The newest and shiniest Singapore sites often grab the headlines for tourists. And sometimes with good reason. But there’s another layer to the attractions in Singapore, a layer that is a little more off the beaten track and one that more often than not involves feasting on many of the delicacies available. My visitors often arrive with a blank itinerary and leave me to fill their days for them, the things to do I’ve listed here never fail to impress visitors in Singapore.
Gorge on Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)
No matter where your visitors in Singapore are from, their home towns will often have a Chinatown and most people are familiar with Yum Cha or Dim Sum restaurants. In Singapore there aren’t many places where the trolley is pushed around for you to select your dumplings, but at Din Tai Fung you can watch the artisans create their tender bundles of loveliness before you dive in to taste them. The xiao long bao in Singapore are the best I’ve ever tasted (I’ve heard that Taipei actually has the best dumplings in the world but I haven’t made it there yet), the translucent skin yields to a delicious mouthful of meat and soup that bursts into your mouth with fanfare. For a more authentic experience you could also head to Swee Choon near Little India. Their menu selection is more traditional and slightly more diverse, but the xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung still win it for me.
Din Tai Fung
Click on the link above for details of the nearest location
183 – 191 Jalan Besar, Singapore, 208882
Monday to Sunday 6pm to 6am
Stroll Around the Arab Quarter
Symbolising the ethnic diversity that Singapore is famous for, the area around Arab Street is a melting pot of interesting shops, restaurants and bars. One of the best breakfasts you can try in Singapore is to head to Al Tasneem on North Bridge Road for prata and curry or chicken murtabak. Then wander to Maison Ikkoku for an awesome coffee. After that you could take a peek in all the fabulous shops on Haji Lane.
699 North Bridge Road, Singapore, 198676
Explore a Remote Island
Who knew that the concrete jungle of Singapore was also home to a little slice of history in the form of a remote island village without any multi story buildings? Just a short boat ride from the Changi point ferry terminal lies the kampong (village) of Pulau Ubin. This Singapore site is one of only two kampongs that remain in Singapore and is a fun way to get an idea of what life was like before the development boom that has made Singapore famous. You can hire bikes for around $5 and cycle your way around the island, stopping for a walk in the mangroves and then a tasty lunch in the village before heading back to the mainland.
To get to Pulau Ubin head to the Changi point ferry terminal at Changi village. A ferry operates between 7am and 8pm, leaving whenever there are 12 people ready to board. This doesn’t take long, especially on weekends. Note that it’s an unseaworthy looking ferry, but a very fun ride!
Join a Local Walking Tour
Seeing a new city through the eyes of a local is one way to really appreciate the culture. A highly recommended walking tour in Singapore is one by the famous Geraldene Lowe. Geraldene is a local woman who shares her time between Singapore and Australia. She is a font of knowledge about historical Singapore and the best local places to see and visit around the island. If you have a particular interest Geraldene can plan a specific itinerary for you.
To sign up for a group tour you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Tiong Bahru
If you’re after a traditional neighbourhood, close to the city and offering an abundance of food related options to entice you, then Tiong Bahru is the place to go. This little enclave is close to the city but worlds away. The Saturday market is one of the best in Singapore, arrive before 12pm to see the best of it. Then head to Tiong Bahru Bakery for a great coffee and a decadent treat. After that you could wander up to Yong Siak St and visit some of the quirky stores. If you fancy a casual but decent lunch then try ODP (Open Door Policy) for great food at reasonable prices.
Tiong Bahru Bakery is at 56 Eng Hoon Street
Open Door Policy (ODP) is at 19 Yong Siak Street (reservations recommended, click the link above for details)
Have Dinner in Little India
Little India is pretty much what it says on the tin. Walking through the streets here you could easily forget yourself and think you’d been transported 4,000 kilometres away to the Mother country. Visit on a Sunday and the place is heaving with families and friends socialising and shopping. Once you’ve finished being mesmerised by the colours and smells, head to one of the many great restaurants.
Laagna at 6 Upper Dickson Road have great food (although it’s pricier than most) and you sit on cushions on the floor upstairs
Khansama at 166 Serangoon Road is a good family option
Mustard at 32 Racecourse Road is perfect for a quiet dinner
Cycle Along the East Coast
For a Singapore site where you can catch a cool (by Singapore standards) breeze on a hot day the East Coast is a winner. Hire a bike and cycle along the coast, stopping off for some of Singapore’s famous chilli crab along the way. Ask a taxi to drop you off at Car park C, tell them it’s near the main Longbeach restaurant (not to be confused with Longbeach UDMC which is a little further up the coast) and Burger King. The bicycle hire shop is at 1000 East Coast Parkway, it’s on the beach side and you’ll see bikes lined up outside. Hire costs are very reasonable, about $5 per hour. From there you can cycle up the coast toward Changi and go to Longbeach UDMC for chilli crab and mantou (bread rolls for dipping in the yummy sauce). You’ll relish the cycle back after filling yourself up on crab!
Longbeach UDMC (on the water, near McDonald’s)
1202 East Coast Parkway
Experience a Decadent Brunch
If you’re in Singapore, you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to partake in a wildly decadent Champagne brunch. They’re not cheap but I guarantee you, it’s easy to get your money’s worth if you’re partial to a glass of bubbly. For around $150 per person you get about 3 hours worth of gorging on the finest seafood and international cuisines of all varieties, whilst your Champagne glass remains full for the entirety. A Champagne Brunch comes with a warning: Participate At Your Own Risk.
Read a summary of the best brunch options in Singapore
Eat Your Way around Robertson Quay
If you’re looking for places to eat outside, under the shade of trees and by the river, then it’s hard to go past Robertson Quay. There are a mulititude of eateries along this stretch of the river and if you know the right ones to visit you can enjoy great food and wine as well as the ambience. I’ve written a guide to Robertson Quay that tells you all the ins and outs, you can read it here.
Start your visit to Robertson Quay with a coffee at Kith Cafe and then walk towards the city from there
Wander Through Chinatown
It would be a shame to visit Singapore and not make a stop in colourful Chinatown. Most of the streets are pedestrianised so it’s a great place to wander around and peer at all the trinkets on sale. There are also Buddhist temples and Hindu temples in the area that make an interesting break from the shopping. Although Chinatown is by and large touristy, there are still good places to eat and if you’re after a waving cat or a Chinese dressing gown then this is the place to come. From Chinatown you can also walk to Club Street and Tanjong Pagar where you’ll find countless bars and restaurants.
Start your walk through Chinatown at the Chinatown MRT and then wander down Pagoda Street and meander from there
Head to the Beach
If you’re looking for beaches in Singapore you surprisingly need to head off the island to find them. Sentosa Island, located at the bottom of Singapore, is only a taxi or MRT ride away, and all of a sudden you’ll feel like you’re on holidays from the hot and steamy city. Tanjong Beach Club is a great stopping point if you want to chill out by a pool and have a bite to eat and maybe a few drinks. It’s not cheap but it is a great place to while away the hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Alternatively you can head to Siloso Beach at the other end of the island, there are quite a few restaurants dotted along there and heaps of play areas for kids.
Tanjong Beach Club
120 Tanjong Beach Walk, Sentosa, Singapore, 098942
phone +65 6270 1355
Eat Traditional Pau (Buns)
Tiong Bahru Pau have been in Singapore forever and they supply their buns all over town. The most delicious are the ones above, baked crispy on the outside with a soft, doughy inner and filled with slightly sweet marinated pork. So yummy it’s hard not to have more than one.
237 Outram Road, Singapore, 169041
Walk the Southern Ridges
To see several impressive Singapore sites in one outing the Southern Ridges walk is a great option. The walk is about 10km in total, but you can walk smaller sections if that’s more appealing. The impressive Henderson Waves bridge is a highlight, as is the view of Sentosa from the top of Mount Faber. Mount Faber is a good place to start (at the bottom of the hill if you’re feeling perky). The mountain provides a great view across the bay towards Sentosa. From there you follow signs for the Southern Ridges walk, heading towards Kent Ridge. Along the way you’ll find Hort Park and Vineyard restaurant, if you’re not too sweaty you could stop in here for a nice lunch or a pick-me-up drink. You can end the walk at Pasir Panjang (before Kent Ridge), follow the signs and head down the road to get a bus or taxi, or keep walking on to Kent Ridge.
Eat at a Hawker Centre
Hawker centres are like the heartbeat of Singapore. Almost everyone arriving here knows Singapore is famous for the food sold in hawker centres. There are almost 200 to choose from and they all offer different specialties and experiences. For newbies to hawker dining, I’ve written up a full guide to hawker centres in Singapore. My favourites are Lau Pa Sat and Amoy Street.
These 14 Singapore sites give you an idea of the diversity offered to a visitor in Singapore. There’s so much more than clean streets and fines to this city, so if you haven’t been or haven’t seen these highlights then hopefully the pictures and words here will encourage you to get out there and see our beautiful city.
Calling all locals: Where are the places you love to take visitors?
Note: All prices quoted are in Singapore dollars (SGD). To convert to your local currency click here.