurant and cocktail bars with views onto the waterfront that will keep you well satiated in style.

15. Visit Singapore’s Grand Dame – Raffles Hotel

You don’t have to stay at Raffles Hotel to experience some of its famed luxury and historical offerings. Couples will love spending some hours soaking up the grandeur of this recently refurbished and revitalised Singapore icon.

The afternoon tea in the hotel’s Grand Lobby is a must, where delicate teas, vintage Champagnes, freshly baked scones and dainty sandwiches are served to the background soundtrack of a live harpist (so elegant!). And don’t miss the opportunity to swing by the Long Bar to enjoy a Singapore Sling at the bar that originally created the cocktail — it’s an experience in itself! Following the turn of the century in colonial Singapore, Raffles was the gathering place for the community – and Long Bar was the watering hole. Tradition still states that a bag of peanuts accompanies drinks here, and in keeping with the relaxed atmosphere, guests are invited to brush peanut shells off the table and bar counter to the floor.

16. Leave time for Changi Airport

Jewel Changi Airport

Don’t underestimate the experience of visiting Changi Airport. Renowned as the best airport in the world, Changi Airport goes beyond just providing excellent facilities and services. It boasts unique attractions that make it a destination in itself. Take a leisurely stroll through the nature walk, where you can discover an open-air rooftop cactus garden, a bamboo garden, an orchid garden, and even the world’s first Butterfly Garden in an airport.

Don’t miss the breathtaking Jewel, a stunning glass and steel dome development designed by Safdie Architects, the same architects behind the iconic Marina Bay Sands. The Jewel offers a plethora of experiences, including gardens, attractions, activity areas, retail shops, dining options, and more. Be sure to spend time to enjoy the cascading waterfall in the middle of the Shiseido Forest Valley.

If you’re in need of relaxation, you can swim, work out, watch a movie, or indulge in a beauty treatment at Changi Airport. Additionally, if you have a layover of five hours or more, take advantage of the free city tour offered.

Singapore Fact File:

Getting around: When it comes to getting around Singapore, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is the fastest and most convenient option. With an extensive rail network, most of the city’s main attractions are within walking distance of an MRT station. A single trip on the MRT typically costs around 4 SGD, but you can opt for a Singapore Tourist Pass which offers unlimited travel for one, two, or three days at prices ranging from 10 SGD to 20 SGD. Just keep in mind that there is a 10 SGD deposit for the pass, which is refundable if you return it within five days of purchase. We just used our credit/debit cards from home to tap on and off – so easy!

Taxis are plentiful and another option, but could prove expensive over several days.

When to visit: Singapore is a great destination to visit at any time of the year due to its warm tropical climate. The temperatures typically range in the high 20s°C (80s°F) year-round.

The busiest time to visit is from December to June, especially during the Chinese New Year. If you prefer drier weather and more sunshine, February to April is the best period to visit. However, be aware that monsoons occur between December and March, with December being the rainiest month. During this time, the weather is often windy, cloudy, and humid. If you want to avoid the tourist crowds, late summer and early fall (July to October) are also good times to visit. The weather is still pleasant, with daily temperatures averaging around 30°C (87°F), and you may find more affordable accommodation options during this period.

Tip: Singapore Changi Airport is the gateway to Southeast Asia with connecting flights to just about anywhere. Why not combine your Singapore holiday or honeymoon with another incredible Asian destination? Here’s some destinations all around three hours flying time from Singapore:

Bangkok – a 48 Hour Itinerary

Thailand’s Charming Chiang Mai – The Rose of The North

The Philippines for Beautiful Beaches and Islands

Langkawi for Luxury Resorts, Beach-Days & Natural Delights

And, although longer than three hours (closer to six) flying time from Singapore to Delhi, India’s Golden Triangle is a trip of a lifetime. Embark on a spellbinding journey through India’s cultural treasures and experience a world of colour, rituals, and iconic monuments with this ultimate Golden Triangle travel guide and itinerary.

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