Singapore is city in a league of its own and can’t be compared to any other city in the world. Modern yet traditional, expensive yet affordable, fancy yet basic, and clean yet not so clean. A city of contrasts, which makes it such a fascinating place to visit. Singapore is in several top lists, such as the most expensive city in the wold, the greenest city in the world, and one of the cleanest city in the world.
Many people visit this city during their layover to other destinations such as Bali or Australia, as I did myself. Singapore is the ultimate layover destination and is perfect for a short stay. This Singapore travel guide shows you the top things to do, including where to stay and how to get around.
1. Visit Gardens By The Bay: Supertree Grove and Cloud Forest
One of the major attractions in Singapore is Gardens By The Bay, which is a massive park located behind Marina Bay Sands. The gardens are created as part of the mission of Singapore to become the greenest city in the world. You can enter the park by taking the escalator in Marina Bay Sands hotel and walk towards Gardens By The Bay. Take your time to visit the Gardens By The Bay because there’s so much to see and do.
Supertree Grove & OCBC Skyway
The Supertree Grove is the first thing you’ll see when you come out of Marina Bay Sands to Gardens By The Bay. The super trees are 25 to 50 meters tall and has become one of the most iconic and famous attractions in Singapore. The trees are connected through a skywalk, from where you can see the rest of the Gardens and the Marina Bay skyline.
Entrance fee: Supertree Grove is for free. However, to walk along the skywalk you’ll have pay an entrance fee of $8 SGP.
Opening times: 5.00AM – 2.00AM daily
After wandering around the Supertree Grove you can head towards Cloud Forest. Cloud Forest is inside on of the enormous glass houses on the park. Cloud Forest is a 6 level skypark surrounded by greenery and covered in mist. It also has the second largest indoor waterfall in the world (the indoor waterfall at the airport is the new number one!). This is the most popular conservatory in Gardens By The Bay, so it can get busy during the day. If you want to have it to yourself, check it out in the early morning.
Bonus: we thought it would be really hot inside the glass houses but it’s actually really refreshing. Besides that it’s a beautiful conservatory, we also stayed extra long to take a break from the heat in the city.
Entrance fee: $28 SGP for two conservatories (Cloud Forest and Flower Dome).
Opening times: 9.00AM – 9.00PM
2. See a light show at Marina Bay and Gardens By The Bay
There’s plenty of entertainment at night in buzzing Singapore and seeing at least one light show is an absolute must. At Gardens By The Bay you can watch Garden Rhapsody, which is a free light show every night at 8.45PM and 9.45PM. The light show takes place at the Supertree Grove and is a beautiful mix of music and lights. Make sure to be there on time as it can get quite busy. It was one of my favorite things to do in Singapore and can be combined with watching the Spectra light show at Marina Bay.
The Spectra light show is a short walk from Gardens By The Bay and takes place at Marina Bay. This is also a free daily show at 8PM and 9PM and each is 15 minutes long. On Friday and Saturday there’s an extra show at 10PM. You can watch the show from opposite Marina Bay, at Marina Bay Sands or on top of Marina Bay Sands at Ce La Vie.
Tip: if you watch the light show at Gardens By The Bay and walk towards Marina Bay Sands, there’s a walking path along the river side. It’s a really nice spot to watch Marina Bay Sands at night. Also, watch both shows by heading to Gardens By The Bay first at 8.45PM and the Spectra show afterwards at 9PM.
3. Explore Little India and Arab Quarter
Many different cultures come together in the melting pot of Singapore. Little India will make you feel as if you’re in India and is one of the most colorful areas in the city. The smell of the spice shops, the many Sari shops and flower stalls make it a distinctive and unique area to visit. Make sure to check out town house Tan Teng Niah, which is just around the corner of MRT Little India.
Another vibrant area in Singapore is Kampong Glam a.k.a. Arab Quarter. In this area you’ll find Haji Lane, which is a trendy and upcoming street. It’s also the creative heart of Kampong Glam and famous for its hipster cafes, boutique shops and street art. Moreover, visit Muscat Street for great Turkish restaurants and the best views of the mosque.
Both Little India and Kampong Glam are close to Bugis and can be reached by foot in 15 minutes. It can also be combined with a visit to Bugis Street.
4. Shopping at Orchard Street & Bugis Street
If you’re not the biggest shopper, then this might not get you excited. Otherwise, there’s a few areas in town where you can shop ’till you drop! Orchard Road is famous as the ultimate shopping paradise in Singapore. Here you will find everything from outlets, department stores, the usual H&M type of stores but also fancy boutique stores.
If you’re looking for something a bit more low key and cheap, then Bugis Street is the place for you. This is the place to be for cheap souvenirs, clothing, electronics and jewelry. There are also plenty food courts and many options to sit and watch all the hustle and bustle around you. The location is very central and close to MRT Bugis and many hotels. The market is opened daily from 11.00AM till 10.00PM.
5. Sunset drinks at Marina Bay Sands (@ Ce La Vie rooftop bar)
You can’t go to Singapore and not go to a rooftop bar at sunset and/or after sunset. One of the highlights during our stay was visiting Ce La Vie, the rooftop bar at the famous Marina Bay Sands. The bar is located next to the infinity pool of the hotel (you can’t enter unless you’re a hotel guest), they play nice music, the cocktails are great and the 360 view is the best you’ll get. It’s also the perfect place to watch the light show at Marina Bay at night. Also, women can get in for free and get a free drink when it’s Ladies Night on Wednesdays.
The entrance to the bar is $22 SGP per person, and you can use your entrance ticket as credit. Most of the drinks are priced around $20 SGP so the entrance fee basically covers for one drink. Not a bad deal considering that the entrance fee to the Observatory Deck is $23 without any drinks or seats.
6. Eat at hawker centre Lau Pa Sat surrounded by skyscrapers
Whereas dinner in restaurants is in general quite expensive in Singapore, eating at a hawker is a lot cheaper ànd a typical must-do when in Singapore.
The most popular is Lau Pa Sat, located closely to Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay. It’s surrounded by skyscrapers in the Financial District, making it a special place to have dinner. This hawker is the perfect go to after sunset drinks at Ce La Vie and watching a light show in Gardens By The Bay.
At Lau Pa Sat you can eat both eat inside and outside, but the best thing to do is head to “Satay Street”. Here you can find many satay stalls and number 7 and 8 are famous for the best satay. Although it’s quite busy here, there are lots of tables so you don’t have to worry about waiting too long. It’s a unique experience as you’re basically eating street food in between some of the tallest buildings in the city. Another plus, the satay really was great, especially the chicken and shrimp skewers.
7. Drinks at Clarke Quay
If you’re looking for trendy bars to have a few drinks, then Clarke Quay is the perfect area to do so. At the riverside you’ll find a long strip of bars and restaurants, hence this is the place to be if you’re looking for some nightlife action. It’s a very internationally oriented area with a great mix of expats, tourists but also locals.
8. Visit the Jewel at Changi Airport
If you haven’t got the time to head into the city centre of Singapore during your layover, don’t worry. Singapore’s Changi Airport is ranked as “The Best Airport In The World” for the 7th year in a row and there are endless possibilities to have a good time at the airport too.
Since 2019 their newest trophy opened and has typically been named “Jewel”. Connected to Terminal 1 (T1), this nature-themed entertainment and retail complex offers more than 300 shops and restaurants. However, the most impressive feature of Jewel is the Rain Vortex, the World’s Largest Indoor Waterfall (40m high). At night, the Rain Vortrex transforms into a light show that runs on intervals between 08.30PM and 10.00PM. We were lucky enough to see a show during our layover on the way back and it was really impressive!
The Jewel is accessible to anyone and you don’t have to be in a specific Terminal to visit Jewel. Inside the terminals you can also find many ways to entertain yourself, from a Butterfly Garden to a Cinema, a Hedge Maze, Lounge Areas and Food Courts.
Where to stay in Singapore
Singapore is the most expensive city in the world, so be prepared to pay more for your accommodation compared to other (Asian) cities. If you’re in Singapore for a short time only and want to see all the main attractions, you’ll want to stay somewhere central. If you’re looking for an affordable hotel in the city centre, then Hotel G is the perfect option for you. The rooms are fairly small but very functional, trendy and clean. They also have a really nice restaurant downstairs, including a nice bar to have some drinks.
Hotel G is located in an area called Bugis, which is known for its shopping district in Bugis Street. This shopping area is known to be the cheapest place to buy everything from souvenirs to accessories, clothing and electronics. Here you can also find trendy cafes and eating options. Furthermore, the hotel is around the corner of the train station from where you can visit all the major attractions such as Gardens By The Bay. Lastly, the hotel is within walking distance to lively areas such as Kampong Glam (Arabic Quarter) and Little India.
How to get around in Singapore
Public transport is a very reliable and cheap option to get around in Singapore. The MRT (train) is the quickest and easiest option to move from one place to another in the city. There are many MRT stations and all of them are close to all the highlights that the city has to offer.
A one-way ticket will usually cost you no more than $2 SGD. You can also purchase a day ticket for $10 SGD, which is a great option if you’ll be using the MRT a lot that day. Tickets can be purchased at the train stations, but be aware that you can only use cash at the ticketing systems.
How to get from the airport to the city?
From the airport you can take the MRT to Tanah Merah, and from there you can take the Green Line to the city centre. The MRT has a direct connection to large MRT stations such as Bugis and Raffles Place.