10 of the best things to do in Singapore in 2024

Singapore may be small compared to its Asian neighbors, but there’s a lot packed into this city-state. Between the incredible food markets and high-end restaurants, gleaming skyline and cultural wealth, your main problem will be knowing where to start.

Its compact size means it’s easy to get around quickly, meaning you can pack a lot into a short trip or even a layover. These are our ten favorite things to do in Singapore.

1. Dine on Singapore’s famous hawker food

There are plenty of fine dining establishments in Singapore, but if you want to eat like a local, head to any of the country’s open-air hawker centers and fill your belly with a range of cheap and diverse street food. So culturally significant are these hawker centers that they were inscribed to UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020. 

Wondering which one to choose first? Every Singaporean will recommend a different favorite, but some good options include: Chinatown Complex, the largest with over 200 stalls; Lau Pa Sat, one of the most historical as a gazetted national monument; East Coast Lagoon Food Village by the sea, perhaps one of the most scenic; and the famous Newton Food Center featured in the movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Local tip: Most hawkers only take cash, so bring small notes and coins.

A woman and man chatting on the Marina Bay walkway in Singapore
There are photo opportunities everywhere you look in Marina Bay © PT STOCK / Getty Images

2. Admire Singapore’s iconic skyline at Marina Bay

Show off that you’re in Singapore by snapping that postcard-worthy shot of the iconic architecture surrounding Marina Bay. It may be hard to believe, but this area was empty swathes of land until 2010 – and before that, it was open sea. 

Taking a walk along the waterfront is one of the best things to do in Singapore for free. Admire the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, take a goofy shot with the water-spouting Merlion statue and stroll across the Helix Bridge (with its DNA-inspired swirls) towards the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum. 

Planning tip: Sunset is a good time to start your walk around Marina Bay. It’s cooler, the building lights blaze in their full glory, and if you time it right, you can catch the light and sound shows at the Marina Bay Sands waterfront and Supertree Grove along the way.

3. Indulge in nightlife along the Singapore River

The Singapore River was once the historic center of Singapore in its early entrepot trading days, and it’s the nexus from which the city expanded as it prospered. The warehouses that stored goods along the river banks have since been converted into some of Singapore’s top nightlife districts. 

Located closest to the river mouth, Boat Quay is the place to enjoy drinks at more laidback pubs with the best waterfront views. Further down, Clarke Quay is home to trendier clubs and watering holes; if you keep going, Robertson Quay offers a quieter enclave with a cluster of nice dining establishments and cafes.

Local tip: Take a river cruise in an old bumboat – these small boats used to trawl the river loaded with goods, and they are a convenient way to sightsee if you need a break from walking.

People wondering in Chinatown district at night in Singapore.
Singapore’s historic neighborhoods offer amazing travel experiences, day or night © f11photo / Shutterstock

4. Explore Singapore’s historic neighborhoods

Singapore’s heritage ethnic neighborhoods were created as a result of British colonial policy that divided the population into different districts according to where they came from. Today, these neighborhoods offer a glimpse into the major ethnic groups that make up Singapore’s diverse culture. 

Colorful Chinatown – located near the mouth of the Singapore River – has a delightful mix of temples and shophouses alongside hip restaurants and trendy bars. Kampong Gelam, where the Malays and Arabs lived, centers around the former Sultan’s palace and the magnificent Sultan Mosque. And it’s easy to lose a few hours wandering the lanes of Little India amidst a mix of aromatic spices, vivid pagodas and bustling weekend crowds.

Detour: Tiong Bahru is one of Singapore’s oldest neighborhoods, and today it’s gentrified into an intriguing mix of traditional and trendy shops. Meanwhile, Joo Chiat in the east is the best place to learn about the unique mixed Peranakan culture and to see colorful shophouses.

5. Stroll through Singapore’s finest gardens

Singapore’s “Garden City” nickname is well deserved, thanks to the 400 parks and green spaces all across the island. Gardens by the Bay is one of the most popular thanks to the alien-like Supertrees and the twin glass hemispheres that house the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest – the perfect climate-controlled escape when the tropical humidity gets too sweltering.

Pay a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, one of the few tropical gardens that have been inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage list to date. It’s also home to the National Orchid Garden, which has the world’s largest orchid display.

A teenage boy hiking in a forest in Singapore
Get back to nature on one of Singapore’s hiking trails © Eternity in an Instant / Getty Images

6. Hike Singapore’s nature trails

Nature lovers can’t miss the 10km-long (6.2 miles) Southern Ridges, one of the most scenic trails in Singapore; highlights include the country’s tallest pedestrian bridge and panoramic views of the southern coastline from Mount Faber. Other great options include trekking the 25m-high (33ft) canopy-level Treetop Walk in MacRitchie Reservoir or summiting Singapore’s highest peak (a mere 163m/534ft high) in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Detour: For a real challenge, hike the full 24km-long (15 miles) Rail Corridor that traverses Singapore from south to north along the former railway line that linked Singapore to Malaysia.

7. Visit Singapore’s offshore islands 

If you’re looking to escape Singapore’s ubiquitous tall buildings, your best bet is to hop on a boat and sail to its islands for the day. Sentosa is the easiest to get to, and it’s home to a wide range of attractions, including white sandy beaches, Universal Studios and a casino. 

For quieter spots filled with nature, take a ferry to the Southern Islands cluster of St John’s, Lazarus and Kusu Islands, or head up north to Pulau Ubin for the excellent Chek Jawa Wetlands Reserve, outdoor adventure trails, and a throwback to what early Singapore village life might have been like.

Planning tip: Weekends and holidays may see more people visiting the islands, but there will also be a higher frequency of ferries available.

8. Delve into Singapore’s history at its best museums

Museum lovers will rejoice at Singapore’s array of well-maintained and cutting-edge national museums that showcase the country’s culture and history. The National Museum of Singapore, the country’s oldest museum, houses immersive multimedia exhibits that trace Singapore’s history from past to present, while the majestic National Gallery located in the former City Hall and Supreme Court has the largest collection of Singaporean and Southeast Asian art. 

For those interested in WWII history, Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island is the last remaining preserved coastal fort, while the Battle Box in Fort Canning Park lets visitors access the former command center of the British troops. A more remote option worth checking out is the Changi Museum & Chapel, which features stories collected from the POWs of the Japanese Occupation and a replica of the Changi Murals painted by a POW.

An orangutan eats green shoots while looking off to the side of the camera
Spend some time at the Singapore Zoo to see creatures from around the world in expansive habitats © Phil Weymouth / Lonely Planet

9. Spend a day at Singapore’s wildlife attractions

As space for natural landscapes and wildlife is scarce in Singapore, the Mandai Wildlife Reserve up north offers the best way to experience animal encounters in a controlled environment. Here you’ll discover the famous Singapore Zoo with its naturalistic enclosures, the nocturnal Night Safari for animal experiences after dark, River Wonders with river-themed habitats and the Giant Panda enclosure, and the aviaries of Bird Paradise.

For those with a love for the deep blue sea, the S.E.A Aquarium on Sentosa Island houses over 100,000 marine creatures across its two floors of immersive tanks.

Planning tip: Taxis to Mandai Wildlife Reserve incur an additional $3 surcharge because of its remote location. Make the most of Singapore’s excellent public transport system and take the MRT to Khatib Station where a $2 Mandai Khatib Shuttle delivers you right to the park’s doorstep.

10. Experience Singapore’s quirky side

Singapore’s big-name attractions are must-sees, but there are plenty of activities that will show you more unusual sides of this island nation. Haw Par Villa is a park filled with statues and dioramas from Chinese stories and mythology – some of which are rather…eccentric. The MINT Museum of Toys is a small private museum next to the renowned Raffles Hotel with the largest collection of vintage toys in Asia.

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